My Top 10 Dive Sites

Hi everybody! After a couple of weeks with a lot of science and science-peripheral work on my hands I am back with my blog. Fun!

The folks at Lonely Planet just published their list of the world’s top 10 dive sites. The Aussies were upset that the Great Barrier Reef was not included. Of this list, I have only been to the Manta Ray Village in Hawaii, which is indeed awe-some! But the lonely planeters are obviously no fish nerds, having included only 2 sites in the famous coral triangle (Samarai Island, Papua New Guinea and Pulau Sipadan, Malaysia) – the region between western Indonesia, PNG and the Philippines which is the apex of marine biodiversity (most fish species, coral species, nudibranchs, most everything living).

So, here is my own list of top-10 dive sites, in no particular order:

1. Blue Corner, Palau. Ripping currents, large fish. And more large fish. And then some.

2. Monad Shoal, Malapascua, Philippines. A pinnacle rising up to 20 meters at its shallowest. One of the few sites in the world where divers can regularly see thresher sharks. I’ve also seen manta rays there, eagle rays, gray reef sharks, schools of flasher wrasses, man-sized sea fans and a ballet of bright purple male surgeonfishes displaying in mid-water above the pinnacle. And three so far undescribed goby species. Unreal. Malapascua is also the location of the Evolution Photoganza 2013 this September.

Thresher Malapascua

A thresher shark seen during last year’s Evolution Photoganza.

3. Manta Ray Village, Kona, Hawaii. That’s my only overlap with the lonely planet list. Yep, it’s a cool dive. Dive lights attract plankton, plankton attracts manta rays. Manta rays, as in gigantic fishes with 5 meter wingspans, up to 20 of them in some nights.

4. Gilimanuk, Bali. No great coral formations, mediocre viz, only 6 meters deep, but a fish nerd’s wet dream. I probably saw 20 fish species there which I have never seen before or after, in only 5 dives.

5. Southwest Rocks, Australia. More grey nurse sharks than commuters in the Tokyo subway.

6. Padre Burgos, Leyte, Philippines. Another fantastic macro site, healthy coral reefs with dense fish clouds, manta rays, and whale sharks at the right time of the year.

7. Liberty Wreck, Bali. The wreck itself is ok, but the marine life living on and around it is un-fucking-real! Bumphead parrotfish, sanddivers, an armada of nudibranchs, baitballs, just fantastic, and it starts only meters off the beach overlooked by one of Bali’s imposing volcanos.

8. Botany Bay, Sydney. Less than an hour from the busy city center of Sydney, Botany Bay offers psychedelically shaped sponges and a smorgasbord of southern hemisphere endemics, such as the fascinating weedy seadragon, a seahorse which looks like a piece of seaweed.

9. M’il channel, Yap. Manta rays come to this channel in the reef surrounding the Micronesian island of Yap for a cleaning by parasite removing fishes. They must also enjoy checking out divers. It’s a magic place. And all of that on an incredibly friendly island. On Yap airport a smiling, brown-skinned topless girl put a flower necklace around my neck upon arrival. Beats the TSA.

10. Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Only included to make the Aussies happy.  Just kidding. It’s awesome, the further out you get from Carins, the better it gets. A hard coral lover’s heaven.

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.”
– Roy Batty in Blade Runner