Underwater Photography

The Dive Behind the Photo: Sophie Hart


This beautiful image from photographer and PADI Divemaster Sophie Hart is featured on the 2016 PADI Diving Society membership cards. We sat down with Sophie as she described the dive behind the shot, as well as some other insights into her budding career as an underwater photographer. When did you become a […]

The post The Dive Behind the Photo: Sophie Hart appeared first on .

The Dive Behind the Photo: Sophie Hart Read More »

World’s Best Destinations for Beginner Diving

Why do the Top 100 Readers Choice Awards, now in their 23rd year, still matter to divers? Because these are your picks, based on thousands of votes from the most experienced dive travelers on the planet. Why do they matter to us? Because every month you hear from our editors on what we think matters in the world of dive travel. For the January/February issue of Scuba Diving we get to listen to you, and we’re taking notes.

Here, we proudly present the No. 1 ranking destinations in the Best Beginner Diving category of the awards. The full list of winning destinations is below.

scuba diving bonaire beginner underwater



Best Beginner Diving in the Caribbean and Atlantic

While shore diving on Bonaire is often touted as being as easy as a walk in the park, truthfully, some of its sites are challenging to enter and exit, what with rocky, ironshore bottoms, broken corals and sea urchins clinging to the shore substrate. Beginners will find all the resort house reefs easy — for one, gear lockers and gear setups are either near to or right on the dock, and ladders aid the enter and exit process. Getting in is usually also possible by giant-striding from a dock and then swimming just a few fin kicks to where the reef begins. Try Buddy Reef at Buddy Dive Resort, 18 Palms at Plaza Beach Resort, Bari Reef at Sand Dollar Resort and Calabas at Divi Flamingo Beach Resort. Easy coastal road spots include Windsock, which has one of the few sandy beaches on the island; Oil Slick Leap, where you can giant-stride in and then use a ladder to get out; and Bachelor’s Beach. Novice divers may also be more comfortable doing their dives from a boat with a divemaster, which all the big dive resorts offer.

Best Beginner Diving in the Caribbean and Atlantic

  1. Bonaire

  2. Dominica

  3. Curaçao

  4. Cayman Islands

  5. Bahamas

florida keys key west largo scuba diving underwater beginner



Best Beginner Diving in North America

Not all the diving in Florida is tailor-made for beginners, but it’s not surprising that readers voted the state No. 1 in its region for beginner diving. In North America there’s nowhere better to go than America’s Caribbean, the Florida Keys. Leave the famous deep wrecks like Spiegel Grove, Vandenberg and Eagle to advanced divers, and hit the shallow reefs to add to your brand-new logbook. Most of the time, you’ll be in the 20- to 35-foot range, which is the perfect depth to build confidence, log tons of bottom time and still see everything this chain is famous for — the only living coral reef in the continental U.S. and reef fish, such as yellowtail snapper, grunts, goatfish and damselfish galore. The notable sites perfect for novices read like a survey course in literature: Christ of the Deep statue in Key Largo in 25 feet of water; French Reef, also off Key Largo, in 15 to 40 feet of water; Islamorada’s Davis Reef in 25 feet; Sombrero Reef off Marathon in the 10- to 25-foot range; Looe Key, a spur-and-groove reef in five to 35 feet of water; and Key West’s Eastern Dry Rocks in about 35 feet of water.

Best Beginner Diving in North America

  1. Florida

  2. California

  3. Washington

hawaii maui scuba diving beginner dive underwater butterflyfish



Best Beginner Diving in the Pacific and Indian Oceans

More visitors flock to the islands of Hawaii than just about any other dive destination in the world. So, it’s probably no surprise that the region’s operators are highly skilled at training new divers. And with shallow, sheltered reefs such as Maui’s Molokini Crater and easily accessible, purpose-sunk wrecks, including Oahu’s Sea Tiger, there’s no shortage of beginner-friendly options to hook rookies right away.

Best Beginner Diving in the Pacific and Indian Oceans

  1. Hawaii

  2. Indonesia

  3. Philippines

  4. Thailand

  5. Red Sea

How We Got the Numbers Thousands of Scuba Diving subscribers and online users rated their experiences at dive destinations in a variety of categories on a scale from one to five. Final scores are an average of the numerical scores awarded. A minimum number of responses was required for a destination to be included in these ratings.

World’s Best Destinations for Beginner Diving Read More »

Going to the Cleaners: Diving the World’s Best Cleaning Stations

Saddleback Fish Underwater Photo With Cleaner Shrimp

Judy G

Saddleback Anemone fish and Shrimp

When I came across this anemone and its resident fish, it was like an inhabited island in an ocean of sand. There was a lot going on as the Saddleback fish were nesting, and therefore quite protective of their anemone. This particular variety of anemone fish can be quite bold and aggressive, and will charge and nip divers anywhere in the vicinity of their nest. So I braved the pinging attacks, and managed to get this shot of a fish with shrimp crawling on him — assumedly the fish was getting a bit of a grooming session by the shrimp.

Divers that slow down while touring the reefs will find that they have more opportunities to witness some interesting behaviors – hunting, courting, mating, egg laying, egg tending, and territorial displays. However, I don’t think that anything is quite as cool, nor entertaining, as the “cleaning stations” that can be found on every tropical reef. This is where fish (including eels and sharks), as well as turtles and other open ocean critters like manta rays come for regular de-lousing by cleaner fish and shrimps.

Divers tend to disrupt the process when they arrive on scene, and it takes quite some time of just sitting back a bit, settling in (without touching the reef!) and watching without moving before the animals will again go about their business. It can be difficult to capture images or video of the behavior as fish being cleaned are in a vulnerable position, and are usually very skittish when approached.

It is an amazing display of cooperation — the critters that come in to be cleaned hover quietly, then open their mouths and their gills. The little striped cleaner wrasse dart in and around, pecking off small parasites that might otherwise adversely affect the health of the animal, and at the same time, they are getting a snack. The larger animals could easily swallow the little fishes — but they don’t — the little fish are given immunity from being consumed so that they can live on to clean another day.

Grouper Grand Cayman Underwater Photo Cleaner Fish

Judy G

Grand Cayman Grouper

The groupers in Grand Cayman were unusual — many of them did not seem to mind divers in their faces, and carried on with their cleaning routines, even as I took a series of photos. This guy is getting the works — numerous small cleaner fish are busy on him — in mouth, gills, around eyes, and cleaning his skin.

Eel Underwater Photo Cleaner Fish

Judy G

Thailand Eel

I more often see eels being cleaned by shrimp, as eels tend to like to hang out in holes and crevices — which is where the cleaner shrimp tend to congregate.

Puffer Fish Underwater Photo Cleaner Fish

Judy G

Bucky and the Cleaning Crew

This was a little unusual — I haven’t often seen these little yellow fish in cleaning mode, but this puffer fish was clearly getting cleaned by this little fish when I came across them.

Cleaner shrimp tend to inhabit little divots or crevices in the reef, where animals wanting to be cleaned drop by for a session. As you will see in some of the photos in this gallery, these little shrimps are also very obliging about cleaning the nails, and teeth (!!!) of divers, when presented nicely to them. You’ll note that in a couple of my images, the divers have their regulators out of their mouths. These are very experienced divers who are comfortable with this. Please use caution when attempting to entice shrimps into a dental hygiene appointment — you’ll need to feel okay about letting little creepy crawlies roam around in your mouth, and possibly have to spit them out to replace your regulator!

Diver Manicure Underwater Photo Cleaner Shrimp

Judy G

Bali Manicure

This is my oldest daughter getting her nails done on a cleaning station near the Liberty Wreck, in Tulamben, Bali. Our dive guide had told us about this spot before the dive, and planned to take us to check it out. Once the kids saw him getting nails and teeth cleaned, they were all over it.

Cleaner Fish Underwater Photo in Mouth Person

Judy G

Dental Hygiene in Bali

This is the same cleaning station as I mentioned above, near the Liberty Wreck. I love how this little fish is peeking out of my kid’s mouth. She thought this was great fun. I was happy to take the pictures and leave the bugs in mouth thing to them ;^).

Diver Underwater Photo Cleaner Shrimp

Judy G

Sam’s Session

This is a an image of a crew member from the N’aia liveaboard in Fiji offering up his pearly whites to the shrimps for a little touch up. He knew where this cleaning station was on the site we were diving, and suggested before the dive that we set up this shot.

I’ve seen also butterfly fish actively cleaning other animals — mostly the shells of turtles, and, at the mother of all cleaning stations at a famous dives site called Alycone in Costa Rica’s Cocos Islands, swarms of butterfly fish clean the legions of hammerhead sharks that migrate there at certain times of the year, and that come in out of the blue to the top of the (deep) reef to be de-loused. It’s thrilling to witness.

Hammerhead Sharks Underwater Photo Costa Rica With Cleaning Fish

Judy G

The Mother of All Cleaning Stations

This was taken at Alcyone Seamount, off of Cocos Island, in Costa Rica. This infamous site is a huge cleaning station for the swarms of hammerhead sharks that migrate to this part of the world at a certain time of the year. The sharks come in from the blue to be cleaned by the butterfly fish that hover above the reef waiting for them. This is exhilarating, deep diving.

Judy G is a traveling underwater photographer. Check out her blog HERE and follow her on Facebook: Judy G Diver

Going to the Cleaners: Diving the World’s Best Cleaning Stations Read More »

LOOK: Underwater Wonderland for Divers in Italy

Franco Banfi

Green algae blankets the bottom of the Cornino Lake in Italy, and the clear water makes it excellent for underwater photography. To get the shot I used a Canon EOS 5D camera set at f/8, 1/125 sec and ISO 160 with…

LOOK: Underwater Wonderland for Divers in Italy Read More »

LOOK: Underwater Wonderland for Divers in Italy

Franco Banfi

Green algae blankets the bottom of the Cornino Lake in Italy, and the clear water makes it excellent for underwater photography. To get the shot I used a Canon EOS 5D camera set at f/8, 1/125 sec and ISO 160 with…

LOOK: Underwater Wonderland for Divers in Italy Read More »

Scroll to Top