Any top 10 list is always controversial – we all have different opinions and likes/dislikes. SO when I sat down to document my top 10 sites I really needed to evaluate and look at what my top 10 have been. As I have been to these places they are not in my top 10 list and some (or all of these may rate highly on your list.
I will say I have been fortunate to have dived in a lot of cool places and I and it has been hard to pick the top 10, but here goes and in no particular order.
Sodwana Bay – South Africa
Situated in Northern KwaZulunatal, it presents great and varied diving opportunities. With depths ranging from around 10m to 50+ and diverse topography, good viz. (up to 50m) and generally good weather. I have had some amazing dives with Leatherback turtles, humpback whales, various sharks (including a tiger), many whale sharks and the list goes on. There is a point between 5mile and 9mile reefs where the continental shelf is very close to the shore and at depths of about 50m divers have seen Coelacanths here. One of my top three dives here was on a Sunday afternoon on Anton’s Reef where I ventured onto the sand to play with the ribbon tale rays when I got bumped in the side. Looking around it was a baby dolphin with mum barreling towards me – that was an “oh S@t*“ moment but all she did was nudge junior away from the scary scuba diver. This went on for about 10 minutes – a truly unforgettable moment.
Crystal River – Florida USA
This is a site that should be on everyone’s bucket list. As the name implies the waters are Crystal clear. If you have ever wanted to dive in water that is insanely clear – go no further. Situated on the west coast of Florida, USA, Crystal river is famous for its resident manatees and cave systems. In the morning snorkel with the friendly Manatees and if you scratch them they may even give you a kiss. In the afternoon experience cave diving in crystal clear waters. I remember being in a cave and feeling like I was not in the water – the water is really that clear. You may even be lucky enough to see a massive Tarpon darting past.
Kuredu – Maldives
Ok, so this is a natural inclusion on anyone’s list. I spent time on the Island of Kuredu and it was simply unreal. My first dive was a check out on the house reef (at the end of the pier) and the very first thing I saw was a massive Manta coming to say good morning. Diving is varied, in great conditions with phenomenal viz. This is a must-do dive for any serious diver.
Ok, so where do we start with Palau. Blue Corner, Palau is rated as one of the top dive sites in the world on every list I could find. It is certainly worthy of this accolade. But I would also rate sites like the Ulong Channel, Jelly Fish lagoon, Blue Holes and the German Channel. Definitely one of my top 5 dives ever was in the German channel sitting in a massive bait ball being smashed by sharks, tuna and barracuda while a beautiful Manta was feeding around the edges. Blue holes is another awesome spot in a destination that keeps giving.
Osprey Reef – Australia
If you want to experience pristine reefs without leaving Australia, and ones that rate with the best in the world,
look no further than Osprey Reef. Well outside the barrier reef in the Coral Sea and hundreds of kilometres from land lies this gem of a dive location. Accessible only by life aboard the boat (Spirit of Freedom is the pick) you can experience an abundance of reef life with incredible visibility.
Beqa Lagoon – Fiji
I personally think the Beqa Lagoon (pronounced Benga) is an underrated dive site. Situated on the south of the main island of Fiji between Nadi and Suva it does offer some of the best shark diving experiences in the world. You can easily have over 100 sharks at a feeding and many different species (Tiger, Bull, Reef. Lemon, etc) and while this is an experience that is not to be missed the reef and Bommies of the lagoon are incredible. I love the fans and coral of the lagoon and should not be missed.
Protea Banks – South Africa
Situated south of Durban, we used to run a frequent trip here called “Dive with the big 5”. That’s correct the big 5 sharks. The banks themselves lie in about 35m and there is little of interest. Dive profile was usually, head to the bottom and then spend 35-40 minutes ascending. We would always have three of the big 5 sharks on every dive. Common sightings included schools of Hammerheads circling in your bubbles. Inquisitive Tigers and Raggies (Grey Nurse) and frequent visits by Bull sharks at your safety stop. I even spotted a White pointer on a dive. Not for the faint-hearted but defiantly worth a visit and a must when diving during the sardine run. This place would be a central point for this annual phenomenon.
Solomon Islands – Uepi
An absolute gem and not far off our shores. Uepi represents probably the best dive trip I have ever undertaken. It may not have the very best of anyone thing but as a package and brilliant diving this place stands out. The Accommodation and food are amazing, the diving so easy and the conditions great. One of my favourites was Penguin reef – no there were no penguins and the water is warm – stunning visibility and like swimming in an aquarium.
A local beauty! Well protected on the northern tip of Moreton Island it offers stunning visibility and exceptional sea life
Inhaca Island – Mozambique
This is a little island that guards the bay of Maputo in Mozambique and it is exceptionally unique in the world in that it has more diverse ecosystems than any other island on earth. In one day you can traipse through mangrove swamps, desert islands, tropical jungles, sub-tropical beaches and more. Like it on the point of a bay, the tidal movement in and out is massive and this brings such a diverse and magnificent selection of life. One special dive is on a sunken light buoy at the turn of the tide where you hang on and watch the diverse array of pelagic cursing by and on towards Maputo harbour for feeding.
Bazaruto Island – Mozambique
A small island about halfway up the coast of Mozambique presents some unbelievable diving. One particular spot – Lighthouse House reef remains the best ever dive to this day. A big accolade but when you spend 60-70 minutes and come out dizzy from looking all over the place who could argue. On a single dive, which started with a massive pod of dolphins on the surface we saw 3 species of turtle (including a leatherback), 6 species of shark (including bull and hunting black tip’s), grouper, tuna, barracuda as well as too many reef fish to mention. Swimming back to the boat (an anchored 52ft Cat) we were escorted by the same dolphins that we saw before the dive. This one took a long time to get over.
In closing…with so many cool sites I had to add a number of notable mentions which are always worth looking at. These include, exHMAS Brisbane, Raggie Cave (Aliwal Shoal South Africa), President Coolidge (Vanuatu), Stradbroke Island, Pemba and Punto do Auro, Mozambique, Cherubs cave (off Moreton Island), Mariko Oog (Crystal clear cave system – South Africa), Great lakes of the USA (unreal shipwrecks preserved in freshwater) and the list goes on.
Coming soon – the top 10 dive sites on my bucket list….
Article complimentary of Platinum Dive Club Member John Anderson