Even to the uninitiated, it is common knowledge every dive is different. For each dive site, you get to see different types of rock formations, encounter a different mix of marine life, and experience different types of currents.
But how different can each diving experience be? Well, a lot different. To understand what I’m getting at, here’s a list of the top 10 diving experiences every diver must do at least once in their life.
Swim amongst Whales and Sharks
Ditch the magazines and the hour-long nature documentaries, because (with respect to our friends at National Geographic) there’s nothing like seeing the real thing. Moreover, while diving in and of itself is exciting, swimming amongst gigantic sea creatures is another thing entirely.
Some of the world’s top diving destinations for swimming with whales and sharks include Mo’orea, French Polynesia (where humpback whales migrate from the months of July to November), Silver Bank, Dominican Republic (where Atlantic humpback whales stay from January to April), and Oslob, Cebu (where you can see whale sharks from November through May). Of course, no whale-watching trip would be complete without pictures, so make sure to bring a waterproof camera with you!
Explore at Least One Underwater Cave
One of the main joys of diving is being able to discover and explore areas that would otherwise be inaccessible without the proper skill and/or equipment. Without the aid of simulations or mind-altering substances, it’s probably the closest we’ll ever get to the feeling of exploring a new planet. With that said, if you’re not claustrophobic, and you put a premium on this joy of discovery, exploring at least one underwater cave should be on your bucket list
Some of the best cave diving destinations in the world include Mexico’s freshwater cenotes, the Santorini caves in Greece, and the Orda Cave in Russia. Of course, it’s important to note that cave diving is a highly dangerous, highly technical activity, so you have to be certified for cave diving and have an experienced guide with you if you’re planning on cave diving.
Try Wreck Diving
While diving in an all-natural environment is great, there’s no denying that there’s something about ruins and shipwrecks that draws us to them. Whether it’s because of the history tied to them, the fact that they evoke a keen sense of adventure, or even just their rugged beauty, they provide a unique diving experience that you can’t get anywhere else. As such, if you haven’t already experienced it on one of your PADI courses, wreck diving at least once should be on your bucket list.
Some of the best wreck diving sites in the world include the Yongala in Australia, the USAT Liberty in Bali, and the Chuuk Lagoon in Micronesia.
Check Out an Underwater Art Museum
I get it. Not everyone’s into art, but underwater art museums aren’t like traditional art museums. They’re great for pictures, offer marine life an alternative habitat, and actually make you work to see and appreciate the art (which adds another layer to the experience). As such, they offer something for all kinds of divers!
Among the best underwater art museums in the world including the Museum of Underwater Art in Townsville, Australia, the Museo Subacuatico De Arte in Mexico, and the Museo Atlantico Lanzarote in Spain. Most underwater museums aren’t in very deep waters (for obvious reasons), so this dive experience is applicable to avid snorkelers as well. Make sure to have your snorkel set ready if you plan on exploring underwater art.
Try Hunting for Underwater Treasure
While most of the time you’ll probably only get discarded scraps, most of the fun in using an underwater metal detector while diving lies simply in discovering buried objects. It doesn’t take finding an easily restorable Submariner, or a lost engagement ring to get one’s adrenaline pumping.
The best part about this dive experience is you don’t even have to travel for this (unless you live in a landlocked country). You can literally just get an underwater metal detector, get your scuba gear ready, invite a dive buddy, and go treasure hunting in your local waters!
Swim Between Two Continents
Did you know you can literally swim between two tectonic plates? Well, you actually can. In Silfra, Iceland, you can dive or snorkel between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. The water is filtered through underground lava, so it’s crystal clear (said to be the clearest water in the world). Moreover, as Silfra is right between two tectonic plates, it is constantly undergoing changes, so you can actually get a different experience every time you go diving here!
Obviously, the water at Silfra is cold at 2 – 4 degrees Celsius, so you’ll need to bring a dry suit with you. In my humble opinion, this is a better experience than seeing the Northern Lights.
Explore the Waters of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves
If you’re a marine biologist, or just into diving mainly because of the possibility of encountering marine life, then exploring UNESCO Biosphere Reserves should be at the top of your bucket list. Biosphere Reserves are meant to promote conservation and sustainable development. As such, most Biosphere Reserves have incredible biodiversity.
Biosphere Reserves where scuba diving is among the main tourist attractions include Mexico’s Arrecino Alacranes Biosphere Reserve (where divers can see overlapping coral colonies), French Polynesia’s Fakarava (where divers can see hundreds of grey reef sharks), and Maldives’ Addu Atoll (where divers can dive year-round with manta rays, and explore the largest wreck in the country).
Dive Palau’s “Blue Corner”
If you don’t have the time or resources to go diving all over the world and want something that already “has it all,” then you can’t go wrong with Palau’s Blue Corner. Known as one of the most biodiverse (it’s even been referred to as an underwater Serengeti) dive sites in the world, Palau’s Blue Corner boasts warm waters, an underwater cavern, and a wide variety of corals, small fish, and sharks.
Apart from its rich marine biodiversity, Blue Corner is also known for its strong currents, which adds a layer of excitement to your dive (if the reef sharks aren’t enough).
Experience Cold Water Diving
There’s nothing wrong with just sticking to diving in the warm tropics, but if you want something different and more challenging, then you have to do some cold water diving at least once. Apart from giving divers the thrill of diving in a harsher environment, cold waters are also home to marine life that you wouldn’t typically see in warmer waters–from colorful soft corals to sea otters, to giant octopuses!
Some of the best dive sites for cold water diving include Southwestern Canada (home to a number of shipwrecks and a wide variety of marine life), South Australia (home to nudibranchs, leafy sea dragons, and Wobbegong sharks), and of course, the Arctic (home incredible ice formations, humpbacks, belugas, and dolphins).
Book an Underwater Hotel
Technically, this isn’t purely a dive experience, but it’s a great experience nonetheless. And if you’ve ever wondered what it’d be like to sleep with the fishes (without being murdered by a member of the Mafia), then booking an underwater hotel should be on your bucket list.
Now there are a lot of luxury hotels all over the world that offer this, but in Jules’ Undersea Lodge (the world’s oldest underwater hotel) off the coast of Florida, guests have to dive 21 feet down to get to the main lobby–effectively making the whole trip both a rugged adventure and a luxury retreat.