Of course, your local dive spot gets you the practice you need. And if you’re lucky enough to live in the tropics or near a particularly biodiverse spot, it’ll keep you from getting bored. But what if you’re ready for an experience that will blow you away? Here are 5 of our favorite dives for the coming dive season.
1. Diving into the Veins of the Earth
You’ve seen the photos. Divers floating in a darkened environment filled with crystal clear water, engulfed in the angelic glow of the sun’s rays beaming like lasers from on high. These one-of-a-kind dives offer the chance for recreational divers to get a cave-like diving experience without taking a technical certification.
A cenote (pronounced say-NO-tay) is a subterranean system of waterways, caverns and caves created by the collapse of limestone bedrock many years ago, exposing the groundwater beneath. Accessible from the ground, cenotes come in every shape and size imaginable. Some consist of underwater labyrinths with sprawling tunnels connecting larger pools. Others are vertical and resemble traditional water wells or sink holes. While freshwater cave systems can be found throughout the world, Mexico has the highest concentration of Cenotes in the world, with most them found in the Yucatan Peninsula.
This image of a diver at the Garden of Eden Cenote is from a dive log posted by Alex Mustard on Deepblu.
A cenote dive is a freshwater cavern dive in an overhead environment where you stay within 60 meters of the entrance, so that natural sunlight is always visible. Open water divers can participate in cenote dives if they are diving with a qualified professional cavern diver.
What makes these dives so special is the opportunity to explore an alien environment. Divers weave through tunnels that open into vast hollows, filled with fascinating formations. Icicle-shaped stalagmites and stalactites protrude from all directions. It may get a little dark in there but the cenotes are porous, with sunlight often penetrating larger pools from holes in the ceiling. Some of the best cenote dive sites at Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula include Dos Ojos, Chac Mool, the Taj Mahal, the Pit, and Angelita.
2. Mantas Do Flips in the Night
Any dive with a manta ray is an unforgettable experience. But night diving with up to 20 at a time as they perform gymnastics is even better. The manta night dive at Kona, on the Big Island of Hawaii, has become famous as one of the world’s best night dives and is one of the most reliable places to see manta rays. It is accessible to divers of all skill levels.
Underwater lights placed on the seabed by local dive shops attract swarms of plankton, followed by groups of manta rays. Divers form a circle in the sand, kneeling down for a front row seat for the soiree. The mantas are half-performing, half-feeding as they do backflips and somersaults, filtering the plankton through their mouths and out their gills. Even though the cardinal rule of responsible diving is ‘don’t touch the marine life,’ the manta rays at Kona play by their own rules. They certainly are not shy, cruising in close and brushing against divers at their will. This is an unforgettable dive that will have you swooning in no time.
3. An Intercontinental Dive
It’s a dive site like no other. A dive at the gulf between two continents. Silfra is a tectonic fissure located at a point where the North American continental plate broke away from the European one. It is a magical, mysterious place of magnificent colors, impossible rock formations and tranquil beauty.
While diving, you can literally put one hand on the European continent and the other on the North American one. On top of that, the water comes from a thousand-year-old glacier, meaning that it offers some of the best visibility in the world—up to 100 meters/330 feet. Multi-colored algae contrast with the dark volcanic rock that makes up the entire island of Iceland, offering some incredible photography opportunities. It is a truly mesmerising sight to see.
This photo of a diver at the Silfra Fissure is from a dive log posted by Imran Ahmad on Deepblu.
The Silfra Fissure is found in Thingvellir Lake in a national park about an hour from the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik. It consists of four different sections: Silfra Big Crack, Silfra Hall, Silfra Cathedral and Silfra Lagoon. All four spots can be covered in a day trip consisting of two dives. The highlight is diving the Silfra Big Crack, a narrow passage with massive rock walls on either side. While various fish species can be found in the lake, usually they do not swim deep into the fissure. This dive is all about the geology and the visibility.
Given that the water is glacial with average temperatures of 2°C to 4°C (35°F to 41°F), a drysuit is required. Drysuit certifications can be done with any of the dive shops in the area.
4. A Frantic Feeding Frenzy
Sardine Run, South Africa
Many people call it the best dive ever. It is certainly one of the most exciting. The madness results from the yearly migration of billions of silver-slicked sardines up the eastern coast of South Africa as the cold waters of the Cape move up the coast to Mozambique. When the sardines arrive sometime between May and July, traveling in shoals farther than the eye can see, word spreads among predators of all shapes and sizes and an epic feeding frenzy commences.
Source: Adventure to Africa
Sharks, big game fish, marine mammals and even seabirds all simultaneously vie for position and a free lunch. The sharks are the most aggressive, zooming through the middle of the shoals, emerging from the other side with mouthfuls of their silvery prey. Dolphins and fur seals circle from the outside, forcing the sardines into tightly packed baitballs and making them easy targets for humpback and Bryde’s whales who also happen to be in the area. Because most of the action takes place at the surface, thousands of seabirds dive headfirst into the water to catch what they can.
To get in on the action, most divers arrive in a rubber boat and must spend some time searching for the right spot. When a shoal is located, you suit up quickly and dive in. Even the mask-snorkel-fin combo will guarantee an unforgettable experience given how shallow the spectacle takes place. However, only experienced divers should consider participating in a Sardine Run dive. You must be comfortable donning equipment quickly and doing a backroll entry into cold water with large swells and strong currents.
5. Into the Deep Blue Abyss
Blue Hole Diving
Diving a blue hole is a bucket-list item for most divers, and with good reason. Like a cenote, a blue hole is a large marine cavern or sink hole, but the major difference is that blue holes are typically found at sea, and tend to be much larger. The most famous ones for scuba diving are the Great Blue Hole in Belize (depth: 108 meters/345 feet), Dahab Blue Hole in Egypt (depth: 94 meters/310 feet), and Dean’s Blue Hole in the Bahamas (depth: 202 meters/660 feet).
Dean's Blue Hole in the Bahamas is the world's second deepest known saltwater blue hole.
While divers who are used to colorful coral reefs teeming with exotic marine life may be disappointed at the relative lack of marine life, diving a blue hole offers a different kind of experience that, with the right conditions, can be otherworldly. After all, you are diving in one of the world’s most unique natural phenomena; a hole so deep that you may be afraid to look down. The Blue holes in Belize and the Bahamas offer access to caverns and are sometimes visited by sharks.
Blue holes are also very popular spots for freediving, given the depth and lack of waves and visibility. Guillame Nery filmed a now-famous video that can give you a good idea of what it’s like to dive a blue hole. Freediver William Trubridge broke two separate freediving world records at Dean’s Blue Hole in 2010 and 2011.
Blue hole diving should only be attempted by experienced divers because it can be dangerous. Descending freely into the darkness can cause your mind to wander so much so that you need to make sure to concentrate on your depth. You must practice good buoyancy and constantly monitor your depth, time and air.
By: Ryan Patrick Jones, Community Editor at Deepblu