1. Belize, Tobacco Caye, 2004
the diversity of marine life, the clear water, the lack of crowds... what an amazing place to dive. as you can see in the picture below, you can walk right off the tiny island of Tobacco Caye and onto the Belize barrier reef.
- Tobacco Caye is tiny and beautiful
2. Egypt, Red Sea, Sharm El Sheikh, 1994
I did my Open Water dive course in the Red Sea, so I'm a little biased towards these dives, but having said that I still believe that they are incredible. I should mention that this was many years ago -- when I arrived in Dahab, they had only had electricity for six months. I'm sure a lot has changed since then.
3. Australia's Great Barrier Reef (outer reef), 1999 and 2003
I've actually done more dives on the reef than anywhere else (about 25). while widely considered to be the best diving in the world, I found that the dives were too overused and crowded to be considered the best in the world. however, having said that I absolutely love Australia and I would strongly recommend the Great Barrier Reef to any diver. if you are going to dive the reef, get as far out as your schedule allows. if you can, hop on a multi-day SCUBA/sailing trip headed to the outer reef. you can pack a lot of dives in and you have the option of doing night dives which can be great.
note: I expected to take some heat about ranking the reef third, but I just spoke to another diver who also believes that Belize is more impressive.
4. Malaysia, Grand Perhentian, 2004
Perhentian Island is actually two islands -- don't ask me how that happened. the islands are about half and hour off the Malaysian coast (by bumpy wooden speed boat). the islands themselves were worth the trip, but the great diving didn't hurt either.
I went on a number of different types of dives, including my first wreck dive and another into a cave that sharks sleep in.
5. USA, Catalina Island, 2004
this dive was interesting because it was completely different from the other dives that I've done. the water was much cooler and instead of coral, kelp is the main marine life.
- a Catalina fish
6. Dominican Republic, Punta Cana, 2007
I can't give the Dominican a proper review because I didn't dive on the Carribean Sea side. rather than take a day trip, we took advantage of a dive on the Atlantic side which came free with our package. it was worth doing, but not particularly awe inspiring. if you are serious about your diving, dive on the warm side.
7. Cook Islands, Rarotonga, 1999
the water was warm, there was a decent amount of coral, but there really wasn't much to see. despite this, I did see a few black tip reef sharks -- my first shark sitings.