Head out to the fringes of Asia-Pacific for diving adventures in the middle of nowhere – places that are so far east they are practically in the west. The island nations dotting the eastern expanse of the Pacific are gateways to clear, warm, pelagic-filled water; paradises of coral and tropical fish.
1°28’ N, 173°2’ E
A place so far east it could be considered the place where the sun actually rises – Kiribati, an island chain scattered over thousands of miles, is the first inhabited place to welcome each new day, since it unilaterally decide to shove the International Date Line over a bit so that it would no longer be splitting the country into two different days.
2. French Polynesia
17°34’ S, 149°36’ W
World-class diving and a heavy side order of romance to boot, French Polynesia has long been known as an iconic honeymoon destination – probably because it’s so bloomin’ far away from anywhere and anyone else.
Of French Polynesia’s 118 islands, there are 11 go-to dive destinations: Bora Bora, Raiatea, Huahine, Moorea, Tahiti, Tikehau, Nuku Hiva, Tubuai, Rurutu, Rangiroa and Manihi. The diving here, like much of the Pacific’s far-flung volcanic atolls, is about lagoons, walls and passes. You can take your pick from shark and stingray dives, friendly napoleons or high-octane drifts full of mantas and schools of sharks.
13°50’ S, 171°45’ W
Want to get off the beaten track? Think about heading to Samoa. Varied topography – lagoons, deep-water pinnacles, passages and barrier reefs – means diving to suit everyone from macro lovers to adrenaline junkies looking for a good drift.
Sharks are out in force with grey reefs, whitetips, blacktips and silkies. Choose between scoping the blue for barracuda and trevallies, or scouring the reef walls for nudibranchs and octopods.
18°10’ S, 178°27’ E
Most divers don’t need an introduction to the soft coral capital of the world – a place famous for its bright turqoise water ablaze with Technicolour life. Fiji boasts more than 10,000 square kilometres of coral reef and more than 1,000 species of fish.
Nutrient-rich currents sweep into these palm-fringed islands, bringing in the currents that underpin the dizzying marine community here. Sharks, turtles and mantas all put in appearances in Fiji, alongside the reef dwellers and critters for macro fanatics.
5. Chatham Islands, New Zealand
44°02’ S, 176°26’ W
This rugged outpost is battered by ocean swells from the Pacific, but when the conditions are right, the cool waters are clear, and life is abundant in the kelp beds. Rocks are carpeted with abalone (“paua”) and swaying sea tulips, above which swim spotties, banded wrasse, butterfish, grouper and blue cod.
Out in the blue, opportunities to dive with great whites! Evidence of the ancestors of these predators is scattered along the shores of Te Whanga Lagoon, where fossilised shark’s teeth are the prize for the determined.
6. Cook Islands
21°12’ S, 159°46’ W
Fifteen little volcanic islands in the South Pacific make up the Cook Islands, a sovereign nation in free association with New Zealand.
Diving here promises stunning visibility, breath-taking hard corals, canyons, caves and drop-offs inhabited by rays, sharks, turtles and barracuda, and, between July and October, humpback whales. Highlights include the famous Ngatangila swim-throughs, Koromiri Coral Graden, and the Matavera Drop-off. For dive centres make your way to Rarotonga and Aitutaki.