This week I’m in the Philippines for a dive trip with some friends. I’m lucky enough to have dived in many fantastic locations around the world, either incidental to my travels but more often than not, a dedicated dive trip. I’ve done most of my diving in my hometown of Sydney, and done many dives around Australia, however it’s always pretty special to dive abroad. There are some amazing dive sites dotted around the world, many of which I’m yet to see, but here is a list of my favourite dive sites so far.
1. Sipadan, Borneo, Malaysia
This place just has some superb diving. Think of pretty much any sort of reef sea creature and you’re more than likely to see them in abundance here at Sipadan – thousands of varieties of tropical fish, bump headed parrot fish, Napolean wrasse, eels, shrimp, octopus, crabs, frog fish, nudibranchs and more. Distinct memories of Sipadan include swimming through huge tornado-like schools of giant barracuda that circled around and around in a huge column around 6 metres in height, and many dives where I actually stopped counting how many turtles I’d seen because there were just so many of them. If I could dive one place anywhere in the world for the rest of my life, this place would be it.
2. SS Yongala, Queensland, Australia
The Yongala was a 107 metre passenger ship that sank off the coast of Queensland during a cylcone in 1911 whilst en route from Melbourne to Cairns. In this sinking, 122 souls perished and the dive site is protected by Australian law and no penetration is permitted. However it’s not the wreck itself that is the attraction, but the artificial reef that it has become. The wreck is home to so many fish, that sometimes it feels that you can’t even see the wreck for all the coral and fish life on it. I saw giant groupers hanging out beneath the stern, eagle rays passing by, feeding turtles, big schools of trevally, and thousands of varieties of fishes. A wreck and a reef dive in one!
3. Blue Hole, Belize
This world famous dive site is just mind-blowing. It is part of Lighthouse Reef, just off the coast of Belize, and is a sinkhole that was formed hundreds of thousands of years ago when the sea levels were much lower. While the fish life is pretty scarce (I saw two lone reef shark), the most amazing thing about this site is the size of the stalactites that look down from the overhangs at around 35 metres depth, some that resemble old oak trees such is their girth. They are incredibly imposing yet majestic, however the lack of life is also eerie. A real once in a lifetime dive site.
4. Fish Rock Cave, South West Rocks, Australia
Fish Rock Cave is an ocean cave dive, which is actually a tunnel with the opening at one end at around 10 metres, and the deeper one at around 27 metres. Entering via the deep entrance, you swim vertically up a chimney that is only wide enough for one person to squeeze through. This means that a torch is absolutely essential. Once you reach the top of the chimney and swim into the cave proper, there are crays everywhere and the cave is filled with fish. In the distance you see shafts of light coming in through the shallow entrance and as you get closer, there will be big schools of pomfrets and, if you’re lucky, a couple of Grey Nurse Shark silhouettes, just hanging out in the mouth of the cave.
5. Richelieu Rock, Andaman Sea, Thailand
Richelieu Rock is located in the Andaman Sea, west of the mainland of Thailand, and not far from the Similan Islands, making this area a diving mecca. Richelieu Rock is a small group of pinnacles that rise up from around 28 metres depth, with the peak of the pinnacles at around 12-14 metres. Each of the pinnacles is covered with colourful soft and hard corals, and hundreds of different types of fish are pulse in and around the rocks, from little colourful ones to big predatory ones. The amount of sea life on these rocks is unbelievable, with cute little sea horses, the chameleon-like octopus, menacing-looking barracuda, tiny cleaner shrimp, pipefishes, moray eels, and more.