My Favorite Dive
From majestic kelp forests to enchanting caves, SDI contributing author and technical diving instructor Jeffrey Bozanic shares some of his favorite places to get wet.
“Hey Jeff, where is your favorite dive?”
As an avid diver, I’m often asked about the best places to dive. While it’s impossible to single out a definitive answer, I can certainly share my top five favorite dives. Join me as I take you on a journey through these incredible underwater destinations.
1. Kelp Forests of California
Right off southern California is one of the most magical places I have ever seen… the majestic kelp forests. Yes, the water is cool (48-70oF/9-21oC), but it is well worth the effort needed to wear an exposure suit. Have you ever imagined yourself flying? Diving the kelp is like that… floating through the kelp fronds, soaring between stands of kelp, gliding over and under the magnificent cover that provides shelter to a wide variety of life. It is like flying through a forest!
I love playing “hide and seek” with giant black sea bass, or watching thousands of anchovies or sardines swirling through the open spaces between the fronds, or even sneaking up on dozens of soup fin sharks as they cruise between the towering kelp forests. You never know what you will see… bright orange garibaldi protecting their nests, 5-foot (1.5m) bat rays, 20-foot (6m) long jellyfish, even upon occasion whales! I love the surprises that the kelp hides.
2. Anchialine Caves of the Bahamas
You enter the water from a small pool or lake, yet the caves from there connect to the ocean. The labyrinthian passages are confusing, dangerous for the uninitiated, but challenging and engaging for the trained diver with proper equipment. It is an environment that demands attention, demands respect… but it is an immensely satisfying place to dive as a result.
While Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and many other locations also have anchialine caves, my personal favorites are in the Bahamas. One room in particular, “Halocline Heaven,” is an especially magical place to dive. A halocline is a density interface in the water column, dividing two water masses of differing salinities (and temperatures). Halocline Heaven has two haloclines. So the water is divided into three distinct layers, like a layer cake. Poking through these different tiers are thousands of stalactites from the ceiling, and stalagmites reaching up from the floor. The magic comes from myriads of diamond-like points of light reflecting off the calcite crystals in the dark, and the multiple reflections of your light beam bouncing off not only the glittering rock, but also at each of the interfaces between the halocline layers. I remember being completely mesmerized as I threaded my way between the lacy, delicate rock formations that adorned this scintillating room.
3. Coral Reefs of the Indo-Pacific
Coral reefs are full of beautiful reef building structures and thousands of multicolored fish… but the reefs in the Indo-Pacific trump all other coral reefs hands (or fins) down! I love Tonga, where the fish look like you handed a huge box of crayons to a first grade class, and just asked them to color in the outlined fish bodies. No sense of pattern, vibrant, clashing colors, and shapes which are sometimes familiar and sometimes strange and alien.
Soft corals gently sway in the currents, and it seems the bottom is comprised of dozens, maybe hundreds of species of corals. The diversity makes the reefs of the Florida Keys or the Caribbean seem pale and anemic in comparison. My only regret about visiting there is that I eventually have to leave.
4. The Glowing Fleet of Bikini Atoll:
I have done a fair amount of wreck diving around the world, but I am not a hard core wreck diver. That said, the most interesting wrecks I have seen are at Bikini Atoll. These ships sunk during atomic bomb tests after WWII. While they do not actually glow, they do have a glowing place in history based on the limited time during which the United States conducted such testing.
One of the things I loved about the diving is the variety of wrecks. Tenders, submarines, destroyers, battleships, even an aircraft carrier! And when they did the testing, they left everything on board to see what impacts the bombs would have on the materials. So you can see bombs, torpedoes, planes, dishes,… the list goes on. I even found a codebook near the radio room on the bridge of the USS Saratoga (aircraft carrier) about 60fsw (18m) deep. And after 55 years under water, it was still legible! I loved the history, diversity of the wrecks, and the sheer romance of being on a deserted atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
5. It’s All About the Experience!
My final place isn’t really a place. It depends on the mood I am in, and it revolves around the experience. My 5th favorite dive? Maybe it was the time a whale came up to me under water, and laid its head on my shoulder? Or spending the night in the Jules Undersea Lodge in Key Largo, FL? Or listening to Weddell seals singing underneath the ice ceiling of the Ross Sea in Antarctica? Or the manta ray that spent three hours towing me around the wreck of the Empire Mica in Panama City, FL? Or being sucked down a whirlpool in the Bahamas while being filmed by Stan Waterman? Or discovering an unknown passage in a cave that was already “completely explored?” In over 5,000 dives, there have been a LOT of “ors” that I could reference, and they have all been outstanding. So, my favorite 5th location? Wherever my next dive takes me! Because you never know what you will see or experience.
My list of favorite dives is ever-evolving, just like the ocean itself. Diving offers a continuous journey of discovery and learning. I encourage you to embark on your own underwater adventures, create your list of favorites, and let’s compare notes the next time we meet on a dive boat. Happy diving!
Jeff can be reached at email@example.com