With its expansive coast lines and famously diverse marine environments, Colombia is a popular destination for scuba divers and snorkelers. The country is the only one in South America with both Pacific and Caribbean coastlines, which stretch along a distance of nearly 3,000km. At multiple points off these coasts are a wide variety of excellent scuba diving spots.
Visibility along the Caribbean side is generally very good, varying somewhere between 20m and 40m
On the Caribbean side, the principal diving and snorkeling sites are at San Andres and Providencia, Capurgana, Golfo de Morrosquillo (near Tolu), Islas del Rosario (Cartagena), and Taganga (Santa Marta). As the Caribbean Sea is partially closed off, the waters are generally calm and warm, which has allowed for the development of rich marine life.
The area has one of the greatest densities of coral worldwide, the majority of which is concentrated in the waters off the archipelago of San Andres and Providencia. This coral reef is the world’s third largest and hosts a highly diverse marine habitat. Visibility along the Caribbean side is generally very good, varying somewhere between 20m and 40m. Dives here are often shorter and shallower than those at sites on the pacific side, making the area better suited for beginners and early stage divers. These conditions also make the Caribbean more suited for snorkeling, than are dive sites in the Pacific.
Dive spots along and off the Pacific coast are better suited to more experienced divers as they often involve stronger currents, deeper and longer dives. Recommended sites include Cali, the Islands of Gorgona and Malpelo, Nuqui and Bahia Solano. These areas boast a large variety of underwater sights including sharks (including tiger and lemon sharks), tuna, dolphins, giant turtles, gardens of red sponges and humpback whales.
In addition to the coastal regions, there are also a couple of inland dive sites at Lake Toto and at the reservoir in Guatape, just outside Medellin. These sites only allow for fairly shallow dives and are perfect for beginners.
The best time of year for diving in Colombia is between April and November
The best time of year for diving in Colombia is between April and November when the waves, on the Caribbean coast at least, largely disappear. During this period, you can see turtles coming to lay their eggs along the northern shore (the eggs hatch in about June or July). The trickiest time of year for scuba diving is between January and March when currents are generally much stronger.
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Scuba diving courses and requirements
To hire equipment and dive solo in Colombia, you have to be able to prove you are a certified diver, or that you have more than 10 years’ experience diving. Otherwise you will need to be accompanied by a specialist guide when undertaking such activity. For more advanced dives, for example expeditions to particularly deep areas, you may need to show additional certification beyond the basic PADI or SSI courses.
Most operators offering diving excursions also offer longer courses, certified by the relevant international regulatory bodies. Ensure to do your research on operators and check the equipment before paying for a course however, as some visitors have reported issues with the standard of instruction, or even in obtaining official certificates after the course is completed.