I’m hooked. After getting certified, scuba diving has quickly become one of my favorite hobbies: it’s fun, adventurous, educational and even very safe. While China may not be the first dive paradise that comes to your mind, believe it or not there are several places worth a few breaths out of the regulator. For anyone looking to get certified and/or scope out some sweet diving spots, look no further. This article is everything you need to know about scuba diving in China.
It’s a very good idea to get certified. At most reputable places, you cannot dive unless you take and complete an open water PADI course. BISAC, SSI, NAUI, CMAS and other smaller organizations are expectable as well, but PADI is the world’s largest and most recognized. Being certified also teaches you many of the safety precautions that not only make you feel more comfortable underwater, but could also save your life.
The certificate is not always required in China, especially for people who don’t take diving as a serious sport/leisure activity and just want to try it. Usually the business running diving trips will offer some basic training beforehand, then lead the group to the dive destination accompanied by a few dive masters. If you only want to get your feet wet, take a dive at a place that doesn’t require a certification to see how you like it. If you’re ready for more, move on to get certified. (All listings in this article offer PADI certification classes in English and Mandarin).
China's Best Aquatic Adventures
1) Zhejiang: Qiandao Lake’s Ancient Ruins of Lion City
This one seems pretty cool and I can’t wait to check it out this summer! Qiandao Lake (千岛湖; or Thousand Island Lake) was created in 1959 when authorities flooded the valley for a hydroelectric plant. In the process, it created a gorgeous fresh-water lake with a plethora of mountain peaks penetrating the surface – inadvertently creating thousands of small islands. It also flooded Lion City (狮城; Shi Cheng), a 1,400 year-old Tang Dynasty village.
The village is still in tact (about 30 meters underwater, of course), and is complete with 265 arches, five city gates, and dozens of cool architectural structures. There is also another smaller village named He Cheng (河城) that has been drowned by the dam; some believe it dates back roughly 2,000 years to the Han Dynasty. The visibility isn’t perfect and you’ll need a flashlight, basically turning it into a night dive, but it’s still a grand adventure you can tick off your list. Plus it’s quite easy to get to from Hangzhou.
You need to get to the town of Dashuzhen (大叔真) on the southwest corner of Qiandao Lake, a 6-7 hour scenic drive from Shanghai, or three hours from Hangzhou. Since Dashuzhen is quite tiny, the number of buses running in and out of town is limited, so it may be best to contact Big Blue in Shanghai (see contact info below). They offer weekend getaway dive trips to this destination – it’s by far the easiest and most efficient way to tackle Lion City.
Big Blue Shanghai
Address: Bldg 10, 10 Jinbang Lu, near Hami Lu
地址: 金浜路10弄10号, 近哈密路
Phone: +86 21 6291 2110
If you’d rather wing it without a tour, first get to Hangzhou. There are dozens of high-speed bullet trains departing to Hangzhou from all major cities in China daily, especially Shanghai. Once in Hangzhou, there are buses departing to Qiandao Lake every half hour from Hangzhou West Bus Station. Upon arrival in Qiandao, take a taxi to Dashuzhen. The journey takes about an hour and should cost less than 200 RMB.
2) Hainan: The Hawaii of China
While Hainan’s diving scene isn’t on par with the real Hawaii’s, there’s still a few decent spots around Sanya (三亚). There are various dive spots to choose from, but it must be mentioned that Yalong Bay (particularly the areas of Baifu Bay and Sun Bay) is regarded as the two best on the island. There are wonderful coral gardens, various species of fish and other marine life, and the visibility is pristine. All that coupled with near perfect weather year-round makes for a truly enjoyable experience for dive masters and beginners alike.
There are too many dive operators to count in Yalong Bay (亚龙湾). Once you get there, you’ll spot hundreds of operators’ advertisements. You can also ask your hotel or hostel for their recommendations. One hotel/dive operator based in the five-star Aegean Conifer Suites Resorts Sanya has gotten decent reviews from divers.
Aegean Conifer Suites Resorts Sanya
Address: Yalong Bay National Resort District
Phone:+86 898 8898 8898
At least one flight departs to Sanya from every major city in China daily, but there are much more flights during peak season. Once you get to Sanya International Airport, simply tell the driver you want to arrive in Yalong Bay and 45 minutes later you’ll arrive in town.
3) Beijing: Dive at the Great Wall
Believe it or not, there is a submerged section of the Great Wall of China where divers can take the plunge! It’s even made international headlines, with the Wall Street Journal, Men’s Journal, and other well-known publications covering articles on the dive. In 1976, in a similar story to Lion City, the Chinese government created the Panjiakou (潘家口) Reservoir, flooding several villages and a kilometer section of the Great Wall. With a dry suit (the water is freezing!), flashlight (visibility is limited), and proper equipment, you too can see the Wall from an entirely different angle.
Unlike the other spots mentioned on this list, there’s no real accommodation or diving facilities set up in Panjiakou. Contact Sino Scuba and talk to the American owner Mr. Shwankert. He’s the one to set you up with a dive – if you’re qualified enough.
Address: Workers’ Stadium South Gate Chaoyang District
Phone: 186 1113 3629
Note: Sino Scuba not only offers PADI certification classes, but also dives at the Blue Zoo. Due to Beijing’s landlocked/limited-diving geography, divers can scuba dive in a giant aquarium with sharks, fish and other marine life.
As mentioned, if you want to set up a dive in the Panjiakou Reservoir, you better contact Sino Scuba to set something up. They will provide transportation to the lake nearly 250 kilometers northeast of Beijing, in Hebei Province. There are no direct busses to Panjiakou, so if you have your own equipment and want to check it out, it’s best to take a long and expensive taxi from Beijing.
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Like most things worth doing in China, diving is ridiculously expensive by world standards and although I'm sure there are a few spots worth checking out I highly doubt it has anything close to what Indonesia and Philippines have to offer and those places are only a few hours and a cheap flight away. I have been diving in East Africa, Australia and several places in Asia (Thailand, Philippines, Taiwan and Indonesia) so China doesn't really hold much interest with its sewage filled sea.
Feb 27, 2016 01:25 Report Abuse
I don't know about the cost per dive, but I know this.... I calculated it out, it costs LESS money for a round trip ticket to the Philippines, 5 days in a hotel, and an Open Water certification course than it costs for just the course at Big Blue Shanghai.
Mar 02, 2016 10:27 Report Abuse
Diving in Hainan starts at around 600RMB per dive and goes upto around 1000RMB depending on dive site/logistics etc. Also, some of the better spots have an "Island landing fee" tax added on, which I believe is around the 140RMB mark. I was paying $75 for two dives in Bali last year, so you can see what a rip-off it is.
Feb 28, 2016 22:24 Report Abuse
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