Deep impact: the world's best dive sites
Looking for your next big adventure? Go below the surface and discover the natural and historical wonders of the marine world. Whether it's the tropical waters of the Pacific, the islands of the Caribbean, or the hidden gems of the Red Sea, beneath pristine coastlines lie a diversity of ecosystems waiting to be explored.
Egypt - Ras Mohammed National Park
The Ras Mohammed National Park, situated in Egypt's Red Sea Riviera, is listed as one of the Lonely Planet's top dive destinationsi. Coined as the country's oldest and most well-preserved national park, this natural wonder is home to diverse reef structures and an array of marine animals, including reef and pelagic fishii. Whether you're an enthusiast or professional scuba diver, there is a dive to suit your level of expertise. Best of all, the marine park offers optimal diving conditions all year roundii. For the adventurous divers, Anemone City and Yolanda Reef, a wreck dive, are must visits.
Sharm El Sheikh is a popular vacation destination in Egypt that boasts a variety of fun and exciting water sports. Various resorts run certified scuba diving training courses and day trips to Ras Mohammed.
The Maldives is comprised of 26 coral atolls formed around a cluster of more than a thousand islands - it's little wonder the island-formed nation is described as a natural swimming pooliii. Apart from its picturesque coastlines and crystal-clear lagoons, the Maldives is also known for its spectacular dives and snorkelling. From live coral and tropical fish, to crustaceans and sea turtles, there is an abundance of wildlife to explore at the 25 dive sites located across the different islandsiii. A range of resorts are equipped with diving centres that run regular scuba dive excursions for enthusiast and professional divers. Snorkelling equipment is also available.
Home to some of the world's best beaches and surf, Hawaii is also brimming with vibrant coral reefs and marine wildlife. The ideal time to go whale watching is from December to early May when the humpback whale makes Hawaii its homeiv. The islands of Maui and Molokini, and the Kona coast on Hawaii Island are great locations for snorkellers and scuba diving enthusiastsv. A popular site for experienced divers is the Lanai Cathedrals, which is formed from colossal underwater lava tubesvi. Hawaii also offers other fun water activities suitable for kids, including canoeing and kayakingvii.
The Caribbean - The Cayman Islands
The islands of the Caribbean - as well as being popularly associated with The Pirates of the Caribbean movies - have long been considered to have some of the best dive sites in the world. The Bloody Bay Wall at Little Cayman, the smallest of the Cayman Islands, is one of the deepest wall destinations in the world. The wall drops down to over 1,800 metresviii. However, the dive is only recommended to the most experienced of divers. Grand Cayman, the largest of the three islands, offers a greater variety of dives, so both enthusiast and advanced divers can have their fair share of funix. While better known for its amazing wall dives, shore and wreck diving is also available.
The Greek Islands
While the Greek Islands are well known for their picturesque shorelines, whitewashed villages and byzantine cathedrals, they are also home to some of the world's best dive sites. Up until 2006, diving was heavily restricted in the regionx.
Since regulations have eased, more and more divers have been able to explore the exotic marine wildlife and ancient artefacts beneath the pristine waters. Divers might even catch a glimpse of the rare monk seals that patrol the region. Offering a variety of diving, including wall, wreck, cavern and reef, the Greek Islands welcome both enthusiast and professional divers.
The iSimangaliso Wetland Park has been coined the jewel of South Africa's coastline and is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage sitexi. Within this sanctuary of beaches, coral reefs, wetlands, swamps, lakes, woodlands and coastal forests lies Maputaland Marine Reserve. The reserve - home to the endangered leatherback turtlexi - has a scuba diving area at Sodwana Bay. It's one of South Africa's most popular dive sitesxii and is suited to both enthusiast and professional divers.
Safety measures to keep in mind
Diving can be a relaxing and enjoyable way to spend a holiday. However, like any sport, it comes with certain risks, so it's important to have the necessary skills and observe safety measures. It's essential to be trained by qualified professionals. PADI are an internationally recognised and respected scuba diving training organisation that runs courses all over the world for divers with different levels of expertise. Before planning your next big underwater adventure, be sure to read up on the training requirement necessary for the dive you want to undertake.