The Cayman Islands and Bermuda are heaven for wreck and wall-diving fans, while St. Kitts offers diving at a volcanic hot vent and exceptionally biodiverse reefs away from dive crowds. It’s sperm-whale season in far-flung Sri Lanka and Palau is in the throes of its bumphead parrotfish mating season. Whatever your dive or marine-life preference, our pick of the top November dive destinations has you covered.
Dive in Palau in November and you can witness two of nature’s true spectacles. Groups of enormous bumphead parrotfish mate and thousands of red snapper congregate to spawn around the full moon. An idyllic Western Pacific destination, Palau also offers a mixture of Micronesia’s best diving, including thriving reefs, WWII wrecks, pelagic action, caves and striking walls plunging into the deep.
Blue Corner, one of Palau’s most popular dives, is a natural point jutting into the open ocean where you can dive in swift currents, surrounded by pelagic actions. You’ll want to use a reef hook to stay in place while all the action swirls around you. Divers commonly see jacks, barracuda, Napoleon wrasse, sharks and eagle rays. Cave fans can explore the Chandelier Caves system, where channels connect five caverns. The stalagmites and stalactites resemble sparkling chandeliers by the light of divers’ torches. No Palau trip would be complete without also visiting the famous 470-foot (143 m) Iro Maru Japanese Navy oiler and the Jake Seaplane; a WWII U.S. Navy seaplane found in 1994 by a local fisherman.
As hurricane season ends, it’s a great time to go diving in the Cayman Islands before the high season begins and experience world-class wall diving, wrecks, friendly stingrays and more. With over 350 dive sites dotted around Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, there is plenty choose from, as well as abundant marine life. Grand Cayman’s North Wall is known for its dramatic sheer walls, plus reef diving with little to no current. If you can take your eyes off the corals, there are numerous reef sharks and eagle rays about.
Don’t miss Little Cayman’s Bloody Bay Wall either. One of the world’s most scenic wall dives, this steep wall is encrusted with vibrant corals and sponges. Fish life is plentiful here, with sharks, jacks, groupers and reef fish, plus passing sea turtles. The ex-USS Kittiwake and Keith Tibbetts are top choices for wreck fans and Stingray City is famous for its resident friendly stingrays.
Saba & St. Kitts
Two more great warm-water destinations for a winter escape, Saba and St. Kitts offer a good mixture of wrecks and reefs suitable for all experience levels. As with the Cayman Islands, go diving in Saba and St. Kitts and you’ll be rewarded with plenty of sea turtles (hawksbill and green), plus reef and nurse sharks, colorful reef fish and schools of pelagics swirling in the blue.
The marine park in neighboring Saba has extremely high biodiversity. The reefs there are a haven for angelfish, butterflyfish, frogfish, seahorses, octopus, sharks, rays and more. The list of life there is almost endless.
If you like quiet diving, try the sister island to St. Kitts, Nevis. There are far fewer divers here and you can dive a volcanic hot vent, aptly named Thermal Vents. Black coral thrives there, as do large lobsters and arrow crabs. The large reef at Monkey Shoals has clear waters and life you won’t find closer to shore. It usually has no current but when the current runs, it’s a great place for drift diving and admiring the reef as you go.
If you’re looking for a destination far off the beaten path, with new dives still being discovered and fascinating culture, check out Sri Lanka. Known for its historically important role in the Silk Route, Sri Lanka is a largely peaceful Buddhist country rich in wildlife above and below the waterline. There are healthy reefs where you can see everything from tiny critters and colorful reef fish, to dolphins, schools of tuna and reef sharks. Sri Lanka’s waters also host sperm, blue, pilot and Bryde’s whales. Most diving occurs around the west and southwestern coasts at this time of year, including around Colombo. If you love wreck diving, it’s ideal as there are plenty of wrecks to dive there.
You can go whale watching from Mirissa and Trincomalee but select your operator with care, as there have been reports of poorly managed whale watching tours in the past. Make sure you choose an environmentally-conscious operator with a clear code of conduct for whale interactions.
Bermuda, home of pink-sand beaches and bright, cyan waters, is easy on the eye and a premier wreck-diving destination. Its treacherous reefs were the bane of sailors and host more than 300 wrecks from the 1600s to the late 1980s. The L’Herminie, a French 60-gun warship, was grounded on the reef in 1838 and rests in just 46 feet (14 m) of water. You can see guns, bricks from the kitchen stove, bottle fragments, anchors and more. The WWII Hermes is another popular wreck, sitting upright on a sandy bottom, with an intact engine room, crew quarters and main hold. Be sure to also dive the Cristobal Colon. Bermuda’s largest shipwreck, it’s 499 feet (152 m) long and covers a vast area of reef.
As well as more wreck diving than you can imagine, Bermuda’s reefs are well worth diving. The Cathedral reef site has a huge cavern with holes in the roof, allowing beams of sunlight to penetrate, plus other swim-throughs and plentiful reef life.
Divers and writers at LiveAboard.com contributed this article.