Ten Of The Best Wreck Dives In The World
Wrecks are eerie, mysterious and fascinating and being able to explore them is one of the best aspects of scuba diving. A great wreck to dive normally has at least one of the following features (if not all of them); size, history, marine life and visibility. Huge wrecks with a significant historical background, abundant and diverse marine life in crystal clear water make the most memorable wreck dives.
This list is not the ten best wreck dives in the world (although many of them would feature on a list) but ten wrecks which we have personally dived ourselves and would highly recommend others to dive. It features historic war graves from WWII, to ships which perished at the hands of hidden reefs.
1) SS President Coolidge Wreck (Vanuatu)
Ship Type American Ocean Liner / Army Transport Ship
Year Sunk 1942
Depth 18m to 70m
Diving the SS President Coolidge Wreck
The largest wreck on our list at a whopping 199m in length, the SS President Coolidge was an American luxury cruise liner than was recruited into service as a transport ship during WWII. She sunk just off the coast of Espiritu Santo island in Vanuatu when she hit an American mine (a case of friendly fire) when trying to enter the channel into the harbour. The captain knew he was going to lose the ship, so tried to beach her on the shore. However the ship began to list on its port side and eventually slid down into the channel.
The SS President Coolidge wreck sits between 18m and 70m and is almost completely intact. It is just a short 50m swim from the shore to the bow. The ship has four cargo holds which are still full of interesting equipment. A barbers shop can even be found inside! The large propellers sit close to 70m depth, therefore to explore the entirety of the ship you will need technical equipment. Even then, the wreck is so fast that to fully explore its interior could take well over hundred dives!
For more information on diving the SS President Coolidge wreck click here.
2) MS Zenobia Wreck (Cyprus)
Ship Type Swedish Roll-On Roll-Off Ferry
Year Sunk 1980
Depth 18m to 42m
Diving the MS Zenobia Wreck
The MS Zenobia was a roll-on roll-off ferry which developed a technical ballasting problem during her voyage from Sweden to Syria. This resulted in her listing to port, and she eventually sank less than 2km from the harbour at Larnaca in Cyprus in 1980.
Sinking in tact and with generally good visibility, you are truly able to take in the sheer size of this massive wreck. At 172m in length, there is plenty to explore. Some dive centers in Cyprus dive almost exclusively at the MS Zenobia, there are that many different routes available to divers. What makes the MS Zenobia such a great dive are the many articulated lorries than sunk along with the ship. Along with the fact that there is 500m no fishing zone around the wreck, you can see much more marine life than you normally would on a Mediterranean dive.
Resting on its port side at 42m, it is just about within recreational limits. It is perhaps the ultimate wreck to dive in Europe.
For more information on diving the MS Zenobia click here.
3) MS Mikhail Lermontov Wreck (New Zealand)
Ship Type Cruise ship
Year Sunk 1986
Depth 12m to 38m
Diving the MS Mikhail Lermontov Wreck
A cruise ship which hit a reef while sailing around the north coast of the south island of New Zealand, the MS Mikhail Lermontov is a shipwreck that should never have occurred in the first place. Rather than sticking to the known channel around a headland, the ship will sailed through a narrow, shallow gap in the reef. Unsurprising the MS Mikhail Lermontov collided with the rocks, gouging a 12m opening in it’s port hull. The captain tried to beach the ship, but with loss of power and electrics the ship sank in the middle of the bay of Port Gore. All except one of 750 passengers and crew escaped with their lives.
175m in length and sitting between 12m and 38m, the MS Mikhail Lermontov wreck is one of the most accessible wrecks in the world of its size. It is virtually intact, with tables and chairs still bolted to the floor in the spacious dining areas. The swimming pool at the stern is now permanently full of water. There are so many routes through the wreck you would need to visit it several times to start to see all of it. Visibility can be poor between 2m and 10m but if you love cold water wreck diving then the MS Mikhail Lermontov wreck should be on your list to dive.
For more information on diving the MS Mikhail Lermontov wreck, click here.
4) MV Salem Express Wreck (Egypt)
Ship Type Roll-On Roll-Off Ferry
Year Sunk 1991
Depth 12m to 30m
Diving the MV Salem Express Wreck
A roll-on roll-off ferry that was sailing from Mecca in Saudi Arabia to Safaga in Egypt, the MV Salem Express made the unfortunate mistake of many of the wrecks in the Red Sea by hitting one of the numerous shallow reefs. She sunk on 17th December 1991 and over 470 lost people there lives, however this was probably higher as there were many unregistered passengers on board.
The amazing visibility of the Red Sea means you can fully take in the size of the ship. 110m in length, the stern of the ship is very iconic with its twin propellers and loading entrance. Lying between 12m and 30m means that recreational divers can fully explore the ship, although access inside is restricted.
For more information on diving the MV Salem Express click here.
5) Akitsushima Wreck (Philippines)
Ship Type Japanese Sea Plane Tender
Year Sunk 1944
Depth 22m to 38m
Diving the Akitsushima Wreck
The Akitsushima is one of a dozen Imperial Japanese Navy support vessels sunk in the bay of Coron during WWII. What makes the Akitsushima special is she is the only true Japanese warship sunk here (the rest being supply or cargo ships). Her large seaplane crane is one of the main attractions of the wreck, along with the anti aircraft gun at the stern. A large opening allows you to swim into the engine room and along through the wreck. There are many great wrecks to dive in Coron Bay and make sure the Akitsushima is one of the ones on your list.
For more information on diving the Akitsushima wreck click here.
6) Kyusyu Maru Wreck (Solomon Islands)
Ship Type Japanese Cargo Ship
Year Sunk 1942
Depth 7m to 47m
Diving the Kyusyu Maru Wreck
Located in the Solomon Islands, in a body of water with so many wrecks it was renamed Iron Bottom Sound, the Kyusyu Maru is a wreck full of history. A 142m in length Imperial Japanese Navy cargo ship from WWII, the Kyusyu Maru beached itself on the north coast of Guadalcanal after coming under attack from American aircraft. The ship remained grounded on the beach with its bow sticking out of the water until the 1960s when salvage work was carried out and much of the forward area removed.
Today the Kyusyu Maru has been transformed into an artificial reef in the shallows with some magnificent coral, while the aft section of the ship is still recognizable. Just a short swim from shore, the wreck starts at 7m before dropping down to around 47m at the propellers.
There are two other large Imperial Japanese Navy cargo ships which can be dived from shore just along the coast at Bonegi beach. Also, the remains of an American B17 bomber and I1 Japanese submarine can also be accessed from the beaches of Guadalcanal, making it a great place for wreck diving.
For more information on diving the Kyusyu Maru wreck click here.
7) USAT Liberty Wreck (Indonesia)
Ship Type American Army Transport Ship
Year Sunk 1942
Depth 5m to 30m
Diving the USAT Liberty Wreck
A wreck that needs no introductions, the USAT Liberty is one of the most popular wreck dives in the world. Situated meters from the coast of Bali combined with the tropical water and a rich diversity of marine life results in a wreck that draws in many divers, freedivers and snorkelers. The USAT Liberty served in the American Navy, and was hit by torpedo while traveling through the Lombok Strait. She was towed to Tulamben on Bali to save supplies, and remained beached there for over 20 years. In 1963, tremors from the volcano Mt Agung which overlooks Tulamben caused the ship to slip back into the sea where she currently sits.
Today the wreck is a magnet for marine life, with bumphead parrotfish, sweetlips, turtles, blue spotted stingrays and much more inhabiting the wreckage. Sitting between 5m and 30m, the wreck can even be enjoyed by snorkelers. There are numerous swim throughs to explore, one of the highlights being the open cargo hold bay.
For more information on diving the USAT Liberty click here.
8) SS Thistlegorm (Egypt)
Ship Type British Cargo Ship
Year Sunk 1941
Depth 16m to 30m
Diving the SS Thistlegorm Wreck
Another world renowned wreck, the SS Thistlegorm is perhaps the most dived wreck in the Red Sea. SS Thistlegorm has a rich history, having been utilized during WWII. On the 5th October 1941 she was waiting to pass through the Suez Canal and was at anchor in the Strait of Gubal. Unfortunately the SS Thistlegorm was spotted by two German bombers who scored a direct hit, which penetrated through to the ammunition hold. This caused a huge explosion which split the ship open and caused her to sink quickly in 30m of water.
The cargo of the SS Thistlegorm is what makes this wreck such a great dive. With motorbikes, jeeps, airplane engines, rifles and trailers still inside the cargo holds, it is a fascinating wreck to explore. There is even a steam locomotive train not far from the wreck which was catapulted into the air during the explosion!
9) Um El Faroud Wreck (Malta)
Ship Type Oil Tanker
Year Sunk 1998
Depth 18m to 36m
Diving the Um El Faroud Wreck
The Um El Faroud wreck is one of the best wreck dives in the Mediterranean. The wreck has a violent history, when an explosion in dry dock caused huge damage to the ship. She sat in dock for another three years, before she was towed off the coast of Malta and was scuttled to from an artificial reef.
Diving the Um El Faroud is a great experience due to the size of wreck and the good visibility Malta experiences. It is possible to penetrate all the way down to the engine room. 115m in length and sitting between 18m and 36m, it takes a couple of dives to fully explore the wreck. If you dive in Malta, be sure to tick the Um El Faroud wreck off your list.
For more information on diving the Um El Faroud wreck click here.
10) SMS Dresden Wreck (Scotland)
Ship Type German Light Cruiser
Year Sunk 1919
Depth 25m to 38m
Diving the SMS Dresden Wreck
No wreck diving list would be complete without a wreck from Scapa Flow. There are seven huge WWI German High Seas Fleet warships scuttled in Scapa Flow, and all of them are worthy of being on this list. Their age and history make them fascinating dives. Several of the wrecks are completely overturned which slightly spoils the dives, however the SMS Dresden wreck rests its port side meaning more of the main deck can be accessed. The wreck sits between 25m and 38m depth, and is still majorly intact, not bad for a wreck which is over 100 years old!
For more information on diving the SMS Dresden wreck and diving in Scapa Flow click here.