Divers of all stripes—from those who travel with their equipment to novices—can select from countless destinations. While the busiest diving spots are often packed with leisure travelers and heavy boat traffic, an assortment of locales around the world provide unique diving experiences—and many are environmentally friendly, too.
Divers undeterred by cooler water temps often rave about New Zealand’s diving spots, especially the Poor Knights Islands, a marine reserve roughly 15 miles off the northeastern coast that Jacques Cousteau called one of the world’s top dive sites. The islands’ volcanic origins—which reputedly date back 11 million years—provide spectacular drop-offs, caverns, lava arches, and tunnels. Due to their location, the islands receive warm subtropical currents from the upper reaches of the South Pacific, which explains the presence of many fish species normally only found much further north.
After tackling the Poor Knights, adventurous divers head farther north up the coast to the Cavalli Islands and the wreck of the Rainbow Warrior, a controversial Greenpeace ship sunk by the French Secret Service in 1985, then turned into a dive site off Matauri Bay in 1987. The location is home to an ever-growing artificial reef of marine life, which attracts schools of golden snapper, kingfish, and John Dory.
Such is New Zealand’s commitment to the environment that the Department of Conservation reminds divers to ensure their gear is trimmed to avoid