It can be tricky to choose a destination in September, which is a transitional month in lots of places around the world. Australia’s best-kept secret coral destination becomes briefly accessible to divers in September, while Fiji is in the midst of manta season. You can swim with mola molas in Indonesia, explore diverse reefs and ancient underwater ruins in Israel, or head to Guadalupe to meet huge great white sharks. Whatever your dive preference, we have something for you. Read on for five great September dive destinations.
Rowley Shoals, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef might be Australia’s most popular dive destination, but the northwest coast of Western Australia has a must-dive hidden gem — Rowley Shoals.
Rowley Shoals is certainly remote, at over 186 miles (300 km) from the nearest land.
Consisting of three coral atolls rising up from over 1,312 feet (400 m) deep, this unique dive spot perches on the edge of a continental shelf.
Dive here and you’ll likely see no other dive boats. Few liveaboards visit and the dive season is so short that only 200 people get to dive the shoals each year. That unique combination of factors means Rowley Shoals is thriving and the coral reefs are pristine. There are over 200 coral species and 650 fish species at Rowley, as well as a variety of pelagics.
Highlights include diving with manta rays, humpback whales, sailfish, swirling schools of dogtooth tuna and friendly giant potato cod. If you enjoy laid-back reef diving, head to Rowley’s lagoons where you can drift over coral bommies and watch the bustling reefs below you. Here you’ll find swimming-pool like conditions, which makes them ideal for easy diving and snorkeling.
Being washed by a huge 16-foot (5 m) tidal range, Rowley also has plenty of exciting drift and wall dives. Don’t miss the Rollercoaster dive site, and unforgettable drift dive that takes you through Clerke Atoll’s coral-lined channels at high speed.
Mermaid Atoll’s Northern Wall is rated No. 3 in the world’s best dives and offers a sheer wall with plenty of pelagic action. It’s common to see dolphins, mantas and turtles there.
Rowley Shoals dive trips are in high demand and book up well in advance of each short dive season. The only way to get there is via Rowley Shoals liveaboard diving.
Shark Week might be long over, but September is one of the best months to hop on a liveaboard and go cage diving in Guadalupe, when huge female great white sharks start to arrive. Unlike other cage-diving destinations, Guadalupe’s waters are relatively warm, at 66 to 71 F (19 to 22 C), and feature calm, crystal-clear water.
These conditions make it easy to cage dive and capture photographs of the sharks no matter your experience level, and some trip participants will be just snorkelers who stay in the surface cages. Even if you are a diver, make sure to do the same, as most of the action takes place on the surface.
Many Guadalupe liveaboards also have an open-cage policy for the surface cages, meaning you can spend almost unlimited time in them from dawn to dusk during your liveaboard safari there. Certified divers will be assigned to certain times in submersible cages, where’ you’ll descend to about 20 feet (6 m) and meet great white sharks in their own world, watching them swim silently by.
The self-proclaimed “soft-coral capital of the world,” Fiji is known for having exceptionally colorful reefs. September also offers manta rays and great water visibility. The popular Yasawa Islands, the setting for the famed “Blue Lagoon” movies, is one of the warmest and driest parts of the country and has unique dives.
You can dive the Babylon Caves complex and watch mantas gliding by Naviti Island’s colorful reef-capped walls. Barefoot Manta, just south of the Yasawas, is the place to go for numerous mantas from May to October. It is also home to some of Fiji’s best coral gardens.
To experience this lovely country’s fullest biodiversity, take a liveaboard to Namena Marine Reserve. A total ban on fishing has been in place in Namena’s waters since 1997 and the marine life has flourished. Namena’s horseshoe-shaped barrier reefs has numerous dive sites with plenty of critters, fish and pelagic action in the blue.
For one more Fijian dive highlight, don’t miss Somosomo Strait, which has reefs and walls carpeted in vibrant soft corals, including the famed Rainbow Reef. Somosomo’s Great White Wall is a wall dive like no other, with the sheer wall so covered in white corals it looks like a blanket of snow.
Nusa Penida, Indonesia
It’s easy to spot mola molas, thanks to their bizarre looks, but you can only dive with them in a few places around the world. Indonesia is one of the best and mola season finishes after September. Nusa Penida liveaboards typically include a visit to Crystal Bay, reputed as the best dive site in Nusa Penida and the place for mola encounters.
This well-known mola cleaning station attracts the wacky looking fish from the depths, which you can watch to your heart’s content in the clear, calm waters. Once you’ve enjoyed the molas, be sure to explore the other dive sites within southern Komodo, Bali and around the Gili Islands.
A liveaboard around Komodo will take you to one of Indonesia’s most species-diverse destinations with numerous critters, dolphins, rays and fish. You can also explore the impressive 410-foot (125 meter) USAT Liberty wreck in Bali. This wreck is encrusted with corals and large vase sponges, hosting an assortment of fish life. For a peaceful end to your Indonesian adventure, the Gili Islands offer easy diving and true relaxation island-style.
Now is the best time of year to check out Israel’s diving scene for great water visibility that shows off the beautiful dive sites found there. Eilat is unsurprisingly the most popular dive spots in Israel, featuring over 2,500 species of marine life as well as over 250 coral species.
Sites can get busy with new divers, so bear that in mind and pick a quiet time of day to dive there.
Japanese Gardens at Coral Reserve Beach in Eilat is a continuous coral belt that stretches across 1,640 feet (500 m) and hosts innumerable reef fish, as well as some stingrays and turtles.
To delve into Israel’s history, try the Satil wreck. This missile boat was used in the Israeli military until 1994 until it was deliberately sunk as an artificial reef. It now sits at 79 feet (24 m). Other wrecks include the Nitzan and Shira. The Nitzan is a former fishing boat, while the Shira is a WWII Italian submarine popular with divers.
You can go cave diving at the Rosh Hanikra grottos in Northern Israel, where a series of underwater caves offers striking light conditions. With a maximum dive depth of 23 feet (7 m), these caves are relatively accessible, but you need permission before diving there.
For a unique history-filled dive, don’t miss the Caesarea Underwater Archaeological Park.
There are a variety of swimming routes through the park, where you can see ruins and ancient columns, as well as abundant marine life.
Divers and writers of LiveAboard.com contributed this article.