I did my first scuba dive whilst on holiday with my family when I was 14 years old. From my first breath underwater I was hooked. Breathing in a different world is one of the strangest things you can do, but also one of the most incredible. Since then I have completed over 100 dives with these being some of my most memorable.
Koh Tao, Thailand
Koh Tao is a haven for scuba divers. It is cheap with plenty of dive schools to choose from. The island has great accommodation options from backpacker party hostels to resort style hotels.
But the main reason most people come here is the warm and clear waters. It has some of the best visibility I have dived in. Diving most of the year requires a rash vest or shorty wetsuit at most with water temperatures around 29 degrees.
It’s an excellent choice for beginners with easy dives at depths of 10-18m. It also has a great diversity of fish including nudibranchs, moray eels, triggerfish and rays.
OK now we are talking really off the beaten path. Kavieng is a small town at the top of New Ireland province, an island in eastern Papua New Guinea. I had found my way here by plan, boat, truck then local minibus. Read more about that journey here. There’s a small resort on an island just off the coast of the main town that has a scuba centre run by a South African guy.
I turned up and went diving the next day, the boat taking about 45 minutes of winding through deserted sandy islands until we got to our dive site. The water was pristine, as clear as glass, and the marine life abundant. All of the corals and fish looked healthy and immaculate. Few tourists come here so it’s likely to be totally untouched. This made me think that this was how all reefs would have been before mass tourism and climate change started to alter them.
I may be biased as this is where I did my very first scuba dive. After a short session in the pool in the morning, me and my dad were taken out to sea in a small boat. I wasn’t confident in the water back then and I was nervous as I first jumped in. It was just myself, my dad and the instructor. We descended slowly. As we did so, two large stingrays glided underneath us. Wow! What a start to my scuba diving life!
We rested on the bottom, our knees in the sand practicing skills such as emptying our mask with the instructor. After a short while it was time to head off. I pushed off my knees and fins gently as to not disturb the sand beneath me. As I did so, the instructor pointed out three turtles swimming past on our right. The rest of the dive was filled with colour and intrigue. My first breaths under the sea had me hooked.
Red Sea, Egypt
I actually completed my Open Water Course 11 months after my first dive in Cozumel in the Red Sea just off Sharm El Sheikh.
The Ras Mohamed reef is a protected reserve and it was my first chance at diving along a wall of coral. The colours were incredible, the sea was warm and I was still loving the experience. As a newly qualified diver, it was also my first chance to relax and enjoy the dive instead of performing skills at the start which were assessed.
See what else you can do in Egypt!
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
I had technically dived the Great Barrier Reef a few weeks before in the Whitsundays. The coral was bleached and there wasn’t much life to be seen. We weren’t far from the coast and in a very touristy area.
When I got to Cairns, I had heard that the diving was better. Along with nearly 100 others, I boarded a boat that took us two hours out to sea, along the outer fringes of the Great Barrier Reef. I buddied up with a kiwi guy that had a similar experience level and did the first of three dives that day.
The dive was great, clear water with plenty of colourful fish and I saw a white tip reef shark. However for me, it was a true bucket list item. Not many people get to go to the Great Barrier Reef and I felt so fortunate to dive it when it looked so good. I hope it’s remained a beautiful sight in the years since.
New Caledonia is a French island in the South Pacific. The lagoon that surrounds the main island of Grand Terre is home to the third largest reef system in the world. With this comes incredible diversity. I dived just off the coast of Noumea, the capital. The water was clear although the currents along the wall were strong. What made this such an amazing dive for me was the almost wall of white and grey tip reef sharks swimming barely metres away from us as we followed our wall of coral. I had never dived with that many sharks staring at me whilst underwater.
Yasawa Islands, Fiji
The Yasawa Islands extend like a tail away from the main island of Viti Levu in Fiji. The waters here are known to contain some of the best corals in the world and they didn’t disappoint. In the 100+ dives that I had done at this point, the coral here was the healthiest I had seen. The colours were vibrant without any beaching and non of them looked to be dying. Although I didn’t see manta rays on this dive like friends did a day later, I would definitely do it again purely to spend more time looking at the coral which is unlike anything else I have seen.
Malta (wreck dives)
The diving in Malta is some of the best in Europe. It was also the first dive that I did after completing my divemaster course. And it was my first wreck dive.
I was excited before I got in the water but as I got closer and it emerged through the murkiness of the water my excitement peaked. Diving a wreck was something that had been on my list since I started diving. However I was thinking more pirate ships that old patrol boats. The P31 was a Maltese maritime patrol boat that was purposely sunk in 2009 for recreational diving. It has been modified to allow divers to swim through the hull of the boat making it safe for AOWD and above.
Guadacanal, Solomon Islands
Now this is a wreck worth diving. The area around Guadacanal, the main island of the Solomon Islands, is known as the Iron Bottom Sound due to the number of wrecks in the area. During the Second World War it was the scene of one of the most fierce battles between American and Japanese troops.
Over the course of two dives with Tulagi Dive, I dived a Japanese I1 submarine that was now mostly a skeleton of its former self. But I also dived an American B17 bomber wreck. It starts as a shore dive and within a few minutes, still in shallow water, I was swimming around the corpse of a World War Two plane. It was in immaculate condition with the gun turrets and steering controls still visible. Diving a plane wreck is one of the most unique dives I have done and it well worth the trouble of visiting.
Related Read: Which Pacific Island Should You Visit?
Apo Island, Philippines
This dive was probably the cheapest dive I have ever done but it would be worth so much more. A small island off Dumaguete, Apo Island can be walked around in a day. There is one resort there with a small dive school and an incredible array of reefs just waiting to be discovered. Turtles, rays, colourful fish and excellent coral make it a great destination for beginner divers. There are plenty of reefs around the island all with their own little quirks. They even offer night dives on their house reef You could stay here for a week and still not dive them all. With a generator to give the island power only in the evenings, why wouldn’t you want to stay longer?
Where’s the best place you’ve dived? Or is diving still on your bucket list?
Dan is an avid traveller from London. His first big adventure was in 2010 living in Malaysia for 3 months and becoming a divemaster. He has been on the road almost constantly since 2015 travelling to destinations that aren’t on the mainstream tourist trail.