OK, so you’ve completed your Open Water SCUBA certification, now what? There is a world of underwater opportunities available to you, but which one(s) do you select first? There are certainly plenty of choices, but here are a few of the top rated destinations for beginning SCUBA divers to consider.
Florida Keys: The unquestioned scuba diving destination in the continental United States, the Florida Keys provide a wide range of options for the first-time dive traveler. The Keys have been called Americas Caribbean and are a 120-mile long chain of coral islands.
Start in Key Largo, where you can dive on shallow reefs and experience the world famous John Pennekamp Marine Park, and work your way South along US Route 1 (the Florida Keys Overseas Highway) until you reach Key West the farthest point South in the entire country.
In between, you’ll have an opportunity to stop off in historic towns including Islamorada, Marathon and Big Pine Key each providing you a chance to experience what locals call the Keys Lifestyle. More importantly, as a new diver, you’ll be able to dive a different and unique location throughout your trek through the Keys. Once you’ve gained a bit more diving experience, you may want to consider returning to the Keys to dive some of the many wrecks scattered up and down the coastline. These wrecks are most appropriate for advanced divers.
Bonaire: This small island off the coast of Venezuela continues to impress divers around the world and for good reason. Bonaire has no rivals when it comes to diving simplicity something every new diver wants and needs. As a new diver, your first dive trip can bring some expected nervousness and apprehension. Easy shore diving and calm, clear waters (which Bonaire delivers almost every day of the year) can make your first diving experience a memorable one.
The island is surrounded by a coral reef that is also a marine park. This makes shore diving a breeze and boat dives a pleasure. According to a recent survey of divers by a leading scuba diving publication, Bonaire ranks first in both shore diving and marine life. As you become more comfortable with your surroundings, you might ask one of the local Bonaire photo pros about some of the islands unique underwater sights. A short boat trip to Klein Bonaire, an island just under a mile from the main island of Bonaire, is also something special for a new diver.
Cayman Islands: This group of three islands (Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, Cayman Brac) is well known for two things, international banking and scuba diving. Since most of us don’t often have a need for a large off-shore bank, the next best reason to head to the Caymans are to get your feet wet and explore its crystal-blue waters.
The islands rich scuba diving history provides a great backdrop to diving opportunities that include colorful coral reefs, spectacular walls, a myriad of fish and marine life and even a few man-made aquatic attractions. The diving on Grand Cayman is divided roughly into 3 areas: Seven Mile Beach and the Northwest Point, The North Wall and The East End. Each area offers a little different type of diving and beginners might want to log a dive in each area to build a good base of diving knowledge.
The Cayman Islands have a distinctive British feel and atmosphere and the dive operators all have their secret spots.” The important things for any new diver to remember are being comfortable and enjoying the experience. Diving visitors to the Cayman Islands won’t have any trouble making that happen.
These are just three possible destinations for new divers. Whether it’s one of these or another destination, the important thing to remember is that diving is all about the experience – the more you experience it, the more you’ll enjoy it.
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