Review Date AVG ShoreDiving Site
12/26/2009 3.96 Apo Island Marine Sanctuary Philippines, Pacific
The marine sanctuary features huge coral structures that would be considered 'old growth' even by Sulawesi, Taveuni or Palauan standards. If you like clownfish, there's at least two whole cities of them here. Just outside the MPA is a cave holding a java moray longer than 8 feet. Nearby is another cave with an upper brow of a wall featuring more nudibranchs and colorful inverts per foot than just about anywhere else. Perhaps Sinandigan Wall in Puerto Galera, Long Island in Washington's San Juans or Gili Biaha in Bali come close. And this is not the best dive on Apo Island. Coconut Pt. holds that distinction, at least during the week we were there - walls of inverts, crevices loaded with juveniles, coral colors we'd never seen before and hundreds of pelagics in the current above.
12/26/2009 3.75 Sabang Beach Philippines, Pacific
Sabang beach is a good place to start exploring the Puerta Galera area. Though the beach area itself may be too busy and hastily developed for many divers' tastes, there are certainly plenty of dive ops to choose from. Atlantis appears to be the best known, but we dove with Asia Divers one beach away, with the only dive pier in the area. It had the most professional dive guides we have seen in the area - always someone available for four dives a day in any weather - beginner guides, intermediate, advanced current, deep wreck, trimix, you name it. Sabang beach has three small shallow wrecks and lots of scattered coral heads and ridges, loaded with typical and cryptic inverts, eels and fish. Close by are even better dives including the world class Canyons and, for nudi hunting, Sinandigan Wall. Muck sites with seahorses and pipefish are less than a half hour away, and during good weather, the crossing of Batangas channel to world class Verde Wall is available.
07/23/2007 4.92 Wakatobi Dive Resort's House Reef Wakatobi, Pacific
The three best house reefs I've experienced are Murex's Bangka Island reef, Pulisan Jungle Resort's reef and now Wakatobi's 3 1/2 mile house reef. I think they're roughly equal in quality but the expanse of the Wakatobi reef and the house reef taxi available from morning till nightfall put it in a special class. The submission description above references James Watt who, I believe, died just this week. He definitely wasn't alone in finding Wakatobi the world's best! The Wakatobi dock goes out to the reef edge where turtle grass and lightly coral-dotted shallows drop off vertically into deep blue. It's amazing what can be seen off this dock alone throughout the course of a week. The varieties of morays we didn't see, hunt it at dawn and dusk, sometimes jumping a foot in the area to dislodge crabs from the dock. The last day we were there, baby batfish that eluded our photographic attempts all week were swimming casually right near our boat. The house reef is mainly a wall, but it has a couple great critter-hunting bays within it such as Dunia Baru that are a full dive in themselves, as well as good size caverns with overhanging soft coral, glassy sweepers, scorpionfish and a good assortment of nudibranchs. A great one could be reached by a short back swim from our bungalow. Currents here can be swift and only instructor-status divers with pony bottles are allowed to solo. One night six of us hit the water and the current ripped off several masks, one never reappearing. We had to kick hard to get on the wall and ended up a long ways away in the easily found exit point called the second gully where the dive boats are moored at low tide. This scoured out sandy canyon held octopi, frogfish, scorpionfish, lots of hermit crab, hunting filefish, several big lionfish and all sorts of other little gems. Though I would not want to miss the terrific boat dives to seamounts, ridges and walls like Roma, Blade and Lorenz's Delight, I can definitely see how some divers are simply content to dive the Wakatobi house reef time after time. We found dozens of fish, invertebrates, crinoids, hard and soft coral, ascidians, and fans that were new to us every time we dove there . In conclusion, I highly recommend this reef in particular and Wakatobi itself as a destination. Add on a stop-off at Bali with its own terrific shore and boat diving and you've found a bit of paradise.
08/17/2006 4.65 Deception Pass Washington, USA West
Deception Pass is the best advanced (or intermediate with guide) site that I have visited in Washington State. Having enjoyed it three times from both sides, the steep walls feature acres of colorful filter feeders as well as nice populations of big fish. For shore divers, the site is only really safe a few times a month when the slack tides are long. Divers new to the site would be wise to consult Anacortes Dive Shop for advice or in water guidance, or at least someone who has been diving there multiple times. To get there, take Interstate 5 north from Seattle about an hour, traffic allowing, to Mount Vernon. Just north, take State Route 20 West to Whidbey Island. Gawk at the currents and eddies below as you cross Deception Pass bridge and turn immediately right as soon as you've crossed into Deception Pass State Park (north side of Whidbey Island, south side of the Pass). Park in the upper parking lot, where there's plenty of room and a bathroom. The site use to be only open from April until October, but this year is was open all winter. Quoting Henry C. Powers 2002 Whidbey Island Dive Guide, "gear up in the upper parking lot of the North Beach area inside Deception Pass State Park. Pack your equipment down to the beach. Once slack starts, enter the water close to the rocks on the right side of the beach. This tiny cove is somewhat protected even on a flood current. Orient your compass to mark your return course and make your descent." The walk down to the beach is pleasant and the small cove starting-point is spectacular. Look out for salmon fishermen in season. The cliff to your right is the one you'll be diving along. It starts out in a beautiful garden, then passes three pillars, eventually ending in a series of pinnacles if the slack allows you that far. Usually, a nice tour to the third cliff pillar results. Slack is sometimes hard to gauge here, so get to the beach early and watch the floating debris and ducks. It's easy to start off too late. In any case, the little garden at the end of the dive is a great place to spend some time if you get carried back early. It's pleasant and safe even with some current. The site is exceptional for invertebrates, filter feeder, ling cod, nudibranchs, grunt sculpins and all types of greenling. It is covered in a variety of colorful marine life.
08/17/2006 3.69 Octopus Hole Washington, USA West
I can't resist an update. The now annual start-to-Fall low oxygen conditions on this wall is making for some interesting diving. The lack of oxygen at the bottom of Hood Canal forces thousands of fish into the top of the water column where they then swim in diver territory. Accordingly, though, in previous summers a diver might only see a few groups of five copper rockfish along the wall, now there are schools of 50 big coppers at frequent points along the wall as well as occasional quillbacks and even black rockfish. Ling cod are still plentiful as are wolf eels, but this last week there was not an octopus was to be found, and very few nudibranchs. Crab, shrimp, moon snails, flounder, anemone and sea cucumbers are still plentiful, but I imagine in another month lots of these will be washed up dead on the beach.
08/22/2005 2.62 Richardson Beach Park The Big Island, Hawaiian Islands
The high numerical rating of this site leads one astray. Even the local Hilo dive shop, Nautilus, does not recommend it. Sure, the entrance is cool but you're going to bang up your equipment soon after that on the shallow rocks, except at high tide. Even then it's two football fields or more to get to diving depths and not much to see until the steep slope at about 50 feet deep. Save this for the beginning snorkelers. Let them have the cold freshwater lens with murky viz while you go out to dive Puhi or Leleiwi close by. Then come back with your wet gear to use the nice showers.
08/22/2005 3.39 Leleiwi Beach Park The Big Island, Hawaiian Islands
Easily the best overall site of the four I dove near Hilo, though Puhi is a close second. Leleiwi sustains interest for multiple dives and is a great place to take snorkeling friends to see turtles big and small. The entry is easy at low or mid tide IF you use the concrete steps and lava bench just down the bulkhead from the shower and kiosk. Ask Nautilus dive for a map since it's worth it to get a map, especially if the waves come up while you're under. I liked diving all three directions from the entry, but heading right after 50 kicks to see the arch and the turtle pinnacles just beyond it is probably the most interesting direction. Lots of mushroom top coral formations to visit and a great collection of butterfly fish species, especially ornates. Mornings here have very few cars in the parking lot and even in the afternoon there is a far better chance of securing a space than at Richardson Beach Park a quarter mile away.
03/07/2005 3.53 Titlow Beach Washington, USA West
Another Northwest shrine to the plumose anemone! The site doesn't look like much, but even the shallows teem with life. The one time we disregarded the tide tables here, we had to return by knife in the sand, rest, knife in the . . . so beginners beware. Never did find the wolf eels, but every time we circumnavigated the abandoned dock, there was something different to see. So nice to have a site like this so near the city. The amount of lingcod in the shallows, nudibranch deep and shrimp everywhere surprised me.
03/06/2005 3.81 Octopus Hole Washington, USA West
Update on my recent report - as of March, 2005, octopi have moved back onto the main wall. Also, my ratings will raise on this site due to the incredible winter conditions today. I woke to a brilliant sunrise - no wind, no frost - so I high-tailed it two hours from my mountain outpost to the coast just as the weather cleared over Hood Canal. The water was so calm at the site it looked like a thin layer of see-through neoprene was coating it. Cars were parked all along the road, filled with divers, as the secret of our tremendous diving conditions this winter has definitely leaked out! Most of the divers, however, were doing an AOL course, I think, so I never saw them. This is typical - don't worry if you see cars all over both sides of the road - you are still likely to have most of the wall to yourself or to not even see another diver. The viz was muddied at the beginning of the descent from the floating platform, but it cleared quickly. At a wolf eel hangout below the mid section of wall at 60 feet of depth I could see the surface. That is pretty unusual around here. Just a bit farther along, I could see a hundred feet of wall horizontally. That is definitely unusual!! Only two divers were on the most interesting section of the wall and none in the boulder field beyond, my favorite part. What's to see? Well, octopi once again, and I was glad to see a few had made it back after two straight years of tragic dissolved oxygen deficiencies in the early Fall. Two beautiful wolf eel and one grand old warrior watched from their perches high on the wall. I could only find two wolf eel anywhere deep. There were six areas with big clutches of ling cod eggs, and both gnarly and good-looking younger ling guarding them - also, two nice schools of coppe rock cod and perch. The tube worms and nudibranches at wall's end were exceptional. The superlative viz really helped in locating these - it's the first time I've seen the topography of all the boulder patches beyond the main wall. One nudi I've never seen before - darn it if I don't have my PNW nudi book loaned out. Porcelain texture, an inch and a half long, with nice highlights of red and black on raised spicules. The only thing that could have made this dive better would have been watching the orcas cavort there the evening before. That's what the divers who stayed overnight saw.
03/05/2005 3.56 Town Pier Bonaire North, ABC Islands
Divers wondering about this site would get an excellent idea of the variety of conditions possible from reading the reports here. You glide in shallow water through encrusted pilings with tires and trashy piles littered around, hoping to see things that are hard to find elsewhere. I went with Linda from the Carib Inn and perhaps the most important thing I learned was to refrain from torturing the seahorses and octopi with my intense dive light. There were clouds of bait fish and a dozen moray of three different types. We lucked out and finished our dive as other groups were gearing up in the shallows.
02/17/2005 3.52 Tulamben House Reef Bali, Pacific
I'm just adding this addendum because I noticed my single rating put this site above the Tulamben (sometimes called Kubu in confusion with the more NWesterly site of the same name) Drop-off and the Liberty Wreck. Wrong! The Tulamben Drop-0ff would be much my favorite site of the three, closely followed by the busy Liberty wreck, and then the Tulamben house reef. All are good - I would dive any of them again in a New York minute.
02/17/2005 3.99 Keystone Jetty (Fort Casey) Washington, USA West
My dive buddy has 100+ dives on this site and I have a half dozen. In addition to the comments below, I'd add that the kelp at the beginning of the dive in mid to late summer is beautiful. The piled jetty wall of rocks supports a huge field of plumose anemone, quite beautiful. The large lingcod, unfortunately, are not adequately protected here - fishing is allowed, even though it's an underwater park. The chance to see grunt sculpin alone would draw me here. Is it the best shore dive in the Pacific NW, as a respondent below suggests? No, that honor goes just north to Deception Pass.
02/13/2005 4.06 Calabas Reef Bonaire North, ABC Islands
We stayed at the Carib Inn, next to the Divi Flamingo and enjoyed our stay immensely. Both the resort and house reef are exceptional. The little boat at about 70 feet deep off the Flamingo side of the reef was probably my favorite part of the reef and made a nice dive heading north from the Carib Inn buoy. There were lots of great shrimp, nudibranch and morays nearby, and almost always tarpon or great barracuda escorted me on the way there. Occasionally, a cordon of squid was up in the shallows, and twice I saw bonefish in the brightly lit sands. I never did find the seahorses that other divers saw, but I enjoyed this dive almost every one of the seven days were on Bonaire. The dive south to the south part of the reef had more soft coral, flamingo tongues and filefish but seemed a bit more "used, " even though it wasn't anywhere near as popular while I was there.
02/13/2005 3.72 Edmonds Underwater Park Washington, USA West
I've been to Edmonds dozens of times and now it appears that the DeLion dry dock has been declared off limits. Tell me I'm misinterpreting the shore signs...please! The biggest 5 foot lings, the best octopi and shrimp, cabezon of sizes rarely encountered elsewhere, top shells and anemone can usually be found all in this one area...and now it's off limits?
02/13/2005 3.83 Tulamben House Reef Bali, Pacific
The second summer I dove this reef, it was only half as large as the first time, since a large avalanche from Mt. Agung had covered part to it. In any case, it's a very dynamic area, affected in both good and bad ways by the nearby Liberty wreck and resorts. I've heard that recently a huge school of jacks from the Liberty wreck has moved onto this house reef.
The snorkeling is excellent here many days, though the time of day and tide schedule makes a big difference in visibility and amount of tiny, stinging jellyfish present, a problem for snorkelers and not usually for divers. Often it's only necessary to move thirty feet or so to get better viz and fewer jellies. The site makes a perfect finish to a dive on the nearby Dropoff or River sites and is often enjoyed as a night or solo diver from travelers staying at the Paradise or Mimpi hotels.
It would be difficult to have a more convenient shore dive, though it is important to look out for both scorpionfish and stonefish here if you are one who gears up in the water. I've seen both within 20 feet of shore. Once in the water, the dive is a near perfect introduction to SE Asian and Pacific underwater life. Lionfish and titan triggers are encountered almost immediately with several types of puffers common as well. Several times my sons and I saw over two dozen morays on this dive, especially on the right side of the less than 100 meter sweep of reef. The right half had tons of blue ribbon eels, even black and yellow ones. Just a bit deeper were coral heads harboring the beautiful twinspot lionfish and even a white, white ghost pipefish. The deeper slope has all sorts of exotic fish species and is patrolled by blacktip reef sharks. You see these more often if you dive solo, and sometimes the local herd of bumphead parrotfish comes here. This slope is also excellent for observing a varied assortment of shrimp/goby pairs.
Children's NEMO favorites are all here - the exquisite palette surgeonfish, 5 types of anemonefish, gorgeous juvenile angelfish, and an occasional clown triggerfish, though I usually only see them on wall dives.
Watching fish behavior is easy - I've seen a large yellow moray hunting several times, escorted by an aggressive lionfish while nearby a medium size coronetfish hid in a school of ruddy chubs. There are a number of active cleaning stations in the mid part of the reef.
Bintang beer and Arak beckon a few meters away at the end of the dive.
02/13/2005 3.86 USAT Liberty Ship Wreck Bali, Pacific
I stayed two weeks in Tulamben, one in 2001 and another in 2003. Both times the conditions on the Liberty wreck were excellent, but the second summer there was more plankton in the water and more diversity of fish life.
The diversity and abundance of fish and wreck encrustation is like no other wreck I have been on. It demands multiple dives. The local porters take your gear down the beach a half mile unless you're near one of the newer resorts and then they bring your gear back across the stony beach when you're done. It's only a buck for this porterage and helps the villagers immensely.
What can you see? Everything, including the "coral" another poster here said was absent. There's plenty of soft coral, some hard coral and tremendous bouquets of tunicates, bryozoans, sponges, wire corals etc. The huge swirling schools of jacks usually take center stage, though a friend of mine said one of the schools has now moved down the beach in front of the Paradise hotel. In addition to the jacks are hundreds of species - you will definitely see something you haven't seen before. The second summer I was there, the upslope section of the wreck was far better than the first time - the first thing I noticed were the huge blue-ringed angelfish on top of the wreck. I rested there next to a vertical congregation of two types of sweetlips, just watching those blue rings. Not too far away were the garden eel beds and flats filled with blue-ringed stingrays. Just past that were the two huge stonefish guardians, then all the black sand muck diving for bumblebee shrimp, mantis shrimp, pipefish etc. When I looked down to get one last view before I exited there was a school of bumphead parrotfish and a solitary Napoleon. A scrawled filefish at least three feet long, which I normally see lower down, came up for a send-off as well. It was an incredible end to a dive.
Local guides can show you all the different morays, scorpionfish, frogfish, leaf fish, pygmy seahorses, shells that you can name. Rarely was I able to find these myself.
Try the dive at all times of day, except when a busload or liveaboard load of divers shows up. Late afternoon is really a ghostly, lonely time on this wreck.
By all means, buy the Periplus edition for Bali diving written by David Pickell and Wally Siagian. It shows you parts of this wreck that are hard to discover in only a couple dives on your own.
Though I like the Drop-off site better than the Liberty, perhaps because it's a natural reef and fewer people dive it, it recommend the Liberty whole-heartedly. It's almost a can't miss dive.
02/13/2005 3.91 Windsock Bonaire North, ABC Islands
I only had the chance to enjoy one dive here, when wind and waves forced me off the northern sites. I wasn't expecting much and the reef was somewhat featureless, but as soon as a half dozen squid visited me, and a spotted eagle ray took off almost from under me, the site improved immensely! There was so much to see that I didn't go very deep at all, and spent 72 minutes just floating around from one cleaning station to another.
02/06/2005 3.46 Octopus Hole Washington, USA West
Since '98 I have seen so many fluctuations at this popular site. At first so many people were grousing about the lack of octopi, supposedly due to this dive op or that tribe poaching. The biggest factor in the fluctuations appears to be annual late summer/early fall oxygen depletion due to lack of natural circulation in this narrow fjord, aided and abetted by human contributions of nitrogen pollution. In any case, I have seen a high of 21 octopi on two dives in the summer of 2002 and several low counts of none at all. I have never failed to see a wolf eel at this site. Sometimes millions of shrimp in early fall are in a narrow band a few feet thick, perhaps gobbling up the remaining oxygen. Squid eggs often decorate the shallow kelp, especially in December. I have not found the tire reef very interesting, but you can reach it by following the line down the north side of the floating wooden platform just offshore. If you get to Octopus Hole when no one is there, you may get to dive with sea lions, something which has happened twice for me. A friend saw orcas there this winter. If you need to change clothes, just north of the site on the cliffy side of the highway there is a cave. I don't know why someone has cut down a lot of the brushy growth that used to protect this spot from the highway.
02/06/2005 3.46 Sunny Side Park Washington, USA West
In multiple dives at this site I have enjoyed seeing creatures I rarely see elsewhere. Though in decline now, the huge orange sea pens are a magnificent sight, day or night. Geoducks in such profusion are hard to miss. This is also where I saw my first northern sturgeon poacher and sailfin sculpin. On one dive I played with a medium size octopus for a half hour, as I blocked the entrance to its lair, an abandoned boat refrigerator, in return for it doing tricks to lure me away. It was one of the smartest octos I have seen. Right after the Nisqually earthquake, there was a big crack at this site right off the shoreline. A minor annoyance is the kids frolicking around whatever you leave on shore, accidentally kicking sand in their enthusiasm. I almost always have kids hovering about as I kit up, with great questions. In the summer there is a nice shower and good restrooms, and a terrific old-fashioned restaurant nearby on the main street.
02/06/2005 3.60 Kubu Point Bali, Pacific
I have only been diving on this site once and we arrived by jukung, though it appears easy to do from shore. We were in a hurry to descend to 100 feet, but passed up lots of great stuff from 30-70 that I would like to take another look at. My oldest son found 6 pygym seahorses, one pregnant, on one fan and my youngest son found the most beautiful red and black ornate ghost pipefish I had yet seen at the bottom of the wall. We had a tremendous time looking for small stuff. The way we entered was through a typical coral garden but we finally found a nice wall a bit farther west (left) with schools of fish and an excellent assortment of chromodoris nudibranchs. Lionfish were under every major barrel sponge at first, then they yielded to monster size spotted morays.
02/06/2005 3.84 Tulamben Drop-Off Bali, Pacific
Stayed at the excellent economy hotel Paradise and dove with Aquamarine both years we were there. Had time to do a couple dozen solo shore dives stretching from the small coral garden right out front, through the River site, across and down the Drop-off and sometimes all the way to Alamanda. The Drop-off was partially smothered by the winter mudflow event in 2003 down the Agung volcano, but I still loved the exposed parts on top and the deeps down to 120. You can find anything here, from herds of Bumphead parrotfish to black-tip reef shark forays to lots of pygmy seahorses and especially, in 2003, hordes of lionfish in the afternoon. Perhaps the most impressive thing I've seen is turning off my night-time torch at 100 feet near the bottom of the spur closest to the hotels and watching the flashlight fish ascend the wall. Scorpion fish, the occasional frogfish, bumblebee shrimp, squat lobster, even ghost pipefish have been seen here by my sons and I. My favorite route is to start in the protected lee of the drop-off, especially during new moon tides, head down to the big seafan at the 30 meter corner, spend lots of time there and then come back via the river site all the way to the coral garden. If tides allow, my 2nd favorite route is to enter at the same spot, cross the wall at 60 and head right on to Alamanda, catching the tidal change back across the Drop-off reef top to the River site and if air remains, even back to the coral garden.
02/06/2005 3.51 Karpata Bonaire North, ABC Islands
Karpata is the best site I dove from shore on Bonaire. Even the reef top held surprises after a leisurely solo tour of the steep spur/grooves to the right. It would easy to spend three dives in the second groove alone, following it from 100 up through both branches, the diversity and density of species is so great. Loved the turtles wedged into small spaces. Don't know what species the yellow jacks were exactly, but they were abundant and inspirational! I only had time to lightly explore four grooves and really enjoyed the view in crystalline viz from the edge of one groove to another. Loved the filefish variety and squid in the shallows. Oddly, this is the only dive on Bonaire where I didn't see a tarpon or barracuda. It can be a bad place to leave your rental car unattended. Mine was broken into and the hose severed in my ensuing drift snorkel from nearby Weber's Joy to 1000 Steps.