Scuba diving sites vary greatly from the cold water of the Atlantic and North Sea to the warm temperatures of the Pacific, Caribbean, and Mediterranean to a variety of inland waterways. You can find great dive locations around the world and in many locations. However, what makes a great dive site?
Many scuba divers will say seeing a shark or other large pelagic or someone else may think of seeing a variety of brilliantly colored soft corals. If you are an underwater photographer then you may have an entirely different view compared to a sport diver or casual scuba diver. To help answer the question of what makes a great dive site I look at several different characteristics:
- Access – If you cannot get there you cannot dive. This may seem simple enough but ease of access to a site can be a prime motivator in actually diving on the site. There are many of us that will go out-of-the-way to get to a specific site, but if a site is easy to reach and great, you will not hear me complain a bit.
- Visibility – If you cannot see it, you might as well be diving in your bathtub. Visibility varies substantially but a minimum of visibility is typically needed to both find interesting marine life, shipwrecks, etc., to being able to safely enter and exit the dive site. As an underwater photographer visibility is critical to being able to get great shots. If visibility is poor or the water is very cloudy you need to shoot very close to the subject to get a good shot. In underwater photography usually closer is better, so that is not too much of a problem, but again if you cannot see it, then you will probably have a hard time trying to get a photograph.
- Marine Life Variety – One is the loneliest number… If you only see a very limited type of fish, coral or marine animal, you could do better going to the aquarium. However, if that one that you do see is a Humpback Whale or a Tiger Shark, then the one is perfect…. I am not as concerned about species variety but whether the marine species is interesting and what can I learn about it. On some night dives I may spend most of my time following a very limited number of marine species.
- Subject Matter or Purpose – If there is no subject or purpose then it is not a dive. This is a little more subjective as we all have “favorite” types of sites we like to explore, be it a wreck site, a canyon, caves or coral garden. The key here is to think through the goals and objectives of the dive, whether it is skills training, finding and taking photos of a certain type of nudibranch, etc. It is better to have a goal on a dive and then consider what you were able to achieve.
So go out, enjoy and get adventurous. The pool is open….