The world’s best pier dives offer divers an exciting opportunity for exploration. Ecosystems within these manmade structures are often home to frogfish, seahorses, shrimp, sergeant majors and rays, among other creatures. Various small fish species often congregate in unusually large groups, using the pillar structures as shelter from larger predators. And since average depths are quite shallow, you’ll have plenty of time to poke around.
Photography opportunities are also plentiful. Light streams through the pylons and structures into the shallows, creating some great effects. Easy conditions near the surface allow you to get close to your subject, shooting with natural light that brings out the vibrant colors many marine creatures lose at depth.
Navigation is usually simple and requires (if anything) the basic compass skills you learned during your open-water course. With lots of interesting markers that vary from pier structure to discarded objects, such as car engines, tires and shopping carts, it’s easy to practice the natural navigation you might need later at a tougher dive site.
Most piers are shore dives as well, so you won’t need access to a boat. If you’ve got your own gear, all you’ll pay for is a tank fill. With that in mind, how do you know what makes for a good pier dive?
Finding a good pier
Some piers will be more interesting than others, and a few handy hints will help you get the most out of your dive. A depth of 9 feet (3 m) or more will allow a good selection of flora and fauna to take up residence at the dive site. Older piers will have better growth, making them more interesting and vibrant sites. The presence of either seagrasses or historic rubbish will also add to the site’s character. Both will also increase the wildlife presence at the site as they provides sea creatures with either a food source or habitat.
Good water flow will mean more food for all the marine animals. Too much water movement though and divers might need to wait until the slack tide (the point where the tide is either high or low and water movement stops for a certain time). Nets attached to the pier create extra surfaces for animals to live on, so you’ll often be able to spot far more species. Seahorses love to spend time camouflaged on nets, so take your time while perusing the site.
Any dive site can be dangerous, and pier diving is no different. Boat traffic is a main safety concern when it comes to pier diving, and planning your dive is essential. Find out if any boats frequent the site and how often. Local fishermen can often be a good source of information on boat traffic. Stay beneath the pier in areas where boats can’t access as a safety precaution.
Fisherman also pose a threat during these dives. You can easily become entangled in or injured by stray fishing line and hooks. Always carry a knife or shears and dive with a buddy. With a few tips to keep in mind, here are a few of the world’s best pier dives.
The World’s Best Pier Dives
Exmouth Navy Pier
In remote Western Australia, Exmouth Navy Pier consistently ranks as one of the world’s top 10 dive sites. With over 200 recorded fish species and very few local fishermen, Exmouth has an untouched feel even though the structure is manmade. Divers will see sharks, rays, nudibranchs and an abundance of other marine life and reef fish tucked happily among the pillars and pylons. You cannot dive the pier without a guide, so check with local operators before planning a trip. The nearest large city to Exmouth is Perth, a 12-hour drive or a two-hour flight. Nearby Ningaloo Reef also offers great diving and is famous for snorkel encounters with whale sharks.
About 1 ½-hour drive south of Melbourne, Australia sits Flinders Pier. Divers here are almost guaranteed to see a weedy seadragon swimming gracefully through the local seagrass. With a maximum depth of 16 feet (5 m) and easy access to parking, Flinders is a great local secret. Rays and cowfish also inhabit the shallow, calm water. Water temperatures here range from 59 to 66 F (15 to 19 C), so you’ll want to wear adequate exposure protection. Although you can access the pier yourself, local dive shops or clubs often run dive days and can assist with ride sharing if you’re coming from Melbourne.
The small Caribbean nation of Bonaire is world-renowned for shore diving, and one of the very best sites is Salt Pier. The pier itself is a salt-loading facility, so take plan your dives when there’s no shipping activity. The nearby salt mounds offer some cool topside scenery as well. Turtles and huge schools of grunts cruise around enormous pylons while nudibranchs and octopus sneak around below, creating a perfect environment for both wide-angle and macro photography. Bonaire is so small that simply being there will give you access to Salt Pier. Most divers rent a truck through their resort, fill their tanks, and spend the day shore diving.
Anglins Fishing Pier
Anglins Fishing Pier, in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Florida, is a must-dive if you’re in the area. The large, shallow reef that runs parallel to the shore shelters a huge variety of local fish. The pier is an easy beginning and ending point to a reef dive the reef. Or, if you’re carrying multiple tanks, you can dive both sites. You’re almost guaranteed a nurse-shark sighting as well. It’s not often that you can find such great diving so close to a developed area.
You don’t need any permits or a guide to dive Anglins. The facility is a joint venture between divers and fishermen, so boat traffic is nearly non-existent. If you’re just in the area for the day bring your mask and snorkel and check it out.
Adding piers to your regular rotation of dive sites can add real diversity to your experiences underwater. These environments are great in their own right, but also make for good backup dive sites when the weather is to wild for a boat dive. Check out a local pier, jetty or wharf and you may not only be pleasantly surprised, but you might discover the world’s next best pier dive.