Scuba Diving | 8 Of The Best Wreck Diving Locations In The World

What is shipwreck diving? Where are the best wreck dives in the world? What marine life live in shipwrecks? We have all the answers to your wreck diving questions!

Wreck Diving is one of the most popular types of scuba diving, practiced all over the world.

Usually a past time for recreational divers of all levels, wreck dives explore military, leisure and privately owned wrecks, both recent and decades old, with some retired ships now being scuttled to create more diving opportunities around tourist areas.

Scuba Diving For Beginners | Everything You Need To Know

The reason why old wrecks are of such interest to divers, apart from the intrigue of a historic event, is because the sunken ships created interesting artificial reefs, in which marine life create new habitats, some of which would not have occurred naturally in the area.

Wrecks are legally protected from unauthorized salvage or desecration in many countries. The UK protects wrecks with three seperate acts;  Protection of Wrecks Act 1973, Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 and Merchant Shipping Act 1995.

You can even go on a wreck diving appreciation course through BSAC in the UK.

Wreck diving is a popular activitiy for both scuba divers and freedivers Photo’: iStock

Types Of Wreck Diving

The three main types of wreck dives are non-penetration diving, limited penetration diving and full penetration diving.

Non Penetration Wreck Diving -When the scuba diver explores the exterior of the wreck, yet not attempting to dive through the interior.

Limited Penetration Diving-  Scuba divers will explore the interior of a wreck, which is more hazardous because of the wrecks structural integrity, but do not leave the light zones of the ship.

Full Penetration Diving- Scuba divers explore the wreck fully, using diving torches to find their way around the zones of the wreck without light. The greatest risk with this type of dive is to get lost and find yourself unable to surface.

1) U.S.S Kittiwake – Grand Cayman

Scuba divers visit ship wrecks to explore their artificial reefs photo: iStock

This  United States Navy Chanticleer-class submarine rescue vessel does not have a dramatic story behind it’s wreckage, but it’s still one of the most interesting wrecks to dive through!

The ship, which was in use between the years 1946 to 1994, stopped being decommissioned due to old age and sunk off the coast of Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman to become an artificial reef.

As the wreck was planned especially for divers, adjustments have been made to doorways and structures strengthened. The new reef has attracted garden eels, southern stingrays, barracudas and turtles.

At its most shallow, the wreck of Kittiwake is 15 feet (4.6 meters) below the surface of the water and at its deepest, 64 feet (19.5 meters) below the surface. This wreck is seen as a great dive for beginner suba divers, with enough variation to still be suitable for more advanced scuba diving also.

2) Fujikawa Maru – Chuuk Lagoon

Wreck diving is a great way to find marine life photo; iStock

Officially ranked as the fourth best wreck dive in the world, the Fujikawa Maru is a location on many diver’s bucket lists.

Built in 1938 for the Toyo Kaiun Kisen Kaisha, it was requisitioned by the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II for use as an armed aircraft ferry. The ship sunk during Operation Hailstone, an event widely considered to be the Japenese equivalent of Pearl Harbour.

As well as the usual aspects of a ship wreck dive, this wreck has four disassembled Mitsubishi fighter aircrafts in one of the forward holds, as well as a 6 inch bow gun, left over from the Sino-Japanese war.

3) Yolanga – Australia

The danger of wreck diving depends on light, wreck structure and the type of dive you try photo: iStock

At 364ft long, the Yolanga is one of the largest and most intact shipwrecks in the world.

Just off the coast of Queensland in Australia, the wreck is full of marine life and attracts 10,000 divers each year.

The ship sank in 1911. En route from Melbourne to Cairns the vessel was caught in a cyclone and sank south of Townsville. All 122 aboard were killed, and the ship itself was not found until days later,

The Yongala wreck is a national historic site, protected under the Historic Shipwreck Act (1976), and lies within the beautiful World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

4) Blockship Tabarka – Scotland

Wreck diving must be planned out before the divers enter the water photo; iStock

Another ship that was intentionally sunk, Tabarka lies on the bed of Burra Sound.

An interesting wreck, from the outside you might question why we have included it in our top eight, it’s shallow, in an area of extreme tidal change and it’s upside down, making it difficult to get inside.

It’s when you do into the wreck however ,that you realise the true worth of this dive.  The changing tides create an intense waterflow inside the wreck’s artificial reef that crate underwater rooms of incredible colour and diversity. Navigation of the wreck is surprisingly easy, with each separate area of the ship giving a new example of marine life.

This wreck can only be dived at slack water and requires careful pre-planning in order to complete. It’s not a simple dive – but it is worth the effort!

5) Thistlegorm – Egypt

Some ships are sunk deliberately for wreck diving Photo: iStock

This Navy ship, built in 1940 is a fairly easy dive because of the circumstances around it’s sinking.

The vessel, which only sailed for one year, collided with another ship in September of 1941 near the Alexandria port in Egypt, before being bombed twice by allied troops and sinking in October. Lost for year, the wreck was rediscovered by Jacques-Yves Cousteau in the 1950s.

Today, the ship is known as one of the best wreck dives in the world because of the vast amount of cargo still on board to bee discovered and explored.

The Thistlegorm wreck is also known for it’s amazing marine life, with  tuna, barracuda, batfish, moray eel, lionfish, stonefish, crocodilefish, scorpionfish and sea turtles now using the wreck as habitat.


6) U.S.N.S Hughes. Vandenberg – Florida Keys

Wreck diving and artificial reefs can boost local tourism Photo: iStock

To create a good artificial reef takes time, money and effort, but can boost a local economy and environment immediately.

The Vandenberg wreck, a military missile-tracking ship that once tracked space launches off Cape Canaveral and monitored Soviet missile launches during the Cold War, was sunk in May 2009 to create an artificial reef near Florida Keys. The project took over ten years and 8.6 million pounds of funding to complete!

Inside the wreck divers will find giant dish antennas, the bridge, and the main deck areas that still have many of the ships features intact. Although spaces have been cut bigger for safety and diving ease, many features such as cranes anchor chains are still in place.

7) Bianca C – Grand Anse

This wreck is the biggest in the Caribbean and known by the nickname, the ‘Titanic of the Caribbean.’ Interested? We thought so.

The Bianca C luxury liner sank in 1961 after a boiler room explosion which caused a fire that burned for several days. At 600 feet, this wreck is an amazing experience for any level of diver.

Between 1970 and the 1990’s, many divers and firms took the propellers and other parts of the boat to sell as scrap.  A bronze statue of Christ of the Abyss was given by the Costa Line to Grenada in the 1990’sand the amazing statue stands in the area surrounding the wreck.

8) San Francisco Maru – Chuuk Lagoon

This passenger cargo ship sits upright on the bed of the ocean and is full of both marine life and cargo to discover.

Divers will find bow gun, trucks, tanks, mines, shells, bombs, aircraft engines, ammunition, china and more on board.

A great wreck for advanced divers, the wreck is very deep, with the superstructure at 140ft/42m, deck at 165 ft/50m, and the sea bottom at 210ft/64m

The dive is also situated around many other wrecks, so is a great location to head if you’re looking for an extensive spell of marine exploration.

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