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I’ve Been on 107 Scuba Dives Around the World — and These Are My Favorites

I’ve Been on 107 Scuba Dives Around the World — and These Are My Favorites

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Some 20 years ago, I was headed to vacation in the Florida Keys when I was introduced to the world of scuba diving by two SSI-certified friends. They suspected what turned out to be true — that I, too, would enjoy the adventure of unleashing my inner Cousteau.

And so I began the certification coursework in Manhattan and passed the Open Water certification test on the Keys trip. A few years later, I got my Advanced Open Water certification in the Red Sea at a PADI dive shop in Dahab, Egypt. (The advanced certification allows me to dive in deeper waters and partake in more specialized dives.)

Fast forward to today, and I’ve logged 107 dives so far … and counting. For those in the divemaster community, dive counts can be in the thousands. But for me, a relatively casual diver who only occasionally straps on an air tank, reaching 100+ dives is a notable milestone.

While I have many scuba destinations yet to explore and many marine creatures yet to behold, I’ve experienced a lot in my excursions under the sea. And these 12 dives have left a lasting impression on me.

Komodo Islands, Indonesia

Treethot Polrajlum/Getty Images

Indonesia’s Komodo Islands are famous for being home to the Komodo dragon, the world’s largest lizard. But while diving from the luxury charter yacht Celestia around the archipelago, I encountered two graceful monsters underwater: giant manta rays the size of cars. (Fun fact: Komodo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the largest sanctuaries for manta rays on the planet.) I also came across a stealthy cuttlefish that pretended to be dark staghorn coral and shape-shifted back to normal to swim away.

St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

Courtesy of Erik Trinidad

On a glamping trip at Cinnamon Bay in Virgin Islands National Park on the Caribbean island of St. John, I went on a couple of dives where I had an intimate encounter with a sea turtle. (According to the National Park Service, such sightings are frequent here.) The sea turtle made its rounds to see each diver, before swimming right by my GoPro for its close-up.

Hvar Island, Croatia

Rocky89/Getty Images

Hvar, Croatia, sits on the Dalmatian Coast and is known as the “Queen of the Dalmatian Islands.” It’s also a Travel + Leisure favorite island. On a port-of-call landing during a Via Croatia yacht cruise, I dove off the coast here. The lack of coral was compensated by the closest octopus encounter I’ve ever had. The mollusc climbed a rock and I watched it camouflage itself with the texture while hunting for prey.

Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Bernard Radvaner/Getty Images

It might have been pouring rain during my time at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui, but I’ve learned to see the bright side as a scuba diver thanks to a popular ethos in the community: it doesn’t matter if it’s raining because underwater, everything is wet. The best sight during a dive on a rainy day in this idyllic South Pacific destination was a school of a dozen spotted eagle rays soaring above me like a flock of birds.

Isla Rabida, Galápagos

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The Galápagos Islands, located roughly 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, are known for their biodiversity. On a dive off Isla Rabida, a curious sea lion swam around me as I descended to a somewhat precarious undercurrent that might have swept us away if we hadn’t held onto some rocks on the ocean floor. If that wasn’t thrilling enough, I got a glimpse of some hammerheads swimming nearby on the way back to the surface.

Saba, Caribbean Netherlands

Courtesy of Erik Trinidad

Next to St. Barts is the lesser-known five-square-mile Caribbean island of Saba, a municipality of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. I dove at the “Man O’ War Shoals,” which is near Saba’s iconic Diamond Rock. It was notable because of the impressively clear visibility, which made the underwater rock pinnacles feel like volcanically-formed skyscrapers in an aquatic city. In just a single dive, I encountered a moray eel, a sting ray, a lobster, barracudas, a reef shark, and countless turtles.

Channel Islands, California

Courtesy of Erik Trinidad

The Channel Islands, an eight-island archipelago that sits off the coast of California, is often dubbed “North America’s Galapagos.” It is home to over 2,000 species of plants and animals, including 145 endemic species. During my dive here, the abundance of giant kelp looked like submerged woods from fairy tales. Not surprisingly, these giant kelp are collectively called a “forest.” This was an especially magical experience since playful sea lions were hiding around the giant stalks as if they were playing hide-and-seek with me.

Mnemba Atoll, Tanzania

Thomas Pommerin/Getty Images

Of all the colorful coral reefs I’ve seen in my dives, the ones off the coast of Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean stand out to me the most. The bright hues, coupled with the superior visibility and the abundance of tropical fish, made this dive memorable. (Mnemba Atoll is a tiny island a few miles from Unguja, the largest island in Tanzania’s Zanzibar archipelago.)

Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Andrew Peacock/Getty Images

My initial draw to scuba diving was to see colorful coral and big, recognizable marine life. But it was on a dive off the coast of this small gulf-side Baja town where a seasoned divemaster taught me the importance of appreciating the little things. Sure, the Gulf of California has wrecks to explore and big creatures at some times of the year, but during my June dives, the highlight was spotting the small, colorfully patterned sea slugs called nudibranchs.

St. Eustatius, Caribbean Netherlands

Courtesy of Erik Trinidad

St. Eustatius (known locally as Statia) was a hub for the trans-Atlantic slave trade back in the 17th and 18th centuries. Blue glass beads were a form of local currency back then and it’s said that when the enslaved people were freed in 1863, they dumped the beads into the ocean. Now, divers may see a bead on the ocean floor — and it’s a symbol of that emancipation. That said, locals say you shouldn’t search for a blue bead, as it finds you. And one did, in fact, find me on my first dive.


Courtesy of Erik Trinidad

I’ve done several dives in this Caribbean island nation but the most noteworthy one was my 100th dive. In the scuba community, the centennial dive is done nude — and I followed through. Other scuba milestones in Grenada include seeing the underwater sculpture park by British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor, which spearheaded the movement of similar submerged art installations around the world. Also notable is my first nighttime wreck dive at the Veronica L, which I can only describe as what I think is the closest sensation to being in outer space.

Ummahat Islands, Saudi Arabia

Courtesy of Erik Trinidad

I came full circle this year and returned to the Red Sea for the first time since my advanced certification — but this time on the Saudi coast. For years, Saudi Arabia was not on any diver’s radar because it hadn’t opened its doors to tourism until late 2019 and then lost years to the pandemic. As such, most of the diving territory of the Ummahat Islands is still being discovered by divemasters from around the world, which is part of the appeal. In fact, I went on a dive with The St. Regis Red Sea Resort that had only been vetted just weeks before. I found trevallies, Arabian angelfish, and an astounding display of staghorn coral … but anything could have happened, as there were reports of lurking tiger sharks and hammerheads.

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