Warm water, classic dive sites, mild currents – the Mediterranean’s where it’s at. ‘Nuff said!
1. Venice and environs: Italy is one of the world’s most magnificent and storied countries, and its underwater grandeur is on par with the scenic tourist spots perched above sea level. There isn’t much in the way of scuba diving within Venice itself – after all, you’d have to be a bit mad to splash into the city’s filthy canals. Not far from Venice, however, you’ll find truly fabulous scuba diving sites such as Elba, Ponza and Ventotene. Seekers of aquatic recreation flock to Italy’s shores from April to October.
If you’re planning a scuba diving vacation specifically to this country, don’t spend too much time in Venice. Instead, head south – that’s where you’ll find the majority of scuba diving sites in Italy.
2. Sardinia: Divers love the island of Sardinia for its beautiful, varied dive spots: caves, coral reefs and colorful marine life abound. The Ciclopi rocks, a famous igneous formation, hosts a stunning overview of rich red corals and a who’s who of regional sea life. The island offers titillating underwater rock formations, reefs and overhangs populated by groupers, octopus, barracuda and beautiful corals and sponge. Calabria and Latium also offer crystal-clear water and abundant fish.
3. Secca del Papa: Renowned as the puzzle island, Secca del Papa has the diving spots with near-transparent water. Best of all, it’s a virtual synopsis of the Mediterranean diving environment, including well-preserved wrecks from the Roman times and the World Wars.
4. Sicily: The largest Italian island, Sicily has changeable weather throughout the year. History buffs will dive wrecks off the island’s coast that they’ll be talking about for months.
5. Mykonos Islands: Better-known as a sailing destination, Mykonos is a dark horse candidate for an ideal scuba diving holiday. It shouldn’t be, though: this Greek island boasts some of the best dive shops in Greece, as well as lots of fun dive sites. “Super Paradise Reef” and “Octopus Island” are here, after all! The water temperature around Greece is in the high 70′s, with great visibility.
6. Santorini: Santorini’s iconic volcanic explosion gave the island some of the most magnificent underwater scenery in Europe. Santorini’s underwater formations are aflutter with vibrant sea creatures. Lots of colorful sponges, groupers, nudibranchs, snappers, barracuda and many other fishes crowd around the island’s underwater caldera, its sleeping volcanoes and the wrecks that the island’s bizarre underwater topography has taken down over hundreds of years. One dive site, Mansell Reef, comes to within 10 feet of the surface in open water. The reef is rife with pelagics and the wall drops down to the abyss at over 600 feet.
7. Corfu: Corfu, another busy little Grecian dive site, is rife with beautiful wrecks, ancient sculptures, walls, and other artifacts, coral reefs and many diverse species swimming around.
8. Malta: Of all the Mediterranean dive sites, the island of Malta may be the best. Malta hosts clear waters, a myriad of marine life, caves, caverns and a graveyard of wrecks. Paradise Bay is a delightful dive with dropoffs, boulders, large fish and amazing fire worms. Two tug boats at Zonqor point are easy dives and with proper training make good penetration dives. The HMS Maori, a destroyer sent to the bottom during an air raid in 1943, is remarkably penetratable (but, due to its age, it’s unstable – so check your six).
9. France: France has a wide variety of dive sites and is well-known for its numerous wrecks. The wreck of the Togo lies in the Bay of Calvaliere, with the top of the ship reaching up to 150 feet. Bottom time is short, but the diver will be rewarded with a colorful kaleidoscope of seafans, gorgonions and a myriad of marine life. The lle de Hyeres, three French islands with great visibility, host many of these venerable old wrecks (as well as the brown merou, a giant grouper once thought to be extinct).