The Best and Most Extreme Destinations for Scuba Diving During the Winter Months

Diving under the ice during the Winter on Lake Baikal, Russia.

  Scuba Diving is not only for summer vacation. In Winter, a world of possibilities opens up. For the Northern Hemisphere, Winter opens up a world of warm locations South of the Equator. However, there are also cold locations that host a slew of unique wildlife during this time. For the extreme diver who enjoys Winter Polar plunges, ice dives are also a plus during this time of the year. 

     First, decide if you are interested in a warm vacation on the Equator, a temperate dive in the Southern Hemisphere, or colder dives in more polar regions closer to the Northern axis or Southern axis. Below are the recommended locations to take your Winter SCUBA excursion.

The Equator

     For individuals looking for a bearable dive, the Equator offers locations that are warm year-round. For those looking to escape the winter chills, the tropics and Mediterranean are an ideal escape. Check out our favorite unique equilateral locations. 

  • Raja Ampat, Indonesia, located right below the Equator, is a scuba diver fanatics paradise with 76% of Earth's different Coral reef species. With everything from reef sharks to almost 30 species of whale, creatures are plentiful. There is plenty of macros and micro life to explore. Dugongs, which are related to the West Indies Manatees, offer a unique mammal experience. The pristine waters are temperate and offer interesting terrain like in Northern Raja Ampat, where cliffs rise out of the blue waters. Raja Ampat is not affected by human development. You can support the diversity by keeping your dive groups small and bringing revenue to the small Raja Ampat travel agency. Your help can preserve one of the Earth's most vivid and colorful coral communities. 
  • Socorro Island, Mexico, is a tropical and remote getaway in the Western Hemisphere. The visibility is good, and you are likely to catch a glimpse of the highly sought after the whale shark. For mammal enthusiasts, this dive location is one of the few places where officials allow you to swim with the humpback whales. With Cabo San Lucas only a few miles away, your resort location is only a short distance away from a beautiful dive location. Sip margaritas, dive, watch the sunset and repeat. 
  • The Cayman Islands is probably one of the most alluring tropical destinations for beach dwellers and divers alike. However, ill-timed Summer vacations can mean running into Hurricanes. That is why this balmy destination is best visited in the Winter when divers can safely explore the blue waters. Here divers will find almost a cinematic experience as they explore the birthplace of drop-off diving. With shipwrecks, shallow-water coral reefs, and cliffs all in blue waters, your dive will never be lacking. 
  • The Red Sea in Egypt is a unique dive located near the Equator. Instead of tropical islands, this dive location offers a historical and mystic escape for the archaeologically intrigued. The waters this time of year are colder, and divers are few this time of year. The North Red Sea is best known for shipwrecks such as the Thistlegorm wreck. It also has beautiful coral reef wall formations. If you are looking for an even quieter getaway, the South Red Sea is also teeming with reefs and various reef sharks. Still, the North offers famous shipwrecks and will give divers a chance to practice in-depth exploration.

Temperate Southern Hemisphere 

     For divers looking for a switch from the Northern Hemisphere Winter to a Southern Hemisphere Summer may find these locations South of the Equator enjoyable. With certain sea life migrating south for the Winter, it may be easier to book an excursion to these destinations in the Winter rather than wait for sea life to reemerge during a Northern Hemisphere Summer.

  • Ari Atoll of the Maldives in India is an ideal location to visit during the winter months so that you avoid any monsoons set to come. The pinnacles and channels are very open, giving individuals the option to drift dive if they chose. The blue waters and colorful channels allow those seeking Indian ocean dives the perfect chance to explore. This atoll is one of the biggest atolls and the best way to dive in the Maldives. For ecological enthusiasts, this location offers divers a chance to take a closer look at Pelagic species. (These are oily species of fish that we typically consume.) Turtles, manta rays, and hammerheads are common here as well as circular coral reefs. For those who love to swim in the open waters, this location is ideal and safest during the Winter months. 
  • The Galapagos Islands offer the perfect dives for creature enthusiasts. The winter months are warm in the Galapagos as the wet weather emerges. It has one of the best locations for large marine life. These include loggerhead turtles, sea lions, Galapagos sharks, whales sharks, and little seahorses. Because of the Southern Hemisphere Summer and limited human population, December through March is the best time of year to explore these lively mammalian waters. 

Northern Hemisphere Winter Wonderland

      It is a matter of opinion, but icy dives offer more visibility, inflammation relief, and unforgettable natural beauty. During the winter months, you may avoid venturing too far away from the Equator. However, if you like colder dives, these locations are best visited for the curious diver over the holidays. 

  • Norway may seem like a frostbitten diving location, but you are more likely to catch pods of orcas in the Winter wonderland than any other time of year. Orcas swim further away from the mainland in the Summer, making them harder to locate. You will also get to experience the Northern lights and deep-frozen fjords in the best Season. The icy waters not only help with inflammation but offer a unique Winter wonderland. 
  • Lake Baikal, Russia, is one of their best-kept secrets. The World’s oldest lake, Lake Baikal, is home to the most alien-like and crustacean creature in freshwater. The water is more visible than the Caribbean, and you will find the water calm and eerily serene. Nerpa seals and their adorable furry pups live in this massive ancient lake alone. Along with ice fishing, you will need a chainsaw. After you find an opening, you will only need a team to monitor your dive. This Siberian dive is for extreme divers who do not mind a dive beneath the meter-thick crystal clear ice. 
  • The White Sea in Russia offers an even more unpredictable yet unforgettable experience for Winter diving. You will need to be ice dive certified and have a crew above the ice prepped for your descent. Capture rare and beautiful photos in the winter waters of the White Sea. With soft, colorful corals and sea anemones, this Wintery dive is picture perfect and offers something around the Wintertime where other dives lack. 


     The Polar plunge of Antarctica is only survivable during the Winter months. Dives to the icy continent are limited in availability and require divers to have a certain amount of cold-water dives and dry-suit dives under their belt. Antarctica dives are almost a once in a lifetime opportunity and open up divers to unforgettable creature experiences they will not see anywhere else. Emperor penguins will sometimes interact with divers out of curiosity, and you will watch them speed past to catch fish in the icy waters. You can see the leopard seals chase the penguins as the circle of life takes place before your very eyes. Large whales and other sea mammals are close by during Summertime in Antarctica. The trip will allow you a unique scientific experience.

Whether you are looking for beautiful temperate dives or unforgettable Winter dives, prepare at By the Shore Scuba Instruction. We can help you prepare for your dive and help you make the right decision based on your experience level.

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