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The ocean is a volatile beast. Water covers about 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and 97 percent of the world’s water supply can be found in oceans. The ocean gives life, but it can also take it. It can be completely calm and placid in one moment and terrifying the next, as it swallows cities and chokes up the debris in its turbulent wake. Yet, people are drawn to it nonetheless.

Ask any scuba diver what makes the experience so enjoyable for them and why they keep coming back to it, and they’ll probably tell you something along the lines of how nothing else quite compares.  It’s hard to describe the sense of tranquility that comes with immersing yourself in the crystal blue water, the sound and activity of the world above completely blocked out as colorful fish flit before your eyes. Coming back to the surface is always a jarring experience, like crossing between worlds.

For an experienced scuba diver, just about anywhere they can get some time in the water with their gear makes for an enjoyable experience, but some destinations are more memorable than others. There’s a whole lot of ocean out there, home to diverse ecosystems, from coral reefs to underwater caverns and volcanoes to shipwrecks, waiting to be explored. Because so many scuba diving sites are also tropical resort destinations, it’s easy to plan a vacation around one of these top scuba diving destinations. If you’re yearning to fit in some time underwater for your next vacation, you may want to consider one of these diving destinations:

1. Cairns, Australia

Known as “the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef,” Cairns is about as close you can get to this iconic and massive underwater ecosystem, covering 345,000 square kilometers (roughly the size of Germany) and home to diverse species of colorful fish, turtles, dolphins, and sharks. Plus, Cairns is an amazing getaway in and of itself, with plenty of shops, restaurants, and extreme sports/outdoor adventures to keep you occupied when you’re not diving. Get there as soon as you can, as the reef is in a state of decay due to bleaching caused by global warming-induced rising sea surface temperatures.

2. Anacapa Island, California

California isn’t all about surfer dudes and bikini-clad sunbathers with sun-bleached hair. Even though this small, volcanic island is located off the coast of Southern California, about 70 miles north of Los Angeles, be prepared: the water here gets very cold, even in the summer months, so bring your wetsuit. If you can get past the initial shock of cold, you’ll be treated to a spectacular site. The waters around Anacapa Island are home to small shipwrecks, underwater arches, kelp forests, and a diverse set of marine life including sea lions, seals, and rays.

3. Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

Vanuatu is a nation in the South Pacific consisting of about 80 islands expanding 1,300 kilometers. The SS President Coolidge was a World War II luxury ocean liner that sank off the coast of Santo in Northern Vanuatu. The sunken ship, protected by law and designated as a Marine Reserve, is almost fully intact so you can take time exploring its various rooms.

4. Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Besides being a fabulous tropical resort destination, popular among honeymooners and celebrities alike, Bora Bora is also an excellent dive site. With its picturesque clear-blue waters surrounding a pristine lagoon, the island is a diver’s delight! Choose from two different dive experiences: Tapu, located outside of the lagoon with over 16 species of sharks, and inside the lagoon, with plenty of tropical fish, giant clams, and moray eels to serve as a feast for your eyes.

5. Eilat, Israel

You probably wouldn’t think of Israel as a diving destination, but the Red Sea beckons divers with its warm water temperatures (70 to 77 degrees) and excellent visibility (up to 100 feet). The area’s vibrant coral reefs (protected by major restoration projects over the last 10 years) and diversity of marine life will take your breath away.