Colombia is a great diving location that offers access to both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. It is also possible to dive in the lakes of the Andes Mountains which is a unique experience for many diving enthusiasts.
Colombia’s long-stretching coastline is filled with laid-back beach towns and vibrant cultural opportunities as well as a number of colonial towns.
The oldest colonial town in Colombia is Santa Marta, and just 10 minutes from this picturesque area is the backpacking hub of Taganga, a tiny fishing town that offers affordable diving in a beautiful location.
Diving in Taganga takes place in a bay that is surrounded by mountains, and visibility is best between December and April. Water temperatures are cool during this time, around 21°C, whilst water temperatures rise to 24-28°C the rest of the year.
San Andres Island
For some of Colombia’s best wall and wreck diving spots, head to the San Andres-Providencia archipelago. The entirety of San Andres Island is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve which boasts unusually warm water all year long – usually in the range of 28-30°C which makes a 3mm wetsuit more than sufficient at any time of year. This group of islands offers fantastic diving with varied landscapes of sea grass beds, reef, mangroves and dunes. There’s an abundance of underwater life to see around San Andres including some bigger fish species.
Isla Gorgona was once a prison island and is now a national park with some of Colombia’s best scuba diving. Isla Gorgona is 35km from the Colombian Pacific coast and is best visited between May and October. Temperatures during this time will be around 28°C whereas temperatures can drop from 15-23°C during January, February and March. Isla Gorgona is truly a haven for divers, with so many interesting marine species to see.
Don’t miss the blue anolis, a small lizard with intense blue color.
For many, the highlight of scuba diving in Colombia is Malpelo Island. In fact, many would consider this volcanic rock structure, known as the “Mount Everest of Sharks”, to offer some of the best diving in the world. Malpelo Island is located far from the coast and is only accessible by liveaboard, however the trip is well worth it. The walls around Malpelo Island drop to over 4000 meters and attract many different species of shark. The water temperatures can be as low as 16°C in the colder months around January and as high as 27°C in the Colombian summer. Conditions are highly unpredictable at Malpelo Island as they are constantly changing.
Marine Environment & Dive Sites
For scuba diving enthusiasts, Colombia offers the best of both worlds. Colombia’s Pacific Ocean diving spots hold all the action whereas its diving locations in the Caribbean Sea boast warm, calm waters with a myriad of colorful tropical species to see.
Taganga is an excellent choice for divers of all abilities. Many of the sites are protected and are located in shallow waters, making it ideal for training dives or first-time divers. Dive sites at Taganga are teeming with tropical fish such as butterfly fish, angelfish, yellowtail snappers and morays.
El Torrin is a popular dive site that boasts colorful brain corals and exceptional visibility at a manageable depth of 18 meters.
For a deeper dive for more experienced divers, Morrito Largo is a top choice where divers can see a steep rock completely covered in black coral.
Providencia and San Andres archipelagos
There are many variations of dive sites around the Providencia and San Andres archipelagos including drift dives, wrecks, walls and coral reefs. There is much to see around this archipelago with tropical fish typical to the Caribbean and also larger species such as grouper, snapper and barracuda.
One of the most popular sites at San Andres is Trampa Tortuga, where divers are met with great visibility and a shallow dive of only 15 meters.
The wreck site of Blue Diamond offers swim throughs and plenty of nooks and crannies to explore.
Diving around Isla Gorgona offers some of the best diving Colombia has to offer. Island Gorgona is one of Colombia’s protected national parks and is also a UNESCO protected site. Isla Gorgona is a highly developed coral reef that offers divers the opportunity to see manta rays, sea turtles, white-tip reef sharks and even whale sharks. In the months of June to October, divers and whale watchers alike can see breaching Humpback whales in this area.
For drift diving opportunities, divers should check out La Tirburonera which is an excellent spot to see large fish species.
For those looking for the ultimate thrill, a visit to Malpelo Island is a must. Malpelo Island is considered the capital of shark diving in Colombia, and possibly even the shark diving capital of the world. The area is teeming with sharks of all varieties during different parts of the year. When the water is cold in January, February and March divers are treated to masses of hammerheads who travel to shallower waters. Ragged tooth sharks and sand tiger sharks are also prevalent during this time. During the months of May through September, divers are able to see large groups of silky sharks gathered around Malpelo Island.
There are a total of 8 dive sites around Malpelo. Due to their exposed nature, diving here can be quite challenging and so the shark diving sites around Malpelo Island are best suited for experienced divers.
As the saying goes, “you get what you pay for”, and this is most often true when it comes to dive centers in Colombia. Although there are some reports about dive center scams and unsafe equipment in Colombia, there are a number of safe, reputable and professional dive centers to choose from. It might be worthwhile to check reviews and be prepared to pay slightly more to ensure you receive a professional service.
In addition to dive centers, there are also instructor development centers and diving resorts in Colombia that offer training opportunities through PADI and NAUI. The diving centers in Colombia are well-located for arranging trips to some of the best diving spots.
It is also possible to access Colombia’s dive sites by liveaboard in areas such as Gorgona National Park, Malpelo and Cosos Island. Other liveaboards depart from Panama and take divers to diving locations further afield in comfort and style.
How to get there
Travelling to Colombia is relatively easy for internationals or those traveling in South America or Central America.
Bogota and Medelin are the transportation hubs which have good domestic connections to other smaller cities and other airports within the country.