DGG- Winter is here. For most of us in the mid- Atlantic region (with the exception of a few hearty oyster divers out the frigid Chesapeake) the dive season is over until warmer water returns in the spring. I like to think that winter is prime time for dive travel. The best way to have a great scuba diving experience in the middle of winter is to do your planning early and choose the right location. For most of us that also means hitting the road. Luckily, there are a number of spots across the globe (and
even some in the U.S.!) that will allow you to get into your wetsuit and shake off that winter chill.
For the jet set, the waters surrounding Thailand are reported to provide their best visibility in the wintertime. The underwater landscape is incredibly scenic, having largely recovered from 2004’s destructive tsunami. The best time to dive in Thailand, is between November and April, as this is when the waters are calmest, allowing aquatic life to flourish and providing great visibility along with easier swimming.
Not looking to go as far? If you’re looking to stay in the States, there are a couple options for winter diving. The first is the Bonne Terre Mine in Missouri(just south of St. Louis), a lead mine that filled with water when the mine closed and subsequently created a huge freshwater diving resort. The water is kept at 58 degrees Fahrenheit all year—not as warm as some of the more tropical sites, but not bad for a Stateside dive in the wintertime. Even though there are obviously no fish or aquatic flora, the mine shafts are all eerily illuminated with artificial light, and there’s huge amounts of tunnels and routes to explore, providing a hauntingly beautiful experience.
A second option for an American winter dive is the Flower Garden Banks Marine Sanctuary in Texas, where there are beautiful lush reefs filled with fish and even hammerhead sharks. Dives are available February through April as the water remains temperate.
This one has been on my radar for awhile. If you’re really looking for adventure and some cheap airfare due to “a little” regional unrest? Egypt is hungry for tourists. The water in the Red Sea, is warm and comfortable year-round. Despite being completely landlocked, the Red Sea is bursting with marine life, making it a prime place to dive. There is a huge variety of dive sites, each with something different to offer. Elphinstone Reef is teeming with a large variety of fish and white-tip sharks, while the area around the Brothers Islands provides beautifully clear water and several fascinating shipwrecks, easily accessible for divers to explore. Even in winter, the water temperature rarely dips below 70-73 degrees Fahrenheit.
Other potential locales with winter advantages would include the islands of Turks and Caicos. They have a particularly alluring draw: wintertime is humpback whale season there, with sightings peaking around December(time to go!). The islands are already a huge attraction for divers given the impossibly clear blue water and astounding array of corals and tropical fishes year-round. Wintertime, however, is when humpback whales come to congregate, although there are plenty of other creatures to keep you busy. There are tours available to dive with friendly stingrays or see the very rare marine rock iguanas, found nowhere else in the world. Winter water temperatures range between 74-78 degrees Fahrenheit.
No matter which location you choose, wear an appropriate wetsuit (or drysuit)—6mm or better, plus a hood and gloves to prevent significant heat loss. Enjoy your winter dive or hope for an early spring and a return to warmer local water!
Best and good diving- DGG