Diving bucket list: 11 must-do scuba dives before you die

Darwin & Wolf, The Galapagos Islands

The two tiny and remote islands of Darwin and Wolf in the Galapagos are both real hotspots for advanced divers, and are only accessible with a local diving company that has been authorised by the Galapagos National Park Directorate, but this incredible destination is well worth the effort. The extraordinary array of wildlife is just one of many reasons why the Galapagos are a must-do on your bucket list — sea lions, dolphins, sea snakes and turtles all live in these waters, and there are 28 species of sharks that also call the Galapagos waters their home. Darwin and Wolf Islands are particularly famous for having an abundance of hammerhead sharks, as well as eagle rays, barracuda, groupers, snappers and yellowfin tuna. Very lucky divers might spot a red-lipped batfish (a species that can only be seen in the Galapagos), the Pacific seahorse, the bloody frogfish or the Galapagos clingfish.

These are challenging waters only suitable for experienced divers, as the currents can require some divers to hold onto rocks to avoid being swept away. The Galapagos are well worth a visit and are one of the best remote destinations to visit by superyacht.

Best time to dive: Through the months of June to September, the air is slightly cooler but drier than January through to May. June sees the migration of hundreds of scalloped hammerhead sharks past Darwin and Wolf Islands, but the currents are strongest from June to November.

Water temperature: From January to May divers can expect water temperatures of around 24-28°C. From June through to December water temperatures will normally drop to around 17-20°C.

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The Tiputa Pass, Rangiroa, French Polynesia

The Tiputa Pass has a reputation as being one of the world’s best drift dives and it's not hard to see why. Start at the Sharks Cavern where if you are lucky you will get the chance to see grey reef sharks. Then allow the current to take you for approximate 45 minutes passing eagle rays, manta rays, dolphins, tuna, trevallies and hammerhead sharks.

The dive must be conducted on the incoming current so that you are not swept in the wrong direction. There are several alterations to the dive, such as visiting the canyons, which can be added depending on experience.

If you want to try and tick this dive off your bucket list then don’t miss our guide to 8 days in French Polynesia.

Best time to dive: June and July is the best time to spot Grey Sharks

Water temperature: 25-26°C so a 3mm is all that is required.

picture: AdobeStock

Silfra, Iceland

Silfra fissure is near the top of most scuba divers bucket lists because it allows you to swim between two continents. The dive takes you through a crack between the continental plates of North America and Eurasia and in places it is possible to touch both at the same time.

The dive is also thrilling because it offers visibility of more than 100 metres because it is glacial water, which has filtered through porous underground lava for 30-100 years.

Few fish venture as far as the fissure but the coral landscape is stunning and well worth enduring the colder temperatures.

Best time to dive: The site can be dived all year round but it can get crowded during summer months.
Water temperature: 2° – 4°C, so a full wetsuit is required

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Taveuni, Fiji

The Great White Wall has long been one of Fiji'’s most famous dive sites and for good reason - it’ is a unique and awesome wall dive. What makes it so special and worthy of being on your bucket list is that it’ is a sheer drop smothered in uniformly white soft-coral growth that resembles a snow-covered ski slope.

This underwater winterland starts at 25 metres and drops off to well-below recreational diving depths. As strong currents always sweep along the steep face, experience is definitely needed.

Fiji is well known for its prolific soft corals, offering many excellent dive sites, but this is one dive you should definitely do before you die.

Best time to dive: November to April
Water temperature: 24-30°C, so a 3mm wetsuit is ideal

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Guadalupe Island, Mexico

Great whites are the ultimate sharks, and coming face to face with a predator more than five or six metres long should be on everyone's diving bucket list. Forget Jaws, these are not mindless predators but calculated hunters at the top of the food chain, and seeing them cruising by and actively checking you out will certainly raise your heartbeat. With the promise of clear blue water and multiple shark sightings, Isle Guadalupe is rapidly becoming the place for great whites. It is classed as being in Mexico, but it is also accessible from harbours in San Diego or San Francisco.

If you don't want to be restricted by a cage don't miss our guide to the best places to swim with sharks.

Best time to dive: the shark season runs from September through to December, with the peak being October through November

Water temperature: during shark season the waters average between 18-21°C, so while a 6-7mm semi-dry will work, a drysuit is a more comfortable option

Bianca C, Grenada

The Bianca C is a 180-metre-long luxury liner known as the Titanic of the Caribbean and is one of best shipwreck dives in the world. She caught fire after an explosion in her engine room in October 1961, while anchoring off St George’s, Grenada. There was a failed attempt to tow the cruise ship to shallow waters and she sank just a few hundred metres off the shore and now sits perfectly upright, a truly magnificent sight.

Time underwater has not been kind to the old girl and many of her decks have collapsed, but Bianca C is still worthy of her bucket list dive status with plenty of features to explore, including her promenade deck, her bridge and swimming pool. She is also a magnet for marine life, often attracting large shoals of predatory jacks and barracuda.

Nearby, for a less challenging, but just as exhilarating underwater experience drop into the clear waters of Molinere Bay where 65 submerged sculptures by artist Jason deCaires Taylor are displayed in a marine sculpture park covering an area of 800 square metres. Swimming or snorkelling among them makes for a surreal experience. Over time, colonies of coral and marine life have taken hold on the stonework, giving them an ever-changing marine palette and texture.

Best time to dive: the dry season running from January to May

Water temperature: 26-28°C, so a 3mm fullsuit should suffice

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Stingray City, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Stingray City is the world’'s most famous four metre deep dive site and a strong bucket list contender. What makes this sand patch in the north of Grand Cayman so remarkable is the presence of 30 or more large southern stingrays, which swarm around kneeling divers like big, over-friendly puppies.

Clutch a handful of squid in your fist and you will soon have a stingray sniffing at your hand and trying desperately to ‘suck’ the food out of your grasp. You can find yourself enveloped by these graceful creatures and the whole dive can become quite frenetic, especially if two or more rays begin to compete for your attention.

Best time to dive: diving around the Cayman Islands is a year-round activity

Water temperature: remains stable year-round at 26-28°C, so a 3mm full suit is perfect

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Los Islotes, Mexico

Sea lions can be three metres long and weigh more than 318 kilogrammes, so these impressive animals are well worth sharing an underwater experience with. They are easily distinguishable from seals by their external ear flaps and their forward-pointing rear flippers on land.

Los Islotes in Mexico comprises two rock islets, one of which has a natural arch, and these islets are home to a colony of more than 200 California brown sea lions famed for their playfulness.

The large males and adult females will generally tend to steer clear of divers, but the juveniles will be in your face, literally. They like nothing better than to sneak up on you, then nip cheekily at your mask or fins before shooting off into the distance. One Mexican sea lion has gained a particular reputation for himself after he hopped on a boat and gate crashed a honeymoon meal.

Best time to dive: the best months are August through to November when the water is warm and clear

Water temperature: a 3mm full suit should be more than sufficient to keep you warm

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Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia

Chuuk Lagoon is a tiny dot of land in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and would probably not feature very highly on any diving wishlist if it wasn'’t for the 60-or-so Japanese supply vessels that lie on the seabed here, after being sunk by American aircraft. The presence of all these ships makes Chuuk,– formerly Truk, one of the premier wreck-diving locations in the world.

In particular, the 132-metre-long Fujikawa Maru is one of Chuuk Lagoon’'s ‘must-visit dives’. Sitting upright in just 34 metres of water, she is shrouded in soft corals and reef fish, although it is her cargo that really makes her stand out from the crowd. In Fujikawa Maru’'s holds you will find everything from shells, machine guns and airplane wings to an entire Zero fuselage, and it is this unusual treasure trove.– Combined with the stunning visibility, warm water and fantastic marine life in this area – that makes for a dive experience not to be missed.

Best time to dive: June through to September offers the best conditions for diving

Water temperature: remains fairly constant around 27°C, so a 3mm shortie or fullsuit is ideal

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Salt Island, British Virgin Islands

The 95 metre-long RMS Rhone was one of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company'’s principal ships, often to be seen plying the Atlantic on her way back and forth from the Caribbean to the UK. In 1867 she was at anchor when the weather worsened and her experienced captain decided to sail out to sea to ride out the storm. Unfortunately, it turned into a full-scale hurricane -– the worst ever seen in the British Virgin Islands -– and she foundered on Salt Island, breaking in two and sinking in no more than 21 metres of water, taking with her 125 passengers and crew.

After nearly 140 years underwater, her wreckage has been claimed by nature and is now smothered in coral and sponge growth. All this supports a healthy mix of marine life, making her a fantastic dive site. RMS Rhone is also one of many movie locations you can visit on a luxury yacht as she was used as an underwater set for the 1977 film The Deep.

Best time to dive: the BVIs have favourable weather all-year-round, although August and September are the hottest months

Water temperature: ranges from 26 to 29°C, so a 3mm shortie or fullsuit should be more than adequate

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