Scuba diving is a thrilling adventure into the depth of the aquatic world. Even though the process itself is fascinating enough to imprint in your memory, the sight you behold when diving is a true treasure of such experiences. Scuba diving can sometimes be in many ways similar to sailing on the high seas. After a while, the view of the blue expanse gets boring. That’s why it’s so important to choose the right site for your descent. When reminiscing about your diving trips, the blueness of the sea will be but one thing your mind conjures up. The motley pallet of the coral reefs, schools of quirky fishes swimming by your side, the spirit of days long gone still lingering in the slumbering remains of the sunken ship – those are the things for which people dive. While you can’t go wrong when choosing among several diving specialties, wreck diving stands out from the crowd.
Wreck diving combines history with pleasure offering the divers the opportunity to touch a remnant of the past and learn its story while exploring now silent corridors and rusted rooms. Where once people labored and rested now swim gullible fishes oblivious to history that permeates their surroundings. Even though ships are not the only sites for wreck diving, they are definitely the most interesting to explore (and look particularly majestic through the lenses of underwater cameras). We offer a list of the top 5 wrecks for the best scuba diving in the world.
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SS Yongala, Australia
You are likely to see SS Yongala on every list of the best places to scuba dive, not even mentioning wreck diving in particular. Resting on the sandy sea bed within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, SS Yongala is a 358-feet long steamer that met its demise in 1911. A ferocious cyclone determined the fate of this ship and its crew of more than 120 people. While the latter breathed their last breath in the waters near Cape Bowling Green, SS Yongala descended onto the bottom of the sea only to be found again some 47 years later. It was believed that the hull was ripped open by a submerged rock, but in truth, the ship is extraordinarily well-preserved. This beauty didn’t lose her charm even after a century spent in the salty waters of the Coral Sea and, if anything, turned into a small artificial town bursting with sea life.
SS Yongala has been protected by the Historic Shipwrecks Act since 1981, meaning that no penetration diving is allowed. Even with that, the ship’s allure doesn’t seem to fade. A century spent in solitude surrounded by nothing but the water turned SS Yongala into a mesmerizing coral reef that attracts all manner of aquatic creatures passing the location. The ship’s exterior houses vibrant soft and hard corals and wavering sea fans, while the surrounding waters venue a never-ending stream of colorful fish and other marine dwellers. Eagle and manta rays, turtles, sea snakes, several shark species – the list goes on and on. The picture you get by combining all the elements is unforgettable. Yongala makes for one of the most spectacular sites for scuba diving in Australia.
USAT Liberty, Bali, Indonesia
The story of USAT Liberty may sound fatalistic to some people, for it’s a grand example of the saying “one that is destined to sink will sink.” Torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in 1942, this American cargo ship was beached on the island of Bali. There she lay, and no perspective of seeing the sea again loomed on the horizon. For better or worse, Mount Agung had different plans for this sleeping beauty. The tremors associated with the eruption of this volcano sent Liberty back into the wet embrace of the ocean. The trip was brief, and the ship didn’t get further than 100 ft from the beach. It now rests on a sand slope with its highest point being at 16 ft and the lowest at 100 ft below the water.
Like any other shipwreck, USAT Liberty proves that life always takes over. The ship became a backbone for countless coral polyps and a refuge for thousands of fish. The color diversity contrasts with the dark-colored volcanic sand beaches. Here, you’ll spot mantis shrimps, anemonefish (and their waive anemone-housings), pufferfish, a galaxy of nudibranchs, damselfish, and whatnot. Reed sharks and turtles also make an appearance every now and then, so the possible acquaintances you can make are numerous.
SS Thistlegorm, Red Sea, Egypt
The Red Sea’s most famous wreck dive, SS Thistlegorm is a British army freighter whose voyage was disrupted by two bombs launched from a German long-range bomber in 1941. The precious cargo of wartime supplies drowned together with the ship and can still be seen by inquisitive divers swimming across the holds of the freighter. Even though the ship sank more than eighty years ago, it wasn’t until the early nineties that recreational diving kicked in.
The uniqueness of SS Thistlegorm is in its content. It’s the brightest example of how the past can coexist with the present. While the cargo bays still hold trucks, motorcycles, rifles, and radial engines, rusted from time and salt, several sections and the ship’s exterior are brimming with life. Lionfish and blackspotted sweetlips traverse the midship while the top area buzzes with fish traffic. Orange-spotted and Heber’s trevally chase schools of fusiliers while curious teira batfish hang around with passing divers. Hawksbill turtles, having witnessed divers for years, swim undisturbed, looking for food. This Egypt scuba diving site constantly ranks among the top 10 best places for scuba diving in the world, and this achievement is fully deserved.
USS Kittiwake, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Not every shipwreck has to be a story of sadness and loss. That might sound paradoxical, but becoming a foundation for a vibrant marine ecosystem is not the worst fate a ship might face. Many decommissioned vessels are given a second life on the bottom of a sea or an ocean. The same happened to USS Kittiwake, a former United States Navy submarine rescue vessel. Having decided to create an artificial reef in Grand Cayman, the Cayman Islands government contacted the United States Maritime Administration to acquire a decommissioned ship. Kittiwake was sunk off Seven Mile Beach in 2011.
Since the ship met the seafloor only eleven years ago, it can’t boast the biodiversity of some older shipwrecks. However, it is a rare site that allows you to see the early stages of a new ecosystem’s formation. Everyone who’s ever left an opened yogurt in the fridge for too long knows how quickly a new life appears. Kittiwake is no exception – a decade spent underwater changed its appearance immensely. Depending on your certifications, you can explore from three to all five decks of the ship. If you seek sites for the best diving in the Caribbean, then this place is a must.
The Wreck Capital of Hawaii concludes our list with more than ten accessible wrecks scattered across the seabed of Oahu’s waters. The diver’s diverse menu ranges from wrecks caused by accidents to purposefully sunken ships. Each of them draws marine flora and fauna you can observe and admire. You are very likely to spot Hawaiian stingrays, eagle rays, white tip reef sharks, and schools of pelagic fishing making their way from one wreck to another. From ships to airplanes, from old wrecks to young ones, Oahu’s scuba world has a lot for you to explore.