My first dive was during a family trip to Phuket, Thailand, in 2015. I fell in love with the surrealness of breathing underwater while surrounded by marine life, but I knew almost nothing about the craft.
Four years later, I discovered the Facebook group “Girls that Scuba,” a place where I could connect with other female divers. Through the help and recommendations from other members, I finally completed my open water diver certification.
Girls that Scuba is more than just a social media group, though — it is the world’s largest female dive community, with nearly 50,000 members. Founded by British dive master Sarah Richard in 2016, the group was created to help bridge the gender gap in the professional diving industry.
Throughout the pandemic, members have shared experiences on dives and offered support through a time when diving has become difficult. So we asked Girls that Scuba members to share their favorite dives before and during the pandemic and where they can’t wait to return.
Based in: Sydney; Years of experience: 5
When thinking about diving in Australia, what first come to mind are the clear, warm, tropical waters of the Great Barrier Reef. Unfortunately, because of travel restrictions during the pandemic, exploring the vibrant reefs that are home to Nemo are out of the question. With the easing of restrictions, I have been fortunate to explore some of the dive sites in the lesser-known Great Southern Reef.
I have recently spent some time diving around Bass Point in Shellharbour. There are a number of small dive sites around the reserve that showcase the beauty of the cool-water temperate reefs. From small pygmy pipehorses to gentle grey nurse sharks, the southern reef is truly a biodiversity hot spot.
Jennifer Hui Cheung
Based in: California; Years of experience: 5
My love for Indonesia ignited in 2016 when I first decided to dive Komodo National Park after learning that the island country is in the heart of the Coral Triangle. The region covers 1.6 percent of the ocean but has 76 percent of the world’s known coral species and 37 percent of the world’s reef fish.
From the tiniest frogfish to the largest manta, Indonesia has it all. It’s an underwater photographer’s dream. The jaw-dropping color, density and variety of fish life as well as the healthy hard and soft coral make it incredibly difficult to end each dive; I never want to come up.
Jolanda de Hooge
Based in: Amsterdam; Years of experience: 27
If it weren’t for covid-19, I would have been diving at Bonaire in the Caribbean. Now, staying home in the Netherlands, I’ve rediscovered diving in the sweet lake near the village of Vinkeveen, close to Amsterdam. It is colder and a much greener underwater world than the tropical areas, but full of pikes, little lobsters and perches. It’s my favorite close-to-home dive spot.
Based in: Florida; Years of experience: 5
The Bahamas’ crystal-clear water, full of graceful, beautiful sharks and stingrays, was an eternal highlight. Less than a mile off the coast, in about 30 feet of water, we knelt on the sandy white ocean floor with regulators in our mouths as we rhythmically breathed, preparing to see the most majestic creatures we had ever seen.
Within minutes, our hearts began to race as we witnessed three great hammerheads swimming around and over us with ease, followed by tiger, bull and nurse sharks. Closer to shore, we had many close encounters with southern stingrays. Bimini, Bahamas, is a place to which my wife, and I will definitely return once the threat of covid-19 is no longer an issue.
Based in: North Carolina; Years of experience: 3
I first traveled to Bonaire, nicknamed “Diver’s Paradise,” in February 2019 as my first week-long dive trip, and I immediately fell in love with the island. It’s easily drivable from one end to the other and is known for its extensive list of shore diving sites, which allowed me the freedom to dive as much as I wanted each day. I couldn’t believe how vibrant and lively the coral reefs were. Each dive was marked by thousands of colorful fish and corals and occasionally other residents, including squids, sea turtles, eels, sea horses and octopuses.
Based in: California; Years of experience: 2
I was lucky enough to dive in Mexico, the Red Sea, Cocos Island, Iceland and Canada before the pandemic, but I’ve found that the kelp forests along California’s coastline are what really hold endless fascination for me. These ecosystems are home to thousands of amazing species including abalone, sea otters, ocean sunfish (mola mola) and great white sharks. Many people fear these sites because of cold-water temperatures, but in my opinion, the opportunity to see and interact with this wildlife is well worth the additional effort and gear, especially while worldwide shutdowns have limited travel.
Based in: California; Years of experience: 6
As a macro enthusiast, I was pleasantly surprised by all the fun small stuff to find. Each dive is like a treasure hunt — sea slugs, blennies, arrowhead crabs, countless types of fish, anemones, lobsters and octopuses. Some people enjoy the slow pace, while others preferred currents and larger animals. I enjoy seeing big things too, and on my second day diving, I got my fill of sea lions. Definitely a bucket list item; they are incredibly inquisitive and feisty.
Based in: Limassol, Cyprus; Years of experience: 12
Cyprus, as well as the whole of the Mediterranean Sea, is overfished. This is why Nemesis Wreck in Protaras is a very pleasant surprise. It is a wreck sunk in December 2013 in a government attempt to create an artificial reef. It is full of fish, colorful nudibranch and amazing sea sponges often visited by turtles, rays and squid. Diving the wreck gives you a hope for the Mediterranean Sea.
Based in: Munich; Years of experience: 1.5
I lived and worked in El Nido, Philippines, for five months. I totally fell in love with all macro life (most favorites are nudibranches). The current there is not strong, so it is perfect for taking an underwater camera with you and checking out the corals, turtles, octopus, cuttlefish and schools of yellow snappers.
Based in: California; Years of experience: 2
The kelp forest ecosystem [in the Coronado Islands in Mexico] is full of life from the sea bed to the ocean surface. There are colorful sea slugs (nudibranches), octopuses, rockfish and small sharks hidden in the kelp of the sea floor. The larger animals, like sevengill sharks, giant black sea bass, sea turtles, bat rays, sea lions and harbor seals can be found swimming through the higher levels of the kelp forest. I have been lucky enough to regularly dive in it in San Diego, once the shelter-in-place orders were lifted.
Based in: Oregon; Years of experience: 12
While diving in Antarctica, I’m often navigating uncharted sites — seeing things that few humans may have ever seen before. The excitement of discovery in one of Earth’s most remote and hostile environments makes Antarctica my favorite place to dive; I feel like an explorer.
Diving among massive icebergs and in water that is below the freezing point can be intense. It requires both physical and mental strength. Though polar expedition diving is more challenging and extreme than standard resort diving, it’s the drive to overcome these challenges and the possibility of seeing rare wildlife that keeps me coming back for more.