The Best Wreck Diving in 2024 – Shipwrecks and dive sites you should not miss

By Julius
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Shipwreck on its side underwater

Wreck diving is fun, mysterious, and smells of adventure, and every scuba diver will tell you it’s one of the things everybody loves!

From the lowliest fishing cutter to the mightiest sunken warships, there is a plethora to explore underwater.

Here are the 10 best wreck dive sites in the world in 2024:

1 SS Thistlegorm, Red Sea, Egypt

In short: This British cargo ship, sunk in 1941, is renowned for its motorcycles, trucks, and wartime cargo.

The SS Thistlegorm in Egypt is the most famous wreck dive in the world and should be on every diver’s bucket list. Sunk in World War by a German submarine missile, this wreck offers something for all levels of divers.

Beginner divers can dive on and around the wreck and enjoy the great ship, as well as a multitude of trucks and debris around.

Advanced and technical divers can go on to penetrate the inside of the wreck which is one of the best diving experiences you will ever have.

Check out the Thistlegorm Project with super cool 3D models and a history on the famous wreck!

Getting to the Thistlegorm is easy, and many dive centers and boats go there every dive. Diving starts at around €50 per dive, making this the most affordable dive site on this list.

Oh, and don’t forget your underwater camera because you will need it!

Why it’s on the list: The SS Thistlegorm stands as a snapshot in time, its cargo holds presenting lots of supplies used during WWII. The clear waters of the Red Sea and the sheer variety of military cargo — from trucks and motorcycles to boots and rifles — make it an unparalleled underwater museum.

Diving Conditions: Depths range from 16-32 meters. The visibility is excellent, but currents can be strong.

Look out for: The locomotives, anti-aircraft guns, and the captain’s safe.

Itinerary Tip: Combine with dives at the nearby Ras Mohammed National Park.

Diving facts SS Thistlegorm, Red Sea, Egypt

Diving SeasonYear-round
Best time to diveMay – November
What to seeOnly the best wreck dive in the world
Water Temperature18-28°C (65-82°F)
Best forWreck diving
DifficultyIntermediate to advanced mainly due to the depth and currents. While the shallow parts of the wreck can be explored by novices, the currents and penetration dives require a higher level of skill.
Diving facts SS Thistlegorm, Egypt.

2 USAT Liberty, Bali, Indonesia

In short: A World War II cargo ship torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in 1942. In 1963, a volcanic eruption moved the ship back into the water, where it became an artificial reef.

Regarded as one of the most approachable wrecks around, the USAT Liberty’s pinnacle is a mere 3m (10 ft) underwater, inviting not just divers but snorkelers as well.

This vessel began its journey as an American military ship, braving the waters of WWI and later being deployed in WWII. In 1942, Japanese forces struck it near Bali’s coastline. In a saving attempt, the captain ran it aground, where it became a rusted spectacle for three decades.

By chance (or the will or Poseidon himself 😉), in 1963, a volcanic outburst relocated the ship to nearby shallows. Its lowest point is about 28m/95ft deep, spanning an impressive length of 120m/390 feet. While seasoned divers can enjoy intricate swim-throughs and explore the deeper parts, inexperienced divers can enjoy its higher terrains.

With a fascinating history, diverse marine life, and various diving challenges, the USAT Liberty is an excellent gateway to wreck diving!

Why it’s on the list: The USAT Liberty boasts a unique combination of history, ease of access, and biodiversity. Its location just off the beach means divers can shore dive to the wreck and enjoy an array of marine life. Coral formations on the hull enhance its beauty even more, making it a photographer’s dream.

Diving Conditions: Located just off the shore, depths range from 5-30 meters. Suitable for all levels.

Look out for: Schools of sweetlips and coral-covered guns.

Itinerary Tip: Pair with a visit to the nearby Amed Wall and Coral Garden.

3 SS President Coolidge, Vanuatu

In short: Once a luxury liner, later a troopship, that sank near Port Vila in 1942 and is now regarded as the largest accessible wreck in the world.

The SS President Coolidge is gigantic(!) and currently regarded as the largest most accessible wreck dive in the world. Moreover, it also holds the status of “tentative” of the Unesco World Heritage List. 199m/653 ft await divers and are a truly astonishing site!

Initially crafted as a lavish cruise ship, the SS President Coolidge was repurposed as a troopship during the Second World War.

Tragically, in 1942, due to an oversight in communicating safe entry routes, she was struck by friendly mines. Luckily, the captain managed to ground the ship, ensuring the survival of almost everyone on board except for two sailors.

Now, this historical marvel rests at depths ranging from 20-70m/65 – 230 ft and has been designated as a nationally preserved dive spot. Divers venturing in Vanuatu’s waters can traverse its multiple decks and compartments, discovering artifacts like firearms, cannons, vehicles, and “The Lady” a lingering symbol of the ship’s once-grand stature.

Why it’s on the list: As one of the largest accessible wrecks to divers, President Coolidge provides a myriad of exploration opportunities. From personal belongings to military equipment, the preserved artifacts tell a poignant story of wartime. The “Lady and the Unicorn” mosaic alone is worth the dive.

Diving Conditions: Depth ranges from 20-70 meters. It’s a deep and technical dive.

Itinerary Tip: Multiple dives are needed to fully explore the vast wreck.

Look out for: The iconic “The Lady” mosaic and the holds full of military equipment.

4 Fujikawa Maru, Truk Lagoon, Micronesia

In short: An armed Japanese aircraft transport ship at one of the premier wreck diving areas in the world.

During the Second World War, Chuuk (Truk) Lagoon, with its naturally protective features, served as the primary hub for the Japanese naval forces. Given its strategic importance, it’s unsurprising that Allied powers targeted and bombarded this area in 1944.

This intense assault resulted in the sinking of 12 military vessels, and 32 trade ships, and the downing of 275 planes. While itself a tragic event, Chuuk Lagoon has become the de facto center of wreck diving in the world and should definitely be on your bucket list!

Among the 60 wrecks that have since been discovered, the Fujikawa Maru stands out for its accessibility. Resting in shallow depths of about 9m / 30ft, the ferry is easy for divers to explore. Within its confines, one can encounter a range of relics, from aircraft to various munitions.

Chuuk Lagoon is always worth a trip so don’t miss out on this one!

Why it’s on the list: Truk Lagoon is a wreck diver’s paradise, and Fujikawa Maru is its crown jewel. The well-preserved aircrafts within the cargo hold, combined with an astounding history, offer divers an unparalleled glimpse into WWII’s Pacific theater.

Diving Conditions: Depths range from 5-34m with clear waters.

Itinerary Tip: Truk Lagoon has a plethora of wrecks, so plan for a multi-day dive package.

Look out for: The intact Mitsubishi fighter planes in the cargo hold.

5 SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm – Scapa Flow, Scotland

In short: Sunk in 1919 as part of the German Royal Navy fleet, Scapa Flow’s crown jewel is one of the most impressive warship dive sites on the planet.

Deemed one of the standout wreck dive spots in the chilly waters of Northern Europe – and part of our top 10 dive sites in Europe – the SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm resides in Scapa Flow, Scotland.

It’s also one of my personal favorite dive sites in the world!

Originally a German battleship from World War I, this vessel was scuttled by its crew in 1919 following the Treaty of Versailles. Now, the ship lies almost intact at a depth ranging from 12m/40 ft at its shallowest to 39m/128 ft at its deepest point.

The temperate waters and the passage of time have rendered the SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm a fascinating underwater museum.

Divers, while exploring, can spot well-preserved gun turrets, massive propellers, and the superstructure. Due to the chilly water conditions and the intricate maze-like structure of the ship, diving the SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm is recommended for advanced divers only.

And yes, you will need a drysuit!

You can also check out a 3D model of the ship.

Why It’s On The List: The SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm is not just another submerged piece of metal; it’s a floating chapter from the annals of World War I. Its history and the manner in which it met its resting place have turned it into an attraction for divers around the world.

The relatively intact condition of this German battleship offers an unparalleled opportunity for divers to walk through a moment frozen in time. Its unique location in Scapa Flow, combined with its captivating history, cements its place among the top wreck dive sites in the world.

Diving Conditions: Scapa Flow’s waters are cold, with temperatures averaging between 4°C in winter to a modest 14°C in summer. Visibility can vary, but it often extends from 10 to 15 meters, providing a clear view of the wrecks. The area is sheltered, reducing the impact of currents, but it’s essential to be prepared for the colder temperatures with appropriate diving gear.

Itinerary Tip: For a comprehensive dive experience, consider a liveaboard trip that covers multiple wrecks in Scapa Flow. This allows for multiple dives on the SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm, as well as an exploration of its sister ships and other notable wrecks in the region.

Look Out For: While the ship itself is amazing, divers should keep an eye out for the marine life that has claimed this wreck as home. The cold waters have led to the growth of spectacular anemones, soft corals, and sponges on the ship’s structure. Additionally, schools of fish, especially pollack and wrasse, are common sights. The ship’s gun turrets, propellers, and superstructure remain largely intact and are key points of interest during the dive.

6 MS Zenobia, Cyprus

In short: A roll-on/roll-off ferry that sank on her maiden voyage in 1980 that’s now Europe’s most famous wreck dive site.

The MS Zenobia is not only one of the largest shipwrecks on this list but also one of the youngest.

The Swedish ferry capsized in 1980 and has since been open to scuba divers of all levels.

For Open Water Divers, the starboard side at 16 meters is a great starting point for a wreck diving career. Advanced divers can go deep diving to the upper car deck at depths of up to 42 meters.

Beyond the articulated lorries and the massive propellers, the Zenobia has become a thriving marine ecosystem. Divers can spot groupers, barracudas, and even the occasional turtle. The clear waters also allow for captivating light play within the wreck’s interiors.

Given the wreck’s vastness, there are countless points of interest, from the captain’s bridge to the cargo decks laden with trucks. And there are lots of them. Over 100, as a matter of fact!

The chains at the bow and the eerie cafeteria are some of the highlights not to be missed.

Its location close to the shore, its size (approximately 178 meters long), and the vast amount of cargo still aboard make it a fascinating and unique dive site. The Zenobia’s impressive state of preservation, combined with its tragic yet captivating backstory, ensures its place among top-tier wreck dive sites.

Why it’s on the list: Found on pretty much every top 10 wreck dives globally list, the Zenobia’s massive scale and its cargo of over 100 trucks make it a spectacular dive. It’s very accessible which means you will find plenty of operators for tours.

Diving Conditions: The waters surrounding Cyprus are known for their warmth and clarity. Diving the Zenobia, divers can expect temperatures ranging from 16°C in winter to a balmy 27°C in summer. The visibility is often exceptional, sometimes exceeding 40 meters. The wreck itself lies between depths of 16 meters at the top, descending to around 42 meters at the seabed, catering to both recreational divers and technical divers.

Itinerary Tip: The proximity of the Zenobia to Larnaca makes it accessible for both shore and boat dives. For a complete experience, opt for a two-dive day trip – first exploring the outer parts of the wreck and then venturing into the more intricate inner sections. For those looking to explore the deeper parts or penetrate the wreck, AOWD and wreck diving certification and experience are recommended.

We also recommend some add-on dives to nearby amphorae sites.

Look out for: The 100+ trucks that went down with the ship.

7 SS Yongala, Queensland, Australia

In short: A passenger ship hit by a cyclone in 1911 that’s since become one of the best wreck dive sites in the Southern Hemisphere.

Often regarded as the premier wreck dive site in the Southern Hemisphere, the SS Yongala off Australia’s coast met its tragic fate in a 1911 cyclone, claiming the lives of all 124 passengers and crew.

Presently, the peak of this freight and passenger vessel sits at a relatively shallow 16m / 52 ft, while its deepest section reaches 33m / 108 ft.

To preserve the impressive state of the ship’s structure, divers are prohibited from accessing its interior. This measure minimizes the potential damage caused by air bubbles on the submerged vessel.

Even then, the SS Yongala should be on your wreck diving bucket list!

Why it’s on the list: The SS Yongala is an iconic dive site because of its history and abundant marine life. Being a century-old maritime mystery and serving as a hub for diverse marine species, it offers divers both historical and natural wonders.

Diving Conditions: Depths of 15-30 meters with potential for strong currents.

Itinerary Tip: Extend your stay with a visit to the Great Barrier Reef.

Look out for: Abundant marine life including bull sharks, sea snakes, and turtles.

8 Bianca C, Grenada, Caribbean

In short: Known as the “Titanic of the Caribbean,” this luxury liner sank after an explosion in 1961 after it had already be torpedoed in 1944.

If you think sinking once is bad, then you should check out this ship that did it twice! In 1944 it fell victim to a torpedo while being towed. However, it was later salvaged, given a new identity, and finally set sail two years afterward as a cruise liner.

In 1961, the Bianca C met its final fate off Grenada’s coast when a fire engulfed it. Luckily, there were only two lost among the 673 people on board.

Now, the magnificent 180m / 590 ft relic rests between depths of 30 to 50m / 100 to 164 ft, perfectly positioned between a coral ecosystem and the vast expanse of the ocean.

This offers divers the unique chance to experience both reef environments and encounters with open-ocean species.

Typical dive excursions often lead to the ship’s swimming pool, situated at 38 meters, and continue towards the ship’s front, culminating at the tip of the bow at 30 meters.

If you ever go diving in the Caribbean, the Bianca C is well worth a visit!

Why it’s on the list: The enormity of the “Titanic of the Caribbean” combined with its unique artifacts, like the swimming pool and grand staircase, make the Bianca C an exceptional dive. The backdrop of Grenada’s pristine waters completes the experience.

Diving Conditions: Depths of 30-50 meters, with visibility up to 30 meters.

Itinerary Tip: Combine with dives to Grenada’s underwater sculpture park.

Look out for: The grand staircase and the swimming pool.

9 Hirokawa Maru (Bonegi 1), Solomon Islands

In short: A silent witness to World War II’s Pacific skirmishes, the Hirokawa Maru in the Solomon Islands offers divers a window into wartime history.

The Hirokawa Maru, often known by divers as Bonegi 1 (with Bonegi 2 being its nearby sister wreck, the Kinugawa Maru), carries with it a haunting legacy from World War II.

In 1942, amidst the fierce conflict in the Pacific, this Japanese transport ship came under aerial attack from Allied forces and was intentionally beached on Guadalcanal’s shores in the Solomon Islands to prevent it from sinking.

Now, the Hirokawa Maru rests submerged just a few meters from the beach, its vast 156m / 508 ft length spanning depths from the shallow shoreline down to approximately 55 m / 180 ft.

This proximity to the shore makes it an accessible dive even for the less experienced, while its deeper sections lure in advanced divers with its dark secrets and intricate compartments. When you traverse the expansive decks and penetrate the cargo holds, you’ll inevitably find many remnants of the past — from military equipment to personal artifacts.

Encrusted with coral and bustling with marine life, the Hirokawa Maru serves as both a living testament to the war’s history and a thriving underwater sanctuary teeming with biodiversity.

Why It’s On The List: The Hirokawa Maru holds a significant place among wreck diving sites for its combination of historical significance, marine biodiversity, and accessibility. While many wreck sites are remnants of warfare or maritime mishaps, few offer such a compelling narrative combined with a dynamic underwater environment as this Japanese transport ship.

Its expansive size and array of artifacts – from wartime cargo to personal items – provide a vivid snapshot of its time, making it a top draw for history buffs and marine enthusiasts alike!

Diving Conditions: The tropical waters around the Solomon Islands remain relatively consistent in terms of temperature, averaging between 26°C to 29°C year-round. Visibility is generally good, often ranging between 20 to 30 meters, though it can vary depending on weather conditions.

The upper sections of the Hirokawa Maru are shallow and suitable for all levels, but its depths can be challenging and are recommended for advanced divers.

Itinerary Tip: Starting the dive from the beach, beginners can explore the shallower parts, while those with more experience can dive deeper into the ship’s recesses. Due to its size, it’s advisable to plan multiple dives to truly experience all the Hirokawa Maru has to offer.

Pairing a morning dive here with an afternoon dive at the nearby Kinugawa Maru (Bonegi 2) is our suggestion!

Look Out For: Marine life has reclaimed the Hirokawa Maru, making it a biodiverse hotspot. You can see an assortment of tropical fish, including parrotfish, batfish, and barracuda.

The wreck is also adorned with a variety of corals and sponges, offering an array of colors and textures against the rusting metal. The nooks and crannies of the ship are often home to macro critters like nudibranchs and shrimp. While exploring, keep an eye out for personal artifacts and wartime relics, each telling silent stories of the ship’s vibrant past.

10 USS Oriskany, Florida, USA

In short: An aircraft carrier intentionally sunk in 2006 to become an artificial reef.

Heralded as the “Great Carrier Reef” the USS Oriskany and its surroundings off the coast of Pensacola, Florida is the world’s largest artificial reef. This retired aircraft carrier, intentionally sunk in 2006, stretches from about 24m/ 80 ft to deeper sections at 65m / 212 ft, beckoning divers with its mammoth size and rich marine life.

The total length of the wreck is a staggering 271m (888 ft)!

Dubbed the “Mighty O” the USS Oriskany is an Essex-class aircraft carrier with a storied past. Commissioned in 1950, the carrier participated in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars before being decommissioned in 1976.

She also holds the distinction of being the first ship where naval aviators learned to operate jet aircraft under wartime conditions.

Why it’s on the list: The Oriskany is not just a wreck; it’s an artificial reef teeming with life. The sheer size of this aircraft carrier and its reputation as “The Great Carrier Reef” due to its flourishing marine ecosystem make it a must-visit.

Few dive sites meld history, scale, and marine conservation like the USS Oriskany. Its sheer size is awe-inspiring, providing a colossal canvas for marine life to thrive upon.

Additionally, its past as a distinguished war vessel gives every dive with a sense of reverence. The intentional sinking to create an artificial reef showcases a forward-thinking approach to marine conservation, giving the ship a post-service purpose and adding an environmental dimension to its appeal.

Diving Conditions: Depths range from 24-64 meters. Visibility varies but can be more than 30 meters.

Florida’s Gulf waters offer temperate diving conditions. Temperatures fluctuate between 18°C in winter months to about 30°C in the summer. The visibility around the USS Oriskany varies, ranging from 15 to 45 meters, with the best visibility generally from April to September. The carrier’s flight deck begins at around 41 m / 135 ft, with its towering superstructure reaching shallower depths, making it suitable for intermediate to advanced divers.

Itinerary Tip: Given the vastness of the USS Oriskany, divers should prioritize sections of interest. Many opt to start with the easily accessible “Island,” or superstructure, on initial dives, moving on to explore the flight deck and hangar bays in subsequent dives. If you’re in the region for a few days, consider combining your Oriskany dives with other local sites like the Joe Patti Reef or the Russian freighter San Pablo for a varied diving experience.

The Florida Panhandle has several other notable wreck sites so be sure to visit them, too.

Look out for: The myriad of fish species that have colonized the wreck.

As a thriving artificial reef, the USS Oriskany is bustling with marine life. Large species like barracuda, amberjacks, and goliath groupers are common sights. Soft and hard corals have started to colonize the ship’s structure, and divers might also spot eagle rays gliding gracefully in the surrounding waters.

The ship itself, with its aircraft elevators, anti-aircraft guns, and radar dishes, offers endless exploration opportunities, making every dive a unique experience.

Bonus: Rainbow Warrior, New Zealand

In short: Sunk by French secret agents in 1985, this Greenpeace ship now rests in Matauri Bay.

The Rainbow Warrior, a Greenpeace flagship, holds a unique place not only in maritime history but in the annals of environmental activism.

In 1985, in a controversial episode that shook the world, the vessel was bombed by French secret agents in Auckland’s harbor due to its campaigns against nuclear testing in the Pacific. The attack claimed the life of one crew member.

Today, this iconic 40m / 131 ft ship lies gracefully at a depth of 20m / 66 ft near New Zealand’s Cavalli Islands, transformed into a thriving marine habitat. The waters that once bore witness to its tragic end now teem with life, from vibrant corals to schools of snapper.

You can explore the sunlit decks, navigate the cabins, and marvel at the kaleidoscopic marine life enveloping the vessel. Every dive here not only offers a mesmerizing underwater spectacle but also a poignant reminder of the Warrior’s legacy and sacrifice for environmental conservation.

Why it’s on the list: Beyond its diving allure, the Rainbow Warrior stands as a symbol of environmental activism. Its rich history of espionage and activism combined with the marine life it attracts today make it an inspirational dive.

Diving Conditions: Depths of 12-27 meters, suitable for beginners to intermediates.

Itinerary Tip: North Island has other dive gems like the Poor Knights Islands.

Look out for: The propeller and the rich kelp forests around the wreck.

Why go wreck diving?

Wreck diving is one of the most exciting parts of scuba diving that allows adventurers to explore submerged pieces of history. From sunken warships to passenger liners, these sites provide divers with both a history lesson and an underwater spectacle.

Wreck diving offers a unique blend of history and marine exploration. The sunken vessels serve as a window into bygone eras, encapsulating tales of maritime adventures, legendary battles, and human endeavors. Besides the historical intrigue, these submerged structures have transformed into thriving marine habitats, creating a dynamic juxtaposition of the past and the present.

While most shipwrecks have sunk due to technical failures or attacks, there are even some that were created as artificial reefs. Among them the USS Orikanay in Florida, USA, and the Corveta Alfonso on Madeira.

Each of the sites on our list offers unique challenges and experiences. Always ensure you are equipped and trained for the specific conditions of each dive. Safe diving!

Is Wreck Diving dangerous?

When done with proper precautions and good diving skills, wreck diving is not dangerous. However, some aspects like going inside ship wrecks or diving at great depths or difficult environments can increase the risk associated with it.

While the idea of exploring a sunken ship may evoke a sense of adventure, it’s crucial to recognize and understand the inherent risks involved.

Enclosed environments, potential snares from old machinery or structures, and unpredictable currents can present challenges.

However, with the right training, equipment, and caution, wreck diving can be a safe and rewarding pursuit. The key is to be prepared, respect the environment, and always prioritize safety!

Tips and Tricks for Wreck Diving:

Know Before You Go: Always research a wreck before diving. Knowing its history can add layers of appreciation and understanding to your dive.

Buddy Up: Diving with a partner isn’t just more fun; it’s safer, especially when exploring the unknown territories of a wreck.

Touch With Your Eyes: Tempting as it may be to take a souvenir, remember that wrecks are historical sites and often graves! It’s best to preserve the site for future divers and respect those for whom the ship was their final resting place.

Be Gear-Prepared: Wreck diving can be gear-intensive. Apart from your standard kit, consider carrying a dive torch (essential for peering into dark corners), a reel and line (for marking routes), and a knife or cutting tool for safety.

Brush Up on Skills: If wrecks truly captivate you, consider taking a specialized wreck diving course. It’ll not only make your dives safer but also a lot more fulfilling.

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About the author

Hey! I'm Julius, professional scuba instructor, diver, outdoor lover, entrepreneur and CEO and founder of Social Diving. I write about scuba diving (including tech, cave, sidemount, and freediving), travel, and love what I do. If you have any questions, send me a message. :-)

©2024 Social Diving. All rights reserved. The content presented here is the exclusive property of Social Diving and may not be copied or distributed, in whole or in part, without the express permission of Social Diving.

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