When you think shipwrecks, images of the ghostly, wooden pirate ships, the Titanic, and James Cameron exploring in a tiny bubble may come to mind. It’s often assumed that to explore a wreckage you’ll require scuba gear and extensive training. While scuba diving will always lure adventurous travelers, snorkeling can be as equally enthralling and much easier on the budget. In fact, scuba dives can cost more than $300 for an hour-long experience. However, an entire day of snorkeling may cost a mere $10 for a mask rental. If you're looking to explore hauntingly beautiful shipwrecks without having to spend the time, money, and energy scuba diving, here are some options where snorkeling the wreck provides an equally intimate view.
With 22 shipwrecks surrounding Canada's Georgian Bay, this old fishing village has come to be known as the freshwater diving capital of the world. The crystal-clear waters here offer spectacular views of the sunken vessels that have settled just ten feet beneath the water’s surface. For novice snorkelers, Fathom Five National Marine Park features wrecks like Minch and Newaygo. Even more scenic relics include a wooden steamer, The City of Grand Rapids, that sank in 1879 and today, at a mere 15 feet deep, is nearly within arm's reach. Since this is small-town Canada, snorkeling tours are moderately priced. For example, Divers Den offers two- and four-hour snorkeling tours for $65 and $85, respectively.
George Town, Cayman Islands:
No surprise here - the Cayman Islands are a snorkeler's paradise. As if rainbow reefs and fish feeding on algae weren't enough, a couple of wrecks entice snorkelers to gaze into oceanic depth. The Wreck of the Cali is located about 40 years off the shore. The water is about 15- to 20-feet deep, and you won't have to dive all the way down to see the ship.Better still, visiting the wreck is completely free. The nearby Wreck of the Balboa, a 1932 freighter that sank in the midst of a hurricane, now rests 25 feet underwater, offers the same majesty as previously mentioned shipwreck.
Need a little R&R after hiking the rice paddies in Ubud? Consider taking a 90-minute detour northeast to the small fishing village of Tulamben. Here, most of the handfuls of tourists visit for one reason: to see the wreck of the USS Liberty. The massive navy ship, which spans more than 460 feet long, now lies at a depth of 100 feet following torpedoing in 1942 by the Japanese. However, the top of the boat reaches up to just 15 feet, so it's easy to view up-close, though you will have to take a boat to reach the wreckage.) If the presence of more serious divers at the Liberty intimidates you, head to the next town over, Banyuning, to snorkel atop the famed Japanese Shipwreck, which is located 65 feet off-shore. It's surrounded by abundant coral formations, sponges, and gorgonian fans. Here, you’ll find even fewer crowds and an easy dive.
Key West, Florida:
The Tile Wreck is a fantastic sunken sight to see in Key West, and it's known as one of the most shallow shipwrecks in the world. This ship sank in the 1850s while carrying tile from Barcelona, hence the monicker. While little information exists about the ship and wreckage, we do know that it’s a phenomenal snorkel outing that's close enough to touch. Dwelling nearby is the corpse of the USS Alligator, a 19th century-era navy ship with portions as shallow as 8 feet deep and located 100 yards off the shore of Alligator lighthouse. The vessel is also encrusted with coral and other marine life.
When you envision massive, ghostly shipwrecks, it’s images like that of the SS Antilla that come to mind. At over 400 feet long and nearly 5,000 tons, the German freighter -- which was a casualty of World War II -- sits 30 feet deep in the crystal-clear Caribbean Sea. The rusty wreckage is so emblazoned with coral it resembles a spectacular reef. Since it’s renown as one of the best shipwrecks in the Caribbean, snorkel tours are a bit pricier and can cost upwards of $75 per person.