While imminent international travel has been scuppered by the dreaded virus, we have had plenty of time to put our beer money in our piggy banks for future diving holidays. Many liveaboards and resorts in 2021 are already full as trips have been rescheduled from last year, so see our recommendations below for trips you can look forward to in 2022 and beyond…….
Cocos Island – Costa Rica
Isolated Cocos Island in the Pacific Ocean, is a rugged outcrop 342 miles off the western coast of Costa Rica. You can expect a 30-hour journey across the vast open sea by liveaboard to get there. It is where multiple ocean currents converge and is part of the “shark highway” – a migration route that also includes Galapagos, Socorro and Malpelo. Underwater volcanic seamounts attract many pelagic species such as silvertip, bull and silky sharks. The main attraction however are the walls of scalloped hammerheads at Punta Maria and Bajo Alcyone, which migrate here between April and November.
Some Cocos Island liveaboards even offer a submersible dive down to a max depth of 475 meters (for an additional cost of course)! Because of the lack of underwater references, its remote location and strong currents, this is a location for advanced divers only who have previous liveaboard experience.
Located in the South Pacific Ocean between Australia and South America, French Polynesia is made up of 118 volcanic and coral islands and atolls. Often called Tahiti (after its largest island), the area is popular with divers because of the channels where lagoons meet open ocean. Water moves quickly through these channels creating an ideal feeding/hunting spot for pelagic marine life and playful dolphins. Drift diving in them is exhilarating and is known as “shooting the pass”. The most famous are the Avatoru and Tiputa Passes in Rangiroa, part of the Tuamotu Archipelago.
Between January to March schools of hammerhead sharks can be seen in Rangiroa. Manta rays are sighted mostly in September and October. Fakarava is a protected UNESCO Biosphere Reserve home to grey reef, tiger, black-tip, white-tip, silky and hammerhead sharks. Marbled grouper mating season here can be in either June or July where literally hundreds of fish amass. Humpback whales can be seen in July and September.
Island hopping is a great way to see this iconic location. By staying in family-run pensions or guesthouses you can enjoy a more affordable option.
Referred to as the Mexican Galapagos, the Revillagigedo Archipelago lies in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The first of the volcanic islands called San Benedicto is around 230 nautical miles off the coast of Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. In 2016 the area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Park a year later. 57,000 square miles around the islands is protected from fishing, mining and tourism development, making this North America’s largest marine reserve.
Cool, nutrient-rich California current converges with the southern Costa Rican current in the waters surrounding Socorro. They contain one of the world’s largest aggregations of sharks and giant manta rays. Depending on what you most want to see, January and February are the best months to visit if you’d like the chance to see humpback whales and their calves; November to May for dolphin encounters, hammerheads, Galapagos and grey reef sharks and perhaps a tiger shark; baitball season in May to July is your best chance of seeing whale sharks.
The journey out to Socorro takes around 24 hours and seas can be rough!
Part of the Federated States of Micronesia, the atoll of Truk (or Chuuk State) sits in the central Pacific. The lagoon is one of the world’s largest and is surrounded by a 140-mile barrier reef. It spans more than 772 square miles and boasts a Japanese ghost fleet which was sunk in 1944’s Operation Hailstone. Contrary to popular belief, Truk is not just a technical diver’s paradise; there are so many wrecks here in shallow water all in close proximity to each other.
Diving is possible all year round but December to May is the best time to visit as the Trade Winds influence how the boat sits above the wrecks, making descents and ascents easier. Expect to see not just ships (mainly “Marus” which are merchant ships), but aircrafts, tanks and even a submarine. You will see everything from engine rooms, stairwells and a telegraph to spanners, gas masks and medicine bottles. Even if you are not a wreck obsessed diver, there is plenty of beautiful coral growth here to enjoy plus eagle rays, sharks and many schooling fish.
A typical journey to Truk takes around 36 hours with a recommended stopover in Manila.
3 major currents converge around the 18 islands that make up the Galapagos: the cold South Equatorial Current, the warm Panama Current, and the cold, deep Cromwell Current. To get to the Marine Reserve you will sail by liveaboard around 500 nautical miles off the coast of Ecuador. All the waters beneath these volcanic islands are protected.
Nutrient rich waters around Darwin Island attract whale sharks – many large and pregnant – between June to November. Be aware that this time of year water can be chilly as upwellings bring food. Manta season is December through to May when seas are calm and water is warmer. Another major attraction at Wolf and Darwin this time of year are the scalloped hammerheads. They can school in their hundreds and while no one is certain WHY they group here, it is thought to be a nursery area.
Most liveaboards also offer land excursions where you might see the famous Galapagos giant tortoises.
Diving in the Galapagos is challenging due to strong currents and blue water. Trips are only suitable for more experienced divers.