We have been quite fortunate to have gone scuba diving in some of the underwater paradises of the world.
Our favorite places, in decreasing order of beauty and pristineness are:
Red Sea in Egypt: Warm, great visibility, big pelagics, amazing coral, historic shipwrecks. The Straits of Tiran is the place to see whale sharks, hammerheads, dolphins and mantas. It is amazing how well Egypt has preserved its underwater world unlike some of the other countries on the list below.
Palau: Amazing wall diving with great visibility, large pelagics, warm waters, WWII wrecks,
and stiff currents. Large schools of grey, white tip and black tip reef sharks, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles, eagle, manta and sting rays.
Raja Ampat/Papua, Indonesia: Clear, warm waters with nice reefs - the mantas, turtles
and sharks (black tip, grey reef, silky sharks) are present in healthy numbers.
However, the sharks are still being finned due to weak enforcement of laws; the mantas seem
to have survived the onslaught of irrational Chinese demand well. Making the effort to get
to Cendrawasih Bay National Park will be well rewarded with Whale Sharks encounters.
Galapagos: Cold waters, rough, murky but unbeatable for huge numbers of big critters, especially rays of
all sorts (golden cownose, sting rays, marble rays, eagle rays and mantas) and sea lions. The Galapagos are unique because it affords the opportunity to see penguins and marine iguanas while diving and allows incredible proximity to creatures on land
as well. Some pictures.
Hawaii: Warm, colorful and clear, reefs are hurting. However the manta ray dive off Kona is a unique experience.
Cancun/Cozumel, Mexico: The whale sharks that come to Isla Mujeres are the primary attraction here and the stalactites and stalagmites found while
cave-diving (caves are called cenotes) can be interesting for a few dives.
California: Very cold, great for sea lions, seals and sharks, spectacular when clear but that can be quite rare. The kelp forests are unique and
the playful sea lions are
a blast. Occasionally, bat rays can put on a show as well.
Great Barrier Reef, Australia: Warm, colorful, clear, a bit too busy these days and horror of horrors, they chum along the northern parts of the reef. As of 2010, I think it has lost its charm. Starting end-2013, I think the Australian government has become more interested in monetary returns than in preserving their natural richness - my personal vote is to boycott them till they amend their ways.
Martinique & St. Lucia: Warm, colorful with some spectacular sites, especially the artificial wrecks.
Florida: Warm, nice wrecks, reefs are hurting from the hurricanes, human
the warming Gulf of Mexico. The dugongs are the primary attraction.
The Mediterranean has been tremendously over-fished and destroyed which is quite sad.
Some pictures can be found below.
Nothing like having a moving object, a moving subject, murkiness and glove covered fingers to build up ones underwater photography skills!