Let’s start off by saying that this article is about which type of dive location is best for you, personally. We don’t believe in absolutes in regard to a personal opinion. That would be falling into the trap of diver-elitism.
With that said, these categories of diving are different, and predictably attract people with different interests and motivations. Especially for new divers that haven’t developed a preference yet, this article will help to show you why others have chosen their own preferences.
Reef divers typically don’t want to see anything but nature and marine life when they dive. Above anything else, it is a chance to submerge themselves in life and beauty. Many would gladly become a dolphin if it were an option!
Wreck divers typically love the thrill of discovery, and enjoy the idea of nature reclaiming something made by humans. They also enjoy the idea the wreck they are viewing had a history, and that is part of the experience.
To help you better determine your preference, here are 5 of the best reef and wreck sites, and why they appeal to divers.
…in the opinion of some people.
This dive site is British WWII transport ship that sunk in 1941 in the Strait of Gobal, Red Sea, Egypt. It is considered by many to be one of the very best wreck diving sites in the world. This is a large ship, in great condition, and if you are a wreck diver you probably long to see it. You can even see the remains of motorcycles in the wreck.
In 1911 the passenger ship ‘SS Yongala’ was hit by a cyclone, off Queensland, Australia. Part of what makes this a great wreck to dive is the variety of marine life that has made it home, and that it houses over 100 species of coral.
The Salem Express was a ferry service operating between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. It sank in the Red Sea in 1941, after running aground a reef, with over 470 pilgrims on board, heading for Mecca. This dive site is popular as it shows a moment frozen in time. Suitcases remain packed, and other everyday items are scattered around the location, including a wheelchair.
The USS Kittiwake was a US navy submarine rescue vessel that was deliberately scuttled off Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman Islands. It had been in service for over 50 years prior to scuttling the ship, and now houses a variety of marine life.
The Spiegel Grove was a huge landing ship that was deliberately scuttled to create an artificial reef, and to give marine life a place to shelter. The highest point of the wreck is still 65ft down, but at over 510ft in length, there is a lot to see.
…in the opinion of some people.
The Cape Kri reef in Indonesia is home to over 374 times of fish. This means there is a wealth of marine life making the beautiful coral garden their home.
There are 3 reefs in the one location, and they are known as the Shark & Yolanda reefs. Unironically for the reefs and…predictably the sharks. There is also a shipwreck in the location, which gives greater diversity to the marine life.
The Great Blue Hole, Belize, is a naturally formed deep hole full of mako and sharks. It is easily visible as it looks exactly like it sounds, like a Great Blue Hole in the ocean. At 143ft deep it is known for surprisingly good visibility. The edge of the hole is surrounded by coral reefs, which makes the drop away seem even more dramatic.
Point Lobos National Park contains an impressive reef, kept in great condition. To protect it from people there are limits to the amount of divers allowed in each day, so be sure to check in advance. There is a kelp forest, seals, nudibranchs, and a wealth of beauty on offer.
Palancar Horseshoe is in Cozumel, Mexico, and it’s very popular with scuba divers. There are turtles, reefs, an explosion of color and life, varying depths and you don’t need to search to find the beauty there. As I said, it is very popular already, which is good and bad.
There is a lot of crossover between wreck and reef diving, in that often people dive wreck sites because of the marine life they find. And a lot of wrecks are deliberately scuttled in order to start, or help a reef.
In a way the largest difference is the divers attitude to human intervention in the wilderness. If you want to completely escape humanity and all it has made, at least while diving, wrecks aren’t perfect.
However, some like it specifically because they can see how the ocean recovers and uses what it finds. In a lot of ways, it’s down to your own perception of what you see, which is why I included so many videos and pictures above.
You should be trained for the type of location you intend to visit, and make sure you are up to date on all the things you should and shouldn’t do.
There both Wreck and Reef diving courses, including the PADI Coral Reef Conservation Course, and the PADI Wreck Diver Specialty Course. You can learn such things as how ‘Just standing there for a second’ could cause an ecological disaster, and how not to die while exploring a wreck.
There is of course a third type of diver, the bubble diver. This type of diver is known for having a very enthusiastic but specific approach to diving, and if you’re interested in learning more then subscribe to our newsletter below.
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Colin is an inventor, author, guitar player, amateur scientist and steampunk enthusiast. During his years as a ships navigator his luck was so consistently bad that he was briefly known as ‘Jonah’, presumed cursed, and subsequently barred from setting foot on any boat docked in Ireland. Due to his misadventures he spent more time underwater than most divers will achieve in a lifetime. Not deliberately, but he was still down there!