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ColdWater destinations

8 Cold Water Diving Destinations

Take winter to the next level by diving in freezing waters, marvelling at underwater ice formations and navigating icebergs. Here are eight of the best cold water diving destinations

Silfra, Iceland

Is it possible to dive in two continents at the same time? In Silfra it is. This fissure in Iceland’s Thingvellir National Park is where the continental plates of Europe and America meet and you can easily swim between the two continents. If that’s not enough reason to put Silfra on your cold water dive site list, it also boasts a jaw-dropping visibility of up to 100 metres. There is very little marine life, but dramatic rock and boulder formations will more than make up for it.

Tour Operator

DIVE.IS - http://www.dive.is

Antarctica

Understandably, diving in Antarctica is for the brave with advanced diving qualifications. Dive operators typically require you to complete 20 to 50 dives prior to your Antarctic expedition and some additionally require a certain number of drysuit dives. Those who dare to take on Antarctica’s icy waters and constantly changing icescapes are treated to a variety of marine life, including critters and big ocean mammals like the leopard seal – plus, of course, the ultimate bragging rights.

Tour Operators

Waterproof Expeditions - http://waterproof-expeditions.com

Oceanwide Expeditions - http://oceanwide-expeditions.com

South Island, New Zealand

New Zealand's South Island is home to an array of cold water dive sites, including Fiordland, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park is especially interesting: surrounding mountains block the sun and large amounts of rainfall draining into the fiord have created a permanent layer of freshwater above the clear but dark saltwater. As a result species like the black coral, which is typically found at depths of 100 metres, have migrated to shallower waters.

Tour Operators

Descend Scuba Diving - http://www.descend.co.nz

Dive Otago - http://www.diveotago.co.nz

Norway

With abundant marine life (expect encounters with ghost sharks and king crabs) and hundreds of wrecks along its coast, Norway offers a variety of dive experiences. January expeditions to the north will reward you with orca sightings as the whales follow migrating herring. In Sognefjord, the country’s largest fiord, you can dive the SS Frankenwald, a 122-metre-long German cargo vessel which sits upright and is nearly intact.

Tour Operators

Johns Diving Charters - http://www.scapaflow.com/Norway-wreck-diving

Waterproof Expeditions - http://www.waterproof-expeditions.com/dive-snorkel-expeditions/norway/winter-whales-of-norway

Lake Baikal and The White Sea, Russia

Lake Baikal is the world’s oldest and deepest lake and it is home to over 1,900 plant and animal species, many of them endemic. In January and February, the lake starts to freeze but the ice is clear; if you want to go ice diving, book a trip in February or March. Ice diving in the White Sea, an inland sea in the northwest, is also one for the books, especially when ice formations turn an otherwise ‘ordinary’ summer dive into a winter wonderland.

Tour Operators

Baikal Diving - http://baikaldiving.ru

Baikal Explorer - http://www.baikalex.com

North Japan

When the frozen Sea of Okhotsk begins to break up in February and March, it is the perfect opportunity to dive its icy waters and come face to face with sea angels – it’s the only time of year when these photogenic creatures, locally called clione, remain near the surface. While the sea angels steal the show, this area, just off Hokkaido, also has a wide array of fascinating critters for macro photography, including sea urchins, anemones and starfish.

Tour Operator

Club Kids Sapporo - https://www.facebook.com/clubkidsdiving

British Columbia, Canada

Whether you’re after drop-offs or wrecks, you’ll find something interesting in BC’s cold waters, where animal encounters include wolf eels, harbour seals, orcas and octopus. Don’t miss Browning Wall, which is often hailed as the best wall dive in BC (some even say in North America). It’s teeming with spectacularly colourful marine life – from sponges and urchins to rockfish and king crabs – and it’s best enjoyed in winter months when visibility reaches 30 metres.

Tour Operators

The Edge Diving Centre - http://edgediving.com

Nanaimo Dive Outfitters - http://www.nanaimodiveoutfitters.ca

Greenland / The Arctic

Although Greenland has its share of kelp forests, corals and macro critters, its most noteworthy diving experiences are iceberg dives and wreck dives – the latter includes a schooner called Borgin and a Portuguese prison ship, both of which are well preserved and around 25 metres deep. March to September is the best time for diving in Greenland (the midnight sun lasts from May to July); if you want to go ice diving, plan a trip in March and April.

Tour Operators

Northern Explorers - http://www.northern-explorers.com

Greenland Tours - http://www.greenlandtours.com

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