Lord Howe Island
Rugged and uninhabited Mona Island, about 50 miles west of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, is only 10 square miles and has been hailed the Galapagos of the Caribbean for the high number of endemic creatures such as the Mona iguana. Underwater you’ll find spectacular and pristine wall diving and reefs that boast more than 270 species of fish. Humpback whales are also regular visitors during the winter months. You can either camp (bring everything) or go via live-aboard. Nekton Diving Cruises knows the waters; www.nektoncruises.com.
The locals on this island, which sits 375 miles east of Sydney, go barefoot year-round. It has (what people who know such things call) the world’s most perfect climate. The waters that surround this UNESCO World Heritage haven harbor a unique mix (more than 500 species of fish alone) of unabashed tropical and temperate marine life, many of which can only be found here on the world’s most southern coral reefs. But, best of all, only 400 travelers a day (most of whom aren’t divers) are allowed on the island at a time, so there’s no chance you’ll be rubbing elbows on the reefs.
At Ned’s Beach, you’ll shore dive and push your way through big, 3- to 6-foot Kingfish that hang out just beyond the shoreline to explore shallow reefs and channels with small Galapagos sharks, sea hares and Spanish Dancers. Or, check out Sylphs Hole with so much marine life that you’ll hardly need to swim. And for something truly one-of-a-kind, look for Coleman’s pygmy seahorse in Erscott’s Hole.
To ratchet your personal bar up a notch, head out to Ball’s Pyramid, about 25 minutes from the island. This citadel of rock juts up from the seafloor and is a Wild West of color and action below the water. Here, the rare, buck-toothed doubleheader wrasse plies its day through the ebb and flow of myriad kinds of marine life, including endemic black and gray McCulloch’s anemonefish. — TS
Need to Know
Getting There Fly Qantas from Sydney to Lord Howe Island (LDH) airport. There are weight restrictions (30 pounds checked, 2 pounds carry-on) to consider, so leave the extra clothes behind if possible.
When to Go Year-round, but your best chances of diving Pyramid Rock are during the Austral Summer (November – March). Average temperature topside is 76°F
Dive Season Water temps average 72°F, and the summer can bring visibility of 90 feet.
Operators Pro Dive (www.prodivelordhowe.com.au)
Stay Arajilla Retreat (www.lordhowe.com.au) offers a four-day Lord Howe Environmental Dive Adventure that includes accommodations, all meals and predinner drinks, rental bicycles, and gear, and four underwater naturalists dives and two fish-ID dives that earn you your PADI Underwater Naturalist Speciality Diver Certification for $2,100 per person.