We’re counting down the most fascinating dive trips in the world. We’re braced the cold currents off the coast of KwaZulu Natal and followed the sardine run with all the other great predators, we’ve sunk slowly through the bath warm waters of Y-40 and now we’re onto the top five.
RELATED: Top 10 Specialty Dive Trips – Part 1
Top 10 Specialty Dive Trips – 5 to 1
Counting down our top five here are our recommendations:
5 – Marine conservation project in Oman
We love expeditions, they tick all the boxes for us, great diving, amazing locations, learning something special and helping the environment. Organized by Biosphere Expeditions, an international non-profit wildlife volunteer organization founded in 1999, this SCUBA diving expedition will takes participants first to the United Arab Emirates and from there onto the remote and mountainous Musandam peninsula of Oman to study the coral reefs. The Musandam peninsula is a jagged limestone coastline pointing into the Sea of Hormuz, its fjord-like inlets are called khors, and its waters are home to reefs that boast a rich mixture of beautiful corals and a multitude of fish and other animals.
Divers live on and dive from a comfortable and modern live-aboard dhow, with a fully equipped kitchen, air compressor, toilet and showers, an air-conditioned lounge, electricity and other modern amenities.The objective of this pioneering study is to map the unique underwater environment and it has already led to the creation of two protected areas. Data collection follows an internationally recognized coral reef monitoring programme, called Reef Check, and will also be used to make informed management and conservation decisions within the area. The expedition includes training as a Reef Check EcoDiver. With this divers are also eligible to apply for PADI or NAUI Reef Check Specialty Course certification.
Dive Level: Minimum PADI Open Water or equivalent
4 – Submarine pilot course
It’s not a scuba experience but it is diving – the deepest diving – and who wouldn’t want to casually drop into the conversation that they are a qualified sub pilot.
To get to the deepest points you need a metal cocoon and this course in Malta starts you on the certification route to becoming a licensed Chief Pilot (CPL). Waterproof Expeditions and the world’s leading manufacturer of personal submersibles, U-Boat Worx, have teamed up to offer submarine pilot courses from introductory to professional. On the course there is the opportunity to explore the depths of the clear seas Malta, with fascinating wrecks, from warships and airplanes to stunning artificial reefs all visible with panoramic views through the submersible`s clear 360º acrylic spherical hull.
The aim of the training program is that by the end participants will be capable of operating a three-person U-Boat Worx submersible. After successfully completing the training program the last day of the course sees participants plan their own expedition!
Dive Level: No certification required, deep pockets essential!
3 – Fast river and Alpine lake ice diving
Lakes Sassolo and Naret, at 2000m in the Swiss Alps are only accessible for a few weeks a year. It is then that Daniel Schmid, who grew up diving the lakes and rivers of Switzerland, leads expeditions under the ice and along the rushing rivers. This expedition is an exhilarating and bizarre mix of altitude and ice diving.
The views en-route to the lake are incredible in their own right but it is the eerie light below the ice that makes a lasting impression on divers. The incredible visibility, crushed rock of the lake floor and the surreal sculptures of the underside of the ice flow give a sense of the sheer weight of water and the grinding power of glaciers.
In addition this expedition takes divers into the icy flush of fast flowing mountain rivers in summer, sending them racing through deep channels cut into the rocks and beneath the thunder of a waterfall in full flood.
Dive Level: 40+ logged dives required, experience of current diving and cavern diving preferred.
2 – Photographing crocodiles off Quintana Roo
Amanda Cotton, member of the Women Diver’s Hall of Fame and Professional Nikon Photographer specializing in underwater imagery, leads expeditions to photograph crocodiles at the remote Chinchorro Banks off Quintana Roo in Mexico.
This is one of few places in the world where you can free dive and photograph American crocodiles (Crocodylus acutus), the only species other than the saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) to commonly live and thrive in salt water. At the lagoon in Chinchorro the water is shallow (max 2 meters) and has good visibility. Average size of the crocodiles on this expedition is about 3 meters long and the resultant photography is spectacular and up close.Banco Chinchorro is an offshore reef, (30 mi nautical from shore) part of the Great Mesoamerican reef and is at the far south of the Yucatan peninsula, just north of Belize. Locations visited during this expedition are remote and primitive. The reef itself has no permanent settlements so everything has to be shipped out with divers. There is very primitive accommodation (fishermen’s houses) while staying out at Chinchorro Banks. When not snorkeling with the crocs the rarely visited reefs are available to explore along with mainland cenotes.
Dive Level: This expedition gives encounters are with large apex predators. Expedition participants are expected to be experienced divers; prior large animal experience is a plus. Advanced Diver certification is required and only 6 divers at a time are allowed on the trip.
Our Number ONE – The Ghost Fleet of Bikini Atoll
Nowhere else in the world is there such a selection of sunken Battleships, Cruisers and Aircraft Carriers. However, this pristine site (if you can use that word for a place that has to stick radioactive warnings on its coconuts) is only accessible to about 80 divers a year.Bikini Atoll is a World Heritage site in the Marshall Islands. It was Ground Zero for the USA nuclear testing programme between 1946 and 1956. In 1946, as part of Operation Crossroads an entire fleet was sent to the bottom and there it has sat ever since.
From 1996 until 2006 divers flew in and lived on the island, now access is only via Liveaboard from a single operator. I spoke to two divers who were back in 2006. They dived the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga, sliding along her flight deck and explored the planning room of the Japanese flagship Nagato from which Admiral Yamoto launched the Pearl Harbour attack. They describe it as an eerie, meaningful and moving experience made more resonant by the history lessons which are delivered as part of any dive trip to Bikini Atoll.Indies Trader is now the sole provider of dive tours to the wrecks of the nuclear fleet at Bikini Atoll. Their dive season runs from May through October and divers live aboard their diving vessel MV Windward.
If you have the cash and time to make the plan this is the ultimate dive trip.
Dive Level: Very Advanced – 50 meter Tec diver with Deco experience
If you have your own favorite, really need to do that, wow what a thing to do, dive trip then let us know in the comments below!