Deep diving is a favourite activity among experienced divers. The thrill of the deep blue, drop offs, walls and big fish make deep diving something really special. It's very easy to become a deep diver, in fact any dive over 18 metres is classed as a deep dive but you're Advanced Open Water course will allow you to go to 30 metres and your deep speciality just that little bit further to 40 metres. Anything deeper than that and you're into technical diving territory, which is much more difficult.
Careful planning is needed when deep diving, with either a dive computer or the tables you need to work out your no-decompression limits to know you will be diving safely. Always do your courses with an instructor before attempting a deep dive as you need to learn about special safety rules and things such as nitrogen narcosis (please see our article about nitrogen narcosis for more information). Accidents happen when people go deep without proper training, due to getting narcosis and running out of air, resulting in decompression illness and sometimes death. This is a serious matter and extreme care must be taken at all times.
You can find so many cool and interesting things on a deep dive. Things aren't as bright and colourful as on a shallower dive due to the loss of light the deeper you go, but carry a dive light with you to really bring out the colours of the fish and corals. Some of the best wreck dives in the world are deep dives, and you must be advanced certified to do the dive. Interesting landscapes such as caverns, caves, sheer walls, overhangs and chimneys can all be found on a deep dive. Big pelagic fish tend to hang out much deeper and seeing them cruise in from the deep blue to check you out is an amazing experience! Sharks, tunas, barracudas, rays, dolphins and sometimes even whales can be spotted while deep diving.
The number one deep wreck dive in the world would have to be the SS Yongala in Australia, which sunk in 1911 and is now almost a reef of its own, teaming with sea life and all the big, impressive marine life. Following up a close second is the SS Thistlegorm off the coast of Sharm El Sheik in Egypt. The ship sunk in 1941 and you can still see lots of wartime cargo such as trucks, guns, ammunition and a whole load of interesting stuff. The SS President Coolidge in Vanuatu and the RMS Rhone in the British Virgin Islands also deserve a special mention as some very cool deep wreck dives. At least two dives are needed on these wrecks to truly appreciate them.
The Blue Holes around the world are also very popular deep diving locations, especially for technical divers. They are all very deep, the average being 120 metres but the Dean's Blue Hole in the Bahamas is a staggering 202 metres deep. They are also prime locations for free diving events due to the calm, currentless waters inside the holes. The Great Blue Hole in Belize and the Blue Hole in Dahab, Egypt are the other most popular blue hole dive sites.
Now for the best wall dives and drop offs in the world; there are so many to choose from! Probably one of the best would have to be off the coast of Sipadan Island in Borneo Malaysia, where the drop off reaches depths of up to 800 metres. There are about 15 sites to choose from, all with spectacular sea life such as thousands of barracuda in a tornado, reef sharks in abundance, turtles everywhere you look and colourful coral and reef fish in the thousands. The best dive in Sipadan is Barracuda Point.
Another fabulous drop off is in Bunaken, North Sulawesi in Indonesia where depths reach up 1800 metres fairly close to the shore. This makes for some of the best shore wall diving on the planet. Exploring all the cracks and caverns along the wall makes for some beautiful light displays. The big stuff comes in to rest on the reef from the deep blue so keep an eye out for sharks, turtles, rays and big fish or you can concentrate on finding all the cool macro critters that are hiding in the coral such as crabs, shrimp and nudibranchs. There are super strong washing machine currents on some of the boat dives off Bunaken, so experience in drift diving is necessary to do these dives.
Diving the outer reefs of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is a wall diving enthusiast's dream. At around 2300 km long, you're bound to find some great deep dives. The great thing about diving here is that the area holds the most diverse amount of marine life on the planet, so finding cool critters you've never seen before is fairly easy. The Ribbon Reefs and Osprey Reefs are the best areas for wall diving and by liveaboard is recommended so you can really spend some time exploring this fantastic region.
Palau in Micronesia gets any deep diving enthusiast salivating. Sheer walls covered in colourful coral and teaming with so much sea life you won't know where to look, this area is a world renowned deep diving hotspot. Some of the best areas include the Rock Islands, Big Drop off (also called Ngemelis Wall) and Blue Corner Wall, which is in the top five best dive sites on the planet. You really will be wowed by the great deep diving around Palau.
The Red Sea is home to some spectacular deep diving spots, from Aqaba in Jordan, all the way down both coastlines down to Djibouti and Yemen, you're talking over 2000 km's of pristine walls, so many untouched and hardly explored sites that the mind boggles to think what can be found down there. From Hurgada or Marsa Alam you can take a liveaboard to the amazing Brother Islands and Daedalus, part of the Northern Marine Park of Egypt. Diving the walls of Elphistone is an experience like no other. The Shark and Yolanda Reefs in Ras Mohammed boast some more of Egypt's great deep diving.
Saudi Arabia is a secret that not many westerners get to discover and would probably be one of the diving world's last frontiers, with so much territory unexplored, it offers some incredible deep diving opportunities. Liveaboards leave from the port close to Jeddah but it's best to book an all inclusive package from wherever you are. The Yanbu and Farasan Bank dive sites will keep you in jaw dropping awe for a good few days of diving. Sudan is also another Red Sea favourite just waiting for you, the site of Sha'ab Rumi South in particular. How many undiscovered gems can you find along the vast coastline of the Red Sea?
Most divers just dream of visiting the Maldives but if you get the chance then it's a deep diving experience of a lifetime. With over 1100 islands to choose from it's world class diving at its best. The Maaya Thila site in South Ari Atoll has been dubbed the White Tip Reef Shark Capital of the Maldives, along with the rest of the Ari Atoll, North and South Male Atolls, these dives are some you'll never forget. There can be extreme currents around the Maldives, so be sure to do your advanced course with drift diving speciality before going or have a good few dozen dives under your belt.
Other areas for deep diving that deserve a mention include Tubbataha, Palawan in the Phillipines, the Galapagos Island in Ecuador, especially the site of Gordon Rocks, around Cozumel Island in Mexico, the West End in Grand Cayman Island and in Little Cayman and Cayman Brac the impressive area of Bloody Bay Wall including the Great Wall and awesome canyons of Marilyn's Cut will leave you breathless.
So are you excited about your deep diving opportunities now? Some of the best dives in the world are deep. It's time to get your advanced certification if you haven't already so you can start exploring these fabulous deep diving spots. Remember to keep a close eye on your air, plan your dive and dive your plan and stay close to your buddy on your deep diving adventure. Other than that, enjoy! Be sure to let us know of your favourite deep dive locations and some interesting things you've found on a deep dive.
(By Kelly Luckman)