As the world opens up more to international travel, you can escape the cold winter and dive at some of the world’s best destinations. Dive highlights around the world at this time of year include grouper and coral spawning events, diving with hammerhead sharks and mantas, freediving with orcas and more. There is something for every diver to enjoy, so get inspired with our round-up of 8 dive destinations for a perfect winter getaway.
Nassau groupers are not small, growing to over 1 meter long and weighing a hefty 25 kgs. Encountering these large and endangered fish is a highlight of diving in Belize, especially as they are found at the stunning Belize Barrier Reef.
Visit Belize in December and you have the chance to see these impressive fish gather in the thousands to spawn. They aggregate around the full moons of December and January and are a spectacular sight to witness.
- French Polynesia
November to April is French Polynesia’s wet season, but don’t let that put you off this idyllic destination for a winter getaway. In between the bursts of rainfall, you can enjoy days of sunshine and – more importantly – go diving with hammerhead sharks.
December to March is French Polynesia’s great hammerhead shark season. These iconic sharks are found in high numbers at Rangiroa, the second largest atoll in the world. As well as hammerheads galore at Rangiroa, you can go diving with ‘walls of grey reef sharks’ at world-famous Fakarava Atoll, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Just make sure you leave time to visit Moorea to hang out with the famously-friendly reef sharks and stingrays of Moorea Lagoon.
- Visayas, Philippines
The Philippines is looking to open its borders to fully vaccinated tourists coming from ‘green list’ countries soon, making it a great time to explore this world-class dive destination without any crowds.
It’s the start of the peak Philippines diving season, which means less rainfall and excellent dive conditions. The sardine run is underway at Moalboal and is truly a sight to behold, with vast constantly-moving schools of sardines as far as the eye can see.
Diving with elusive thresher sharks at Malapascua’s Monad Shoal is one of the top highlights of Philippines diving. Visit nearby Kimud Shoal from December to April and you have a reasonable chance of diving with hammerhead sharks, which gather in schools hundreds-strong at this time of year.
- Galapagos Islands
Galapagos diving is high on the wish list for just about every diver and offers exceptional wildlife encounters all year long, whether you’re above or below the water line.
The warm season kicks off in December, offering relatively warm waters (23 to 25 °C / 73 to 77 °F), calm conditions and less currents than other times of year. It is also the start of the manta ray season and the nesting season for the Galapagos green turtle, which gather around the shores waiting to lay their eggs at night.
Typically for the Galapagos Islands, there are also numerous sharks to dive with, plus curious sea lions, feeding iguanas, and penguins cruising by.
Don’t mind the cold? Visit Norway in the depths of winter and go freediving with orcas. You won’t get your fix of warmth or sunshine, but you will get to swim alongside one of the most iconic predators on Earth.
Every winter, orcas gather to feast on Norwegian spring-spawning herring as they migrate along Norway’s snow-covered coast. There are a handful of operators that can take you freediving with the orcas and you have a good chance of spotting feeding humpback whales as well.
Swimming with wild orcas is a life-changing experience. Just be aware the water is a cold 1 to 2 °C (33 to 35 °F) and the wind chill on dive boats can be -15 °C (5 °F). Of course, none of that matters when you’ve spent a day swimming with orcas and you’re watching the northern lights dance overhead at night.
- The Bahamas
As well as having great weather at this time of year, November to May is the best time for shark diving in the Bahamas. If there are any shark fans in your family, it is the perfect place to go.
Visit Tiger Beach for easy diving with tiger sharks in shallow, warm waters. Bimini Island offers diving with great hammerheads, as well as Caribbean reef sharks and lemon sharks, and you can swim or snorkel with laid-back nurse sharks galore at Compass Cay. Add the Bahamas stunning white-sand landscapes and thriving reefs, and you have a dive destination the whole family will enjoy.
- Raja Ampat, Indonesia
For some of the world’s best coral reef and manta ray dives, look no further than Raja Ampat. December is the start of Raja Ampat’s manta ray season and it is one of the few places in the world where you can see both reef mantas and giant mantas.
As well as numerous mantas, diving in Raja Ampat is synonymous with vibrant soft coral landscapes, prized Coral Triangle critters and huge schools of fish. The diving conditions and currents can be challenging, but December onwards offers calmer conditions and better viz than other months.
- Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Mass coral spawning is a rare natural phenomenon witnessed by a few lucky divers each year. If you want to see this incredible underwater show, go Great Barrier Reef scuba diving this winter.
Coral spawning normally takes place along the Great Barrier Reef after the November (or sometimes December) full moon, when the water temperature rises enough to trigger the gametes to mature within the adult corals. Coral spawning also only happens at night, making it one of the most unique night dives imaginable.
Witnessing the reefs transform into an underwater snowstorm by the light of your torch is amazing. As this rare event occurs throughout the Great Barrier Reef at different times, you have a good chance of witnessing it if you join a coral spawning night dive trip or liveaboard.
Kathryn Curzon, a shark conservationist and dive travel writer for Scuba Schools International (SSI), wrote this article.
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Get a FREE undersuit when you buy a trilaminate drysuit from Scubapro
IT’S TRILAMINATE TIME!
SCUBAPRO is launching its 2024 drysuit promotion:
With the purchase of a trilaminate drysuit EVERTECH DRY BREATHABLE or DEFINITION DRY, SCUBAPRO gives you the matching K2 EXTREME undersuit (GBP 345) for free.
If that’s not a reason to start drysuit diving, because in our climate it’s drysuit season all year round! So don’t miss out – the promotion is valid until May 31, 2024 at participating SCUBAPRO retailers and in participating regions.
All information at https://scubapro.johnsonoutdoors.com/eu/en-gb/free-k2.
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