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Five Secret Dive and Snorkel Spots

Plan your next dive trip for somewhere off the beaten track

Many divers spend winter planning next year’s warm-weather dive trips. And yes, you could go the Bahamas, the Red Sea, or Thailand — or, you could go somewhere completely different and dive some truly unique sites. Try one of these five secret dive and snorkel spots for a change of pace.

Subway car on the Atlantic City reef, United States

If you’ve seen the CSI: NY episode “The Deep,” you’ve seen the crime-scene investigator diving on a Redbird subway car in the East River. You can actually do this in real life, not in the East River, but on the Atlantic City reef as well as off Delaware and a few other locations on the Eastern Seaboard. The subway cars are — as identified in the CSI: NY episode — Redbirds, and some 1,400 have been submerged as artificial reefs. Local dive clubs arrange trips, and the depth varies from 80 to 130 feet.

Geothermal Chimneys, Strytan (Iceland)

How about a dive in cold water in a seismically active area? The geothermal chimneys near Strytan off of Iceland’s north shore were created by seismic activity where hot springs break through the bottom and over time, build large chimneys out of mineral deposits. The chimneys rise out of about 230 feet of water, and are more than 160 feet tall, making this an awe-inspiring site for advanced divers. The hot water in the chimneys attracts a host of life, including large cod and other pelagic marine life. Similar structures are found elsewhere in the world’s oceans, but nowhere shallow enough to dive (at least that we’ve found so far), as most of these geothermal chimneys are in depths ranging between 2 and 4 miles.

Wreck Valley, New York City

If you’ve already done the Redbird reefs, it doesn’t mean that you’ve done all the diving there is to do in New York. The area between New Jersey’s shoreline and Long Island’s south shore is known as Wreck Valley, where more than 100 wrecks have come to rest over the years. Suitable for many different skill levels and dive profiles, the area is a wreck diver’s dream, and many of the wrecks are within driving distance from Manhattan. What’s not to like?

Jellyfish Lake, Palau, Micronesia

Some people avoid jellyfish when they dive. Others travel to the ends of the Earth (or near to it) to swim with them. On the island of Eli Malik in Palau, Micronesia, there’s a lake known simply as Jellyfish Lake, where millions of jellyfish make their home. Every day, they migrate across the lake, making for a unique snorkel experience — no diving is allowed in the lake, as the water is anoxic, and therefore toxic below about 40 feet (12 m) . The non-venomous jellyfish filter the bright sunlight through their bodies, creating a fantastic light show for divers to enjoy.

Sea of Afar/Afar Depression, Djibouti

How about somewhere really new — as in a brand new ocean? In Djibouti, south of Eritrea and on very southern tip of the Red Sea, there’s a new ocean being born. The tectonic movements of the African and the Arabian tectonic plates moving apart is ripping a hole in the country in an area known, very fittingly, as the Great Rift Valley. As this happens, ocean water is slowly flooding the rift, creating a diveable — but in some places extremely narrow — new ocean, known as the Afar, named for the local, indigenous people. And when I say narrow, I mean confined-spaces narrow. The rift is opening at a rate of about ½ to 1 inch per year, and geologists expect that in roughly 6,000 years, the Red Sea will flood into the rift area, creating an ocean as large as the Red Sea itself.