National Geographic’s ‘100 Dives of a Lifetime’ Makes Us Appreciate This Rock We Call Home [REVIEW]

Advanced level dives - Antarctica

Braving the cold, a diver swims beneath Antarctica’s ice. (Photo by Laurent Ballesta, National Geographic Creative)

I am a child of the sea. From the time I was a little boy and my parents would take me to the beach in Los Angeles, I loved everything about the ocean: the smell of tangy salt air, watching the waves crash against the shore, sailing across its tides, swimming against the current, and exploring all the life that makes its home there. The oceans of the world rejuvenate and fascinate me, which is why I’ll never forget the first time I slipped on my goggles and saw a whole new world fathoms below the surface. Now National Geographic is giving all of us a glimpse into this aquatic wonderland in its breathtaking new book, 100 Dives of a Lifetime: The World’s Ultimate Underwater Destinations. 

Easter Island moai replica

The famed moai replica attracts hundreds of divers a year. (Photo by Randy Olson, National Geographic Creative)

In Nat Geo’s unparalleled tradition, we are taken into fabled worlds few of us have the chance to see. One of my favorites is located 2,300 miles off the coast of Chile beneath Easter Island. Here, there are no ports to dock at, so divers need to be comfortable arriving by traditional fishing boat and taking their gear on and off in the open water. There also aren’t any rivers on the isle to disturb the water and cloud a diver’s view. In fact, the water is such a sapphire blue that you can see 200 feet beneath the surface of the Pacific. There divers can see all manner of life, including green turtles, angelfish, trumpetfish, boxfish, barracuda, balloonfish, as well as native species like the Easter Island spiny lobster and the Easter Island eel. Also, in the bay of Hanga Roa, just 68 feet down, divers will encounter a moai (those tall stone statues famous for their inscrutable faces). It’s not authentic, but is a movie prop turned into an artificial reef, but still super cool to encounter!

S.S. President Coolidge

Divers explore the S.S. Coolidge’s forward guntub. (Photo by David Doubilet, National Geographic Creative)

In Vanuatu, a South Pacific ocean nation made up of roughly 80 islands, divers can visit the sunken S.S. President Coolidge. Originally built in 1931 in Virginia, the ship began as a 615-foot-long luxury passenger steamship which broke numerous speed records and was renowned as a floating art deco hotel. But during World War II, the ship became a rescue vessel as it evacuated Americans out of Hong Kong and other parts of Asia, and transported Pearl Harbor’s injured to San Francisco. Eventually, it was painted gray, redesigned to carry 5,000 troops and stacked with antiaircraft guns. However, in 1942 it sank when two explosions tore into the ship and it hit a coral reef. Miraculously, all but two men survived and now the wreck, mostly intact, is becoming an artificial reef and home to all kinds of marine life, including lionfish, morray eels, ghost pipefish, leaf fish, triggerfish, and more. Between the sea life and the amazing wreck, there is a lot for divers to see here, but taking it all in comes with risks. The dives have decompression times and forgetting that fact while taking in the sights can quickly lead to trouble.

Tiger shark swims past diver

A tiger shark swims past a watching diver. (Photo by Brian Skerry)

Looking for an exhilarating dive that you can talk about for years to come? Head to the Bahamas and Tiger Beach. Just 30 to 70 feet deep, the Gulf Stream flowing through the area creates a diver’s paradise and brings large numbers of sharks swimming through, including tiger, lemon, bull, sand tiger, oceanic whitetip, and Caribbean reef sharks. But don’t charter just any dive operator for this trip. After all, when more than a dozen 1,400-pound tiger sharks are swimming around you, it’s important to know what you’re doing. (Interesting fact to remember: their jaws and teeth are made to crush turtle shells, so they bite first and ask questions later.) Make sure the dive company knows its stuff, works safely among the animals, and offers ample education regarding how to enhance the experience. Also, be sure you wear gloves, because bare skin can resemble fish underwater and no one wants to lose a hand to a hungry shark!

Divers in an underwater cave

Divers explore an underwater cave in Akumal. (Photo by Paul Nicklen, National Geographic Creative)

Have you ever taken a cruise to the northwest coast of Mexico, with excursions to Playa del Carmen or Tulum? If so, you may not have realized you were in prime diving territory. Here in the Yucatán Peninsula, three of the world’s longest underground water systems have created the largest cave system in the world. When cave ceilings collapse, cenotes appear, and they make for incredible diving! With crystal clear visibility up to 300-plus feet, they are fun to explore and with more than 6,000 of them, some of them are still virgin territory. Although the dives are available for everyone from novices on up, they may not be the best fit for those who tend to get a bit claustrophobic, so make sure to do your homework before booking a trip. Still, if Indiana Jones is your ultimate hero, you’re going to love exploring these mythic places where everything from ancient jaguar and mammoth fossils to 10,000-year-old human skeletons have been discovered.

Emperor penguins swimming

Emperor penguins swim beneath the ice floes of Antarctica. (Photo by Laurent Ballesta, National Geographic Creative)

As intriguing as old relics can be, however, for me the ultimate draw to diving is observing the living miracles that populate this captivating world under the sea. Sure, not all of them live in the water full time, but still, to see them immersed in their natural habitat is utterly fascinating and unforgettable. From Antarctica’s emperor penguins (above) and Weddell seals (below) to the myriad other fish and mammals populating the oceans around the globe, there is so much to see and enthrall, it quickly becomes evident that life just isn’t long enough to see it all. Thankfully, National Geographic sends its talented crews out to capture these elusive moments on camera for us all to enjoy and as you can tell from the sampling of stunning photos I’ve included here from the book, they provide compelling reasons to learn more and plan new adventures.

Weddell seals

A Weddell seal pup nudges its mother beneath the ice. (Photo by Laurent Ballesta, National Geographic Creative)

In addition to the breathtaking photography, there are other things I truly love about 100 Dives of a Lifetime. First, author Carrie Miller has done her homework. She writes in a way that lures us to numerous parts of the planet, some familiar and many not. With an artist’s eye and a journalist’s nose for detail, she paints vivid landscapes of ethereal worlds that beg us to investigate. The informative tidbits listed in this review are all from her book, and there are plenty more where they came from, including ample notes about what to expect on each dive and notes detailing what divers can expect to encounter on each journey.

Whale sharks

Whale sharks cruise by kayakers and swimmers. (Photo by Stocktrek Images, National Geographic Creative)

She has also divided the book into three sections based on a diver’s level of experience. From beginner dives in places like Cebu and Malapascua Islands in the Philippines (above) to intermediate dives in areas like the Somosomo Strait in Fiji (below), she highlights the wildlife divers may encounter as well as what it takes to reach each destination. All of this is incredibly helpful if using this book as an actual guide for future trips!

Mantis shrimp

A mantis shrimp (Squilla empusa) in the Somosomo Strait. (Photo by Tim Laman, National Geographic Creative)

Finally, the third and final section of the book is for advanced and all level dives, and features places like Australia’s remote Ningaloo Reef (below), located 750 miles north of Perth, where divers can capture some of the most memorable moments of their lives on film and watch both whale sharks and humpback whales swim past in tranquil harmony.

Ningaloo Reef

Ningaloo is famous for seasonal appearances of these gentle giants. (Photo by Jason Edwards, National Geographic Creative)

So whether you have your scuba gear already packed and ready to go, simply love spectacular photography of nature’s eye candy, or have been contemplating investing in scuba lessons before taking your next vacation, you won’t want to miss perusing National Geographic’s 100 Dives of a Lifetime: The World’s Ultimate Underwater Destinations. It is a book everyone should have on their coffee table because this is better than escapist fiction, this volume provides authentic life-affirming real-world beauty that makes us appreciate this rock we call home all over again.

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Carrie Miller

Carrie Miller

Carrie Miller has been writing for National Geographic since 1998. She is a two-time Lowell Thomas Award winner and contributing editor at National Geographic Traveler magazine, and her work has also appeared in Afar and Travel + Leisure, among others. Miller and her dive master husband are traveling the world for an upcoming guidebook. Follow her adventures on Facebook and Instagram. and visit her home on the Web at CarrieInk.co.nz.

Brian Skerry

Brian Skerry
(Photo by Mauricio Handler)

Brian Skerry is a photojournalist specializing in marine wildlife and underwater environments. He has been a contract photographer for National Geographic since 1998, and his work has also appeared in PeopleSports IllustratedU.S. News & World ReportSmithsonian, and Esquire. The author/photographer of Shark (2017), Skerry lives in Uxbridge, Massachusetts. Visit his home on the Web at BrianSkerry.com, and follow him on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

One of the world’s leading nonfiction publishers, National Geographic Books has published more than 1,700 titles, featuring such categories as history, travel, nature, photography, space, science, health, biography, and memoir. A portion of its proceeds is used to fund exploration, conservation, and education through ongoing contributions to the work of the National Geographic Society. Visit National Geographic Books home on the Web at NationalGeographic.com/books, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter.

100 DIVES OF A LIFETIME: THE WORLD’S ULTIMATE UNDERWATER DESTINATIONS
By Carrie Miller and Brian Skerry
400 pp. National Geographic. $35.

Tiger Sharks

“Interested in sharks? This is Mecca. There are so many species in one fell swoop. On almost any given day of the year, you’ll be surrounded by big tiger sharks in 20 feet of water.”—BRIAN SKERRY (Photo by Brian Skerry, National Geographic Creative)

TLC Book Tours Tour HostPurchase 100 Dives of a Lifetime at one of these fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, IndieBound, and National Geographic.

100 Dives of a Lifetime is brought to you in association with TLC Book Tours.

Elephant seal

An elephant seal comes ashore. (Photo by Paul Nicklen, National Geographic Creative)

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

4 Responses to National Geographic’s ‘100 Dives of a Lifetime’ Makes Us Appreciate This Rock We Call Home [REVIEW]

  1. trish says:

    It’s amazing all the things we have here on Earth!

  2. Sara Strand says:

    Not a chance I’d ever dive but I love the ocean and everything about it so I’d love to page through this! Thanks for being on this tour.

    Sara @ TLC Book Tours

  3. Pingback: National Geographic's 100 Dives of a Lifetime, on tour February/March 2019 | TLC Book Tours

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