07/26/2013 01:25 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Most Amazing Scuba Dives on the Planet

2013-07-16-underwater_art_gallery2_musacancun_p.jpgFor most novice divers, the otherworldly world beneath the surface of the sea is fantastical enough in its own right. No major bells or whistles are needed to make it more alluring.

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The natural underwater attractions--sherbet-hued coral, Skittles-colored fish, and the deep, unending void of blue--are plenty. But as with any sport, the more you progress, see, and do, the more you want to push the envelope. So after you venture to the Great Barrier Reef and exhaust the Caribbean, what next?

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Consider this article your roadmap. We've rounded up a dozen one-of-a-kind scuba sites around the world that turn diving stereotypes on their head. From a six-year-old underwater cemetery in Florida to an 8,000-year-old lost city in Japan; from the 100°F waters of Indonesia to the freezing Antarctic Ocean; with narwhals and the deepest sea-hole on earth in between, our roster of superlative dives will arm you with far more interesting answers to that age old question--So, what'd ya see?--than just, "fish."

Creating best-of lists is always daunting, but this countdown was especially intimidating, for few groups are more passionate than divers. Given the specialty training, travel, and equipment involved, it's no wonder. You can't just pick up the sport on an afternoon whim, after all. Courses and certification are needed first, and those small-group educational settings, it seems, foster a sense of community within scuba diving that few other sports enjoy.

-Andrea Minarcrek, The Active Times

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The Most Amazing Scuba Dives on the Planet