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Winter 2008 | The World's Gayest Dive Spots

Winter 2008 | The World's Gayest Dive Spots

Splash into our favorite scuba sites outside the mainland U.S., where a gay-friendly scene beckons on land and sea.

Palm-drenched Koh Samui, Thailand?s third largest island, boasts the country?s only LGBT diving organization. Rainbow Scuba coordinates trips in the calm southern Gulf of Thailand around neighboring Koh Tao (?Turtle Island?) and north to famed Sail Rock, where schools of batfish and giant grouper patrol the 40-foot vertical passage through its granite core and plankton-feeding whale sharks are often sighted. The locally driven gay scene, less boisterous than Phuket?s (less than a one-hour flight away), is concentrated on the island?s eastern coast around Chaweng, home of five gay bars and a luxe men?s spa.

The cactus-covered Netherlands Antilles isle of Cura?ao earns our Caribbean vote for its 65 scuba-worthy reefs and wrecks just offshore, and the Caribbean?s only official gay tourism push. Gay-friendly dive operator Ocean Encounters, located at the southeastern coast?s Cura?ao Underwater Park, is a five-minute drive from Willemstad?s late-night gay bar, Lyrics. Its Westpunt operation sits next to gay-owned Lodge Kura Hulanda, 100 feet from a fish-filled reef, and makes frequent excursions to the surreal hard-coral landscape of the Mushroom Forest. Looking for an all-gay group? Alyson Adventures leads scuba tours off the island.

The Great Barrier Reef
Welcome to the largest underwater show on earth: the World Heritage List?designated Great Barrier Reef stretches more than 1,400 miles along Australia?s Queensland coast, providing a haven for 400 types of coral, rare green turtles, giant clams, and 1,500 fish species. Drift north to tropical Cairns for gay-owned lodging and underwater visits with the 100 pound?plus residents of the nearby Cod Hole. To the south, Brisbane?s Spring Hill neighborhood bustles with gay nightlife, the perfect bookend to a stay at Heron Island?s reef-side luxury dive resort. Undersea Expeditions plans annual gay group scuba trips Down Under.

Volcanic mountains and rice paddies frame the rich dive sites around this gay-friendly Hindu enclave in the Indonesian archipelago. Dive the Rainbow leads gay underwater safaris from coast to coast, hitting highlights like the coral-encrusted World War II shipwreck Liberty, submerged beneath 10,308-foot Mount Agung, and the waters around Nusa Penida island where from June to November prehistoric-looking mola mola (sunfish) the size of dinner tables are the star attraction. Set up base in the urban south to savor Seminyak?s thriving queer community; gay visitors and expats haunt Q Bar and Kudos in the town center.

Bypass Oahu?s urban crunch for the welcoming sun-drenched Kona side of Hawaii?s Big Island, where more than 80 dive sites are a 15?20 minute boat ride from shore. Gay-friendly Kona Honu Divers visits spots populated by spinner dolphins, dragon eels, and lava tubes, but one of the world?s most sought-after trips happens after sunset: diving with gentle manta rays -- some with 12-foot wingspans! -- in shallow Keauhou Bay south of the main town, Kailua-Kona. The dive shop is less than a mile from the town?s friendly gathering spot Mask, the only official gay bar outside Honolulu; gay-owned B&Bs dot the coast.

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