World-wide dive sites
Here, I’ve listed dive sites I visited during my trips. Their common denominator is the absence of mass tourism. I’d return to every single one of them, if funds and time would allow.
Sites marked with an asterisk * haven’t been dived before.
There are no planned international activities in the pipeline right now. After the great series of recent international dives I’ve to sit back and digest. I’m checking options though.
Scoresby Sund(*), Greenland. I was travelling the fjord system for a week on board the Plancius. I had the opportunity to reach 0° C water temperature and diving icebergs for the first time. Icebergs are quite unstable and change a lot, even within a few days. Thus, diving icebergs is a unique experience.
Sudan, south of Port Sudan. After my first trip to the Sudan in 2002, I now visited the region south of Port Sudan. The trip on board the Seawolf Dominator led me towards the Eritrean border. In this area, the Red Sea still has plenty of fish. Big schools of fish are quite common and with a bit of luck you even might spot hammerhead sharks.
Raja Ampat, Indonesia. In this remote area, life is colorful, abundant and the number of different species is higher than anywhere else. Both on land and under water one may experience an overwhelming symphony of life. Simply, diving as it should be. I travelled the area for two weeks aboard the Aurora around southern and central Raja Ampat.
Azores, Portugal. The island of Santa Maria is surrounded by nice dive spots. At Pedrinha or Ambrosia you may even see pelargic fish. The dive spots along the south coast of São Miguel show traces of former volcanic activity. The main features are cracks and caverns. The shipwreck Dori is a real beauty.
Zakynthos, Greece. The whole island consists of karst rock. Therefore, the landscape is full of caves and cavities, both above and under water. Most of the dive sites feature at least one cave, cavern, crack or swim-through. The light plays phantastic on the underwater landscape. Fish is, as common to the Mediterranean, rare. Nevertheless you may find several kind of groupers, wrasses, morays, crabs and shrimps. Diver’s Paradise offers relaxed and easy diving.
Lake Baikal, Russian Federation. You wouldn’t expect hundred of endemic species in Sibiria. Green sponges, yellow, brown or red crabs wherever you look. Sized from 2″ varieties to microscopic small forms. Above all, there’s the very shy Baikal Seal, living in freshwater. Shear dropp-offs and nearly vertical walls. Canyons formed by ancient waterfalls, now flooded and diveable. Water temperatures range between 2 and 5 °C, so wear a drysuit and thick undergarment.
Sinai, Egypt. I managed to dive the Thistlegorm and the Dunraven without seeing other groups of divers. The wrecks are abandoned, due to the political situation. They are in a bad state though, since the heavy diving throughout the last years has left its traces. There’s bare metal, where there should be growth of soft corals and sponges. Nevertheless, both wrecks are still quite impressive.
Burfell*, Iceland. This was a first time dive in this lake during the first true Icelandic Helidiving event. Located on top of Mt. Burfell, it is only accessible by helicopter. You need a special permission to dive this lake.
Tár Óðins, Iceland. Odins tear is a well kept treasure. Only about 10 persons have dived this magnificent lake up to now. The lake is located a bit off the track. You have to ford a knee deep river to get there. The water is as clear as a lake can get. Although about 20m deep, you can see the bottom clearly from the surface. Fine grey sand and big rocks cover the ground.
Ljotipollur, Iceland. I can’t say, why this crater lake is called Ugly Pond. An altitude difference of 150m between the road and the water surface turns the dive into an exhausting exercise. The bottom is covered in large rocks and green vegetation.
Frostastadavatn, Iceland. Located close to the track F208, the lake is quite easily to reach. It is shallow, the bottom is covered either with sand or thick vegetation.
Drángey, Iceland. The whole island is a single bird cliff. If you’re lucky, you might see birds fishing. Thick curtains of kelp cover the ground around the island.
Daviðsgjá, Iceland. While Silfra is a quite busy place, you’re on your own at this magnificent divesite. The crack is not as deep, but for sure as beautiful as its sister Silfra.
Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. Finally, I’ve been to northern Egypt. All the classic sites around Sharm, like Nama Bay, Ras Nasrani, Ras Gazlani, Shark Reef, Yolanda, Gordon Reef, Jackson Reef and my favorite site, Ras Bob.
Gulf of Napoli, Italy. The sites in this area are typical mediterranean. You’ll find crevices below shear cliffs and sea grass patches in flat areas. Sometimes, you may find conger eels, octopus, crabs and small nudibranches.
Hot Spring Bay, Reykjanes, Westfjords, Iceland (N65°55.742’ W022°25.664’). The bay has a depth of about 8m. Sandy patches and water plants are home to lumpsuckers, spider crabs and shells. Warm freshwater springs lead to comfortable 11°C water temperature. The thermal pool at the hotel is a great place to rinse your equipment.
Bay near the bridge, Mjölfjörður, Iceland (N65°55.577’ W022°34.475’). The sheltered bay is well out of the currents flowing under the bridge caused by the tide. Depths between 4 and 5m and lots of life will guarantee an interesting dive.
Dvergasteinn, Súðavík, Iceland (N65°59.970’ W023°02.226’). The site is located off a former wehaling station. A small wreck lies at 4 to 7m depth. Pale whale bones remind us of the activities in the past.
Óshlíð, Bolungarviík, Iceland (N66°08.622’ W023°09.582’). The sandy ground is home to lumpsuckers and woolf eels. Exiting through the strong surf is a real challenge.
Hesteyri, Hesteyrarfjörður, Iceland (N66°20.657’ W022°50.565’). Remains of a whaling station on teh beach mark the dive site. The slowly descending slope is covered in machine parts and whale bones, reminders of the past.
Sargon Wreck, Patreksfjörður, Iceland (N65°35.034’ W024°05.322’). The trawler was wrecked on December 1st 1948 during a blizzard. Eleven crew lost and six rescued. Shiny brass parts are spread between rusty-red metal items.
Birgisklettur, Stykkishólmur, Iceland (N65°05.045’ W022°40.294’). The site is around a small island close to the harbour. Kelp is gently swinging in the surf, spider crabs, sea urchins and sea cucumbers everywhere. All together, a nice experience.
Weda Bay, Halmahera, Indonesia. The Molucca Islands have been closed for tourists due to a civil war for years. Even now, that this time ist over, not many operators offer diving in the area. Weda Resort is one of the rare places, where you may have excellent dives and watch rare endemic birds as well. The dive sites consist of slopes and walls as well as a couple of muck sites and mangroves.
Lembeh Strait, North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Diving this place is still as impressive, as it was in 2004. The service at Divers Lodge Lembeh has even improved. Life in the muck is bizarre and always good for a surprise. The place is still an absolute macro paradise.
Gray seal colony off Vilsandi island, Estonia (N58° 29.657’ E021° 48.014’). Dancing with seals. Once you got their attention, there’s no end to fun. A friendly bite into your tasty fins, a soft kiss on your camera dome port or your mask. Curious and speedy. Like dogs, but in 3D. Let’s have a dance, let’s waltz in the surf!
Gray seal colony at Hülgerahu, Estonia (N58° 09.792’ E022° 47.193’). The seals are curious but shy. They keep distance but watch the divers. Short encounters pass too fast for taking pictures.
Jaagurahu, Estonia (N58° 24.399’ E021° 57.917’). A small lake close to the shore. Lots of plants, small perches and crayfish. Low visibility and a lot of green make it a spooky place.
Citadelle of Peter the Great, Tallinn, Estonia (N59° 27.309’ E024° 47.635’). The basement of a fortification is situated just off the harbour entrance. It consists of logs and rocks, built around 1720, later dismantled or never completed. Poor visibility is caused by closely passing ships.
Iljuša Wreck, Tallinn, Estonia (N59° 29.142’ E024° 43.200’). The small boat sits upright at about 14 to 15m depth. It was sunk on purpose, cargo bay open. The beautiful manholes are open and overgrown with plants. The visibility isn’t good enough to cover the small wreck in one go.
Rummu, Estonia (N59° 13.513’ E024° 11.877’). The prison at Rummu is still in use, but the prison quarry is flooded. Remains of buildings, masonry and barbed wire spread all over the place. Green water and low visibility is all you need for a great ambience. Gliding weightless over the wall, passing barbed wire, floodlight (sic!) and electric fence — a dream come true, but too late for the captives.
Sinijärv, Estonia (N59° 03.942’ E026° 14.421’). The lake is surrounded by picturesque trees and thousands of mosquitos. No wonder, that it is usually dived during winter. Nevertheless, it is worth a visit. Fresh water welling up in a couple of craters causes good visibility and water temperatures of summerly 7 to 8°C.
La Paz, Baja California, Mexico. Around the end of October, northerly winds start to cool down the ocean. This is the beginning of the hammerhead season. There’s a lot to see, until the water has cooled down enough to lure the sharks closer to the surface. Two nice wrecks are worth a visit, but the top spot is a sea lion colony. The young sea lions are curious and will invite you to a vivid dance of bubbles. Be prepared to get bitten into your fins or tugged at your regulator hoses at comfortable 28°C. The icing on the cake are the whale sharks, that may be seen in the area. If you had whale sharks for breakfast and sea lions for dinner, what could you ask for more?
Huasteca Mountains, Mexico: I have visited these dive sites before in 2003. Some things have changed since then: There are now facilities available at Manatial de la Media Luna (and therefore, there’s an entrance fee). The place has improved due to the changes. It is clean and tidy, the dives are still awesome. At Puente de Dios you don’t have to carry your tanks anymore down to and back up from the gorge. You may hire porters, who will do this hard job for you. I think, I am the first person to dive these sites with a drysuit.
Kleifarvatn, Iceland. The lake is located south of Reykjavík. Since a series of earthquakes, the water level decreases by about one meter per year. The shoreline is changing continuously and so the dive site has to be located from a small hill before entering the water. The rising bubbles are easy to find. Once in the water, you may navigate by the sound of streaming gasses. You’ll hear the site before you’ll see it. Gases and chemicals are so highly concentrated that you might find dead fish in the craters. Geothermal activity causes water temperatures between 12 and 15°C.
Silfra, little crack, Iceland. The entrance is east of the main crack at the lagoon. Because of the narrow pass and overehad areas the place is usually off-limits. For experienced divers only! Follow the crack north against the weak current. There are several swim-throughs where you have to descend furhter to get past a few boulders. In some places the walls are so narrow that you may touch them wirth both of your hands or even your shoulders. Between the narrow passes there are basins of black lava rock covered with green algae. Short, but intense and amazingly beautiful. Expect water temperatures between 2 and 4°C.
Strýtan, Iceland. Hot springs have been reported in Eyjafjörður over 100 years ago. A scientific reasearch project resulted in detailled charting of the area. Since 2001, the hot spring area is the first underwater natural reserve in Iceland. Rising from the ground at 65m, Strýtan has built up to a 50m high chimney throughout the last 11000 years. Water streaming off the chimney at 80°C meets sea water at about 5°C, creating a unique biosphere around the hot springs. Going by boat in the fjord bears the chance of whale encounters. Humpback and mink whales are frequent visitors to the area.
Nesgjá, Iceland. The crack has a depth of 4 to 5 meters. Located at the northern coast, it is connected to the sea by a shallow lagoon. Although shallow and small, it is as beautiful as Silfra. Since there’s no current, the crack is very sensitive agains stirring up debris. Two or four divers at once is the absolute maximum at this great site.
Litla Á, Iceland. A shallow part of the river close to a farm (mostly half a meter, with holes going down to 2 meters) is a great place for snorkeling. You may see quite big trouts and arctic char hiding in the green algae. The main attraction in this place are thermal springs. They emerge from holes in the ground. In some of them you’ll find shells whirling around, others are covered with different layers of sand that changes colors due to the water streaming through. 16°C warm water helps to enjoy this unique spot.
El Grillo, Iceland. The boat was bombed on February 10th 1944 and sank near Seyðisfjörður. It lies upright at a depth of 28 to 45 meters. Due to limited visibility you may explore the 150 meters long wreck in parts only.
Bjarnargjá, Iceland. A broken down building, rusty parts of a water pump, right in the middle of a lava field – that’s the right setting for a scary movie. If you dare to enter the narrow crack next to the building you’ll find, that it’s the place for a great dive too. Long dangling green algae, like fairytale hair, black volcanic rock – all the ingredients for a near-gothic dive experience. Since there’s no current washing away the stirred-up debris this site should be visited by a maximum of two divers at a time. The 10°C warm water gives you plenty of time for a thorough look or taking pictures.
Garður, Iceland. Garður is a small fishing harbour next to Keflavík airport. Diving there, you get a good overview of North Atlantic biology.You’ll dive a slowly descending sandy slope, covered with seaweed, kelp and some rocks. Wherever you look, you’ll find large numbers of hermit crabs, schools of pollock and also the occasional wolf eel.
Taïn and La Sirena, Domenican Republic. Cave diving at its best. The two fresh water caves Taïn and La Sirena are places worth to remember. Extremely good visibility, crystal clear water and breathtaking rock formations. La Sirena connects to the sea and has a halocline, where fresh water and salt water meet in a psychedelic experience.
Boca Cica, Domenican Republic. Nice Wrecks (Catuan, El Limon, Hickory) at a depth of 20m. Lots of light and time to explore. Usually good visibility.
Red Sea, Southern Egypt. After 10 years of diving, I manage to see the famous northern parts of the Red Sea. Dives at Elphinstone Reef, Daedalus Reef, Brothers and the wreck of the Salem Express. In contrast to most of the other listed places, there was a significant number of divers at any visited dive site.
Silfra, Iceland (N64° 15.319’ W 21° 07.008’). Silfra Cathedral lies in a gap caused by continental drift. Here, the american and eurasian plates drift apart, leaving a ravine filled with crystal clear water. Melting water from the surrounding glaciers gets filtered along its way, filling the crack with clear fresh water. Silfra, meaning Silver Woman, is a good choice of a name for this magnificent site. A light current towards the open lake keeps the water clear. Visibilities up to 100m are easily reached! The water temperature of 2 to 4°C helps to keep the water clear too. Huge rocks, partly covered with hair like, long light green algae, create a perfect stage for an unforgettable dive. Left shoulder Europe, right shoulder America. Drifting slowly between the continents. Silfra Lagoon, a shallow basin connecting to the southern end of the crack also surprises with end to end visibility. The operator dive.is offers trips to Silfra.
Wakatobi, Indonesia (S05° 46’ E 123° 53’). Pristine, well grown drop-offs, reefs full of life. A place you will remember. There are more than 45 dive sites within a few minutes boat ride. Everything is optimized for underwater photography. Wheather you’re a WA or macro type, you’ll find plenty of possibillities for great shots. This all is topped with 5* restaurant service. Small groups (6 guests per guide), the closest resort a mere 500km away. A dream at the end of the world.
Alam Anda, Bali, Indonesia (S08° 08.911’ E115° 24.705’). A well organized small resort. Good diving and a great spa. Guided trips across northern Bali are performed on request. In addition to a vital house reef boat trips to a couple of dive sites are available. In addition, bus based dive trips to sites all over Bali are available.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. Sharks, rays, turtles, sealions. Great dives and equally great land trips. Simply unforgettable.
Gozo, Malta. Rocks, caves, a few wrecks. Mediterranean at its best.
Coron Bay, North Palawan, Philippines. Sangat Island lies in Coron Bay, surrounded by 24 wrecks. 10 of them are known and divable. The US Navy sunk them in WW II within a single attack. The sheltered bay suffers of bad visibility (especially after rain). There’s nearly nothing but wrecks but plenty of them. You may find crocodile fish or cuttlefish in a few shallow wrecks. Most of the reefs have been destroyed by dynamite and cynaide fishing.
Baracuda Lake (N11° 57.427’ E120° 12.986’) on Coron Island is fed by hot volcanic springs. You enter via a shallow gorge. Razor sharp rocks lead the way to this magnificent spot. The deeper you go, the warmer it gets.
Cathedral (N11° 49.370’ E120° 15.999’) is another wreck-less dive site, located at the south tip of Coron Island. A hidden entrance leads to a cave. Light entering through a hole in the ceiling causes a mystic feeling. Most of the time, there is current outside, causing visibility up to 40m.
Lembeh Strait, North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Lembeh Strait is a place where you still may find rare and undescribed species. Lembeh lies at the heart of the area called Walacea. A hot spot of biodiversity. Divers Lodge Lembeh is the smallest operator but has big advantages. There’s a limit of two guests per guide. It’s all optimized for photography. You name it, they show it. Diving in this area means muck diving. Browsing through the debris you’ll meet critter you never thought of existing. An absolute macro paradise.
Bunaken National Park, North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Amongst others, Thalassa Dive Center (located at the Santika Hotel near Manado) offers boat trips to Bunaken. Well overgrown drop-offs are the result of strict environmental protection. Six turtles during a single dive! Bahowo Lodge is a nice and sheltered place to stay. About 300 inhabtants, a small hotel with only 4 rooms.
Cyprus, diving around Paphos. Nearly no fish, but great visibility. You see there’s no fish. There’s a plenty of wrecks, most of them in shallow water. Enough light and time for grat pictures. Limestone with holes like Swiss cheese, crevices and small canyons. Cydive in Paphos offers good service for reasonable money. The wreck of the Achilleas (N34° 46.416’ E32° 26.245’) and Vera K (N34° 43.281’ E32° 25.697’) are located in shallow water outside of Paphos harbour. Ideally for beginners and photographers alike. The Zenobia sank near Lárnaka (16 to 38m; N34° 53.823’ E33° 39.449’) in 1982. It’s a must for wreck divers. One of the most spectacular wrecks in the Mediterranean.
Huasteca Mountains, Mexico: During a trip organized by Coordinación Subacuatica in Cuernavaca, we were able to dive a few exclusive sites. Together with two guides we visited dive sites in Manatial de la Media Luna (N21° 51.658’, W100° 1.687’) at Rio Verde. A bit further to the east, Puente de Dios (N21° 55.925’, W99° 24.927’). Both located in the region San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Manatial de la Media Luna consists of five volcanic springs. Although at an altitude of 1000m, water temperature is about 30°C. Unforgettable dives in the springs and a couple of tunnels. Puente de Dios (a “cold water dive” at 26°C) is located at the bottom of a narrow path, approximately 100m deep in a crevice. There’s no dive operator in the vicinity, so you have to carry all your equipment. The dive follows the river upstream, through a small tunnel. A waterfall beats like a huge bass drum, syncing your hear beat. A most relaxing experience.
Tuxpan, Ver. Mexico. There’s only one operator, Aqua Sports (Carretera Tuxpan – La Barra km. 8.5, phone: 70259, no email in 2003). They offer day trips to the reefs (e.g. Inner reef, N21° 1.470’, W97° 11.781’). If you’re lucky, you may fing huge rays hiding in the sand.
Veracruz, Ver., Mexico. There are 4 operators in Veracruz. I registered at Dorado Divers. Nice staff, it helps if you speak and understand basics in Spanish. During day trips with two dives each, you may explore the reefs outside Veracruz and Anton Lizardo. Best time for diving is between May and September. Water temperature ranges from 23° to 26°C.
Sudan: Two weeks liveaboard with the Aurora (she sank at Wingate Reef a couple of years ago) off Port Sudan. The Red Sea in the Sudan is like the Red Sea in Egypt about 40 years ago. It’s, where diving history was written. Sites like the Umbria, Wingate Reef, Sanganeb Reef, Sha’ab Rumi, Precontinent II, the Blue Belt (Toyota wreck), Sha’ab Suedi, Gurna Reef, Merlo Reef, Angarosh.
Diving in the Sudan is definitively not for beginners. At lesat it wasn’t, at that time. No guide, no maps. Minimal briefing on the line of “the sea is deep, the water is wet, be back in an hour in s’allah!”. There are mostly drop-offs with a step at 30 to 40m, dropping down to about 600m. Nearly no dive as shallow as 40m. In the meantime, more operators run boats in the Sudan.
Beste time for travelling is March to April. I was there in November. At a water temperature of 34°C (inversion layer, 28°C at 50m) and poor visibility.
Coral Point Dive Resort, Panglao, Philippines. A small resort (9 double rooms only), hosted by Ferry Knall, scuba diving since the early fifties. The west coast of Panglao is quiet. No discotheque, no bar, just a few footsteps from the room to the sea. A true macro paradise where I could take pictures of about 30 different nudibranches within two weeks of diving.
Turkey: The coastline around Fethye is ragged and has lots of little bays. European Diving Center Turkey offers one week liveaboards. A great place for beginners, caring staff, nice and easy sites. You’ll see more fish than e.g. in Croatia. Great landscape, above and beneath the waterline.
Kroatia: Neptun Sub in Vodice is located close to the Kornati National Park. Boat trips lead to good dive sites around Vodice. Gorgonia fans, drop offs, congers, crabs, octopus, to name a few, Mediterranean alive. The wreck of the Francesca da Rimini (experienced divers only) lies between 39 and 55m. The hull is filled with grenades. The ship is lying upright on the ground, with a huge hole caused by the torpedo that sunk it. I promised not to publish the position.
Kroatia: Diving Cres is a small dive operator on the island of Cres. The friendly staff offers dive trips around the island.
Corse: The Lavezzi islands are located south of Bonifacio. A short boat ride off Bonifacio (Operators: Sarl Kallisté, Atoll or Baracuda) offer dive sites like Les Grottes (N41° 20.053’ E9° 15.796’) and Merouville (N41° 20.726’ E9° 16.498’). In the huge limestone walls along the coast are many caves and cracks.
Corse: It’s hard to get to Revellata. An unpaved narrow path leads down from the main road, forking into unmarked but dead ends, until it finally reaches the lighthouse. It’s worth the hassle. Beneath the lighthouse, close to the water there’s STARESO, a branch of the marine biological institute of the university of Liege, Belgium (N42° 34.992’ E8° 43.485’). The friendly staff answers all questions about marine life in this area. The landscape (above and beneath) is characterized by bizarre formations of igneous rock.