Wreck diving has always held a strong fascination for scuba divers. The main attraction to many is the link to an interesting part of history. The wreck maybe a ship that was struck down during a war bombing raid, or it may be a historic cargo vessel that used to ply trade routes and ran aground due to navigational error, or it may be a passenger vessel that ended up on the sea floor during a storm. Descending on to and exploring an underwater relic such as this can bring history to “life”, bring a story in to sharper focus, and one can better appreciate the events and emotions that must have taken place during life-changing and often catastrophic moments.
Often wrecks have become encrusted with coral and other benthic life forms and are now the super structure for living and thriving organisms. Such wrecks are often a home for spectacular macro life, such as rare types of shrimp, colourful and flamboyant nudibranchs, furtive octopus, and cryptic creatures such as frogfish and stonefish. They might be important refuges for juvenile reef fish which seek shelter and safety within its deepest and darkest recesses, and this often attracts predator fish species such as trevally and barracuda on the lookout for prey.
Indeed these days objects are often deliberately sunk or scuttled as part of a reef or marine life rehabilitation project. Small boats are popular choices for such initiatives, but sometimes they might be decommissioned military vessels, helicopters, even old cars and tyres have been used. The advantage of such artificial reefs are that they can be strategically positioned for the greatest benefit to the marine life and also within recreational diving depths, creating a valuable source of revenue for some coastal communities.
Another attraction for some divers is the extra challenges they present. Often wrecks lie at depths beyond the reach of recreational divers and require the use of mixed gases and other advanced equipment such as safety stages and twin tanks. Other wrecks may present easy penetration opportunities to explore cargo holds and captain’s cabins; whilst others may require more technical planning and the use of penetration lines and torches to explore hidden decks, corridors, and sections with potentially dangerous objects.
Whatever your interest in wreck diving, Dive The World can help you find the top locations and options that best match your needs.
Most coastal regions of the world have a few wrecks these days, but some have more than their fair share …
Given its proximity to Europe and its colonial past, it is unsurprising that the Red Sea is home to some of the best war wrecks in the world. Most notable is the Sinai Peninsula’s HMS Thistlegorm, a British ship with an astonishing cargoes of war vehicles, ammunitions and bombs, and anti-aircraft guns. No museum can bring you closer to the history of World War II than this extraordinary ship wreck, but this is really only the jewel in the crown… and the crown is very large.
In Egypt there are dozens of top quality wrecks, so many in fact that you could spend a whole week diving only the wrecks. There is the Rosalie Moller - another victim of the war in the northern Hurghada area. There are transport vessels such as the Ulysses, the Gubal Barge, the Dunraven and the Kingston. Then there is the incredible Abu Nuhas reef system that has 5 fabulous wrecks lying at various depths on it. And more recently in 1991 on its return from Mecca, the overcrowded Salem Express sank with huge loss of life.
As well as the Italian Umbria wreck, the Sudanese Red Sea is home to the Blue Belt wreck, a cargo ship that was loaded with Toyota cars, trucks and tractors. Shaab Rumi is where Jacques Cousteau constructed his underwater research laboratory. Now one of the most unique wrecks in the world, Cousteau's Conshelf (aka the Precontinent II) was a temporary home to several ‘oceanauts’ who lived there and made a television series about the underwater world.
The battle for Peleliu Island in Palau is where some of the most fiercest fighting took place between Japan and the USA. Although the Japanese government sought special permission and salvaged many of the wrecks from the area, there are still several excellent wreck dives here. The warships Teshio Maru and Chuyo Maru were torpedoed and bombed and sank in Peleliu’s waters. There is also a cargo vessel and an American sea plane. All these wrecks have been reclaimed by the tropical ocean and are now thriving habitats for Palau’s marine life. In addition it’s also possible to dive at Orange Beach, site of the US amphibious landing, where the sea floor is littered with war debris.
Some locations in the world might not have a huge number of wrecks, but they do have one that is so good that it has achieved international acclaim …
Just off the shoreline of Tulamben in north east Bali lies the USS Liberty, a World War II cargo ship and one of the most famous wrecks in the world. Lava flow from the nearby Mt Agung volcano pushed the vessel off the shoreline into shallow water. Its easy access and the mild sea conditions mean that everyone can enjoy the splendour of the most beautifully colourful wreck you can imagine. Larger fish that frequent the wreck include great barracuda, Napoleon wrasse, bumphead parrotfish, and occasional sunfish. But the wreck is equally bedazzling at night where divers can use their torches to help spot small cryptic such as the myriad crustacean species that live here.
Note: wreck diving penetration and deep wrecks require specific and advanced training in order to participate. It should also be noted that the taking of artifacts or property from wrecks as mementos or souvenirs not only diminishes the attraction of a wreck for all future visiting divers, it is often illegal in many jurisdictions. So always ensure you have appropriate training and please leave the wrecks in the same state as which you found it.
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