6 Best Places to Scuba Dive in North and Central America

Skip Oz for Dive Spots Closer to Home

Great Barrier Reef, Australia is known as the top place to dive, but the influx of divers over the years has damaged the coral reefs. But for divers on the western side of the globe, Australia is much more expensive to reach. “The best places to go scuba diving are most often the ones with the least tourists,” says Marc Turenne, a National Aquatic Service scuba instructor in central New York. “The Great Barrier Reef is one of those places where so many divers visit that areas are drastically damaged.” You don’t have to go to Oz for cool underwater views. In fact, there are many dive locations much closer to home for divers (and beginning divers) in the Americas.

1. Swim with Sharks in Shark Ray Alley

Shark Ray Alley in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Belize, is a stretch of eight-foot deep water where you can dive and swim with nurse sharks and rays. Local fishermen used to gut their day’s catch over this area of water. Consequently, the sharks and rays built a habit of feeding on the small fish, and now stay here. “You’ll also see fluorescent-colored fish, four-foot long black groupers, and delicate sea fans,” says Holly Corbett, travel author, expert, and certified scuba enthusiast. “It’s one of the best places for marine life, and one of my favorite places to dive in Belize.”

sharkalley.jpg

2. Deep-Water Dive in The Blue Hole

The Blue Hole, also located in Belize, was created after an ancient underwater cave collapsed to form a sink hole that can be seen from outer space. It’s more than 400 feet deep and 1,000 feet across. There isn’t as much marine life, apart from a few sharks, but you can dive 130 feet down the Blue Hole to the lip of cave and then “go underneath the ledge. But you have to be careful because the depth is outside the recreational diving standard of 100 feet,” says Tia Hastings, a National Aquatic Service scuba instructor in central New York.

blueholescubadiving.jpg

3. Diverse Underwater Life in Galapagos

The Galapagos Islands in Ecuador has some of the most diverse marine life in a concentrated area. When diving the Galapagos, you’ll see everything from penguins to four-eyed fish, and iguanas to dolphins and sea lions. “We just saw it all,” says Turenne. “It was hard to believe that this whole world existed under water, and then I was there and it was incredible. Being that close to an eight foot shark or a tiny sea horse is awesome.”

galapagos sea lion.jpg

4. Freshwater Wreck Dive in Thousand Islands

Thousand Islands on the St. Lawrence river in New York is a famous U.S. dive spot and some consider it the best freshwater diving in the world. With shipwrecks at dive-able depths, the water is an attractive place to vacation for the weekend. “Thousand Islands is my favorite place to dive because the water is relatively clear, it’s affordable for those on a dive-budget, and the ship wrecks are all very different from each other,” says Turenne.

thousand-island-81225_1280.jpg

5. Great White Cage Dive in California

Thirty miles off the coast of San Francisco, the Farallon Islands are one of the best places to view Great White Sharks in the world. You can cage dive here, and you don’t have to be a certified scuba diver to do it—although you will have to undergo a crash course in safety equipment. The sharks range from 15 to 20 feet long and some of the world’s largest. Dive experts specializing in cage diving will set you up for $875.

great-white-shark-398276_1280.jpg

6. World’s Second Largest Barrier Reef

Just a flight away from America, the Caribbean offers less known dive sites. Holly Corbett was dive-certified in Thailand three and a half years ago, and has been traveling the world on dive trips ever since. One of her favorite spots is exploring off the coast of Ambergris Caye, a 25-mile long Caribbean island in Belize. At San Pedro, the island’s only town, you fill up your oxygen tanks and have prime-dive access to the world’s second largest barrier reef.

Ambergris Cayebelize-1971341_1280.jpg

4 Amazing Things to Do in London for Study Abroad Students

london-2393098_1280.jpg

Prague, Rome, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Dublin, Barcelona, Athens, Vienna.

As a young American studying abroad, the marketing of must-visit tourist destinations screams for a weekend get-away with your best friends. Travel agents thrust brochures into your hands with pictures of lavish museums, palaces, castles, night clubs, brewery tours, war monuments and cultural markets. You visit Ryan Air and Easy Jet on a daily basis. You have flight price status email alerts sent to your email…

When you settle down for several months abroad it’s easy to grab a calendar, circle your free weekends in red marker, whip out your credit card and start booking trips—especially when your home-base is a major world metropolis like London, with frequent and (relatively) reasonably priced planes, trains, buses, and ferries abroad.

london-1081820_1280.jpg

Once you figure out maps, tube stops, good restaurants, favorite museums, where to party and where to buy show tickets, you create a comfort zone. Now that I’m in the third week of my trip, this is definitely the case for me. I’m in a rhythm of London life. But, this past weekend, I learned that just by staying in London, I am traveling. I capitalized on the SU Love London weekend opportunities and checked out the city for myself. Love London is a series of events Syracuse University puts together showcasing London’s finer aspects–show tickets, bike tours, dog racing, walking tours, Broadway, historical tours, and market visits, just to name a few.

Sure, I love travel and I think adventure is a necessary staple of life. But this past weekend, to my delight, I rediscovered that travel doesn’t always mean strapping on a backpack and blowing doors… Here are four London-stand-outs that get an A+ and that I’d recommend to any college students visiting.

1. Attend the Romeo and Juliet Ballet at the Royal Opera House

We saw the Romeo and Juliet ballet performance at the Royal Opera House located a two minute walk from the Covent Garden Tube stop. I’ve seen the play several times before, and like most ninth graders in America, I read and analyzed Shakespeare’s text thinking I was all intelligent…and stuff. I had never seen a ballet before so when the thick gold tassels pulled back the large maroon velvet curtains, I really didn’t know what to expect. The costumes were intricate and lavish—a swirling array of dancers told the story of two doomed lovers without speaking a single word. The musical notes soared from the Orchestra pit to my seat on the top level, kissing the white and blue decorated ceiling and plummeting back down through the five tiers of viewers. In the final scene where Juliet and Romeo die, the audience was stone-silent. I don’t think anyone breathed in that moment. The dancers came out for the curtain call to thunderous applause. As a writer who uses words to communicate, the fact that dancers could use their bodies and facial expressions to physically show an entire story brought my respect for the art of communication to a whole new level. If you ever visit London, see a ballet.

TRAVEL TIP: Dress up! We all wore dresses just for fun thinking it’d be a great night out, but when we arrived to the Royal Opera House, everyone else was decked out too. I cringe to think about the looks we’d get if we showed up in jeans…

romeoandjulietballet.jpg

2. Don’t Miss the Billy Elliot Musical on Broadway

We saw the Billy Elliot Musical on Broadway at the Victoria Palace Theater across the street from the Victoria Tube stop. The show was entirely different than a ballet, and I highly recommend all London visitors to see at least one Broadway while they’re in town. The young boy who played Billy was no older than 12 or 13 but his dancing and singing was singularly the best. There was one point where he jumped on top of a piano and front-flipped to the ground. Each number was a combination of ballet, tap, jazz, and show dance and each song was delightfully choreographed with energy. Even if you don’t like theater or musical theater, it’s worth going to get an inside glance of the theater itself.

TRAVEL TIP: You can take pictures of the theater before the show starts so bring your camera. It’s beautiful inside.

theater-105574_1280.jpg

3. Check Out London By Bike

Syracuse set up a guided bike tour around London, and even though we went on streets with regular traffic and crossed the main bridges, there were no casualties or accidents. I was terrified of riding in crazy London and there was one point when a huge double-decker bus glided past us on the bridge, but it showed me how easy city riding actually is. If I lived here permanently, I’d definitely purchase a bike. We met down at a wharf across the river early Saturday morning and visited much of the city: Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, St. James Park, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, Covent Garden, and several memorials. Along the way, our guide would stop and talk about each place, putting everything into historical context. When we rolled into the bike rental shop three hours later, we were all sad to say goodbye to our bikes. We left with a much better visual map of London in our heads and a new confidence to explore London. I mean, hey, if we can survive London on bikes, we can do anything. 

TRAVEL TIP: Bring gloves — if it’s not summer, your hands freeze.

londonbikes.jpg

4. Tour the Tower of London

I’ve been here a few times before, but Syracuse set up its own privately guided tour with a professor who knows absolutely everything. He gave us an architecture-historical tour of the tower, (much different from the Beefeaters–Queen’s guard–who tell you who killed who and who slept with whom). We saw the crown jewels (a London-must) and we learned about both the exterior and interior of the tower. It’s worth a visit when you’re in London and definitely get a guided tour so you know what you are looking at. 

TRAVEL TIP: Dress warmly–most Tower buildings aren’t heated.

toweroflondonbridge.jpg