As we often say, there’s more to diving than just colorful tropical reefs. Take a look at some of the creepiest dive sites in the world – but be warned – these mysterious spots are not for the faint of heart.
Haunted Mansion, Japan
Where: Lake Motosu, Fujikawaguchiko, Minobu, Yamanashi
Depth: 5-20 meters/16-65 feet
Visibility: 30 meters/100 feet
Lake Motosu is the deepest and third-largest of the Fuji Five Lakes. Just like all of its sibling lakes, the scenic area has become a popular resort with many hotels, campsites, and windsurfing facilities. Now let’s get to the spooky part. According to Japanese folklore, Lake Motosu is home to a monster named Mossy. Japan’s version of Nessie was discovered in the 1970s after an unidentified mysterious animal was sighted in Lake Motosu, an event that caused a huge stir at the time.
Despite the risk of bumping into Mossy, the lake is a popular dive location for freshwater divers. Haunted Mansion is a ghostly dive site named after the dead trees found underwater, with algae on the branches that look like spiderwebs. And although the spot already resembles a horror movie scene, the local dive centers go a step further on Halloween by placing carved pumpkins and skulls at the site.
Cenote Angelita, Mexico
Where: Tulum, Yucatan Peninsula
Depth: 30 meters/100 feet
Visibility: 10-30+ meters/32-100+ meters
Although it translates as “Little Angel,” Cenote Angelita is far from looking heavenly. It’s one of the creepiest dive sites in Mexico but its strange beauty simply blows people away. Freshwater from the surface falls into the cenote and sits atop the underground saltwater. When the two layers of water meet, a layer of hydrogen sulfide is formed. This layer looks like a mystical cloud, and once you pass through the dense cloud, the water gets quite dark. To top it all off, ancient trees poke through the cloud, creating the illusion of an underwater jungle shrouded in mist.
Turtle Tomb, Malaysia
Where: Sipadan Island
Depth: 17-23 meters/55-75 feet
Visibility: 30 meters/100 feet
Turtle Tomb is a cave system that’s made its way on our list of creepiest dive sites in the world due to the numerous skeletons of green sea turtles found all over the seafloor. Beware – there are many side tunnels with dead ends. The turtles have died due to asphyxia after not finding their way out of the cave. A dolphin and a marlin have also found their final resting place here. The same can happen to inexperienced divers; this site should only be explored with a guide that knows the cave well.
Rummu Quarry and Prison, Estonia
Where: Rummu, Vasalemma Parish
When: December-February, July-August
Depth: 10 meters/33 feet
Visibility: 5-15 meters/16-50 feet
Not far from Tallinn lie the ruins of a former Soviet prison that housed about 400 inmates. This was a hard labor penal institution right next to a limestone quarry where the prisoners were put to work. After the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the prison and quarry fell into a state of abandonment and became flooded. Soon enough, the entire area turned into a large lake that consumed most of the buildings.
Who would have thought that a former prison would become one of the most popular dive sites in Estonia and arguably one of the quirkiest submerged spots in all of Europe? Underwater, you can see the prison walls, a bunker, several buildings, machinery, different objects, as well as a sunken forest that adds to the surreal scenery.
Neptune Memorial Reef, USA
Where: Key Biscayne, Florida
Depth: 12 meters/40 feet
Visibility: 10 meters/33 feet
The cemetery is seen as a place for families to mourn and visit their loved ones, so a handful of people may not be too happy with strangers visiting a graveyard just for the thrills. However, in some parts of the world, going to the cemetery on Halloween (or a similar holiday) to welcome the visiting spirits is nothing out of the ordinary. Not even when that cemetery is underwater.
The Neptune Memorial Reef in Florida is an underwater columbarium that’s open to all scuba divers, whether you have a loved one resting there or are simply curious to see this unique artificial reef. The site is also known as the Atlantis Memorial Reef because it was based on the concept of a lost sunken city. The reef is home to a growing marine habitat that numbers nearly 200 coral colonies and 56 species of fish.
Cheow Lan Lake, Thailand
Where: Surat Thani Province
Depth: 25 meters/82 feet
Visibility: 5-10 meters/16-32 feet
The Cheow Lan Lake is a 185-square-kilometer artificial lake built in the 1980s to generate power. It’s located in the south-western corner of Khao Sok National Park, an area inhabited by a range of mammals such as elephants, tigers, tapirs, and monkeys. The lake itself is a major tourism destination in Southern Thailand, especially among divers who are looking for something else than just tropical waters and coral reefs.
The underwater landscape of Cheow Larn Lake seems otherworldly. The thick layer of Sulphur created by the decaying trees that were once part of a lush forest creates an eerie atmosphere that appeals especially to underwater photographers. But the lake holds other wonders, not just the mystical sunken forest. One of the southern legs of Cheow Lan lake is Tham Pra Daeng (Red Cave); its entrance is an impressive formation of overlapping stalactites.
The Alley of Leaders
Where: Cape Tarkhankut Underwater Museum, Crimea
When: May to October
Depth: 10-12 meters/32-40 feet
Visibility: 30 meters/100 feet
Coming face to face with former Soviet leaders and philosophers such as Lenin, Stalin, Dzerzhinsky, and Marx may not be spooky in a traditional sense, but you have to admit that’s pretty weird. The Alley of Leaders has dozens of algae-covered sculptures and busts of some of the most feared and controversial historical figures in the world. To loosen up the commie atmosphere, the creator of this underwater museum has also added a few busts of cosmonaut Yury Gagarin as well as small replicas of the Eiffel Tower and Tower Bridge.
Salem Express, Egypt
Where: Safaga, just south of Hurghada
When: Late July to early December
Depth: 30 meters/98 feet
Visibility: 20 meters/65 feet
The Salem Express was a 100-meter-long passenger ferry that sank in 1991 after colliding with the Hyndman Reefs on the Egyptian coast. The impact destroyed the bow and forced open the visor, and the ship quickly took on water and became fully submerged. To this day, it remains one of the greatest marine tragedies in the Red Sea. More than 470 passengers lost their lives, and, at least according to the officials, all bodies were recovered after the sinking.
The controversy over whether the wreck should or shouldn’t be dived is one that will probably never reach a satisfactory conclusion. The site is a Maritime Tomb and penetration is forbidden, although many venture inside. There are still many personal items all over the wreck, such as luggage, carpets, even bicycles and strollers. Due to the massive loss of life, this is a very eerie and emotional dive.
We’re curious to know: what are the creepiest dive sites you’ve ever explored? Leave us a comment below.
Featured Photo: Tom St George