10 August 2023
The list of ten best shipwreck dives on the planet, as voted for by our readers. How many have you dived? All the wrecks are in warm water. Is this just a reflection of more people wreck diving in warm water, or are the tropical dives really the best?
Most of these dives are notable not just for being wrecks, but also for the amount of marine life they attract. Let us know what you think of the list, and tell us your favourites.
Claiming the title of the best wreck dive in the world, is the Yongala. Full of life you may see manta rays, sea snakes, octopuses, turtles, bull sharks, tiger sharks, clouds of fish and beautiful coral.
The Yongala sank off the coast of Queensland during a cyclone in 1911, killing 122 people, a racehorse called Moonshine and a red Lincolnshire bull. She had no telegraph facilities and so could not be warned of the weather ahead. In 1981 the Yongala was given official protection under the Historic Shipwrecks Act: divers are not allowed into the wreck. The ship is 90 km southeast of Townsville, 10 km away from Cape Bowling Green. 109 meters long, the bow points north and the ship lists to starboard. Compare prices of Yongala diving trips.
Read more about diving the Yongala
Thistlegorm is Gaelic for Blue Thistle. A British vessel, it was attacked from the air and sunk in 1941 whilst carrying a cargo of war supplies: rifles, motor bikes, train carriages, trucks. A big wreck - 131 metres long - you'll want to do this more than once to explore fully. Currents can be strong, and in different directions at the surface and at the wreck.
The Thistlegorm is in the Strait of Gobal, north of Ras Mohammed near Sharm El-Sheikh. Check prices to scuba dive the Thistlegorm.
Read more about diving the Thistlegorm
The Liberty sits on a black sand slope, almost parallel to the beach and is only 30 m offshore. She lies between 9 and 30 m of water and is totally encrusted in fabulously coloured anemones, gorgonians and corals. The wreck is 120 m long and is pretty broken up so you can't enter it, but you can still see the guns, toilets, boilers, anchor chain and such like. There is some confusion as to the history of the Liberty. Many people refer it as the Liberty Glo, but this is a different ship which sank off the coast of Holland. The difficulties probably arise as the ship had several designations during her life. The US Navy Museums site, tells us that she was originally the USS Liberty (1918), then the SS Liberty and finally the USAT (United States Army Transport) Liberty. On 11 January 1942 she was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-166.
The USAT Liberty is located in Tulamben, a small village on the northeast coast of Bali.
Read more about diving the USAT Liberty
Originally a large, luxury, liner, the President Coolidge became a troop carrier during the war. She sank after hitting mines. The wreck now lies on its side between 17 and 70 m, bow to stern. The President Coolidge is fully protected by law and both it and the surrounding sea bed has been designated a Marine Reserve. The wreck is huge and needs several dives to do it justice.
Evacuating the SS President Coolidge, October 1942, Espiritu Santo. Photo credit: J.F. Newman
Read more about diving the President Coolidge
Magnificent wreck with cargo of Zero fighter planes in one of her holds and heaps of artifacts. Truk (or Chuuk) Lagoon is in the Federated States of Micronesia, comprising over 600 islands in four states: Pohnpei, Kosrae, Chuuk and Yap.The San Francisco Maru was a Japanese cargo ship powered by steam and built in 1919. She sank on the 17th of February in 1944 in the Operation Hailstone attack by the US Navy. How much to dive Truk Lagoon?.
Read more about diving Truk Lagoon and the San Francisco Maru
Picture perfect shipwreck - awash with coral and sea life. Each of the five holds offer exciting finds, however the highlight is maybe the massive engine room which occupies the midships area, taking up 3 floors. Also features a cargo of Zero fighter planes in one of her holds. Check the prices to dive Truk Lagoon
Read more about diving Truk Lagoon
This roll-on roll-off ferry was launched in 1979 but sank just a few months later on her maiden voyage. No lives were lost. She lies on her side, outside Lanarka harbour. The dive starts at 16 m with a maximum depth of 42 m. The ferry was transporting more than 120 vehicles, which are still down there. Another large wreck, with plenty of sea life, demanding several dives. An excellent dive site no matter how experienced you are. Find a deal on diving Truk Lagoon
Read more about diving the Zenobia
The Nippo Maru was sunk during the US raid on the Japanese supply fleet after the destruction of Pearl Harbour. Extremely photographic in warm water, sitting upright. One of the wrecks discovered by the Cousteau expedition. The identity was not confirmed though, until the 1980s when the ship's bell was found. The wreck lies between 27 and 50 m (90-165 ft). A Japanese battle tank is on the deck. Look out also for the twin-barrel anti-aircraft gun and the three Howitzers. Not as much coral on this wreck as some of the others but you may see sharks and you can penetrate the wreck.
Read more about diving Truk Lagoon
An American aircraft carrier which after the second World War became surplus to requirements. She became part of Operation Crossroads - a series of nuclear weapon tests conducted by the United States at Bikini Atoll in the summer of 1946. The wreck of the Saratoga lies between 12 and 50 m. She is upright and in good condition with abundant marine life. Compare prices of a Bikini Atoll trip.
Crossroads Baker nuclear weapons test, 26 July 1946. The Saratoga, to the left of the picture, is being lifted out of the water. She sank later that day.
Read more about diving the USS Saratoga
Lies on the sandy bottom of a beautifully reefed slope, near Kralendijk. Big wreck with sponges, pristine coral, terrific sea fans and loads of fish. A dive with something for everyone.
In 1984 customs officials discovered almost 12 tons of marijuana on the Hilma Hooker. The captain and crew were arrested and the ship moored at the pier. However, she was in a very poor state of repair and the authorities were worried that she might sink, causing a shipping hazard. Dive operators started campaigning for the ship to be scuttled to attract dive tourism. The ship was moved to between two reefs, over 30 m of water. Whether by design or accidently, she began to list and a few days later sank.
Read more about diving the Hilma Hooker
Vote for your top wreck dives in the comments box below
Vote for your favourite wreck dives.
How are the votes counted?
The first criteria is number of votes (weighted to favour the first choice dive site above the second). Where two dives tie for a position, priority is given to those with the most enticing descriptions and those whose area has several votes for different dives.
Compiled by Jill Studholme
Have dived many of the wrecks listed, mine are for the more experienced diver who is looking for a bit of a challenge, Chuuk or Truk as it was known for a long time is a wreck divers paradise, have been there several times and will go back
Jackie Bone-George, Australia, 2013
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