With mile after mile of pristine coastline, protected coral reefs teeming with tropical fish, sinkholes and sunken shipwrecks; snorkelling or scuba diving in South America is surely one of the must-do experiences when visiting the continent. Here at Surtrek, we love our landlocked sites, the ancient temples, jungle walks and fascinating museums, but we are also just as keen on what can be seen out at sea, beneath the waves; often an equally unforgettable experience for anyone lucky enough to see it. An exhaustive list of all possible dive sites in Latin America is, of course, impossible, so instead we put our heads together and came up with some of the highlights of ocean life, whether you are simply enjoying a gentle snorkel or diving deep for a full throttle scuba, here are a few things to look out for…
Snorkelling and scuba diving in the Galapagos is as stunning as you would expect, from the kaleidoscopic coral and tropical fish to the absolute abundance of larger species; Sea Turtles, Dolphins, Rays and Sea Lions, among countless others, many of which are endemic to these waters. One such resident is the Galapagos Shark, not endemic but very commonly sighted during any scuba dive, often numbering in their hundreds. For those brave enough, you will have the opportunity to take your very own selfie safely, with a real-life shark in the background if one happens to come your way! Shark Point off the coast of Wolf Island is, as the name suggests, a great place to spot Galapagos, Hammerhead and Whale Sharks, as well as Bluefin Tuna and Dolphins, though the open ocean around Santa Cruz Island, Isabela, Bartolome and San Cristóbal Islands are all also spectacular and full of sea life. Visiting the Galapagos Islands is always going to be a wildlife lover’s dream, and you won’t be disappointed by what lurks beneath the azure waters which span the archipelago, even if only enjoying a leisurely snorkel while on a sightseeing boat trip.
Whales and Sea Lions in the Valdes PeninsulaThe Valdes Peninsula, in Argentina, is without doubt one of the best places in South America for Whale watching. It’s not just Whales however, as these often icy seas are known to attract huge numbers of Sea Lions and even Magellan Penguins too, making for a real off-the-beaten path wildlife experience. Puerto Madryn is a good place to base yourself, as it offers easy access to many of the top dive sites and unlike the crystalline shallows of the Galapagos Islands, diving in the Valdes Peninsula is recommended for those with a little more experience, though the reward is well worth any effort. You may not get the chance to swim with the Whales themselves, though between June and December there are plenty of daily boat tours ready and waiting to take visitors off in the hope of spotting these gentle giants, a once in a lifetime experience. When it comes to the wildlife that will almost certainly be on view during your dive experience, the likelihood is Sea Lions, and lots of them! These loveable creatures are always keen to welcome visitors, and huge colonies are known to inhabit the various rocky outcrops which line the coast, a real highlight of any visit to Argentina.
The Great Blue Hole in Belize
Scuba diving in Belize is a joy, home to some of the largest coral reefs in the world, a chain of chilled beach shacks surrounding every boarding jetty and yes, the Great Blue Hole; 70km out at sea in the heart of Lighthouse Reef. The Great Blue is instantly recognisable, having been photographed countless times, this natural wonder stretches a whopping 318m across and 125m down, with plenty of marine life congregating on the sinkhole’s edges. Snorkelling and scuba diving at the Great Blue Hole is a bucket-list experience for anyone who loves spending their time in the ocean, it’s relatively straightforward to get to and adopts an iconic status, even in Belize where the underwater adventures are plentiful. What’s more, scientific studies conducted on reef deposits and vegetation at the bottom of the hole have concluded that unusually regular cyclones and long droughts are likely to have occurred across the region towards the end of the Mayan Empire, backing up a theory that it was a prolonged period of extreme weather conditions which ultimately led to their demise!
The magic and mystery of Easter Island is famous all over the world, though it is not just the statues and ancient sites on land which draw a crowd, as the waters which surround this remote island have their own treasures to uncover. This, in fact, includes a submerged Moai statue which emerges out of the blue in eerie fashion, with conflicting explanations as to how this giant solid stone piece got here at all. One of the most memorable things about diving in Easter Island however, aside from the occasional Green Sea Turtle to keep you company, is the clarity of the water. Given the remoteness, lack of population or river run-off, visibility in the seas surrounding Easter Island is often at least 60m, making for a real sense of adventure as every coral or fish comes starkly into view. There are underwater caves to explore, corals and limestone beds, making for an interesting and unexpected addition to your Chilean holiday.
Ready to dive in? Take a look at our template tours in the Galapagos, Argentina and Chile to incorporate scuba diving in South America, or explore Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Colombia, and start tailoring your South America trip today. Handpick the hotels and activities you want, adjust the durations depending on how long you’d like to stay in each place, and have fun in the process! Surtrek is always at hand to help out. Call us on 1 866 978 7398 (Canada and USA) or 080 8189 0438 (UK) to talk to an expert, and Discover Your South America with Surtrek!