Jacques Cousteau was a pioneer. He upheld the values of ocean conservation, encouraged people to explore what it was like to go into the deep blue, and played a big part in developing scuba diving and now you can follow in his wake
Article by Chris Clifford
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The Galapagos Islands are every topside and underwater naturalist’s dream destination. This global treasure is where Charles Darwin found inspiration for his Theory of Natural Selection…and he did not even explore underwater! There is good diving on most of her islands, but divers know that the best diving in the Galapagos is at the two northern islands of Wolf and Darwin. These two islands are isolated from the rest of the archipelago and are visited by large pelagics due to the presence of the cold, nutrient-rich Humboldt current. A dive liveaboard is the only way to visit these two islands. Expect the unexpected here. It is not uncommon to spend the whole dive with a school of bottlenose dolphins, see schools of yellowfin tuna, schools of Mobula Rays and eagle rays, tiger, silky and Galapagos sharks, Galapagos sea lions, manta rays mola molas, marine iguanas, and even orcas.
Andaman Sea, Thailand
Some say that it was Cousteau himself who coined the name “Richelieu Rock” in the Andaman Sea. The horseshoe-shaped reef is vibrantly coloured with red and purple coral and as the story goes, he drew inspiration for the name from the red robes and hats of 17th-century Cardinal Richelieu. No matter where the name came from, it’s undeniable that this is a special place to dive. Found in the waters of Mu Koh Surin National Park, Richelieu Rock hosts a remarkable variety of marine life, including seahorses, shrimp, moray eels, and even manta rays and whale sharks. You can also find pelagic animals thanks to the arched limestone formation of the rock.
Poor Knights Islands, New Zealand
This group of islands off the eastern coast of New Zealand’s North Island are known as quite possibly Cousteau’s number one dive destination in the world thanks to their superior visibility and bountiful marine life. They are the remains of volcanoes that were part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, and are abundant with breathtaking grottoes, chimneys, tunnels, and archways. These clear tropical waters are home to the world’s largest sea cave and no end of dazzling marine life to explore. Marvel at the pink and blue maomao that tuck away in volcanic arches or look out for some bigger friends in the blue, from dolphins and orcas to bull rays and stingrays. Winter in New Zealand (from May to October) is mild and known to have better visibility for diving.In the summer months last (from November to April( you’ll come across more plankton, stingrays and orca.
Blue Hole, Belize
This unique spot was featured in The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau after his first dive there in 1971. Many thousands of years ago, the Blue Hole was a limestone cave. Then ocean levels rose, causing the cave to flood and collapse. The result? Spectacular rock formations and a surrounding reef that’s been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Fun fact: The Blue Hole is so deep – 400 feet – you can’t even dive to the bottom! This dive is not for beginners. It is a dark and deep excursion – your dive guide may even take you all the way down to 130 feet.
Training and experience are an absolute must. Be sure you have your advanced diving certification and remember that the water will be a few degrees cooler the deeper you dive.
Cousteau’s 1989 Ghost of the Sea Turtles documentary made this tiny island famous. Sipidan is home to over 3,000 marine species and spectacular coral so there is plenty to explore. The turtle population is quite large, but it’s not uncommon to see barracuda, tuna, manta and eagle rays, plus hammerhead and whale sharks too! When diving in Sipadan, the dive spots usually live up to their names: White Tip Avenue, Turtle Patch, Staghorn Crest, Lobster Lair and Hanging Gardens (for soft corals), all deliver! This is largely due to Sabah National Parks making huge efforts since 2005 to protect the area.
Fish numbers have remained relatively stable and large numbers of fish are seen on most dives around Sipadan. You need a government-issued permit to dive as Sipadan has been protected since 2002. You can get your permit on Mabul and Kapala and both islands are about a 15-minute boat-ride away from Sipadan.
PADI Dive Centres and Resorts are where scuba divers find diver education, scuba diving equipment and opportunities to go diving in some of the world’s most spectacular destinations.
For more details visit www.padi.com/exploration