Few underwater environments capture the imagination like a shipwreck. Many wrecks lie in the planet’s most remote waters and host a variety of wildlife, making them perfect for liveaboard diving. Whether you’re hoping to explore an eerie ghost ship, sunken seaplane or come face to face with reef sharks on a wreck, The Adventure Junkies have done the homework for you. We’re here to break down the best liveaboard destinations for wreck diving and help you plan your dream vacation.

Often steeped in mystery, shipwrecks are hotspots for adventure divers. But, wreck diving presents unique hazards and attractions and is best suited for those with experience. Remember, you should never penetrate a shipwreck unless you are trained and certified to do so. Wreck diving can take your liveaboard dive trip to the next level but should be done safely and within your diving limits.

 

 

 

 

 

1. RED SEA, EGYPT

 

The Red Sea is a wreck diver’s paradise, and liveaboard operators know it. Your best bet for exploring Egypt’s many incredible shipwrecks is to book a themed liveaboard.

These itineraries combine visits to the wrecks around Sharm El-Sheikh with a trip to the world famous Brothers Islands. Besides wrecks, divers can expect to encounter hundreds of species of fish, turtles, sharks, and rays. Egypt’s dive sites are famous for their massive pinnacles and endless walls.

The SS Thistlegorm is one of the best wreck dives in the world and a piece of living history. This former WWII British transport ship sunk in 1941 with all its cargo intact. Tanks, trucks, motorcycles and vintage weapons make this an exciting dive site and a unique photo opportunity.

Egypt’s second most popular wreck, the Salem Express, is a passenger ferry that sank in 1991 after colliding with the Hyndman Reefs. The tragedy took the lives of 470 passengers and their belongings still litter the ship. Packed suitcases, cars, televisions and a wheelchair are spooky reminders of this wreck’s past.

The twin shipwrecks Aida II and Numidia lie 100 meters apart, right in front of Brothers. Both sites offer diving for all certification levels and are popular choices for training dives. For more information on Egypt’s wrecks, check out the Red Sea Wreck Project.

 

WHEN TO GO: June through September

PRICE RANGE: $550 – $2,000

DIFFICULTY: Beginner – Technical

LENGTH OF THE TRIP: 7 to 8 days

WATER TEMPERATURES: 70 to 86° F (21 to 30° C)

BEST BOATS: Best Egypt liveaboard boats compared

WRECKS: SS Thistlegorm, Salem Express, Aida II, Numidia

 

 

2. CHUUK LAGOON, MICRONESIA

 

Chuuk Lagoon, sometimes referred to as Truk Lagoon, is a favorite among experienced wreck divers and known worldwide for its Ghost Fleet. With over 40 known ships to dive, the area makes for an exciting specialty liveaboard destination. Many wrecks in Chuuk are appropriate for every level of diving, from open water to technical.

In 1944, the US led Operation Hailstone, a surprise attack on the fleet of Japanese ships anchored in Chuuk. Over 400 tons of bombs were dropped, sinking more than 40 ships and numerous aircraft. Thousands of Japanese soldiers perished in these waters and some wrecks house artifacts like skulls and gas masks.

The Fujikawa Maru is Chuuk’s most popular shipwreck thanks to her fascinating WWII memorabilia and the vast array of marine life that now calls her home. Penetration dives offer access to galleys, staterooms, baths and even a Zero plane, still in its hold. Beginners can enjoy this wreck too, with minimum depths around 30 feet ( 9 meters).

With so many wrecks to explore, you’ll want at least one week to enjoy a liveaboard in Chuuk Lagoon. While many sites are suitable for beginners, wreck diver certification will help you make the most of your time underwater. If you’re interested in technical diving, take some inspiration from Advanced Diver Magazine’s article on the Japanese Destroyer Oite.

 

WHEN TO GO: October through April

PRICE RANGE: $1,500 – $2,500

DIFFICULTY: Beginner – Technical

LENGTH OF THE TRIP: 7 to 10 days

WATER TEMPERATURES: 81 to 86° F (27 to 30° C)

BEST BOATS: Liveaboard diving in Micronesia

WRECKS: Fujikawa Maru, San Francisco Maru, Heian Maru, Shinkoku Maru, Nippo Maru

 

 

3. CORON BAY, PHILLIPPINES

 

Liveaboard itineraries visiting Coron Bay are a favorite among wreck and tech divers. The region features six intact WWII era Japanese military wrecks within recreational diving limits.

Several are suitable for beginners and make excellent training sites for those working towards an advanced or wreck certification. Technical divers will find plenty of penetrations through larger military vessels, and wrecks below the recreational dive limits.

The Irako is Coron’s best-known wreck, with many options for penetration and photography. Because of her depth and size, liveaboards dedicate three to four tanks to exploring the Irako.

A maze of corridors leads through galleys, cabins, engine rooms, and the wheelhouse. The exterior of this shipwreck is a hotspot for photographers thanks to an excellent collection of corals and sponges.

Coron Bay is a dream destination all by itself, but liveaboard itineraries usually combine it with nearby Apo Reef or Tubbataha National Park. These remote areas are well-known for their macro species like ghost pipefish, nudibranchs, frogfish and the pygmy seahorse. Larger sightings include blacktip and whitetip reef sharks, manta rays and even whale sharks.

Coron attracts a variety of divers, from beginners to pros. Before booking, take some time to research what clientele your vessel serves. Many boats offer special facilities for tech divers, photographers and dive courses. Others are non-diver friendly and include a variety of shore excursions.

 

WHEN TO GO: December through March

PRICE RANGE: $1,500 – $3,500

DIFFICULTY: Beginner – Technical

LENGTH OF THE TRIP: 5 to 10 days

WATER TEMPERATURES: 79 to 86° F (26 to 30° C)

BEST BOATS: Liveaboard diving in Coron Bay

WRECKS: Irako, Akitsushima, Olympia Maru, Okikawa Maru

 

 

 

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4. PALAU, MICRONESIA

 

During WWII, more than 60 Japanese ships sunk in the waters around Palau. Today, this “Lost Fleet of the Rock Islands” is a favorite among experienced wreck divers. Due to the remote nature of the islands and distance between dive sites, Palau is best explored by liveaboard.

The Iro Maru is Palau’s most popular shipwreck, thanks to her impressive size and interesting penetration routes. This Japanese oil tanker took a direct hit to her engine room, sinking with a large cargo of ammunition in tact. Today, she sits in the upright position, forward and aft guns in place.

The Jake Seaplane is a highlight on any Palau itinerary and a fun photo opportunity. Sitting at around 50 feet (15 meters) this site is suitable for divers of all levels. This is one of the few intact sunken airplanes in the area that is still accessible to divers.

With hundreds of islands to explore, Palau’s diving isn’t just about wrecks. Manta rays, sharks and turtles frequent the region’s vibrant coral reefs. Because of its far-flung location, diving in Palau can be expensive. Keep a firm budget in mind when booking and plan for extra expenses like domestic flights.

 

WHEN TO GO: October through April

PRICE RANGE: $3,500 – $5,000

DIFFICULTY: Beginner – Advanced

LENGTH OF THE TRIP: 7 to 10 days

WATER TEMPERATURES: 78 to 86° F (26 to 30° C)

BEST BOATS: Best Palau liveaboard boats compared

WRECKS: Jake Seaplane, Iro Maru, Helmet wreck, Chuyo Maru

 

 

 

5. SOLOMON ISLANDS

 

A lack of tourist pressure has left the waters around the Solomon Islands in pristine condition. Found east of Papua New Guinea, this seldom visited region is best dived from a liveaboard. With over 900 tropical islands, shallow reefs, caverns and WWII wrecks to explore, an extended itinerary is best.

The majority of diveable wrecks throughout the Solomon Islands lie in the Iron Bottom Sound. This region saw an estimated 200 ships sunk during the war, many of which make for exciting dive sites today. For a detailed description of wrecks in the sound, check out this article from Bradley Sheard, published in Wreck Diving Magazine.

Accessible only by tech divers, the USS Aaron Ward is one of the planet’s most impressive shipwrecks. This 341-foot destroyer sits upright, guns raised, as if still in battle. Turrets, anti-aircraft weapons and torpedo tubes line her deck, as do hundreds of shell casings and deployed munitions.

The Kinugawa Maru and Hirokawa Maru are open to recreational divers and make for exciting stops on a liveaboard itinerary. Both wrecks have plenty to see in deep and shallow water, and are also visible to snorkelers. Nearby, several Mavis seaplanes remain in excellent condition and are accessible to divers of all levels.

 

WHEN TO GO: May through December

PRICE RANGE: $2,500 – $5,500

DIFFICULTY: Beginner – Technical

LENGTH OF THE TRIP: 7 to 10 days

WATER TEMPERATURES: 81 to 86° F (27 to 30° C)

BEST BOATS: Best Solomon Islands liveaboard boats compared

WRECKS: USS Aaron Ward, Kinugawa Maru, Hirokawa Maru, Mavis seaplanes

 

 

6. BAHAMAS

 

The Bahamas archipelago is a paradise for scuba divers of all budgets and experience levels. Made up of hundreds of islands and coral atolls, this tropical destination is perfect for liveaboard divers in the Caribbean. The region is famous for its shipwrecks, caves and blue holes, and encounters with a variety of shark species.

Opportunities for technical diving exist, but The Bahamas are best known for shallow wrecks. Abundant sunlight and a variety of reef species make these excellent dive sites for beginners and those who do not prefer to penetrate.

The Sugar Wreck is an all-time favorite thanks to its large populations of reef fish. This old sailing ship ran aground on the reef many years ago, and sits in shallow water today.

Nearby, the Hesperus lies on the sandy plain of the Grand Bahama Bank. This site makes for an exciting night dive, thanks to the loggerhead turtles that sleep inside her hull.

Liveaboard itineraries around the Bahamas focus on one group of islands due to the region’s size. For the best wreck diving, choose a voyage around Grand Bahama. This area is also famous for shark sightings.

Tiger, hammerhead, bull, silky and oceanic whitetip sharks are often encountered. While many companies feed the sharks, this practice is not environmentally sustainable.

Choosing a responsible operator and keeping all interactions with underwater life passive ensures a future for these threatened species. Sustainable Shark Diving is an excellent resource for best practices for divers, and a list of sustainable businesses.

 

WHEN TO GO: October through June

PRICE RANGE: $1,000 – $4,500

DIFFICULTY: Beginner – Advanced

LENGTH OF THE TRIP: 6 to 10 days

WATER TEMPERATURES: 72 to 83° F (22 to 28° C)

BEST BOATS: Best Bahamas liveaboard boats compared

WRECKS: Sugar Wreck, Hesperus Wreck, James Bond Wrecks

 

 

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7. RED SEA, SUDAN

 

Only a handful of divers each year visit the world class wrecks and reefs found off the coast of Sudan. This up-and-coming dive destination lacks a tourist infrastructure on land and is best visited by liveaboard. Sudan does have a few sites for beginners, but many itineraries in this region require an advanced certification and 50 logged dives.

The Italian Umbria cargo ship sunk by her own captain on the day that Italy entered WWII. Today, she lies on her port side in shallow water.

The real treat for divers on the Umbria lies in her unique cargo and penetration routes. Thousands of undetonated bombs are still neatly stacked in her hold alongside vintage Fiat cars and other weaponry.

Once used as Jacques Cousteau’s underwater laboratory, the Conshelf II is a fascinating dive site. It was here that scientists first lived underwater for extended periods of time, paving the way for space exploration. Though it’s not quite a shipwreck, the structure is very interesting to explore.

Besides wrecks, liveaboard divers in Sudan can expect impressive walls, shallow reefs, pelagic-filled cleaning stations, and open ocean drift dives. Several boats operating in Sudan offer extended 14-day itineraries, perfect for exploring the region’s most remote sites. These voyages are tech friendly, and ideal for hardcore wreck enthusiasts.

 

WHEN TO GO: November through May

PRICE RANGE: $750 – $2,500

DIFFICULTY: Intermediate – Tech

LENGTH OF THE TRIP: 7 to 10 days

WATER TEMPERATURES: 75 to 85° F (24 to 30° C)

BEST BOATS: Best Sudan liveaboard boats compared

WRECKS: SS Jassim, Umbria Wreck, Blue Belt Wreck, Conshelf II

 

 

8. BIKINI ATOLL, MARSHALL ISLANDS

 

Once used as a nuclear testing site, the Bikini Atoll has been all but abandoned for decades. An entire mock fleet of navy ships sunk here following atomic detonations and research, creating a Mecca for wreck divers. Only reachable by liveaboard, dive sites around the Marshall Islands are some of the most pristine and seldom visited in the world.

There are dozens of wrecks to explore in the region, but the most famous is the USS Saratoga. This massive aircraft carrier is one of a few of its kind found within the recreational dive limits. Several days can be dedicated to exploring the many penetration routes through this larger than life structure.

The area’s second largest wreck, the Nagato was once the flagship of the Japanese Navy. This ship participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor, and was later captured by allied forces.

Dramatic finds on board the Nagato include her massive arsenal, still poised for attack. Found below the recreational dive limit, this wreck is reserved for those with technical certifications.

Marshall Islands liveaboards feature stops around the Majuro, Rongelap, and Bikini atolls. The region is home to hundreds of fish and coral varieties, as well as a variety of large pelagics. Thanks to the challenging nature of most dive sites, liveaboard itineraries around the Bikini atoll are best suited to advanced and tech divers.

 

WHEN TO GO: May through September

PRICE RANGE: $6,000 – $8,500

DIFFICULTY: Advanced – Tech

LENGTH OF THE TRIP: 10 to 14 days

WATER TEMPERATURES: 78 to 86° F (26 to 30° C)

BEST BOATS: Liveaboard diving in the Bikini Atoll

WRECKS: USS Saratoga, USS Arkansas, Nagato Battleship

 

 

 

9. PAPUA NEW GUINEA

 

Often referred to as PNG, Papua New Guinea tops most wreck divers bucket lists. Untouched by mass tourism, the best PNG dive sites are only diveable via liveaboard. A variety of shipwrecks in the area, include planes, WWII relics, and fishing boats.

The twin dive sites of the Sanko Maru and Type C midget submarine are a must see in PNG. Though visibility can be low here, the abundance of marine life is incredible.

Stripped of her propellers and boilers years ago, the Sanko Maru remains visually stunning thanks to her covering of soft coral and gorgonian sea fans. The nearby midget submarine is a unique dive site combining a small wreck with an excellent muck bottom.

The Der Yang wreck, a Taiwanese longline fishing boat is one of the area’s most popular shipwrecks. Settled on the side in 100 feet (30 meters) of water, it makes for an excellent training site. Divers at this wreck frequently spot large schools of barracuda and anchovies out on the blue, and solitary sharks patrolling mid water.

Thanks to its location within the Coral Triangle, PNG diving is a showcase of biodiversity. Frequent encounters with whale sharks, hammerheads and manta rays make the region a hotspot for pelagic enthusiasts. With deep walls, vibrant reefs, and plenty of muck to search for macro critters, a liveaboard in PNG has it all.

 

WHEN TO GO: May through November

PRICE RANGE: $3,000 – $4,500

DIFFICULTY: Beginner – Advanced

LENGTH OF THE TRIP: 6 to 10 days

WATER TEMPERATURES: 79 to 88° F (26 to 31° C)

BEST BOATS: Best Papua New Guinea liveaboard boats compared

WRECKS: B-17F Black Jack, Pacific Gas Wreck, Kimbe Bay Zero Wreck, Sanko Maru

 

 

10. CENDERAWASIH BAY, INDONESIA

 

Right next door to legendary Raja Ampat, Cenderawasih Bay is home to the region’s best wrecks. Only accessible by liveaboard, this is one of Indonesia’s most remote and impressive diving destinations.

Itineraries combine the two areas, satisfying serious wreck enthusiasts and reef divers. Strong currents, a remote location and plenty of deep dives make these voyages best for advanced divers.

With six diveable wrecks, the waters around Manokwari are a must for liveaboards in Cenderawasih. Many of these sites still hold their original cargo of WWII munitions including cases of grenades, guns and ammunition.

Other artifacts include helmets, bicycles, pots and pans, and other household items. Home to a variety of sea life like sharks and manta rays, these coastal waters are perfect for surprise encounters with large pelagics.

The largest shipwreck in Manokwari is the Shinwa Maru, a Japanese freighter. She remains intact, with large holes in her starboard side as evidence of her bombing.

Large colonies of sponges and corals mask her metal, and invite many macro species. Nudibranchs are a favorite find on this wreck, as are bits and pieces of human history, like vintage chopsticks, still full bottles of sake, and beer cans.

Famous for more than shipwrecks, Cenderawasih is home to a resident population of whale sharks. These super sized filter feeders are considered good luck by local fishermen, and allowed to feed on their nets. The sharks make for exciting photography subjects and are an unexpected highlight of wreck themed itineraries.

 

WHEN TO GO: June through October

PRICE RANGE: $2,500 – $6,500

DIFFICULTY: Intermediate – Advanced

LENGTH OF THE TRIP: 7 to 10 days

WATER TEMPERATURES: 81 to 86° F (27 to 31° C)

BEST BOATS: Best Raja Ampat liveaboard boats compared

WRECKS: Shinwa Maru, Mansinam Cross Wreck, Pasir Putih Wreck, P40 Tomahawk

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