The best way to lead meaningful projects in the coming year is to acknowledge the wonderful things we achieved in the year that just passed. I decided this year again to keep doing this interesting exercise of narrowing it down to 10 dives that were a bit more extraordinary than the others.
2019 was my first year in full nomad mode, but I kept the slow travel mode on by keeping exploring Japan, settling for the summer on the French Riviera and adding French Polynesia to the list of dream places I had the chance to explore. I am now fully convinced, the more you get to know a place, the more you get out of your trip; that’s why I am not running anymore after my scuba bucket list.
January was my last month of Japanese lessons in Tokyo, so I decided it was time to move to Okinawa to try living in the tropical prefecture of Japan with my new conversation skills. As I had to move out of Japan after another period of 3 months and had to deal with administrative tasks in France, I thought the French Riviera would be the perfect place to enjoy sunshine, friends and scuba diving while doing what I had to. Finishing with French Polynesia and returning home via Japan was the cherry on top of my year 2019.
In the middle of this, here are the 10 dives that were a bit more extraordinary than all others:
1 – Yonaguni, Okinawa, Japan
I left Tokyo at the beginning of February with freezing temperatures after saying hi to the snow monkeys in the Nagano Prefecture. In a matter of hours, I was still in Japan but with a tropical temperature of 27°C.
Yonaguni Island is the westernmost island of Japan, only 110 km away from Taiwan, hence its climate. Between schools of hammerhead sharks and a mysterious underwater city, going diving in Yonaguni was a true adventure which tested my patience but was so rewarding in the end.
2 – Ishigaki, Okinawa, Japan
Usually, diving in Ishigaki means diving in the Yaeyama Archipelago. There are so many dive sites with so many different things to see, manta rays, sharks, macro critters, that it was really hard to choose one dive site from my one-month stay on Ishigaki.
However, I have to say, while I love manta rays, what I witnessed in Osezaki Bay what a bit more out of the extraordinary because it is one of the rare opportunities to witness a short seasonal phenomenon: the giant cuttlefish spawning season.
Read the full story of my scuba diving residence in Ishigaki and the Yaeyama Islands.
3 – Le Grec shipwreck, Porquerolles, French Riviera
Appearing for the second time in a top 10 list, it is my favourite dive site in France so far. In 2017, the shipwreck already impressed me for my first dive there at 40 m deep. I could already appreciate how magnificent it was, due to its hull covered in bright purple and yellow gorgonians and thousands of fish above the deck. However, I failed at taking any good picture. Last summer, I finally had the opportunity to fix this.
Read my updated post about Porquerolles Island, the scuba diving gem of the French Riviera
4 – La Fourmigue, Golfe-Juan, French Riviera
Maybe it was because of a dramatic difference in visibility between 2017 and 2019, but last summer I completely rediscovered this dive site. From a side to another, down to 40 m deep, there are several itineraries for all levels of divers: a historical statue hidden in a small cavern, a miniature underwater village, a deep arch to swim through and the best of Mediterranean marine species in numbers.
Read the full story about diving in Golfe-Juan, the best of diving between Antibes and Cannes.
5 – Tairapa Pass, Manihi, French Polynesia
While I am quite obsessed with marine species, from corals reefs to pelagic fish, I can’t deny how fun a drift dive is. In the remote atoll of Manihi in the Tuamotu Islands, I experienced the most powerful drift dive of my logbook. Below the tidal bore of the pass, we surfed underwater at full speed while saying hi to sharks, marbled groupers and threadfin trevally.
Read the full story of my dives in Manihi, off the beaten track in the Tuamotu Islands.
6 – Tamakohua Pass, Fakarava, French Polynesia
Wait for it; it’s going to be Le-Gen-Da-Ry! Yes, I can’t deny, Fakarava got to be my #1 dive of the year 2019. It is the ultimate shark dive if you love them as much as I do. About 700 sharks are the permanent residents of the south pass of Fakarava. The best of it? This dive is without any feeding or baiting; it’s 100% natural encounter: the proof you don’t need this to swim along hundreds of sharks!
For the full story of my trip to Fakarava Atoll in the Tuamotu, you will have to wait a little bit more, but I promise this is my next blog post!
7 – Hiva Oa, Marquesas Island, French Polynesia
The Marquesas Islands is an extraordinary archipelago in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, halfway between Tahiti and Hawaii. Its islands are rarely visited because it takes to fly first to Tahiti before taking another 4-hour flight and then another 1-hour flight to the island where the only scuba diving centre is. I directly fell with the vibe of the island of Hiva Oa. I later understood why, it was like being back to Scotland, but a tropical version of it!
Underwater it was nothing like you can expect from diving in French Polynesia. Visibility was reduced but the marine ecosystem was unique. And if I say the channel between Hiva Oa and Tahuata is a manta and hammerhead highway.
Sorry, for the full story, you will have to wait a little bit more!
8 –Marado Wall, Tahiti, French Polynesia
Hard to believe the Tahiti Peninsula is off the beaten track with its lush nature and quiet dive sites. While most visitors remain on the west coast, it was my favourite part of Tahiti. Madaro Wall was the deepest dive of my scuba diving trip around French Polynesia, and I loved how the wall was covered in thousands of small yellow gorgonians, a species of soft coral that is rare in Polynesia.
Read all the details about my scuba diving road-trip in Tahiti and Moorea Islands.
9 – Tokashiki, Okinawa, Japan
For my third trip to Okinawa, I decided to go back diving in the Kerama Islands National Park but by staying this time on the islands instead of going on a day trip from Naha. I went island hopping for a week, and without a doubt, the dive sites from Tokashiki west coast impressed me the most: turtles everywhere, giant sea anemones with a large variety of anemonefish, and elegant gorgonians. I think this is where I took the most pictures this year in a single dive.
I will write a guide about island hopping and scuba diving in the Kerama Islands, but in the meantime, it is still time to read or re-read my first-timer guide to diving in Okinawa.
10 – Hachijōjima, Izu Islands, Japan
On my last week in Tokyo, I couldn’t resist joining my dive buddies of Dive Zone Tokyo for one last trip together. Hachijojima is the furthest of the Izu Islands. With its clear waters and sea turtles, what I discovered was beyond expectation for an island that can be reached from Tokyo Harbour on an overnight ferry trip.
Sorry, for the full story, you will have to wait a little bit more!
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