SSI’s Top Picks for Diving in JanuaryJanuary 30, 2023
It’s a new year, and the best way to start the year out right is in the water! Depending on where in the world you live, you are either in the midst of a cold, snowy winter or enjoying the warm days of summer. However, no matter where you are right now, we have scoured the globe to come up with our top picks for where you should be diving this January.
Antarctica is one of the most remote places on earth, sitting at the bottom of the world like a floating land of rock and ice, seemingly immune to time. This uninhabitable continent is impossible to reach during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter months when sea ice forms thick enough that ships cannot push through. A constant dark covering, extremely low temperatures, and fierce storms add to its inhospitable environment, which is why diving in January, Antarctica’s mid-summer month, is the best time of year for this unique destination.
During Antarctica’s summer months of November through March, visitors are able to cross the vast seas that surround this barren landscape, with the warmest temperatures and most sunlight occurring in January. January is also a great time to visit because most penguin eggs will have hatched; therefore, baby penguin sightings are high. You may also be lucky enough to see young seals swimming with their mothers while underwater.
Even though this is Antarctica’s summer season, diving in January is still very cold. Be prepared for surface water temperatures to be around zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit), making a dry suit with thick undergarments, a hood, and dry gloves mandatory. Before visiting this cold yet awe-inspiring destination, make sure you first gain plenty of experience cold water diving in other locations so you can fully enjoy everything this adventurous continent has to offer. For more detailed information on diving the polar regions, check out our blog, ’Your Guide to Ice Diving’, here.
Socorro Island, Mexico
This small island 600 kilometers off Mexico’s west coast is as remote as it gets. The largest of four islands, Socorro helps make up the Revillagigedo Archipelago, a group of volcanic islands famous for their unique ecosystem and thriving marine life. The biodiversity found here is so great, in fact, that it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and declared a marine reserve and national park of Mexico in 2017. Some volcanos are still active, including Socorro Island, making this a highly adventurous, unique destination.
Diving Socorro Island in January is one of the best times of the year, even though it is during the middle of winter, thanks to the crystal-clear water the colder temperatures bring. Socorro’s diving season is relatively short, running from November to May. This is the only time you will find liveaboard itineraries running out to these islands, and liveaboard diving is the only way to experience this incredible destination.
Socorro diving in January offers a high chance of encountering whale sharks, migrating humpback whales, manta rays, and the several shark species that call these islands home. It is not uncommon to see schools of Galapagos, silky, oceanic whitetip, and hammerhead sharks all on a single dive. In fact, many would vote that Socorro is one of the best locations for shark diving worldwide. To learn more about diving in Socorro Island, check out our blog, ‘Mexico’s Best Diving Part 1: The Socorro Islands’, here.
World-famous for its phenomenal shore diving, the small island country of Bonaire is a great destination to go diving in January. This ‘diver’s paradise’ offers it all, from pristine coral reefs to steep walls, historical shipwrecks, and everything in between, all just steps away from shore. The endless options make visiting Bonaire a must for every diver at least once in their lifetime.
While most Bonaire dive operators do offer boat diving, you can easily plan a week of only shore diving and never dive the same site twice. In fact, shore diving is so prominent on the island that nearly all dive resorts include a small truck in your room rental rate so you can throw your gear in the back and take full advantage of all the island has to offer.
The best time to visit Bonaire is between December and April when the wind is down and the air temperatures are warm but not too hot. Amongst the reefs filled with beautiful hard corals, you will see various eel species, shrimp, octopus, spotted drums, flamingo tongue cowries, angelfish, butterflyfish, seahorses, and so much more! To check out all of Bonaire’s fantastic dive sites, visit their page on SSI’s MyDiveGuide here.
Crystal River, Florida
Although not an actual dive destination, Crystal River is the only place in North America where you can legally swim with the West Indian manatee. Located on the central-west coast of Florida in the United States, Crystal River is a haven for these gentle giants during the winter. When air and ocean temperatures drop, manatees like to head inland toward Florida’s many springheads, where water temperatures are consistently 72 degrees F (22 degrees C). In fact, when a cold front moves in, it is not uncommon to see dozens of manatees huddled together in one spot.
Since January is the coldest month of the year in Florida, it is the best time to swim with manatees. Due to Florida state law, you are not allowed to scuba dive with the manatees; however, many dive operators offer boat trips up the river to where you can snorkel right alongside these amazing marine mammals. Manatees are incredibly docile and slow-moving, so not much swimming is even involved once you enter the water. All you have to do is float and observe the natural behavior of these incredible animals. Click here to learn more about manatees.
Whether you choose to head north or south, diving in January can be full of thrill and adventure. Fantastic wildlife sightings await you in various locations around the world, both in cold and warm waters. No matter where you go, new and experienced divers can find destinations to suit their interests. Be sure to use SSI’s MyDiveGuide to explore all your future dive destinations.