Archaeologists discovered an intriguing shipwreck off the coast of Cascais in Portugal in 2018. The 400-year-old vessel, which sunk some time between 1575 and 1625, was a motherlode of treasures from the Old World: spices from India, Chinese ceramics, and more. The project’s director called it Portugal’s ‘discovery of the decade’, and the incident did get us thinking about what else still lay hidden in the undersea skeletons of these grand vessels.
Shipwreck diving has been around for quite some time, in the form of archaeological research, deliberate creation of artificial reefs that become encrusted by corals (like the USSSpiegel Grove in the Florida Keys), or even simple recreational visits for the mystery of it. Training is recommended before attempting these dives, and tailored for one of three usual experiences:
Non-penetration dives for beginners, where you only swim over the wreckage.
‘Light zone’ dives with limited entry into the wreckage (with exit points and natural light still in a diver’s view).
Full penetration dives, where you fully enter the vessel and explore its structures; however, the risk of getting lost, getting stuck, or being shrouded in silt or complete darkness increases here.
To address the elephant in the room: yes, you can, for a limited time, visit the wreckage of the Titanic. The 2019 slots wrapped up in June, but do keep an eye out for next year’s call.
Until then, amp up your diving resume with longer-lasting and more affordable adventures. Here are our picks for some of the most breathtaking shipwreck diving sites you could try in India and around the world:
The Minicoy Shipwrecks
Where: Minicoy tehsil, Lakshadweep (approx. 400km west of Kochi)
Minicoy is a remote, crescent-shaped atoll with at least three shipwreck diving sites off its coast—it’s believed these accidents are what propelled the island’s well-known lighthouse to be constructed in 1885. Each of these wrecks are underwater havens for tropical fauna like humphead parrot fish, barracuda and the napoleon wrasse. Manta rays, bull rays, whitetip and blacktip sharks, and turtles can also be seen weaving in and out of the rusty structures, as well as caves, reefs, and coral gardens. An interesting aspect on dry land? Minicoy is the only settlement in India where the Mahl language, a Maldivian dialect, is spoken by locals. Time your visit right, and you could also enjoy folk arts and crafts at the annual National Minicoy Festival that’s held every winter.
Twin Dives: The HMNZS Tui & Waikato
Where: Tutukaka, North Island, New Zealand
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These are two large navy ships that were specifically prepared and sunk for becoming diver-friendly destinations. You need to meet a minimum cutoff for diving experience before attempting to explore these ships, but once you do, get ready for some military mania with clear access and exit points that offer views of bridges, control areas, a helicopter hangar, engine rooms and even cabins. The Tui is especially known for large schools of golden snapper and nudibranch colonies. New Zealand is a part of the Pacific’s ‘Coral Triangle’, so you’re guaranteed marine diversity and impeccable photo opportunities at these locations.
The SS Rita
Where: Off Ilha Grande (Grande Island), Mormugao Bay, Goa
Popularly known as Suzy’s Wreck, the SS Rita is a 130-metre metal cargo ship believed to have capsized sometime between the 1930s to the 1950s. We hear much of the wreck has been salvaged, and the structure is covered with molluscs and corals that are now home to varied fauna. Baby lobster, sweetlips, Moorish idols (remember Gill from Finding Nemo?) Moray eels, squids and rays are some of the commonly sighted creatures, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Given the calm waters, vibrant biodiversity, clearly divided ship sections, and the shallow depth going up to a maximum of 12 to 13 metres, Suzy’s Wreck is a comfortable beginners’ site.Other popular dive sites around Ilha Grande include Sail Rock, and the ominously named Davy Jones Locker. With Goa’s long history of trade and seafaring under the Portuguese, visits to deeper, more advanced sites may hold exciting surprises. Check out this video for a quick look!
Where: Ras Muhammad, Red Sea, South Sinai Governorate, Egypt
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The bow of SS Thistlegorm is massive (almost 15m high) and the wreck is an amazing playground for all wreck lovers. There are vehicles, locomotives, trucks, motorbikes and lots of other interesting old stuff from the 1940’s in the cargo holds • • • • • #scuba #padi #scubadiving #wreck #redsea #sharmelsheikh #shipwreck #dive #underwaterphotography #diving #underwater #visitegypt #blueotwo #thistlegorm #wreckdiving
Gaelic for ‘blue thistle’, the Thistlegorm was a British armed Merchant Navy ship that sank in 1941 while carrying war supplies—think rifles, motor bikes, train carriages, and trucks. It’s one of the most well-known wreck diving sites in the world, and at 131 metres, warrants multiple visits to explore it fully.
The Andaman Shipwrecks
Where: The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Indian Ocean
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We couldn’t pick just one dive site to feature here, as the Andamans are home to several locations teeming with marine life. For starters, try the MV Mars near Havelock Island, a small fishing boat that sank off the reef in 2006. Since it’s relatively new, don’t expect intense reef formations, but it should get the adrenaline going before you visit larger vessels like the one in Chidiya Tapu, or Vinnie’s Wreck (reportedly the SS Inkchett) near Havelock Island. The former is a 100-year-old shipwreck best visited during slack tides, where you can see fusiliers, trevallies, and batfish, while the latter is 30 years old. Since it’s relatively new, lacking enough corrosion for full penetration diving, it’s a prime location for observing how a wreck turns into a reef.
Corruption Rock, located between Chidiya Tapu and Rutland Island, is another popular site for shipwreck dives, and includes canyons, ridges, gullies and channels where one may spot eagle rays, scorpionfish, cleaner shrimp and unicorn fish. The most famous wreck in the Andamans, though, might be of the Inket near Duncan Island. A Japanese warship that sank in World War II, it rests on its starboard side and offers clear views of the hatch and cargo hold. A propeller, boilers, and the engine room are still intact. It’s mostly suited for advanced divers, who often come across barracuda, damselfish and clownfish peeking out of anemones.
Remember, always complete shipwreck diver training courses under certified bodies like the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) or Scuba Diving International before embarking on your diving adventures. If the idea of swimming through the remains of a ship sounds eerie—or if you can’t swim at all—then you might want a look at something more relaxed for your marine bucket list, like these stunning underwater restaurants around the world.