8 Great Destinations for Experienced Divers
August 30, 2021
The world is truly your oyster as an experienced diver! You have perfected your skills, are confident in the water, and now you can reap the rewards of your efforts. Take your pick of the world's best dive destinations, offering everything from pristine tropical reefs to bucket-list megafauna hotspots, deep wreck dives and challenging caves. Ready for a thrill? Read on to discover 8 of the best places to scuba dive for experienced divers.
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1. The Galapagos Islands
Often featured as one of the best places to scuba dive in the world, the UNESCO-listed Galapagos Islands
are a paradise for nature fans and experienced divers. As well as having countless opportunities for wildlife watching above water, the rich waters are busy with sharks, rays, sea turtles, sea lions, and huge schools of fish.
The wild waters around Darwin Island
and Wolf Island
are renowned for hosting abundant schooling hammerheads, whale sharks, silky and Galapagos sharks. Just be ready for a negative entry if the currents are running and keep an eye peeled for passing dolphins, mantas and eagle rays.
You can watch feeding marine iguanas and acrobatic penguins at Cape Douglas
, while Cabo Marshall
hosts numerous rays, including mobulas, cow-nose rays and mantas.
Top Galapagos diving experiences:
- Dive at Punta Carrion for encounters with playful Galapagos sea lions.
- Spot manta rays and black coral-covered landscapes at Cousins Rock.
- Dive the Galapagos Islands from June to November for whale sharks.
Another spectacular UNESCO World Heritage site filled with sharks, Cocos Island in Costa Rica is renowned for its schools of scalloped hammerhead sharks, whale sharks and reef sharks. It offers incredible diving for experienced divers, and if you can tear yourself away from the sharks, you can dive with mobula rays, mantas and schooling pelagic fish as well.
While Cocos Island is all about hammerheads, Costa Rica’s Bat Islands have resident bull sharks. The aptly-named Big Scare
dive site has numerous bull sharks, plus whales, dolphins and mantas nearby. Added to that, there are healthy hard coral reefs at the islands, with abundant reef fish and great night diving.
It is fair to say that if you are an experienced diver who loves sharks, Costa Rica is one of the best places to scuba dive.
Top Costa Rica diving experiences:
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- Look under the ledges at Manuelita Deep at Cocos Island for groups of sleeping whitetip reef sharks.
- Enjoy some of Costa Rica’s best coral gardens and reef fish at Manuelita Garden.
- Visit Cocos Island in January for humpback whales and pilot whales.
- Dive with bull sharks at the Bat Islands.
Scapa Flow, Scotland
Take a trip to Scotland’s Orkney Islands
and explore Scapa Flow - the former chief base of the Royal Navy that is world-famous for its challenging wreck dives.
At the end of World War II, the German High Seas Fleet was held at Scapa Flow. The German Commander, fearing the vessels would be taken by the allies, scuttled the entire fleet. Fifty-two of the 74 vessels sank and remain there today, creating a wreck diving mecca that attracts divers from around the world.
There are wrecks at various depths, with some shallow wrecks and plenty of deep challenging wrecks. Just remember to take a thick wetsuit or drysuit with you, as the waters rarely exceed 13 °C (55 °F).
Top Scapa Flow diving experiences:
- Dive the SMS Markgraf, the jewel in Scapa Flow’s crown. Sitting at 45 meters, she is perfect for Extended Range divers.
- Visit Scapa Flow from December to March for the clearest waters.
Socorro Islands, Mexico
The remote Socorro Islands
take over 24 hours to reach by liveaboard, but the rewards are well worth it. This is Mexico’s premier liveaboard diving destination and one of the undisputed best places to scuba dive with manta rays.
While you will not find coral reefs at these remote islands, you will instead find current-swept dive sites rich in bucket-list marine life. These unique islands are famous for hosting numerous giant Pacific manta rays, as well as humpback whales, plenty of sharks, dolphins and enormous bait balls.
There are underwater pinnacles busy with schooling tuna and jacks, plus sea turtles and even orcas in these untouched waters. If you want to go diving there, just make sure you are comfortable with currents and waves or upskill with the SSI Waves, Tides and Currents specialty
before you go.
Top Socorro diving experiences:
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- Dive San Benedicto Island’s The Boiler dive site for encounters with huge Pacific manta rays.
- El Canyon offers an exciting deep dive with mantas, schooling hammerheads, Galapagos sharks, silky sharks and dolphins.
- Dive Roca Partida in January for oceanic whitetips and hammerheads.
The Great Lakes, United States
Divers from around the world flock to the Great Lakes
each year for adventurous dives among hundreds of shipwrecks, and rarely leave disappointed. Made up of Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Superior, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, the Great Lakes have crystal-clear waters and are some of the best places to scuba dive for well-preserved wrecks.
The wrecks range from 19th-century wooden schooners to modern steel freighters and have all been well preserved by the cold freshwater in the lakes. While some of the wrecks sit within recreational limits, the majority lies in deep cold waters, making them ideal for experienced divers.
Top Great Lakes diving experiences:
- Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary at Lake Huron has 100 historic shipwrecks, some at over 60 meters deep.
- Visit Lake Superior’s Royale National Park, a dive site with 10 wrecks in outstanding condition.
With its ripping currents and pristine reefs, Komodo
is ideal for experienced divers and is one of the true gems of diving in Indonesia. Made up of 29 volcanic islands with picture-perfect views, this national park is one of the best places to scuba dive for experienced divers who love reef diving. Added to that, you can visit a rare pink sand beach, go hiking, island hopping and – of course – meet Komodo dragons.
As one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, you can expect Komodo’s turquoise waters to be teeming with life, including numerous manta rays, sea turtles and schools of colorful fish. There are plenty of macro critters to find amongst the vibrant corals and the rich waters are perfect for night diving with octopus, squid and sharks.
Top Komodo diving experiences:
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- Visit Komodo in August for encounters with bizarre-looking Mola mola (sunfish).
- Go diving at Komodo from December to February for peak manta numbers.
Lot & Dordogne, France
If you are a keen cave diver, make sure you add France
to your diving wish list. It might not be one known as one of the best places to scuba dive, but France has numerous underwater and surface cave systems to explore.
The Lot and Dordogne regions are France’s cave diving meccas and offer some of the best cave diving in Europe. The seemingly endless limestone cave networks have huge open passages and gin-clear waters. Most of the cave systems measure more than 5 miles, with long cave loops and classic cave dives to entertain you for days.
Top Dordogne diving experiences:
- Dive the Emergence Du Russel loop with a DPV. This challenging 2.5 mile cave loop is rarely completed but it attracts divers from around the world every year.
Florida, United States
Florida is a classic family destination with plenty of topside attractions, but few people realize there are breathtaking underwater cave systems just below the surface. Naturally created by springs and underwater rivers, Florida’s cave systems offer fantastic diving in bright blue waters, with white walls that help illuminate the way.
The Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park is one of the most popular cave diving spots in Florida
and features one of the largest and longest cave systems in the world. Hosting six large sinkholes and two major springs, this park is dedicated to cave diving. With more than 30,000 feet of passageways to explore, there is more than enough to keep even the most avid cave diver busy.
Top Florida diving experiences:
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- Go cave diving in the famously clear spring waters of Ginnie Springs.
- Visit Morrison Springs State Park for sand-bottomed springs and cavities over 90 meters deep.