An ice cave in Lake Baikal – a surprising dive site in the Asia-Pacific region
Text by various contributors
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Slipping beneath the surface of the ocean is to enter another world without leaving this one. Some dive sites, however, are so breath-takingly otherwordly, with topography so strange and wonderful that they can make us feel as if we have drifted into a fairy tale.
Here is just a small selection of these kinds of whimsical underwater wonderlands in Asia and the Pacific.
1. LAKE BAIKAL
Location: Irkutsk, Russia
A place like nowhere else on Earth, Lake Baikal is the world’s oldest and deepest lake. In places, the seascape is dominated by vibrant green sponges thriving on the rocky substrate. Alien-like amphipods live among these moss-green filter-feeders. The water is cold and clear and looking up at the ice above you will be forgiven for thinking you’ve entered another dimension…
2. CLAUDIO REEF
Location: Red Sea, Egypt
Claudio Reef, in the Egyptian Red Sea’s Deep South, is famous for its shallow caverns. Even though divers can penetrate deep into the reef, they are relatively safe as there are many entry and exit points, and several windows in the roof. If you’re in the right place at the right time, you can see the dramatic “cathedral light” in the dim caverns. A wonderland you might want to set up home in!
3. TINY MARINE LAKE
There are over 50 marine lakes of different shapes, sizes, and depths scattered throughout the Rock Islands of Palau. Each one is an exceptional petri dish of marine life. Jellyfish Lake is of course the most famous but many others enclose amazing aesthetics and out-of-the ordinary marine communities. The problem is finding the lakes, many of which are completely enclosed by rugged limestone. Not far from the main city of Koror, a hidden, dark tunnel winds about 18 metres through a limestone island finally opening into the quaint Tiny Marine Lake. Upon entering this magical location, onecan’t help but admire the everchanging interplay between light, shadows, soft colours, corals and fish. This is one of the oddest, yet picturesque, sites one will ever experience.
4. THE CATHEDRAL
Location: Pescator Island, Cebu, The Philippines
The Cathedral is well-known as being home to hundreds of thousands of sardines but also for an incredible cave at 30 to 40 metres deep that gives the site its name. It has a number of window-like openings, but when one swims into it, it looks less like a cathedral and more like the carved features of a Halloween pumpkin! Though you need a deep speciality or advanced certification to get to the cave, it is an easy dive and most of the time there is no current at all.
Location: Alor, Indonesia
Dropping into an underwater world beneath a living and breathing volcano is a cool experience no matter how many dives one has done. This far-flung site, not far from the island of Alor, is composed of a critter-laden black sand slope that leads upwards to a shallow, rocky substrate where spiky pneumatophores from black mangrove trees rise towards the surface. The pneumatophores give the area an eerie aesthetic. After exploring this peculiar marine environment, one looks up and views a daunting volcano billowing smoke. Otherwordly indeed.
This is an extract from an article titled “10 Underwater Wonderlands”. To find out about 5 more fascinating dive sites in the Asia-Pacific, get your copy of Scuba Diver Issue 5 / 2016 here.
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