For most, the depths of the ocean are shrouded in mystery. Few often venture below the surface of the deep blue sea, and even fewer have explored its far-reaching corners. Heck, according to the National Ocean Service, in all of the research and exploration scientists have accomplished up to this point, still we’ve covered less than five percent of the entire ocean.
In other words, to say there’s lots more exploring and discovering to be done is an enormous understatement. Luckily, though, even for the general public, there are lots of different ways to explore the underwater world. Whether in your own personal submarine or even a freestanding underwater oxygen bar (OK, so it's not the ocean, but hey, it sure sounds fun) here’s a look at some of the most unique and exciting ways you can embark on an underwater adventure.
Sandro Lonardi, a former dive instructor and current team member at diviac.travel says Mexico’s cenotes (or natural swimming holes that result from collapsed limestone bedrock) are “like a heaven for cave diving.” “[There are] kilometers and kilometers of underwater tunnels with incredible clear fresh water,” he said. Bridget Pearson a diviac.travel blogger adds, “There are thousands upon thousands of miles of underwater cave system, and more is being discovered every year. Some areas are completely untouched by humans, while others have remained pristine since prehistoric times.”
Featuring hundreds of statues that serve as a reef home for fish and other underwater creatures, the Museum of Subaquatic Art (MUSA) is the world’s biggest underwater museum and a must-see for divers and snorkelers — and especially those who love art. The collection of sculptures was designed as a way to offset the overwhelming amount of tourists visiting the area’s natural reefs and now serves as an exciting excursion that seamlessly combines underwater exploration and art.
Guests of Laucala Island, a private island resort in Fiji, are invited to explore the deep blue sea in their very own submarines. The DeepFlight Super Falcon, a two-person, winged submarine, allows underwater explorers to navigate the depths of the South Pacific Ocean without ever getting wet. The adventure boasts unbelievable views of majestic coral reefs and vibrant tropical fish, and thanks to Super Falcon’s state of the art technology, divers are said to experience a sensation described as “flying through the ocean” with extraordinary speed, range and agility.
Every year the Marine Megafauna Foundation launches international expeditions to some of the most notable manta ray aggregation sites in order to conduct field research. As a result of demand from her supporters and a need to fund her research, Dr. Andrea Marshall created Ray of Hope Expeditions, which allows guest divers to explore new aggregation sites, encounter mantas in remote destinations, participate in research activities, investigate manta ray fisheries and receive lectures from world-class biologists. The main mission of each trip is different, but each is designed to engage participants and produce high-quality science.
Can you imagine playing Jenga under water? That’s just one of the many unique activities you can partake in while submerged in the Clear Lounge Underwater Oxygen Bar. The experience involves Sea TREK helmet diving technology, which allows participants to immerse in a freestanding aquarium stocked with games and even an underwater photo booth. While submerged you’ll breathe concentrated oxygen mixed with aromatherapy scents, like citrus or peppermint, which is said to help reduce stress and increase energy levels. Currently, the world’s only Clear Lounge is located in Cozumel, Mexico at Carnival Cruise Lines' port — Puerta Maya — which is open to the public.
Guests at Atlantis, The Palm Dubai have the option to lodge in one of the resort’s three-story aquatic-themed underwater suites, which boast stunning views of the Ambassador Lagoon, home to ancient ruins of the mythical lost city of Atlantis and 65,000 marine inhabitants. A stay in one of these truly unique suites offers mesmerizing marine views from the rooms’ dining areas, beds and even the pedestal jetted tubs.
As your boat approaches the shore of Big Major Cay, "Hysterical laughter will ensue," says Chris Gug, an underwater photographer and travel writer. Why? You’ll witness local pigs emerge from the brush and, as Gug explained it, “run right into the water and head straight for your boat.” Gug says, according to one story, the pigs were brought to the island a few decades ago by locals who had hoped to raise them for the bacon. “But it seems people enjoy swimming with them more than turning them into a ham sandwich, so they now thrive on the tiny island,” he said. “Whether you choose to simply toss them an apple from your boat, or get in and snorkel with them, it's undoubtedly the most memorable ocean experience imaginable.”
For those in search of some of the world’s most exciting and memorable shipwreck dives, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) recommends a 200-foot dive to explore the San Francisco Maru, a sunken cargo vessel located in Truk (or Chuuk) Lagoon that was ripped open and submerged after being hit with six 500-pound bombs. On deck, divers will witness tanks, trucks, mines, bombs and even ammunition in holds.
In La Jolla, The Birch Aquarium hosts one of the most memorable and easily accessed opportunities to safely experience an up-close shark encounter. Here visitors are invited to snorkel with completely harmless leopard sharks just along the La Jolla coast. According to the aquarium, mid-summer through September is the best time to catch a glimpse of these sleek, serene swimmers.
This one-of-a-kind program offers jet setting nature-lovers the chance to participate in meaningful conservation research. The upcoming expedition with Shedd Adventures will be hosted by Dr. Kristine Stump, postdoctoral research associate in the Daniel P. Haerther Center for Conservation and Research, and will include daily dives lead by ocean experts at remote sites on the Andros Barrier Reef or the beautiful Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park and surrounding areas.
Mermet Springs offers divers the opportunity to observe distinct underwater treasures like submerged motorcycles, an underwater “petting zoo,” “Bruce” the shark and even the Boeing 727 Airplane used in the film “U.S. Marshals.” Widely regarded as one of the most popular dive sites in the U.S., divers here are treated to a truly top-notch underwater experience.