Top Technical Diving Destinations Vol. 2

Top Technical Diving Destinations Part 2

Bunaken National Park, Bunaken Oasis Explorers

Starting our part Deux of the Best Technical Diving destination, Bunaken Oasis Resort and Spa is a little gem of a resort hidden in the lush tropical paradise on the edge of the Bunaken National Park. The national park was established in 1991 and covers an approximate area of 890km², which includes five islands- Bunaken, Manado Tua, Siladen, Mantehage, and Nain. Not famous for wreck diving (there are a few), but it is love at first sight for any technical diver interested in doing extended runtimes on vertical walls covered in beautiful coral and teaming with the most diverse tropical fish life. The Bunaken National Park is a unique experience as it is located in the Coral Triangle. Apart from having one of the healthiest populations of turtles, it has terrific offerings for underwater photographers, including wide-angle, nudibranch, and critter macro photography of a super healthy and happy ecosystem. Excellent visibility and only medium currents add to a remarkable technical diving experience. In terms of technical diving support, Bunaken Oasis Resort runs a dedicated technical operation called Oasis Explorers - offering a full range of technical diving courses and support for open and closed-circuit technical diving, including air, nitrox, trimix, 3L rebreather tanks and sofnolime. A selection of excellent dive sites, award winning dive center and 5* resort make a winning mix for deep sea technical diving in tropics. 

Season: Diving is good all year round, but the best diving season is from March to October during the dry season

Equipment recommended:  Warm waters of Bunaken National Park require some tropical wetsuits depending on your runtime; you may require 2-3mm Thick Wetsuits or Rash Vests & Skin Suits and any  Technical Diving equipment you need. 

Level of Support: Bunaken Oasis Explorers - shore-based dive centre supplying Oxygen, Helium, and Nitrox. The state-of-the-art dive centre also provides consumables for closed-circuit diving. All technical diving must be pre-booked in advance as it is still one of the most remote locations.

Bunaken Oasis Explorers
Photo: Bunaken Oasis Explorers Dive Centre

Trincomalee, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a fantastic recreational diving destination. Still, there is one particular gem that attracts divers from all over the world for a one-of-its-kind technical diving experience. In the waters east of Sri Lanka, hidden in the depths of the Indian Ocean, lies an exceptionally well-preserved wreck of the first purpose-built aircraft carrier, HMS Hermes. The HMS Hermes was the first purpose-built aircraft carrier in the world. I was privileged to be on the first-ever liveaboard expedition to that exceptional wreck. It was quite a challenge as we had to be self-sufficient for a week of diving, and its location's remoteness posed some logistical issues. Back in 2010, soon after the atrocious civil war that ravaged the country, there were almost no dive centres for recreational diving, never mind one that would supply gasses needed to dive beyond 45 meters - this is how deep the top of the wreck rests. As a result, we had to take all the gear, including rebreathers, tanks, sofnolime, and booster pump, with us from the UK. In return, we found one of the most pristine wrecks I have ever seen.  

Nowadays, some land-based operations on the east coast of Sri Lanka offer technical diving.

Season: The best season runs from April to September, with June-July being the best months 

Equipment recommended: Technical Diving and 'Tecreational' Diving and 2-3mm Thick Wetsuits should be enough even for longer dives as the water temperature in peak season is around 28 degrees. 

Level of Support: Shore-based dive centre supplying air, oxygen, helium, and nitrox. The dive centre also provides consumables for closed-circuit diving. All technical diving must be pre-booked in advance as it is still one of the most remote locations.

Best technical wreck dive Sri Lanka: 

  • HMS Hermes: Depth 45-65 meters.

Photo: Wreck of HMS Hermes, Charles Hood, Travelling with Scuba Travel Worldwide

Sangat Island, Philippines

Coined a little Chuuk Lagoon by hardcore technical divers who dived Chuuk Lagoon. After all, ships sunk around Coron - on September 24, 1944, by the third air fleet of US Task Force 38 - are what was left from the Japanese task force that managed to survive the Micronesian onslaught. 

A little treasure resort called Sangat Island runs a smooth dive centre that caters to recreational and technical divers. Resort itself is eco-friendly and has a Robinson Crusoe feel to it. Accommodation is mostly in hillside local-style villas with stunning views over the private bay. You can engage in different watersports at your heart's content—one of my favourite places to stay with family and do watersports and quality technical diving.

As far as diving is concerned, there is plenty of diving for a week or two (In total, around 11 wrecks). The depth range is anything from 15 meters to 50 meters deep, with bigger wrecks' average depth of around 20 meters. You can spend substantial time on each of the wrecks and explore them fully. 

Best technical wreck dives in Sangat: 

  • The NANSHIN MARU - 32m | 
  • The KYOKUZAN MARU - 40m | 
  • The OKIKAWA Maru - 38m | 
  • The AKITSUSHIMA - 38m | 
  • The IRAKO Maru - 40m | 
  • The KYOGO Maru - 34m |  
  • The Marazan - 26m | 
  • The OLYMPIA Maru - 27m | 

Season: The best time to visit is during the dry season, from October to June, with December to March offering the best conditions. 

Equipment recommended: Rash Vests & Skin SuitsTechnical Diving gear and a great place to take some quality photos with Sealife Cameras

Level of Support: Sangat Island Dive Resort offers virtually all of the facilities and equipment any technical diver might need including an on-site Nitrox membrane filling station, O2-clean 12-litre twin tanks, O2-clean 6-litre stage bottles, O2-clean regulators, dive harness with double first stages, stainless-backed technical wings, O2 booster pumps, soda sorb for rebreathers, and more.

Tech Diving Sangat Resort
Photo: Sangat Dive Resort

Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia

Chiik Lagoon is an atoll in the Pacific and a tropical diving paradise. The waters around atolls are home to species of sharks, including the grey, blacktip, and whitetip reef sharks. For wreck divers and technical dives, Chuuk Lagoon is one of the, if not the top, diving destinations on their bucket list. The result of a fearsome battle between the United States and Japanese Navies staggers with the number of sunken wrecks, each creating a unique opportunity to look back into history. During 1944 and 1945, the United States and its allies bombed Japanese facilities and vessels in Truk Lagoon, sinking over 50 ships and destroying over 400 aircraft. Most of the wrecks rest not very deep. Therefore, utilising extended range or technical diving practices allows for staying on the wrecks much longer without a massive amount of specialised gear. Usually, a twinset or a twinset with an additional stage tank is more than enough to explore each of them. A selection of resorts and liveaboards, such as Truk Stop and Dive Centre or Odyssey liveaboard, offer technical diving options and supply guests with the necessary equipment.   

Top wrecks of Chuuk Lagoon:

  • Fujikawa Maru Depth 0-40m
  • Yamagiri Maru 20-40m
  • Nippo Maru 20-50m
  • Heian Maru 10-35m
  • Sankisan Maru 0-33m
  • Hoki Maru 15-50m
  • Unkai Maru 10-35m
  • Rio de Janiero Maru 15-40m
  • Hanakawa Maru 3-33m
  • Fumitzuki Destroyer 25-40m
  • Betty Bomber 20m
  • Momokawa Maru 26-48m
  • Shinkoku Maru 10-45m
  • Aikoku Maru 30-60m
  • San Francisco Maru 30-60m

Season: All year-round destination

Equipment recommended: Technical Diving and 'Tecreational' Diving and 2-3mm Thick Wetsuits

Level of Support: full support from selected shore-based dive centres and liveaboards, including technical open and closed circuit diving support.

Atomic Fleet of Bikini Atoll

Bikini Atoll is one of the most remote destinations to dive. Because of its remoteness, the US government chose this place to execute a series of nuclear tests after the end of WW2 and gave it the name Operation Crossroads. It, unfortunately, created a large local population dislocation, which, to this day, is causing a huge amount of controversy. As part of the tests, large ships of the surrendered Japanese Imperial and German Fleets as well as decommissioned vessels of the US Navy, were sunk during a series of nuclear explosions. The aim of the test was to study the effect of various nuclear loads on a large formation of ships. Because of the secrecy surrounding the tests and the location, divers later gave the wrecks the nickname of the Ghost Fleet of Bikini Atoll.

Nowadays, while the islands near ground zero are still off-limits for human habitation, there is a number o scuba liveaboards operators offering 7-14 nights of itineraries of technical diving on the Atomic Fleet of Bikini. Bikini Atoll is one of the world's most sought-after dive sites and has become renowned for its spectacular wrecks. Scuba divers from all around the world come to explore these remarkable shipwrecks. Itineraries are specifically designed for technical divers with the necessary experience and qualifications to safely explore the depths of Bikini Atoll's wrecks. Scuba divers must be certified as at least PADI Tec 50, or equivalent, with a minimum of 100 logged dives plus previous wreck diving experience. Rebreather divers must have normoxic trimix certification, with 100 logged dives and wreck diving experience.

Season: Most liveaboards operate around Bikini Atoll from May to October only on dedicated liveaboards

Equipment recommended: water does not go below 28 degrees on the surface, but because dives are deep, some may even consider drysuits, but mostly full 2-3mm or 5mm Thick Wetsuits are very popular due to longer deco stops.

Level of Support: selected liveaboards offering full expedition-type support, air, nitrox, trimix, stage and bailout tanks, as well as rebreather support. 

Top wrecks of Bikini Atoll:

  • USS Saratoga – CV-3 Aircraft carrier: | depth 18-51 m
  • HIJMS Nagato – Japanese Battleship | depth 28-51m.
  • USS Arkansas – BB-33 Dreadnought Battleship | depth 26-55m
  • USS Apogon – SS-308 Balao class submarine: | depth 44-54 meters
  • USS Anderson – DD-411 Destroyer | depth 41-51 meters
  • USS Lamson – Mahan class Destroyer | depth 36 -51 meter
  • USS Carlisle – APA-69 Gillam class transport vessel | depth 38-51meters
  • USS Pilotfish – SS386 | depth 40-51 meters