When was the last time you explored our world underwater?
To be honest, it’s been a while since I last set foot in a beach destination, let alone strapped on some fins, a mask, and stuck my head underwater. Yet when I stop and think about the fact that 71% of the Earth’s surface is water, I’m reminded that there’s so much of our planet waiting to be explored!
So why am I even talking about scuba diving?
Well, PADI recently reached out to me to help celebrate Women’s Dive Day, which falls on July 15th and is a worldwide celebration of female scuba divers and their love for the ocean. The idea behind this day is to unite divers from around the world to celebrate and honour our beloved female divers, all the while aiming to decrease the gender gap in scuba certification.
Scuba diving is still a fairly male-dominated sport, but women are steadily gaining more interest in it (as they should!). In 2014 35% of all PADI certifications were for females, and in 2016 this number rose up to 37.2%. This may not sound like a lot, but each year they’re getting a bit closer to an equal 50/50 split between male and female certifications, which is pretty cool. PADI is the world’s largest scuba diver training organisation, having issued more than 25 million certifications to passionate divers and ocean advocates across the globe, and Women’s Dive Day is just one example of how this powerful group can unite as one under a worthwhile cause.
I may not be a scuba diver myself (yet!), so instead, I thought I would reach out to some adventurous scuba diving ladies (a.k.a. real-life mermaids!) and ask them to share their favourite diving destinations around the world.
Let’s dive in!
Nearly a decade ago, my husband and I went on our honeymoon to Borneo for three fantastic weeks of underwater exploration. And while, of course, we tackled Sipadan—which was fabulous with its schools of nurse sharks, turtles by the dozen and torpedoes of barracuda—it was actually the cornucopia of macro life at the sites around Mataking Island and elsewhere in the Celebes Sea that really got me excited about the destination. A bonus? I got to see my first ever cuttlefish, which for a diver who primarily gets her fins wet in the Caribbean, was a dream come true!
My favourite dive site is in Roatan, Honduras. It’s called Rockstar and is on the north side of the island, between Pristine Bay and Palmetto Bay. Rockstar has incredible topography – there are huge cracks to swim through, pinnacles, a vertical wall full of crevices and a shallow plateau teeming with colourful soft coral (a good place to spot seahorses, nudibranchs and other macro critters!). The wall drops down past 100 feet and I have spied spotted eagle rays, sharks and moray eels all around it. There’s usually a pretty good current moving past, so there are often massive schools of creole wrasse hanging around the dropoff. The best part about Rockstar is that there’s only one dive shop near it, which means you’re almost always the only divers at the site!
Tiran Island, Egypt
I’ve been lucky enough to dive in a lot of destinations around the world, but I always come back to Egypt as the diving – for me – is the best in the world. I love all the dive sites in Tiran Island, Sharm el Sheik as you’ve got a great mix of corals, fish and the big stuff; I’m talking sharks, mantas and dolphins, and in the summer the water is almost HOT!
My favourite dive destination has to be Komodo. It’s where I did my divemasters so I know it better than any other underwater spot on the planet. There are so many reasons why it’s the best: the diversity of marine life, the challenging currents, the visibility, the calm surfaces, and the variety of dive sites all add to its charm. While many of the dive sites around Komodo require a high level of preparation and concentration, the one I loved visiting the most was Siaba Besar. Frog fish and flamboyant cuttlefish could be found in the sand, while huge octopods, numerous turtles and sting rays, and sometimes even sharks preferred the coral islands and its passing channel. This was also the perfect spot for watching the sunset from our liveaboard.
Speyside is where I got PADI certified. I had done about 5 beginner dives before then and finally decided I was ready for the real deal. It is a tucked away beauty on the Atlantic coast in the Caribbean, where you dive out of a private bay and around the surrounding islands. I saw tonnes of marine life and all sorts of turtles, manta rays, eels, sharks, coral, you name it. A great mixture of beginner and advanced dive spots, plus they do night diving.
Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean
I received my PADI certification on the beautiful island of Bonaire in the Dutch Caribbean. I’m told I’ll never top Bonaire with its 100 foot+ visibility and thriving sea life. This island has been voted the Best Shore Dive Destination for 22 years in a row, so there’s no need for a boat!
Daphne Island, Galapagos
Diving at Daphne Island in the Galápagos was something I’ll remember forever. At one point during the dive, I was completely surrounded by a large orb of black-striped salema fish. A sea lion burst through the wall of the orb, circled me gracefully, then darted out through the ceiling. The memory of it has a surreal quality, as if I dreamt it or saw it in a James Cameron movie. That’s what diving does though: it opens up an incredible new world.
Similan Islands, Thailand
Taking a dive liveaboard around the Similan Islands in January is a dive experience I’ll never forget. It was my first time doing a liveaboard and covering many dive sites, daily. The varied underwater terrain of the Similan Islands was exquisite, as was the variety of fish. From the large granite boulders of Elephant Head to the colourful coral and variety of fish at East of Eden or doing a night dive at Anita’s Reef (it wasn’t as scary as I thought!), there was much to explore. The Similan Islands are definitely a bucket list visit if you’re diving in Thailand.
Protea Banks, South Africa
I love diving with sharks – without a cage in South Africa. You never know who is going to show up. I was fortunate enough to dive with Oceanic Blacktips and a couple of shy Bull Sharks on several dives. Getting up close to sharks is such a privilege and gives you the opportunity to see another side of these feared creatures.
Diving with the thresher sharks in Malapascua is one dive I’ll definitely never forget! Rather than swimming around a reef, divers descend off the side of an underwater cliff to a small area where you kneel behind a rope. For the entirety of the drive, you watch and wait for thresher sharks to suddenly appear out of the deep. Trust me, this sight is more than worth the 4 am wake-up call!
Even after 150 career dives in dozens of different sites, my favourite dive site remains Komodo National Park in Indonesia. The massive schools of fish and the abundance of so many species, gorgeous corals, and especially the Manta rays, make this such an amazing place. As if that weren’t amazing enough, it was really the Mandarin fish that I saw there on a night dive coupled with the amazing stars I saw when I surfaced that put it at the top of my list. The Komodo Dragons are pretty cool, too!
Koh Tao, Thailand
Scuba diving has always been a dream of mine — ever since I was young and my dad told me stories of scuba diving in shipwrecks when he was a young man. Instead of following in his footsteps though and diving in the frigid lakes of Minnesota, I had my first scuba experience on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. It’s safe to say I was hooked after the first dive! Eventually, I went on to get my certification while travelling in Thailand, and I ended up staying a week longer than I expected on the island of Koh Tao (oops!) to get my advanced certification. I loved learning in Koh Tao because dive courses are super affordable, the water is warm and great for beginners. Plus, there is so much beautiful and diverse ocean life relatively close to shore! Koh Tao is a great place for beginners to get their toes wet (sorry for the pun!) and learn a lot while also experiencing epic dives. I am still such a newbie in the world of scuba, but it has been so much fun connecting with other men and women who are passionate about diving and hearing their experiences and advice. I’ve already been planning my dream scuba trips to places like Egypt and the Similan Islands in Thailand. And who knows, maybe someday I’ll even dive in those chilly Minnesota lakes in search for the wrecks my dad told me of long ago.
Dos Ojos, Mexico
My most memorable dive site of all time is Dos Ojos in Mexico. This cenote (a cave-like sinkhole) has two connected chambers and is filled with crystal clear fresh water. Sunbeams come in through holes in the earth giving the whole place a beautiful light. It was the most magnificent dive I have ever done, as well as the longest at 67 minutes.
If you came looking for some diving inspiration, there you have it! Now you, too, can join in the celebration. Locate a Women’s Dive Day event near you and celebrate the fearless females in your life! Check out more inspiring stories from PADI women here: https://www2.padi.com/women-dive/
Have you ever tried scuba diving?
If you have, what was your favourite dive site?
If you haven’t, what’s holding you back?
This post was written in collaboration with PADI to help celebrate Women’s Dive Day.