Into the Wild Blue ‘Under’

ETA Summer 2024
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Diving is Worth Traveling For – Here Are the Best Places Worldwide to Sink In

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My obsession with the ocean started early, in the days when I was so little that my very tall father could hoist me on his shoulder and jump waves near the Santa Monica Pier. I learned to swim in the Pacific Ocean and added every stroke to my skills, swimming on teams for ten years.

But all along, I knew what I really wanted to do was scuba dive, as I avidly watched “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau” and dreamed of swimming with the sharks deep under the sea, while breathing slowly and easily using an oxygen tank. Life intervened and it took me until I was in my thirties to take the plunge, getting my Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) Open Water certification in Australia at the still-vibrant Great Barrier Reef. And it turned out I was right, I absolutely adored it from my first submersion, immediately feeling the true zen of being at one within the ocean.

Today, more than 35 years and over 700 dives later, I’m ready to tell you my top places worth traveling to in order to go diving. Note: I am a warm-water diver, so don’t expect to see anywhere that your wetsuit needs to be more than 3mm thick!

ETA Summer 2024
Author Jenny Peters with a nautilus.
(Photo by Jenny Peters)

Palau (Micronesia)
Palau, the small island country in Micronesia, is the place to make No. 1 on your diving bucket list. With incredibly clear, clean (and protected) water that teems with sharks, sea turtles, Moray eels, manta rays and more, and legendary coral-rich dives like Blue Corner and the incredible Big Drop Off (the Ngemelis Wall, that descends to 1000 feet down), it is mind boggling. You can even do a dive with a Nautilus, brought up from the deep. Spend a week with the PADI five star center Sam’s Tours and you’ll be hooked on Palau. I’ve been there twice and had some of the most epic dives of my life there.

The Maldives
Like Palau, the Maldives is a long trip from the USA, but well worth the 30-hour journey for pristine diving experiences. Land on Velaa Private Island for the ultimate Maldivian experience, staying in an overwater bungalow with butler service and indulging at this dreamy place. The diving here is first-rate (done from the resort’s private boat), as is the internationally influenced world-class cuisine and vast wine cellar/list. See manta rays, those huge, gentle sea creatures, as well as massive sea turtles, beautiful coral pinnacles and bommies, and, depending on the season, whale sharks and other breathtaking undersea creatures. It’s truly an amazing place.


ETA Summer 2024


ETA Summer 2024


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ETA Summer 2024

1. Author Jenny Peters with a bull shark. (Romain Francios) 2. (Photo courtesy Tourism Fiji.) 3. (Photo courtesy of Jenny Peters) 4. (Photo by Jenny Peters)

Fiji and the Cousteau Legacy
Fiji is definitely one of the world’s best dive spots, as Jean-Michel Cousteau (Jacques’ son) agrees. His eponymous Fiji resort is in a wonderful location to dive healthy reefs with the friendliest people on the planet. I actually went diving with Cousteau while there, making for a distinctly surreal experience for my inner 10-year-old self. Just recently, I discovered the spectacular new Waya Island Resort in the Yasawa island chain. Only 34 guests enjoy this secluded getaway, eating amazing food and hopping over by speedboat to Barefoot Kuata, where they make dives to see Fiji’s legendary bull sharks. That slightly insane, completely exhilarating dive is unparalleled, as bull sharks swim right at you, in a (somewhat) controlled underwater environment. It’s uniquely fantastic, especially if you love sharks as much as I do.

ETA Summer 2024
(Michael Matti)

Turks and Caicos
In the Caribbean region today, the all-too-common encroachment of high temperatures in the water is sadly causing a lot of coral bleaching. Happily, the 340 miles of the Turks and Caicos Barrier Reef has not been compromised and the diving remains incredible. I discovered this at Sailrock South Caicos, the luxurious secluded resort, where diving trips are intimate experiences handled by resort activities director Ben Zirin, who knows all the best dive spots. For a perfect diving day, see black-tip sharks, spotted eagle rays, sea turtles, stingrays, barracudas and more while swimming through colorful coral bommies, then wine and dine in style back at the sophisticated resort restaurant The Cove. More beautiful reefs await off Grace Bay and its 12-Mile Beach in Providenciales, so build in some bottom time there, too.

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Mexico’s Sea of Cortez: Loreto and La Paz
Jacques Cousteau once called Baja California’s Sea of Cortez “the world’s aquarium,” and he wasn’t kidding. This magical place truly teems with undersea life. In La Paz, northeast of and quite near Los Cabos, begin at the PADI five-star Cortez Club dive center with trips into protected waters to dive with hammerhead sharks, wildly playful sea lions, moray eels, sea turtles – and you might just see a marlin zoom by, too! Listen for humpback whales singing, as this is where they have their babies; and devote a day to snorkeling with whale sharks (no diving allowed). In Loreto, a more secluded lovely spot to the north, Dolphin Dive Baja whisks you out into the warm sea for dives at pristine reefs, shipwrecks and coral caves in waters that are filled with dolphins, those amazing mammals that just might say hello as you dive under this fabulous sea.

Egypt’s Red Sea
Getting to the Red Sea in Egypt had long been a dream, and when I recently got there, it was extraordinary. I went far to the south, first to luxurious Soma Bay and then the truly remote Marsa Alam, both places offering unique diving opportunities at PADI-certified centers. Their massive house reefs are literally right out the door. Grab your dive buddy and tanks and in you go without an escort to see gorgeous neon-blue spotted stingrays, octopus, and huge schools of tropical fish and brilliant coral. Boats take you further, to dive with dolphins, into wrecks and to the famed Elphinstone, the subterranean mountain beloved by hammerhead and oceanic whitetip sharks. All this in the middle of the Bedouin-inhabited desert makes for a unique and intensely satisfying diving adventure.

Other Favorites
Add French Polynesia’s Bora Bora and Rangiroa to your list if you love shark diving; and Belize to do its famed Blue Hole, a giant, empty hole that gives you bragging rights but not much to see on a very deep dive. Bali’s Nusa Penida Island has rocket-fast drift dives that are a blast; and seek out Hawaii’s best dive, the Cathedral, close to Lanai. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has suffered extensive coral bleaching but is still legendary and a must-do at least once. Try Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia for unspoiled, off-the-beaten-path beauty and great diving.

And ponder on what Jacques Cousteau once said as you go: “Man only has to sink beneath the surface and he is free.”

–Jenny Peters