The Ultimate Scuba Diving Bucket List 2024: Experiences of a Lifetime

By Julius
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Scuba diver with fish underwater

Are you creating your own ultimate scuba diving bucket list and need inspiration?

There are thousands of dive sites in hundreds of places around the world and it would take a lifetime to see them all. Since most of us don’t have that much time, here are the best diving experiences we think every diver should make at least once in their life.

From amazing marine life to breathtaking underwater scenery, and hidden treasures underwater, we’ve got it all.

These are not necessarily the best dive spots per se, but experiences you should make at least once as a diver. If you want those, hop over to our list of the best dive sites in the world!

In some cases, like Cave Diving, we could have selected a variety of different places but had to make a choice.

Here is our ultimate scuba diving bucket list 2024 in no particular order:

1. Take A Liveaboard Dive Trip

All Star Aurora liveaboard
Every diver needs to do a liveaboard safari at least once!

Why It’s on the List:

Liveaboard diving is awesome!

In essence, it’s eat – dive – sleep – repeat for a week straight.

Diving from a liveaboard means you can reach remote and often untouched sites that are inaccessible on day trips. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to form a tight-knit diving community onboard, sharing experiences and learning from fellow enthusiasts.

Dive Details:

Liveaboard options abound from budget-friendly to luxurious, in places like the Maldives, Indonesia, and the Red Sea.

Trips can range from a few days to a couple of weeks. Itineraries are often intensive, including 3 to 5 dives per day, night dives, and sometimes even special activities like underwater photography seminars or wreck dives.

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2. Go Cave Diving in the Cenotes, Mexico

Scuba diver in the Cenotes
Cave Diving in the Cenotes is an amazing experience.

Why It’s on the List:

Cave diving in Mexico’s cenotes offers a surreal journey through underwater limestone formations. These freshwater sinkholes provide unique lighting effects and amazing cave systems.

The best part is that some Cenotes can be dived in even without a cave diving certification. This makes them accessible even for beginners.

Dive Details:

The most renowned cenotes are located in the Yucatán Peninsula, including the Cenote Dos Ojos and the Cenote El Pit. Cave diving certifications are often required due to the technical nature of navigating through narrow passages. Make sure to go with a certified guide familiar with the specific cenote.

3. Become a Divemaster / Dive Leader

Scuba diver hovering on back
Becoming a Divemaster will challenge you and make you a better diver.

Why It’s on the List:

Becoming a Divemaster / Dive Leader is of course not mandatory or even one single “experience”. However, it is the conclusion of a diver’s training unless they want to advance to an instructor level.

Not only is the Divemaster course a lot of fun, but it also teaches you a lot about diving, and leading a group of divers underwater, and feels like a BIG achievement!

Dive Details:

You will never forget the first time you led a diving group or mastered all the scuba skills to perfection!

You can take a Divemaster course at almost any place in the world from a scuba training agency of your choice.

Expect to learn about dive planning, emergency management, and in-depth dive physics and physiology. Once certified, you could even go on to find employment opportunities at dive centers worldwide, turning your passion into a profession.

4. Experience the Sardine Run in South Africa

Woman diving through bait ball of fish
Seeing a bait ball up close is unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

Why It’s on the List:

The Sardine Run is one of nature’s most astonishing marine events. Billions of sardines migrate along the coast of South Africa, attracting a frenzied mix of marine predators. This spectacle provides unmatched opportunities for photographers and naturalists to capture the raw beauty and chaos of nature.

Dive Details:

This natural event usually takes place between March and July every year.

Given the unpredictable nature of the Sardine Run, it’s best to book through an experienced operator. Expect high-adrenaline action with potential sightings of dolphins, sharks, and birds diving for a feast. If you’re lucky to find a massive bait ball (like the one above) you could even see whales!

5. Dive under Ice in Antarctica

Kallweit drysuit diver underwater with iceberg
Diving under ice is a cool as it sounds.

Why It’s on the List:

Ice diving in Antarctica offers the rarest of diving experiences. It’s as extreme as diving gets, surrounded by the frozen landscape above and an alien world below. Few experiences can compare to the serenity and isolation experienced while ice diving, making it a top bucket list item for serious adventurers.

Dive Details:

You’ll need specialized training in ice diving techniques and a comfort level with diving in extreme cold. The world beneath is one of eerie beauty, filled with ice formations and unique marine life. Take note that only a few operators offer this experience and the logistics require detailed planning, so start your preparations early.

The trip here is not a “relax and enjoy” kinda thing but an actual expedition. It is not uncommon to have scientists, researchers, divers, and filmmakers all on the same ship.

6. Mantas & Whales in the Socorro Islands

Scuba diver filming manta ray with gopro
Socorro Islands is frequented by many large animals.

Why It’s on the List:

Socorro Islands, often referred to as the “Mexican Galápagos,” is a bucket-list dive destination primarily because of the frequent sightings of giant mantas and humpback whales. The marine megafauna here are known for their unusually interactive behavior towards divers, offering a magical experience.

Dive Details:

The diving season for Socorro Islands is from November to May. The islands are accessible only by liveaboard, and the journey could take up to a day from the mainland.

The dive sites here are considered advanced due to strong currents and deeper dives. Given the remote location and challenging conditions, you should be experienced and comfortable in open ocean settings.

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7. Take an Amazing Underwater Photo and Frame It

Underwater photographer
Your own photo on your wall. It doesn’t get better than that.

Why It’s on the List:

Nothing immortalizes your diving adventures better than a stunning underwater photograph hanging on your wall.

Underwater photography adds a layer of complexity and creativity to your dives, challenging you to see the underwater world through a different lens—quite literally.

Dive Details:

Whether in your local dive site or an exotic location, make it a point to capture that perfect shot. Photography workshops can help you hone your skills.

Check out the best underwater cameras 2024 to make sure you’re prepared!

8. Dive between tectonic plates at Silfra, Iceland

Scuba divers in Silfra rift
The waters at Silfra are among the clearest in the world.

Why It’s on the List:

Silfra, located in Þingvellir National Park, offers the unique opportunity to dive between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. The water here is some of the clearest in the world, with visibility often exceeding 100 meters.

It’s super cold. And super cool.

Dive Details:

Drysuits are mandatory for this dive due to the cold water temperatures, and you’ll need to show proof of drysuit experience. The fissure is filled with glacier water that offers up to 100 meters of visibility, making it a photographer’s dream.

The dive site is well-maintained and strictly regulated to preserve its natural beauty, so make sure to book with a certified operator!

9. Go (UV) night diving

Anemone in UV light

Why It’s on the List:

UV night diving transforms familiar dive sites into alien landscapes. The ultraviolet lights make certain marine life fluoresce, revealing vibrant colors not visible under normal light. It’s like being in an underwater disco, surrounded by glowing corals and neon marine life.

Dive Details:

You’ll need specialized UV dive lights for this experience. Dives are offered by various dive shops around the world, often as a specialty dive. Popular destinations include Bonaire and Egypt, among others.

10. Dive inside the wreck of the SS Thistlegorm, Egypt

Why It’s on the List:

The SS Thistlegorm in the Red Sea is one of the most iconic wreck dives in the world.

It’s also on our list of the best dive sites in the world, and the best wreck dive sites, as well.

Sunk in World War II, this British merchant navy ship is a time capsule that offers a fascinating dive experience. Not only does the site have historical importance, but it also serves as an artificial reef, attracting a variety of marine life.

Dive Details:

You’ll need a wreck diving certification for this dive.

The wreck itself is huge, and multiple dives are often needed to fully explore it. It lies at a depth of about 30 meters and includes cargo like motorcycles, trucks, and artillery. Diving in the Thistlegorm is like traveling back in time, providing a fascinating glimpse into naval history while surrounded by rich marine life.

11. Dive with Great White Sharks at Guadalupe Island, Mexico

A great white shark in their natural habitat.
The biggest predator in the seas: The Great White shark.

Why It’s on the List:

For thrill-seekers, Guadalupe Island offers shark diving in a cage with one of the ocean’s top predators—Great White Sharks. It’s an adrenaline rush like no other, allowing you to come face-to-face with these incredible creatures in their natural habitat.

The experience fosters both respect and understanding, challenging the stereotype of sharks as mindless killing machines.

Dive Details:

The best time to go is between August and October when the visibility is excellent. You need to take a liveaboard trip there, as the site is super remote.

Cage diving doesn’t usually require a scuba certification, as the cages often float at the surface. However, certain operators offer submersible cages for certified divers.

12. Swim with Humpback Whales at Siver Bank – Dominican Republic

Two humpback whales underwater
Swim with some of the biggest animals in the world: Humpback whales.

Why It’s on the List:

Silver Bank, located in the shallow waters north of the Dominican Republic, is one of the few places where it’s possible to snorkel and swim with humpback whales. The whales are usually there for mating and calving, making it a unique place to witness these giants in their natural behaviors, including courtship and parenting.

Dive Details:

Snorkeling trips are typically organized from January to April, the prime humpback whale season.

Only a limited number of operators have permission to bring guests to Silver Bank, so it’s vital to book well in advance.

While it’s a snorkeling rather than a diving experience, the intimacy of being in the water with these majestic creatures makes it a must-do activity for any water enthusiast. The experience is often described as deeply emotional and spiritual, offering a unique chance to connect with these magnificent mammals.

More things to put on your scuba diving bucket list

Here are some runner-ups for must-do experiences you should not miss. Again, without any particular order:

  • Dive in an Aquarium
  • Try out Sidemount Diving
  • Make a decompression dive
  • Make a decompression chamber dive
  • Stay overnight in an Underwater Hotel
  • Dive with a Mola Mola
  • Dive at the Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  • Dive in the deepest pool in the world – DeepDiveDubai, Dubai
  • Try Rebreather Diving
  • Dive in an old mine
  • Visit the Galapagos Islands
  • Dive down to a submarine wreck
  • Play an Underwater Escape Game
  • Try out Freediving
  • Watch the Grouper Spawning event in French Polynesia
  • Go helicopter diving in California
  • Recover a lost object from underwater
  • Participate in a beach-clean up
  • Visit an underwater museum
  • Dive in a mountain lake
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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. :-)

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