There is something uniquely satisfying about spotting a creature in the wild and observing its interactions with other species. This could be the magnificent fauna in African parks, wolves or bears in US National Parks, tigers and elephants in India. It should be a crime to subject nature, especially large, intelligent mammals, to the confines of a zoo or an oversized pool. We have been quite fortunate to have gone scuba diving in some of the underwater paradises of the world although we have seen a clear degradation in the quality of the reefs over time. While the same is true of wild habitats on land, marine ecosystems are harder to monitor. As a result I ask that the next time you feel the urge to consume seafood, you ensure it is acquired using sustainable fishing practices because indiscriminate longline fishing and trawling is devastating marine ecosystems. After several years of exploring, I have classified diving locations into three tiers:

Tier 1
  • Revillagigedos Islands, Mexico: Epic, big creature diving with close interactions with bottlenose dolphins, schools of scalloped hammerhead sharks, oceanic mantas, white tip reef sharks, black tip, galapagos and silky sharks. The reefs were somewhat hurting when we went there, likely because of the summer hurricanes, but the large mackerel, yellowfin tuna and pelagic fish seemed to be numerous .
  • Rangiroa, French Polynesia: Warm, clear waters, and amazing interactions with wild bottlenose dolphins, large schools of barracuda and grey sharks, excellent sightings of great hammerhead and tiger sharks and of course rich reef life. Probably some of the most relaxing diving since conditions are always good and drift dives with the currents offer great views of sea life.
  • 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.
  • Yonaguni Island, Japan: Schooling scalloped hammerheads, nice reef life including green sea turtles, white tip reef sharks, jelly fish, 25C water and an unusual underwater monument (most likely natural).
  • Galapagos, Ecuador: 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.
  • Sea of Cortez/Cabo Pulmo, Mexico: The highlights here are the sea lions, bull sharks, cownose/eagle/sting rays and large schools of jacks and snappers. Humpback whales also put on quite a show during the winter season. Diving with the whale sharks is prohibited in La Paz.
  • Maldives: Relaxed, warm water diving with the highlight being the exceptional schools of reef mantas, occasional whale shark and white tip reef sharks. Very good reef life.
    Tier 2
  • 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. However, I feel the new Labor government is making significant progressive changes.
  • Martinique & St. Lucia: Warm, colorful with some spectacular sites, especially the artificial wrecks.
  • Florida: Warm, nice wrecks, reefs are hurting from the hurricanes, human activities and the warming Gulf of Mexico. The dugongs are the primary attraction.
  • Cham Island, Vietnam: Good reef life in pockets, generally overfished.
  • 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!

    Bat Rays Movie Sea Lions Movie
    S.S. Yongala off the coast of Queensland, Australia