The Diver’s Bucket List

Michaela Atiae, Staff Writer

Pisar Island at Truk Lagoon in Chuuk State of Micronesia

There are some sports that you can be borderline obsessed with. Scuba diving is on that list, as it’s as good of a reason as any to traverse the world. With diving, however, you can find yourself in some pretty interesting spots. From most islands around the world, with Hall of Fame luxury hotels, to places that are downright sketchy, diving will take you places. The only guarantee is that they’re all going to be beauties of spots and places that so very few people will see in their lifetime. This is the diver’s bucket list, and don’t worry, there’s also plenty of snorkel for those who want to stay closer to shore. 

The Destination: The Philippines

What’s great about the Philippines for diver enthusiasts is the ability to island hop. The country is an archipelago, so just a couple of hours via boat opens up a world of diving opportunities. This destination is known for its clear waters and white sand beaches. Not to mention, the 500+ species of coral and over 2,000 species of fish that grace these waters. The Anilao area is great for beginners, focused on muck and reef dives closer to the surface. For the old-timers, Tubbataha Reefs is a definite bucket list destination, known as a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the isolated reefs are only accessible by liveaboards. So we recommend a luxury sea stay to visit the deeper waters.

Where to Stay: Amanpulo, El Nido Resort

The Destination: Chuuk Lagoon

Chuuk Lagoon is heaven for those looking for wreck dives. The atoll is where war history comes alive. The Micronesia State was gifted to Japan after World War I and used as a naval base in World War II. A U.S. attack led to 60 ships and 200 planes’ demise, and now cargo left behind can be found scattered across the ocean floor 330ft deep. Here, bicycles, cutlery, ammunition, Grey reef sharks, stingrays, jellyfish, and more coexist. Not only is the state filled with cultural artifacts, but the lagoon is surrounded by a ring of coral reef. Will you dare to dive the Ghost Fleet of Truk Lagoon? From these photos, it’s worth it. 

Where to Stay: Truk Blue Lagoon Resort

The Destination: Cayman Islands

You can’t go to the Cayman Islands and not walk the seven-mile beach. But, past the coral sands are 365 dive sites, so how about a swim? High season is from December to April, so May and June are best to beat crowds and avoid storms. Bloody Bay Marine houses yellow tube sponges, sea fans, triggerfish, lobsters, and bioluminescent plants along its 6,500 wall drop. We didn’t forget you beginners; feed southern stingrays 12 ft under in Stingray City. A must-see for novice and seasoned divers is Devil’s Grotto, a 14ft dive will have you feeling like you’ve entered a secret world of its own. Underwater caves, schools of tarpon, and small silver sprats blanket the waters in a silver shimmer. 

Where to Stay: The Ritz-Carlton, Le Soleil d’Or

The Destination: Galapagos

When you think of the Galapagos you’re most likely thinking of the wildlife. A large part of its biodiversity is marine animals. The Ecuadorian reserve is a haven for Galapagos sharks, marine iguanas, giant tortoises, and blue-footed boobies. The water is cooler despite being by the equator because of The Humboldt Current. The current is packed with nutrients for sea lions and the cold keeps the penguins sustained. If a shark sighting is on your list, a liveaboard to Darwin and Wolf Islands is perfect to see hammerheads, silky and whale sharks. Add flamingo lagoons, mangrove forests, a swim with the penguins, and you’ve got a jam-packed diving itinerary.

Where to Stay: Finch Bay Hotel, Montemar Eco Luxury Villas

The Destination: Red Sea, Jordan

Jordan boasts an impressive 20+ dive sites in its smaller share of the Red Sea. King Abdullah II made the most of the 17-mile coast, especially Aqaba Marine Park. He’s helped preserve the surrounding waters and created exciting artificial sites. A sunken former Lebanese Freighter and a reef named after himself, to name a few. The first underwater military museum in the world is also a Jordan treasure, cleaned for biodiversity safety and positioned at different dive levels. The country’s devotion to its waters creates excellent views of lionfish, scorpionfish, angler clownfish, and eels. Do not be fooled by the name; the water is crystal clear and blue.   

Where to Stay: Kempinski Hotel, Al Manara

The Destination: Belize

Belize is one of those places you can go back to a few times and keep making discoveries. Bordered by Mexico and Guatemala, the Central American country is one of the less populated, equaling pristine waters. Made up of islands, it is the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, with 185 miles of coastline. Due to the lack of pollution and intervention, the destination has clear waters and a reef with coral 300ft deep. The Great Blue Hole is one of the largest marine sinkholes in the world and found 62 miles away from Belize City. Famous oceanographer and diver Jacques Cousteau said it’s a top 10 dive site on earth. There you’ll find stalactite and reef sharks waiting for prey around the edges of the atoll. Schools of tuna, barracuda, stingrays, coral canyons, and mangroves also live here.

Where to Stay: Hamanasi Adventure & Dive Resort, Ka’ana Resort

The Destination: Great Barrier Reef

This list is not complete without one of the seven wonders of the world – The Great Barrier Reef. The large reef is visible from space with 3,000 individual reefs and a collective of 600 coral species. Swimming amongst the vibrant plant life, you’ll find many aquatic inhabitants. From endangered species like the sea cow to giant clams and turtles – this is the destination for rare sightings. Sunken shipwrecks and sculptures create magnificent visual interactions between the manmade and nature in the 14,000-mile marvel. Check out Capricorn and Bunker Reefs for beginners and the Museum of Underwater Art or Agincourt Reef for an advanced dive.

Where to Stay: Qualia, Lizard Island Resort

The Destination: South Africa

South Africa is massive, creating a lot of diversity for dives. There are tropical reefs, kelp forests, and lots of sharks. But, if you’re going to dive in South Africa, sharks are the main attraction. Aliwal Shoal has nine dive sites to explore, with the cold water moving in from one direction and the warmer waters from the other. Together, the currents create biodiversity that attracts the big guys in the marine food chain, including tiger, ragged-tooth black tip, giant guitar, and whale sharks. Witness the Sardine Run, octopus, and reef fish or go straight for the diving cages. There’s no wrong choice.

Where to Stay: The Silo, Cape Town 

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