Best Places To Go Cave Diving

31 Aug Best Places To Go Cave Diving

While SCUBA diving is considered extreme to some people, if you are looking to step up your game, try your hand at cave diving. This takes the risks to a whole new level by adding the element of complete darkness, narrow shafts or tunnels that are often difficult to navigate and minimal options when something goes wrong.

Below, you will discover some of the most epic places around the world to cave and cavern diving. Please DO NOT attempt these dives without the proper training and certification.

As always, if you think we have missed any please let us know in the comments section below.

North America


1. GREAT BLUE HOLE – Belize

Ranked by Discovery Channel on their list of “The 10 Most Amazing Places on Earth”, the Great Blue Hole found in Central America is truly unique. A limestone sinkhole formed thousands of years ago, it has a total of 11 underwater caves each with its own depth and length. A top thing to do in Belize, it has also received world recognition from UNESCO. Truly a world class destination for cave diving.

The Great Blue Hole

Great Blue Hole – Belize by Eric Pheterson on Flickr

2. TEMPLE OF DOOM (CENOTE ESQUELETO), TULUM – Mexico

Just outside of Tulum, Mexico in the Yucatan, divers can find another interesting dive site made of a mixture of salt and fresh water, lots of cave formations, boulders and stalactites. The catch, they have to make the dive jumping into the water first and as attested by many can easily get lost in the dark cave passageways.

Cenote Calavera

Cenote Calavera by Singa Hitam on Flickr

3. DEVIL’S CAVE SYSTEM, GINNIE SPRINGS – United States

Want to enjoy cave diving with the clearest water you can find? Then head over to Ginnie Springs in Florida. Here you will find four of the most dive-able springs: Ginnie Springs, Little Devil, Devil’s Eye and Devil’s Ear, the most frequently dived caves in the world. A favorite for divers, this area is where you can practice your underwater photography skills to the fullest.

Ginnie Springs

Chris Williams at Ginnie Springs by POLICEDIVER2 on Flickr

4. FIRST CATHEDRAL, HAWAII – United States

First Cathedral is the most popular dive site off Lanai. The dive site contains a huge chamber with cut-outs in the lava forming “stain glass windows” with the sun shining through.

First cathedral Lanai

First cathedral, Lana’i by tobze on Flickr

5. SISTEMA DOS OJOS, YUCATAN – Mexico

Dos Ojos which means “Two Eyes” in Spanish, is a flooded cave system located in Yucatan, Mexico. It refers to two neighboring cenotes that connects it into a large cavern. Cave diving here is a guided adventure following lines like the Barbie Line (there’s a plastic alligator with a Barbie doll in its mouth) because it is quite easy to get lost in the tunnels and could prove to be fatal. Continuing on, divers have the option to go to another cenote which is the “Bat Cave”.

Dos Ojos Cenote

Dos Ojos Cenote by Eric Molina on Flickr

6. ANDROS ISLAND – Bahamas

Politically considered a single island, it has the greater area than the rest of the Bahamian islands. It’s an archipelago within the Bahamas famous for its many water-filled cave systems known as Blue Holes. Expect to see a diverse range of marine life such as moray eels and lionfish.

Stargate Blue Hole

In Stargate Blue Hole, divers illuminate North Passage by Jonin CO on Flickr

7. EAGLE NEST SINK – United States

An extremely advanced diving site, Eagle Nest Sink cave system on Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area near Weeki Wachee that has claimed several lives (six in total) since 1989 earning the name “Lost Sink”. A lot of requirements are needed to be presented like cave certification card, GUE Cave 2 level experience (minimum requirement) and knowledge with the use of trimix to be able to dive here. Again this is not for any beginner or novice of any level (open water, cavern, cave diving, etc.).

Eagle Nest Sink

Sign at Eagle Nest Sink

8. JACOB’S WELL, WIMBERLY – United States

Popular with adults and youngsters alike, Jacob’s Well in Texas is the largest underwater cave in the area although it looks more like a simple swimming hole. Water from the well overflows to a natural spring feeding the Cypress Creek that has slowly been drying up in recent years. Cave divers here can explore 4 main chambers, however, don’t let the well’s appearance fool you, it too has claimed a number of lives.

Jacobs Well

Jacob’s Well by Patrick Lewis on Flickr

Africa


9. THE BLUE HOLE, DAHAB – Egypt

Earning the ominous title of “World’s Most Dangerous Dive Site” and the even more hair-raising nickname of “Diver’s Cemetery”, the Blue Hole in Egypt can certainly be any diver’s last dive. It is an extremely deceptive dive with dim lighting making nitrogen narcosis more frequent here than in any other diving spot. Maximum care and diving at within your own capabilities and limitations is the key to surviving this dive site.

Descending

Descending by Matt Kieffer on Flickr

Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific


10. FISH ROCK CAVE, NSW – Australia

Known as Australia’s best ocean cave dive, it is located just off Smoky Cape at South West Rocks on New South Wales. The cave is 125m long and its name was a tribute to the diverse marine life found here that includes the gentle, endangered grey nurse sharks. This dive site is open to all levels of diving.

South-West Rocks Bullseyes

Fish cave by chem7 on Flickr

11. KILSBY’S SINKHOLE – Australia

Smack-dab in the middle of an Australian farm (Kilsby Farm), divers marvel at the astounding features they see when diving in this limestone cavern. One of the first sinkholes to be visited by numerous divers since the 1960’s. With a tragic double-drowning in 1969, the site was closed to be later leased for research testing. With an access agreement in place, the site has been reopened for conscientious divers.

Cave Diving in Kilsbys sinkhole

Cave Diving in Kilsby’s sinkhole by Andrea McIntyre on Flickr

12. BLUE CORNER – Palau

The most popular diving site in Palau, Blue Corner wall extends to Blue Holes where divers can explore many caverns and caves meant for experienced cave divers. This place has currents that can present a problem for beginners. Marine life like sharks are common here.

Blue Hole Palau

Blue Hole by Klaus Stiefel on Flickr

13. SHAFT SINKHOLE, MOUNT GAMBIER – Australia

The infamous sinkhole discovered in Mount Gambier is named appropriately. The entrance and exit is via a small hole opening in the ground. Each diver must be lowered, along with their equipment. Timing is of the essence when diving here and a sharp eye to your air tanks will help in ensuring you make it back to the top.

The Shaft

The Shaft’s Tiny Hole by Saspotato on Flickr

14. PICCANINNIE PONDS – Australia

A popular site for both cave diving and snorkeling, it has three main features particularly fascinating to cave divers. ‘First Pond’ which is an open depression, the ‘Chasm’ which is a sinkhole and the ‘Cathedral’ with limestone formations. All three have varying depths with excellent visibility. Take note though that activities here is by permit only.

Piccaninnie Ponds

Piccaninnie Ponds by Tim Bardsley – Smith on Flickr

Asia


15. PULAU SIPADAN – Malaysia

The only oceanic island in Malaysia, it is listed as one of ‘The Top Dive Destination in the World’. While Pulau Sipadan is home to a diverse marine life including barracuda, big-eye trevally, and bump head parrotfish, the Turtle Tomb is the most famous. This limestone cave of labyrinthine tunnels is where you can find the skeletal remains of turtles (green and hawksbill).

Scuba dive master Che photographing turtle

Scuba dive master Che photographing turtle by William Warby on Flickr

16. SIMILAN ISLANDS – Thailand

This protected national park consists of nine islands thus the name Similan, which is a Yawi (language of Thai Malays) word meaning ‘nine’. The best dive site is the Elephant Head Rock, so named because its granite boulders resemble an elephant. It has a maze of swim-troughs and spin-cycle currents so care is needed when making a dive.

Similan Islands dive

Similan Islands dive by Pier Nirandara on Flickr

17. RAJA AMPAT ISLANDS – Indonesia

Located on Indonesia’s West Papua province, Raja Ampat Islands (or Four Kings) is another diver’s dream paradise with an interesting mythology. It is ranked at the top of underwater biodiversity for its highest record of marine life diversity. Visitors here are encouraged to dive in Farondi, east of Misool Island, for its one-of-a-kind underwater landscapes.

Misool diving

Misool diving, Indonesia

18. MERGUI ARCHIPELAGO – Myanmar (Burma)

Diving in the archipelago’s many undisturbed islands is relatively new. One such island open for diving is the Western Rocky Island, a small limestone island, located on the island’s eastern tip. Here divers are treated to a large tunnel running through the island where crabs, shrimp, snappers, sharks, stingrays and corals are abundant. This is an advanced cavern dive so make sure not to disturb the bottom so not to reduce visibility. Other dive sites are the Fan Forest Pinnacle, High Rock, North Twin Island, North Twin Plateau, Three Islets (In Through the Out Door, Black Rock, Burma Banks), Northeast Little Torres Island and Shark Cave.

Western Rocky

Western Rocky by MichiKimmig on Flickr

19. BROKEN ROCK, ARI ATOLL – Maldives

Maldives is one of the premiere diving destinations in the world. In Broken Rock, there is a channel where divers can swim through. Use caution when diving here as the currents can be strong. When currents are slow, even beginners can dive here but are advised not to when the currents become stronger.

Broken Rock Maldives

Broken Rock Fissure by Neville Wootton onFlickr

20. ORDA CAVE – Russia

Orda Cave is a gypsum crystal cave found underneath the western Ural Mountains. The mouth is near the shore of the Kungur River just outside Orda, Perm Krai in Russia. The cave system stretches over 5.1km with the majority being under water. This makes it one of the longest underwater caves and the largest underwater gypsum cave in the world.

Orda Cave

Orda Cave by Viktor Lyagushkin onFlickr

Europe


21. SECCA DEL PAPA, SARDINIA – Italy

Belonging to the Tavolara Islands, Secca del Papa (Pope’s Shoal), should be included in any diver’s itinerary when visiting Italy. It is said to be the most famous dive in the Protected Sea Area of Tavolara. This site offers spectacular underwater scenes of red gorgonian and marine life most notably groupers and barracudas.

Diving in Sardinia

Diving in Sardinia by Mauro Farina on Flickr

22. BLUE HOLE – Malta

Rated among Europe’s top dives and located just below “Azure Window”, both situated in the small island of Gozo in the Mediterranean Sea. This site is perfect for all levels, beginners and seasoned divers with its many depths and routes each can explore two underwater caves with eye-catching light. Furthermore, divers can either go on and swim towards the sea or go back to the caves at the back of the hole.

The Blue Hole at Gozo

The Blue Hole at Gozo by Martin Lopatka on Flickr

23. SILFRA FISSURE – Iceland

The Silfra fissure, is one of the top dive sites in the world. It is the only place where one can dive or snorkel directly in the crack between two continental plates, of the North American and Eurasian continents. The visibility in the Silfra fissure is over 100 meters, due to the frigid glacial waters.

Silfra Fissure Iceland

Silfra Fissure, Iceland by Antonio Max on Flickr

24. EMERGENCE DU RESSEL – France

Emergence du Russel is a large impressive cave that starts in the bed of the River Céle. It splits into two passages: one tunnel stays shallow at around 10m deep whilst the other drops repeatedly until it reaches around 18m. The two passages rejoin then the cave takes the first of two dramatic plunges, eventually descending in a spectacular cavernous rift to about 45m. The whole trip through is a serious expedition of several hours and has been made by only a handful of people ever.

Ressel entrance

Ressel entrance by Florian Grimm on Flickr

South & Central America


25. BONITO – Brazil

Rappel 72m down into a cave and an underground, crystal clear lake, 80m deep, with the area equivalent to the size of a football field. Snorkeling or diving reveal the breathtaking beauty of this place: some of the largest underwater stalagmites in the world, up to 18m high.

bonito

Bonus – Antarctica


26. MCMURDO SOUND – Antarctica

When people say Antarctica, first things that come to mind are penguins, ice, snow and freezing water. Most didn’t know that there’s an excellent diving spot right under those tons of ice if they can withstand the freezing temperatures. Underwater is a whole different world of sponges, corals, and starfish with emperor penguins and seals swimming in search of food. Needless to say, diving here will require a different set of skills and techniques. A portable hut is place over the hole made by divers to help them.

Scuba Diving in the Antarctic

Scuba Diving in the Antarctic by Antarctica Bound on Flickr

Profile photo of Michael Glass
Michael Glass

Michael is the founder of Backpacker Travel. He also runs walking tours in San Francisco and is a freelance travel writer. Michael is extremely passionate about travel and loves to explore festivals around the world.

3 Comments
  • Profile photo of Michael Glass
    Michael Glass
    Posted at 18:31h, 26 October Reply

    Didn’t get to dive it but went snorkeling at Silfra a couple of weeks ago. Incredible experience and while the water temp was just above freezing, you don’t really feel the cold until you get out.

  • Scubanomad
    Posted at 19:57h, 15 October Reply

    Great list. Bookmarked. I should not be too excited with my diving trips.

    • Michael Glass
      Posted at 20:02h, 18 July

      Let us know when you have ticked off any from this list ok.

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