For divers with a penchant for rust, nothing compares to the thrill of sinking into the ocean’s blue vastness, eyes straining through the murk to glimpse the looming shape of a historic wreck.
So, where can you find the best wreck dives in the world?
The answer isn’t necessarily about size, but rather the combination of historical intrigue, diverse marine life, and unique characteristics of each wreck.
Here are the top five global destinations to experience the world’s best wreck dives.
SS Thistlegorm: A Historical Relic
Arguably the most famous wreck dive in the world, the SS Thistlegorm owes its fame to several factors. It was discovered by non-other than Jacques Cousteau and played a starring role in his TV series.
The wreck was then lost before being found again decades later. The SS Thistlegorm truly stands out because of its contents and excellent condition. The wreck is also relatively shallow, with the top of the deck at 18m/60ft and the sea floor at 30m/90ft. This depth range means the wreck is easily accessible to many divers.
Laying upright on the sea floor, the SS Thistlegorm is a true dive into the history of the world and WWII supplies. The ship was packed with supplies when she was sunk on October 6, 1941, traveling from Glasgow to Alexandria, Egypt.
These supplies are what make the SS Thistlegorm truly fascinating. There are trucks, motorcycles, rifles, aircraft wings, and Universal Carrier armored vehicles. Not to mention the two steam locomotives the ship was carrying, amongst other things.
Located very close to one of the world’s diving destinations in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, the Thistlegorm wreck is relatively easily accessible and one of the best wreck dives in the world. Day trips take a couple of hours each way by fast boat. Typically you will conduct two dives on the wreck. The first is around the outside and superstructures. The second is inside, exploring the holds and all the goodies they contain!
SS President Coolidge: A Luxurious Dive
One of the few diveable luxury ocean liners, the SS President Coolidge should be on every diver’s bucket list. Finished in 1931, the Coolidge sank in October 1942 at the Espiritu Santo Naval Base in the new Heberedies (modern-day Vanuatu) by Japanese mines.
The wreck of the Coolidge is a challenging dive that is only possible for advanced and technical divers. The ship is enormous and over 200m/660ft long.
Laying just off the shore, you walk in from the beach, and she appears from the gloom before you know it. You first hit the wreck’s bow, which starts at a depth of 21m/70ft; however, due to its size and the seabed slope, the bottom of the wreck is in 70m/210ft of water.
This makes diving the full scope of the wreck only suitable for technical divers; although advanced recreational divers can explore the wreck, some decompression stops are often required.
Since the ship sunk during the war when she was pressed into service as a military vessel, divers get the experience of diving both when they explore the SS President Coolidge. Aside from the stunning beautiful interiors of a luxury cruise liner, the ship is also packed with a wide range of military supplies like the Thistgrom.
You can see Jeeps, cannons, trucks, and more in the holds. The highlight of diving into the Coolidge is seeing the porcelain relief of a woman riding the Unicorn known as “the Lady.”
The Coolidge offers a captivating mix of luxury and military history, making it a top candidate for the best wreck dives in the world
USAT Liberty Wreck: An Accessible Adventure
The USAT Liberty Wreck is unique amongst wrecks in that it is up against the beach in incredibly shallow water. You can walk in the water, and the wreck starts almost instantly at a depth of 5 meters. The Japanese submarine I-166 torpedoed the USAT Liberty in January 1942 off the coast of Bali, Indonesia; however, it did not sink and was beached to save it off the village of Tulamben.
There are two standout features of the Liberty Wreck. The first is its easy accessibility and suitability for almost every level of diver since she ranges in depth from 5m/15ft to 30m/90ft. The second reason is marine life! Tulamben is one of the macro diving capitals of the world, and the area and wreck are saturated with critters and nudibranchs of every color and description.
Not just the macro life makes the Liberty a fantastic dive; the wreck is also home to bigger marine life and corals. Since its sinking, coral has voraciously been colonizing the wreck, slowly turning it into an artificial reef.
Big fish and creatures now populate the wreck, including huge bump-head parrotfish that can be found everywhere. If you love wreck diving, the USAT LIvberty is undoubtedly one of the best wreck dives in the world.
The Zenobia: A Giant Underwater Experience
The MS Zenobia a monstrous RO-RO ferry that capsized and sank very close to the port of Larnaca in Cyprus. The ship is truly enormous, measuring 172m/565 ft long and 28m/92ft wide. The ship sank on June 7, 1980, just 1,500 meters from the port of Larnaca, after a computer problem caused a severe ballast problem. The ship lies on her side on the seabed in 42m/138ft of water.
The sheer size of the Zenobia and her cavernous holds makes her a breath-taking dive. Inside some of the holds, you can find entire articulated trucks lying on their sides. At the same time, the vast holds are big enough for large tuna to school in them.
Zenobia is suitable for all levels of divers. Open-water divers can explore the upper echelons of the wreck at around 16 meters, while advanced and deep divers can drop down further and check out the rest of the ship. Technical divers with the appropriate training can penetrate the ship exploring her challenging environment.
Zenobia truly has something for every diver and one of the best wreck dives in the world, especially if you like more adventurous diving!
USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg: A Dive into the Space Age
If you go diving in the Florida Keys, the USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg has to be on your list. This utterly enormous wreck is packed full of history and marine life. Sunk in 2009 as an artificial reef, she is truly huge at 522ft/160m long.
Diving the Vandenburg is a dive into the space program’s history since she was equipped with some of the most advanced radar dishes of the age to track the space capsules for the Gemini, Mercury, and Apollo programs. The vast parabolic dishes lie at the top of the wreck, around 18m/60ft, and are the highlight of any dive on the Vandenberg.
Many species of marine life have made the Vandenberg their home since her sinking, and you can find Gliathc groupers, damselfish, octopus, and much more dotted around the ship. The ship is open to most levels of divers and due to its unique features, is a popular choice for underwater photographers since it offers some stunning photo opportunities.
Brought To You By
Our Top Dive Sites of the World guide is brought to you by Suunto. We recommend that you use a Suunto Dive Computer when scuba diving or freediving at one of these dive sites. Suunto is the world’s leading dive computer designer and manufacturer providing diving instruments for recreational, technical, and freediving. You can find out more at Suunto.com.