Top Tech Diving Destinations - Chuuk, Gili T, Bay Islands, Puerto Galera, & Dahab
Technical diving has become increasingly popular in recent years and is a great option for divers who not only want to go deeper, but also want to learn advanced dive skills. Technical programmes teach divers about improved buoyancy, decompression theory, different dive equipment setups and safe penetration techniques. Learning about technical diving is worthwhile in itself and also opens up a variety of new dive sites to explore.
Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia
Chuuk lagoon is firmly on the map for world-class diving and rightly so with its variety of Second World War wrecks. There are more than 48 wreck dive sites and the waters in the lagoon are up to 100m (328ft) deep. Many of the wrecks lie between 18m (59ft) and 40m (131ft), though there are some deeper wreck dives for technical divers. There are around 15 wrecks at 40 to 60m (131 to 196ft) depth, including the well-known San Francisco Maru. This wreck is filled with ammunition, trucks, mines, bombs and tanks. There is also the Katsuragisan Maru at 58 to 70m (190 to 229ft) to explore.
The SS Thorfinn liveaboard, Micronesia is geared up for technical divers and offers two special diving packages. Rebreather divers can choose the ‘Rebreather Plan’, which includes daily diving, free rebreather cylinder hire and fills, free sofnolime, and extended deep schedules with an experienced guide. Helium is also available.
The ‘Truk Tek Unlimited’ package includes daily diving, the use of side-mount cylinders, manifold twins, stage cylinders and pony bottles, plus free cylinder fillings and custom dive schedules.
The dive season runs all year at Chuuk and the lagoon is sheltered, minimising any dive currents. Divers should be aware there are only three airlines that fly to Chuuk, with the main route being via Guam from Honolulu with United Airlines.
Gili Trawangan, Indonesia
The three Gili islands to the north of Lombok are a popular liveaboard destination thanks to the unspoilt nature of the area and abundant marine life. The islands are home to mangrove forests and motorised transport is not allowed on the islands.
Gili Trawangan, of Gili T, is the largest of the islands and is well known for technical diving. Divers can learn about technical diving at Gili T, explore the reefs surrounding the island and then venture into the waters further out, where the island slopes off. Reef sharks patrol the reefs and mantas are also sometimes seen. It is possible to see mola mola when the current is running.
Shark Point is one of the deeper dive sites in the Gilis and is very popular for its shallow reef and turtles, plus the chance to see reef sharks and stingrays while exploring the deep canyons that typify this site. The maximum dive depth is around 50m (164ft). Deep Turbo is a seamount a coral garden on top and a variety of canyons, overhangs and outcrops. The currents can be very challenging at Deep Turbo and the maximum dive depth is 32m (104 ft).
Another dive highlight worth visiting in the area is Takat Tunang. This site is located to the northwest of Lombok and is a deep reef dive to a maximum depth of 45m(147ft). The dive site consists of a 150m (492ft) long wall with a drop-off and a coral plateau at 20m (65ft) depth. There are pristine corals at this site, sharks are commonly seen, and there are large schools of pelagic fish.
The best time to dive in Indonesia is between May and September. Lombok and Bali are the main departure points close to the Gili islands and there are a variety of liveaboard options to suit all budgets. The Calico Jack liveaboard is an Indonesian sailing boat and offers safaris to the Gili islands and Komodo.
Bay Islands, Honduras
The Bay Islands in Honduras are well known for their sheer wall dives and remote seamounts and are also gaining a reputation as a place to go for technical diver training.
The north side of Utila, in the Bay Islands, is exposed to the open ocean and has deep walls and caves to explore at 45 to 80m (147 to 262ft) depth. Some of the deeper caves on the north side have stalactites and there are plenty of pelagic species such as barracuda, marlin and dolphins.
The southern side of Utila is more sheltered and has numerous shallow dive sites for recreational divers, thanks to a large fringing reef. There is good coral coverage and abundant fish life at the reef. The east and south sides also have seamounts and pinnacles from 40 to 80m (131 to 262ft) depth. The seamounts on the south side can be challenging though due to strong currents.
The Cayman Trench, off Roatan, also has dramatic walls and crevices to explore at depths up to 60m (196 ft). The trench is known for its rare black corals and whale shark encounters.
Honduras can be dived all year, though water visibility can fall slightly during the rainy season of October to January. The Roatan Aggressor offers safaris throughout the Bay Islands.
Puerto Galera, The Philippines
The Philippines sits within the Coral Triangle and has abundant marine life, plus a variety of dive areas to explore. It is a prime destination for muck diving and Puerto Galera is one of the best areas for this. It also happens to be a good choice for experienced technical divers and those wanting to learn about this type of diving.
The Verde Island passage covers 1.14 million hectares, has very high biodiversity, and a number of deep dive sites to explore. The deep dive sites include wrecks, walls and drop-offs. The Pinnacle dive site on the eastern side of Verde Island descends to 60m (196ft) and has plentiful corals, plus large pelagics. The Wall dive site drops to over 70m (229ft) and has giant gorgonian fans, corals and large schools of reef fish.
There are also many critters to find at Puerto Galera, including frogfish, seahorses, Bobbitt worms, mimic octopus and sea moths.
The Verde Island passage has excellent water visibility, though the currents in this area can be strong. As such, the diving is mostly drift diving. The M/V Dolphin offers Puerto Galera safaris from June to February each year and has technical diving support.
Dahab, The Red Sea
Dahab is perhaps the most iconic technical diving destination, thanks to the infamous Blue Hole descending to around 130m (426ft) deep. The Blue Hole has an arch that connects it to the Red Sea, starting around 55m depth (180ft) and plummeting even further beyond the reef walls to over 1,000m (3,280ft). Many inexperienced divers have died attempting to dive through the arch. It is, however, a great site for technical diver training as it has minimal currents and plenty of deep dive options.
Dahab itself has a number of technical diving sites, including The Canyon. This natural crack in the reef descends to 54m (177 ft) and has walls 15 to 20m (49 to 65ft) high. It is a very popular dive site though and can be crowded. Neptune’s Chair dive site is also worth exploring and sits below the Canyon at 70 to 80m (229 to 262ft).
Many of Dahab’s dives can be accessed from the shore, though liveaboard safaris also visit the area. Diving is possible all year and peak season is from July to December. Divers wanting to avoid the crowds should consider visiting outside of this time or joining a liveaboard that visits more remote and quieter dive sites. The M/Y Oceanos liveaboard has technical diver support and offers safaris that visit Dahab and two other Red Sea technical diving destinations; Daedalus and Elphinstone reefs.
This article was written by divers and writers at liveaboard.com