By traveling to destinations which feature endangered marine life, you put a monetary value on animals that are alive. In many cases, you also support marine reserves and citizen science programs working to protect vulnerable species. This year, Endangered Species Day falls on May 17th. Celebrate by booking a trip to one of the best destinations for diving with endangered marine life, according to The Way the World Learns to Dive.
1. Revillagigedo Islands, Mexico
The Revillagigedo Islands (a.k.a. Socorro) in Mexico are famous for big marine life. From dolphins and whale sharks to humpback whales and hammerheads, these far flung islands are a scuba diving dream. One animal in particular is quite easy to spot here but is actually rare in the wild. That is the giant manta ray (Mobula birostris). Listed as vulnerable by the IUCN, this amazing creature has a “wingspan” of up to 23 feet (7 meters) and is one of the largest fish on Earth. Jump on a liveaboard to the Revillagigedo Islands if you want to see these beauties while diving.
A paradise like few others, the Maldives, with its islands ringed in white sand and clear, aquamarine waters, is an oasis for both humans and marine life alike. This country is one of the best in the world for swimming and diving with whale sharks (Rhincodon typus), the largest fish in the sea. Since 2016, whale sharks have been listed as endangered by the IUCN due to shark finning, fishing and bycatch. Of course, if a liveaboard or a dive resort stay in the Maldives isn’t in your plans, you can also gape at these huge sharks at Isla Mujeres in Mexico, the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador and Cenderawasih Bay in Indonesia.
3. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
If you’ve ever looked at the log of a diver who has been to the Galapagos Islands, you’ll most likely find a who’s who of endangered species. On any given liveaboard, you might spot whale sharks, Galapagos penguins, Galapagos sea lions, marine iguanas, green sea turtles, leatherback sea turtles and scalloped hammerhead sharks. Each one of these marine species is endangered, and that’s only a list of animals that spend at least part of the day in the water. Topside on the islands, you may also spot endangered giant tortoises among a wide range of other fauna.
4. Hawaii, USA
Hawaii is home to nine marine species currently protected by America’s Endangered Species Act, namely green sea turtles, loggerhead sea turtles, olive ridley sea turtles, Hawaiian monk seals, humpback whales, sperm whales, fin whales, blue whales and sei whales. While you can’t dive with all of these species, you can spot sea turtles under the water from time to time. In addition, you might be lucky enough to see humpback whales on your way to dive sites during the months of January, February and March. And Hawaiian monk seals can be spotted on land, although human interaction with the endemic seals is discouraged.
5. Cocos Island, Costa Rica
Have you heard of the Hammerhead Triangle? Encompassing Malpelo in Colombia, the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador and Cocos Island in Costa Rica, this is the best area in the world for spotting endangered scalloped hammerhead sharks. In particular, lonely Cocos Island dons many bucket lists written by shark lovers. Here, hammerheads have a peculiar habit of hunting solitarily at night and swimming in large schools during the day, creating a spectacle for lucky scuba divers who travel to this far flung destination.