A country as big as China has to have a little of everything, and with nearly 14,500 kilometers/9,000 miles of coastline, it is home to some great scuba diving. The main hub for China diving is the island of Hainan, which is also famed for its vibrant food scene. Most of the diving is set up for entry level and beginner divers, but when coupled with the topside culture, Hainan would be a great place to get introduced to diving. For more seasoned divers, head inland to Qiandao Lake for the chance to dive the 1,000-year old Lion City, which became a dive site when the local river was dammed in 1959 creating a reservoir. There is also a section of the Great Wall of China that you can dive. Both these dives sites come highly recommended by many divers from around the world.
When to go:
It is possible to dive and travel year round in China, with their summer months also being popular.
When to Get the Best Deals:
March and September for the southern regions.
What to Pack:
3/2 to 5 mm for Hainan, winter to summer, 5-7 mm wetsuit for Hong Kong, drysuit for diving in-land lakes, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, sturdy shoes, proper attire for dining and clubs in the larger cities, light rain jacket, DAN card.
Seasonal averages: 17°C/63°F in winter and 28°C/82 °F in summer for Hong Kong.
Seasonal averages: Check local weather for the regions to which you will travel. Varies widely from north to south. Hong Kong and Hainan are generally warm year round, with temperatures from 24°F/76°F in winter to 33°C/92°F in summer .
Yuan (Renminbi - RMB); Credit cards are accepted in hotels in major cities, but may not be accepted in small shops or more rural areas.
Valid passport; check with local immigration office for visa requirements.
Included in your airfare.
What to Eat:
China is a place to eat and dive your way through. On Hainan, look for "hotpot" restaurants with excellent local fare. You almost can't go wrong in Hong Kong. Eat at market stalls or high-end restaurants. You can even get afternoon tea, a remnant of the British occupation, at several hotels. Each of China's eight provinces has its signature dishes. Do some research before you visit, as the possibilities are as vast and varied as this huge country.
What to Drink:
With more than 4,000 years of experience, Chinese tea is regarded as an art form that you should sample at every opportunity. China has also been making alcohol for thousands of years. You'll find a variety or spirits, wine and beer all produced in China and as vast and varied as this huge country.
In Hong Kong, jump on the Peak Tram and head to Victoria Peak for great views of the city, especially at night; get tea at a local tea house such as Lin Heung Tea House; cruise the harbor in a junk for a taste of the maritime history of Hong Kong; don't miss the Temple Street Night Market for great deals and food; In Hainan, look for the golden Kaiser at the picturesque Butterfly Valley, explore Wizhizhou Island and take the waters at Nantian Hot Spring. The list is endless.
Customs and Culture:
Chinese culture is full of interesting festival and courtesies. The concept of "face" and one's honor is a critical part of this society. Definitely learn to use chopsticks before you come, and remove your shoes when entering anyone's home.
To celebrate the reversing flow of the Tonle Sap River - the Annual Bon Om Touk (water festival) is held in November. The festival is colorful, exciting and includes boat racing along the Sisowath Quay (Phnom Penh). Additionally, Khmer New Year is celebrated in mid-April.
Electricity and Internet:
220 V, 50 Hz; Internet is widely available in major cities.
Drink the water?
Bottled water is recommended outside the major hotels.
In Beijing, a dialect of Mandarin. Cantonese is next most popular. English is spoken in major cities.
Amazing Marine Life
Torpedo-shaped and metallic, squid can change color in an instant, and may be difficult to spot.
With their curling tails and iconic chess-piece profiles, seahorses are can be spotted by the watchful diver among seagrasses, kelp, or sea fans.
These interesting creatures are often spotted in large schools. They have been noted to join divers on their journey, usually around the Koh Kon dive spots.
Seen in the open waters near the oil rig dives, especially during plankton blooms.
Spotted Eagle Ray:
Seen graceful flying carpets are seen mostly off Hong Kong near the oil rigs.
This playful marine mammal is usually found cavorting with a group (or pod) in open water, sometimes swimming alongside dive boats.
Circle the oil rigs in small tornado like formations. Always great for photos.
Several species patrol the reefs.
Uniquely patterned grouper often seen on the oil rig dives off Hong Kong.
These predatory pelagic fish are often seen on the reefs. They can swim at incredible speeds and can grow up to two meters/six feet in length, but even a small one can earn a diver's respect with a flash of its jaw full of razor-sharp teeth.
Mottled in scaly patterns of reds and browns, the stonefish can blend easily with polyp-encrusted rocks, but its venomous dorsal spines render this beauty a danger.
Top Dive Spots
The Hainan Islands, especially around Sanya and the Xisha Islands, has superb, natural diving conditions. Divers can admire colorful coral and can see octopus, sea anemones and sea cucumbers.
Shi Cheng, the Underwater City, Qiandao Lakes:
This is a must dive for all visitors. After being occupied for more almost two thousand years, the ancient city of Shi Cheng was flooded in 1959 for the Xin Anjiang Dam project. Almost 300,000 residents had to abandon this historic city that now lies undisturbed at depths of 23-36 meters/75-120 feet, providing a unique dive experience.
The Underwater Great Wall:
When most people think about visiting the Great Wall, they think about climbing it, not diving it. But, a portion of the Great Wall rests underwater for divers to explore, including a swim inside a guard post. Built 5,000 years ago, a section of the famous Great Wall of China in Tian Jin was flooded in a government effort to resolve water shortages. Now lying at 5-30 meters/15-100 feet of water, diving this site is a one-of-a-kind experience.
Yalong Bay, Hainan:
Sometimes called "the Hawaii of the Orient," this site features clear water, warm climate, extensive coral reefs, and abundant marine life. Look for lobster, crab, stonefish, and porcupine fish among the distinctive formations of the rock garden.
Shek Ngau Chau (Breaker Reef), Hong Kong:
The site is comprised of a large cluster of rocks near the middle of Mirs Bay. Some of the reef dries at low tide, adding to the diversity of marine life that can be found there. Look for pelagic fish, including sharks, nudibranchs, and featherstars along the long deep gullies of the reef.
Ping Chau Steps, Hong Kong:
This site, at the step-like formations on the northwestern side of the island, is more exposed boasts an extensive population of small sea creatures populating the cracks and crevices in and around the step formations.
South China Sea Oil Rigs, Hong Kong:
Baitfish and juvenile fish shelter beneath the rigs, attracting pelagic swimmers like bottlenose dolphin, manta ray, marlin, schooling fish, barracuda, amberjack, snappers, and honeycomb grouper.
Ko Lau Wan Pier, Long Harbor, Hong Kong:
Among the healthy corals, sargassum weed at full height hides abundant squid eggs around their base around March. Look for cornet fish and seahorse among the seaweed fronds.
Wong Shek Pier, Hong Kong:
Accessible from the shore, this pier offers opportunities for macro photography, featuring huge cuttlefish, seahorse and immense hard corals.
Zhanjiang is one of China's diving bases because of its high-quality diving facilities, good geographic conditions and mild climate.