You might not consider Arctic diving for your summer vacation, but it’s one of the best months to visit the Arctic and observe the incredible wildlife that lives there. It’s also a great month for swimming with whale sharks in Indonesia or Mexico, plus watching hundreds of hammerheads at spectacular Cocos Island. Find out more with our picks for five great July dive destinations.
Cocos Island, Costa Rica
The rainy season is underway at Cocos Island, with nutrient upwellings attracting numerous pelagics to this incredible island 36 hours (each way) off the coast of Costa Rica. July is one of the best months to dive Cocos Island, thanks to the huge schools of scalloped hammerhead sharks you’ll find there. You’re also more likely to see manta rays and whale sharks at Cocos from now until November.
While the nutrient-rich waters of Cocos are best-known for hammerhead sharks, they also host plenty of tropical fish species and schools of pelagic fish such as jacks. The visibility is commonly over 100 feet (30 m), allowing you to spot eagle rays, silky, blacktip and whitetip sharks with ease. Note that viz can be a bit lower this time of year due to all the nutrients in the water but remember — that’s what’s bringing in the big boys. Alcyone, Dirty Rock and Manuelita Deep are the best dive sites for hammerheads. Don’t miss Manuelita Garden for one of the best coral gardens in Costa Rica.
Cenderawasih Bay, Indonesia
If you’re looking for a top Indonesia diving destination this summer, Cenderawasih Bay is the place to go. While other areas of Indonesia are hit by strong trade winds, Cenderawasih remains sheltered from the storms. This special bay offers stunning Coral Triangle dives and unique whale shark encounters. Cenderawasih Bay’s waters are calm as a mill pond, making the diving easy as you explore pristine reefs covered in soft corals and busy with reef fish.
You can spot four species of sea turtle at Cenderawasih and numerous reef sharks, plus dolphins and occasional blue whales. If wreck diving’s your thing, there are plenty of WWII wrecks to explore.
The real treat, though, is swimming with whale sharks at Kwatisore Bay. The local fishermen have always given away a small amount of their catch to the whale sharks there, resulting in them being very tolerant of divers in the water.
For something completely different, go Arctic diving this summer. You won’t regret it as you immerse yourself in a world of exceptional wildlife watching and diverse diving under the midnight sun. Most Arctic diving occurs around Spitsbergen and July is one of the best months for seeing polar bears close to the coast. It’s also a great month for spotting beluga whales and numerous sea birds.
The dive conditions are ideal in July, as the ice has melted enough to access more remote islands and dive sites. The water visibility is also at its finest. Given the remote nature of Spitsbergen, liveaboard diving is the best way to explore. You can go ice diving, boat-based diving and even wreck diving during your safari.
There is plenty of small marine life to see, including sea hedgehogs, sea snails, starfish and numerous fish. You can also dive with sea lions and spot walruses, reindeers, Arctic foxes and whales as you cruise. Minke, fin, humpbacks and blue whales regularly visit Spitsbergen.
And, as if that’s not enough, you can also witness the enormous Monaco glacier spilling into the ocean, visit an old mining town and admire the spectacular fjords.
Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Isla Mujeres is paradise for snorkelers thanks to the hundreds of whale sharks that gather there from June until September each year. Visit in July and not only can you swim with the sharks, you can also explore numerous shallow reefs with little to no current.
Whether you want to snorkel or dive, there’s something for you at this popular Mexican dive destination. There are deep wrecks for experienced divers, plus the well-known Cave of the Sleeping Sharks. This isolated dive site has plenty of blacktips, grey reef and nurse sharks and is a must-dive.
Be sure to visit MUSA while you’re in the area. This underwater sculpture museum near Cancun has over 450 life-sized sculptures in clear water, slowly becoming engulfed in corals.
New Caledonia and Vanuatu
Long-known for idyllic vistas and great diving, New Caledonia and Vanuatu are two great South Pacific dive destinations. Dive there in July and you’ll have the best chance of spotting manta rays. The New Caledonia Barrier Reef, stretching across 930 miles (1500 km) of turquoise ocean, has numerous dive sites. This diverse area hosts large pelagic fish, sharks, mantas and plentiful macro life.
The Boulari Pass outer reef is ideal for spotting mantas and big pelagics. You can even see humpback whales there from June to September. Hop over to nearby Vanuatu and you can swim with dugongs at one of the best dugong feeding grounds in the world, Gaspard Bay.
Vanuatu is also home to the famous SS President Coolidge wreck. You can swim through the wreck, spotting a mix of military equipment and supplies with a bizarre backdrop of chandeliers and the famed statue of The Lady. Million Dollar Point is also well-worth visiting for its many wrecks, including trucks, cranes and bulldozers.
Divers and writers at LiveAboard.com contributed this article.