With spring in the air and summer right around the corner, it's only natural to start daydreaming about warm beaches and the nearest body of water to dive into. Whether you're up for an adventure in the icy, freshwater environs of Switzerland or the peaceful currents off the coast of Brazil are more your speed, take a break from life on land to enjoy these unique underwater scenes. If you're considering getting your SCUBA license, these will make the choice fairly obvious, and if you're already certified, what are you waiting for?
Medieval Ruins - Capo d'Acqua, Italy
Italy is well-known for its Roman ruins, but you’ve probably never seen crumbling architecture quite like this. Sink beneath the surface of Capo d’Acqua to see the remains of two centuries-old mills built by medieval entrepreneurs. The mills once stood firmly on dry land, but a massive valley flood in the '60s submerged them 30 feet below water. The years underwater have taken their toll on the buildings, but for the most part, they are surprisingly intact. One of the water wheels is still clearly distinguishable and you can weave your way in and out of the second mill building with ease. The crystal clear spring water and gentle currents ensure even beginner divers get the chance to properly experience this fascinating underwater ghost town.
Hug a Hammerhead - Galapagos Islands
While it's ill advised to actually touch the sharks (or any sea creatures for that matter), if aquatic life intrigues you, then Darwin’s Arch is the perfect place for you to slip on your SCUBA gear. The dive is near the uninhabited Darwin and Wolf Islands, but don’t let the lack of human activity fool you into thinking the area is lifeless. Swarms of hammerheads, pods of bottlenose dolphins, sea lions, lumbering whale sharks, and other pelagics cruise below the surface on a daily basis. The dive site sits at the confluence of several strong ocean currents which makes it suitable only for experienced divers, but if you're up to the challenge, you’ll leave knowing you conquered one of the world’s best diving sites.
Ice Dive - Lake Sassolo, Switzerland
With temperature hovering just above freezing, few take the plunge into the cobalt waters of Lake Sassolo. Those who do, however, are rewarded with underwater views rarely see by outsiders until Franco Banfi shared his stunning photos with the world. This freshwater dive, located in the Swiss Alps, gives you endless opportunity to explore the underside of massive ice blocks. The ice, solidly frozen during the winter, melts just enough during the summer months to create a unique labyrinth of ice tunnels and caves you can swim through.
The icy formations are stunning, but this lake is proof that skiers and snowboarders haven’t cornered the market on avalanche preparedness. Take precautions, because snow-and-ice avalanches can occur underwater, as well.
Razor Thin - The Blade, Indonesia
Rising from unseen depths, this long, thin ridge is unlike any seamount you’ve ever seen. Spaced along the ridge, 20-30 foot pinnacles spring up, giving the entire underwater feature a look strangely similar to the edge of a serrated knife blade yet allowing you to simultaneously see down both sides. These impressive pinnacles serve a purpose beyond just giving the ridge its dramatic shape: it’s where reef life abounds. Fish dart through giant sea sponges, colorful crinoids and sea fans wave lazily in the current and soft coral clings to the sides. Don't leave the enticing caves and undercuts unexplored.
Pedras Secas - Brazil
This off-the-radar paradise sits on top of a submerged volcanic mountain. The 18-island archipelago lies 224 miles off the coast of Brazil’s so you know there are plenty of pristine and not-often seen diving sites. One of the best, Pedras Secas, contains an impressive, stadium-like rock formation with tunnels, caves and caverns encrusted with corals and sponges. Kick around in the warm water and watch nurse sharks, turtles and other marine life flit past.