My top five dives of all time.

fred headshotI frequently get asked, where is your favorite place to dive?  Which is your favorite dive?  My answers often vary depending upon upon where I have been most recently or what happens to be in the forefront of my mind.  I should note that I enjoy tropical warm diving equally as well as cold water diving.  Giving up either for the other would be akin to giving up a limb.  Recently, I gave it some considered thought.  I have had the fortune to dive many places around the world and logged thousands of dives..  So here is a list of my top five dives, in no particular order.

Baitball house sea cortez 2000 A Baitball House - Sea of Cortez.  August 2000  Viz 100+ ft, water temp 88 degree F.  On this dive in the gorgeous Sea of Cortex, Baja Mexico, we had a bait ball of fish approach us that was the size of a large house.  It literally blackened out the sun from above.  Of course that was just a prelude to a Manta swimming circles around us for 40 minutes after the bait ball dispersed.  Once on the surface forced by diminishing air supplies, we snorkeled above the Manta for another hour. An amazing dive!

Magical Mystery TourSund Rock, Hood Canal, WA. August 31st,  2009 . Viz 40+ ft, water temp 48 degrees F.   Yes, you will notice that two of the top five are actually here in the Pacific NW in cold water!  Sund Rock is a great dive anytime you make the trek over to the Hood!   However, every once in a long while you will catch this site with the right tides, right viz, sun shining, and the site goes from really good to epic.  This late summer day we were there was one such day.  Above the reef wall is an area that is called the bowl.  Late in the season the bowl fills with all sorts of small hatch-ling fish and critters to become a virtual aquarium representation of the entire Puget Sound eco system.  Add the sun filtering down through the ripples on the surface and you get "Magical".  Wolf eels out in the open, schooling fish, and an octopus or two..., all that is missing is a good meal and beer after the dive...., and unicorns!.

Fujikawa Maru 3 Compressor 1024x819Fujikawa Maru - Truk Lagoon, Chuuk Micronesia 2002.   Viz 80 + ft, water temp 85 degrees F.  This wreck is one of the iconic ones of Truk, and is one of the most popular wreck dives in the lagoon.  The abundance of life on this structure that has now been under water for over 70 years, is difficult to measure.  Throw in the ships history and the background of Word War 2, you have the ingredients to make an avid scuba diver who studied naval warfare in college,all giddy!  Throw in a silt out at 110 feet depth within the bowls of the beast (wreck), well now you have heart pounding adventure as well.  The silt out story I will leave for another telling.

Ghost Manta - Raja Ampat, Indonesia 2019. Viz 50+ ft., Water temp 82 degrees F.    The seas of Raja Ampat, Indonesia rank first in the world for diversity of wildlife.  And a couple of weeks ago, they did not disappoint.  With almost 30 dives wrapped up over ten days, the last dive proved to be keeper of the trip.  In only 40 ft depth, viz not too great for that area, this gentle giant of a creature with an estimated wing span approaching twenty feet came out of the gloom and flew over me with about 6 inches to spare.  I literally stopped breathing for about 30 seconds.  But don't believe me, watch the video!  Ghost Manta of Raja Ampat - 2019

moon jelliesMoon Jellies in a snow globe dive - British Columbia Sunshine Coast, 2005.  Viz 90+ ft, Water Temp 46 degrees.  We had just completed a most fabulous dive on the Canadian Frigate wreck Chaudiere.  As we are heading to our next site, Captain Kal (Porpoise Bay Charters) calls me aside and points out a white discoloration on the surface about a mile off the starboard bow.  Intrigued, he motors on over to the site to reveal a massive up welling of thousands of Moon Jellyfish. He asks if we would like to dive with them.  I retorted that I could think of better things to do with my afternoon than suffer a million jellyfish stings.  "No no" he informed me, Moon jellies do not sting.  Within minutes all of us were in our gear hovering in 25 ft dept surrounded by thousand of these Jellies.  Evidently this occurrence only happens once every ten plus years.  The picture says it all!

Honorable mentions:

*     Thunderball Grotto, Exuma Cayes, Bahamas, 2017.  100ft + vis, 85 degree water temp. Where the filming of the James Bond Movie, Thunderball with Sean Connery.  My father took me to see this movie when I was 11 or 12.  Saw the underwater action scenes and decided I wanted to to that!  Fitting that when I dove here it was on Fathers Day.

*     The Manatees of Crystal Springs, Florida, 2003, 50 ft viz, 72 degree water temp.  Cute and very passive, only a mother would love these mugs.

*     Ragged (Sand Tigers) Tooth Shark Migration, Aliwal Shoals, Indian Ocean, South Africa, 2004.  70+ ft viz, 73 degree F water temp.  Did six dives here over three days.  Each dive surrounded by these sharks.  Amazing animals.

*     Dive #1 with dead salmon Sam at Cove #3, WA . Feb 8th, 1976.  Viz 20 ft. Water temp "cold"  and I noted that it was "colder at the bottom.  Keep in mind, in those days no temp gauges.  And yes, before you ask, we did tie rags around our feet and walked to school ten miles, in the snow, uphill, both ways!  LOL!.  How could I not mention my first dive, where I sat on the bottom next to a dead salmon which I named Sam.  My first under ocean experience not one baby eagle raysweek after seeing the movie jaws for the first time.  What the heck was I getting into??  

 *     Wreck of the Mahi Mahi, Oahu, HI, March 7th, 1986.   Viz 100 ft.  Water temp 80 degrees F.   My first tropical warm water dive.  Nothing more notable about it other than I did prove that air consumption is more rapid at depth, especially after you see your first school of eagle rays! 


Hope you enjoyed!

Dive smart, dive safe!

Fred Doner
PADI Master Instructor
Argonaut Diving