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Technical Wreck Diving in Northeast Brazil

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By Richard Streeton

Apart from the remote Atlantic archipelago of Fernando da Noronha, Brazil is not a world-renowned technical diving destination. However, for the informed diver, there are some excellent liveaboard and day trip options in northeast Brazil for technical wreck divers. These lie between the cities of Maceio (Alagoas) and Recife (Pernambuco). The Voyager catamaran covers this region with week-long trips in either direction taking in the main wrecks along the way.

Diving is possible all year round. Visibility can reach 20-30 m/65-100 ft depending on the site. The wrecks described here were ones I visited in April. This typically offers the best diving conditions in terms of sea state and general visibility. Interestingly, wrecks from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, with a range of propulsion systems, can be visited with relative convenience on the same trip.

The Draguinha

Close to Maceio, divers will find the Draguinha. This was a dredger that sank in 1961 due to bad weather. The wreck is reasonably intact with artefacts ranging from the dredging system to the boilers. These are still in good condition. The wreck is 42 m/140 ft long with a maximum depth of 35 m/115 ft. You can see large groupers and beautiful Brazilian reef octopuses alongside schools of batfish.

The Walsa and Lupus

The Brazilian Navy has sunk many tugboats and ferries to create artificial reefs. The majority are fully intact, including the propellers. They can be penetrated safely. Many are quite similar, but the Walsaand Lupus stand out. The Walsa is 32 m/105 ft long and lies in 42 m/140 ft of water. The deck is at 33 m/110 ft.

Divers can find enormous schools of yellow-striped grunts consisting of thousands of individuals. So many, in fact, that it became difficult to see the wreck itself. The Lupus is slightly longer at 34 m/110 ft and sits in shallower water. The maximum depth is 36 m/120 ft. The main attraction on the Lupus is the engine room where divers can inspect a beautifully preserved diesel motor.

The Pirapama

Due to the abundance of life, the Pirapama is one of the stars of the show in the Recife area. The wreck rests in the 19-23 m/62-75 ft range. It makes for an excellent night dive, which maximizes the action. Dozens of enormous stingrays are found alongside nurse sharks and huge green turtles. Every rock hole is full of lobsters and the entire wreck is covered with sponges and soft corals.

The Pirapama is one of the oldest wrecks in the area. Historians believe it sank in 1889 after a collision with the Vapor Bahia. The Pirapama was built in 1841. It was equipped with both a set of sails and a paddle wheel, driven by an oscillating-cylinder steam engine. The engine is no longer in place, but you can see the paddle wheel axle and steam cylinders amidships.

The Vapor Bahia

The Vapor Bahia is another 19th-century steam-paddle ship. It plied the seas between the northeastern and southern cities of Brazil. Like the Pirapama, the Bahia is extensively damaged owing to the almost 130 years she has been sitting at a depth of 25 m/82 ft. However, unlike the Pirapama, the steam paddle is intact and well preserved with sponges on every surface. The steam boilers are also still present.

The zone around these artefacts has some wonderful swim-throughs and hidden corners. You will find these between caved-in planks where groups of nurse sharks congregate in the sand. The most stunning part of the wreck is the prow which stands upright with an anchor still in place. The Bahiadeserves at least two dives to explore her fully and is typically covered with large schools of fish.

Vapor 48

One of the deeper dives around Recife is the Vapor 48. Little is known about this wreck, including her real name which is still a mystery. The name ‘Vapor 48′ refers to the steam propulsion system (vapor in Portuguese) and the depth of the wreck (48 m/158 ft). She makes for an excellent technical dive with both the steam-paddle and engines/boilers in place. These, however, are in a more dilapidated state than those of the Bahia. At 60 m/200 ft in length, she can be covered comfortably in a single dive. Several large groupers live here.

The Corvetta Camaqua

The top tech-dive in this region is undeniably the Corvetta Camaqua. The Brazilian navy used this ship to protect their coastline from German and Italian submarines during World War II. It’s a three-hour trip in open sea from Recife to get to the Camaqua. The wreck lies on her starboard side at a maximum depth of 55 m/180 ft. The port side is at 47 m/155 ft. The Camaqua is a neat Trimix dive.

Dive planning should account for potentially strong surface currents. These can impede descent. You should also be aware of potentially dangerous munitions which the Camaqua was carrying as cargo. With sufficient bottom time and depending on gas selection, the 57 m/187 ft long Camaqua can be fully explored in a single dive. This includes a visit to the propeller, kitchen unit, deck cannon and a beautiful corridor swim-through on the port side. Large schools of fish are always circling the wreck.

Just scratching the surface

There are dozens of other wrecks in this region. I’ve only described my personal favorites and those that would be most interesting to technical divers here. Out of water, Recife offers great opportunities to get a taste of the northeastern Brazilian vibe.

The nearby historical town of Olinda has a UNESCO world-heritage cathedral, wonderful examples of Portuguese architecture and is full of excellent restaurants and bars. These can be a great place to pass any no-fly time before onwards travel. No visit to the Recife area would be complete without tasting the wonderful Acarajé. This serves as both a religious offering to the gods in the Candomblé religion and as much-loved street food.


To find out more about International Training, visit www.tdisdi.com.

From its humble beginning in 1994 to today, the group of training agencies Scuba Diving International (SDI), Technical Diving International (TDI), and Emergency Response Diving International (ERDI) form one of the largest diving certification agencies in the World – International Training. With 24 Regional Offices servicing more than 100 countries, the company today far exceeds the original vision the founders had when they conceived the idea on a napkin, sitting at a kitchen table in the early 1990’s.

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WIN a Beuchat Air Light Bag!!!

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beuchat-logo-1-300x58.jpgFor this week’s competition, we’ve teamed up with our good friends at Beuchat to give away an Air Light Bag!

The Air Light Bag from Beuchat is a practical travel bag that takes up minimum storage space.

  • Material: 600 denier and 1,000 denier nylon/PVC
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To be in with a chance of winning this awesome prize, all you have to do is answer the following question:

In a recent post on Scubaverse.com (which you can read here), we reported that Mexico is to host the first annual Cancun International Boat Show and Marine Expo this year. But when is the event due to take place?

Is it:

  • A) 9th – 11th July
  • B) 16th – 18th July
  • C) 23rd – 25th July

Answer, A, B or C to the question above:

Beuchat Air Light Bag February 2021

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Miscellaneous Blogs

Jeff chats to… Jill Heinerth – underwater explorer, author and presenter (Watch Video)

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In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-Large, chats to Jill Heinerth.

Jill is one of the world’s premier underwater explorers, and the first person to dive inside iceberg caves. According to filmmaker James Cameron, “More people have walked on the moon than have been to some of the places Jill Heinerth has gone right here on earth.”

An acclaimed polar explorer, cave diver, author, speaker, filmmaker, and climate advocate, Jill is the first Explorer-in-Residence of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. She is the inaugural recipient of the Sir Christopher Ondaatje Medal for Exploration and Canada’s Polar Medal.

Jill leads expeditions into extreme environments to advance scientific and geographic knowledge. Her projects have been broadcast on the CBC, BBC, PBS, Discovery Channel, and television networks worldwide. Jill was announced as the recipient of the William Beebe Award from the Explorer’s Club and was inducted into the International Scuba Divers Hall of Fame in fall 2020.

Her bestselling book INTO THE PLANET – My Life as a Cave Diver  has drawn acclaim from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, and O Magazine. Heinerth details her journey into the extreme world of underwater cave exploration, where she has had to overcome fear in order to go where no one has gone before.

Find out more about Jill and her work at: www.intotheplanet.com


Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.

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This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

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