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Volcano Diving Explorations: An Extreme Adventure?

In the Caribbean, there are 19 volcanoes, but only one is underwater. However, it’s 250 meters deep, which is out of reach for us, scuba divers.

If you want to dive in a volcano with us, for now, it is not possible.

But, if you want to know what diving in volcanoes is all about and where you can do it, keep reading.

1. What is Volcano Diving?

If you’re looking for a breathtaking experience, volcano diving might be the answer. This type of diving leaves behind coral reefs and shipwrecks to explore underwater volcanic terrain: lava tubes, basalt columns, craters… It’s like exploring another world, with the chance to see Earth’s incredible geothermal activity up close. And yes, some of these volcanoes are active.

What you can expect when diving in volcanoes are challenging conditions: strong currents, changing temperatures, dense underwater vegetation… All of this makes it an experience suitable only for adventurous divers.


2. Volcanic Formations for Diving

Dive into an underwater world where fire and water meet, creating landscapes that seem from another planet. Lava flows and unique rock formations, created by the slow cooling of molten lava, transport you to a prehistoric world where each fold and crack tells a story of past eruptions.

Here are some of the formations you can find:

  • Pillow Lava: Formed when lava cools rapidly upon contacting water, these formations resemble petrified cushions or pillows.
  • Basalt Columns: Fascinating hexagonal formations that look like a giant honeycomb, creating a geometric and harmonious underwater landscape. They form through the slow cooling of liquid lava in volcanic chimneys or in calderas that do not overflow.
  • Lava Tubes: Tunnels formed by lava that cooled on the outside while still flowing on the inside.
  • Lava Pillars: Colossal columns of solidified lava that make divers feel like they are in an underwater temple.

Volcanic craters, though they might seem like scars on the Earth, are the summit of the volcano. Underwater, they teem with marine life. Thanks to the nutrient-rich waters emanating from the volcano, these places become oases for fish, corals, and other marine creatures.

  • Calderas: A caldera is a much larger and deeper depression than a crater. They can span several kilometers in diameter and form when a volcano collapses after a massive eruption, hosting unique ecosystems full of marine life.
Volcano Diving - Buceo en volcanes retrato
Picture by Philippe Guillaume

3. Marine Life Around Volcanic Sites

In addition to the geological formations, active volcanoes are surrounded by abundant life. Hydrothermal water flows release mineral-rich fluids, creating unique ecosystems. The creatures here are true survivors, adapted to the warmer waters and chemically charged environment. Here’s what you can find:

  • Microbes: Bacteria and archaea that derive energy from hydrothermal fluids.
  • Invertebrates: Tube worms, scale-covered snails, and various types of crustaceans.
  • Fish: Some species adapt to the warm, mineral-rich waters of volcanic vents.

Diving in volcanic areas showcases the dramatic interaction between the Earth’s geological processes and marine ecosystems. However, this is not for novices. Extra training and strict safety precautions are necessary due to the potentially dangerous conditions and unpredictable volcanic activity.


4. What to Expect When Diving in a Volcano (Precautions and Safety)

Diving in volcanic areas means exploring alongside dormant giants, navigating underwater craters, secret lava tunnels, and encountering rare marine life. However, it’s not a walk in the park.

Diving Conditions

  • Visibility: It can be amazing! In some places, you can see up to 50 meters, like being in a giant fishbowl.
  • Currents: Sometimes strong currents can turn vertical, which can be dangerous.
  • Warm Water: The volcano heats the water. Near active vents, the water can reach up to 35ºC. Make sure to wear an appropriate suit to avoid feeling like a boiled lobster.
  • Surprise Changes: Volcanic activity can quickly alter visibility and water temperature. One moment you’re in crystal-clear water, and the next you’re in a hot soup.
  • Moving Things: Volcanic formations can be somewhat fragile.
  • Gassy Waters: Occasionally, the volcano releases gases that can affect visibility and breathing.

Given these conditions, prioritizing safety is crucial when diving in volcanic areas.

Safety Precautions

  • Knowledgeable Guide: Don’t go on an adventure alone. Find an expert guide in volcanic diving.
  • Protective Gear: Don’t forget an appropriate suit for the warm water and protection to avoid scraping against volcanic rocks.
  • Stay Informed: Keep up with volcanic activity and heed local warnings.

5. Skills for Mastering Volcanic Diving

  • Buoyancy Control: Buoyancy is key to navigating volcanic formations with ease.
  • Drift Diving: In areas with strong currents, like volcanic islands, drift diving will be your best friend. Let the current carry you and enjoy the scenery!
  • Cave Diving Skills: If you want to explore lava tubes and caverns, your cave diving knowledge will be handy.
  • Underwater Navigation: Learn special techniques to orient yourself in this new volcanic environment.
  • Underwater Emergency Preparedness: Always be prepared for the unexpected and know how to react in any situation.

Bonus Track: Volcanic Photography

Many divers take the opportunity to capture the unique beauty of volcanic formations and the marine life that inhabits them. Remember, good buoyancy control is essential for taking award-winning photos.


6. 5 Volcanic Diving Destinations

Warm waters, otherworldly landscapes, and the thrill of being close to the power of nature. Sounds good, right? Here are 5 volcanic diving destinations worth visiting.

Sangihe Islands, Indonesia Here, you can dive next to an active underwater volcano or explore the base of another and admire old lava flows on an extinct volcano. The best part? The marine life is incredibly diverse: colorful fish, spectacular corals, and even surprises like sharks.

El Hierro, Canary Islands, Spain Volcanic diving in El Hierro offers an underwater lava tongue with plenty of terrain to explore. There’s also a sharp mountain zone that will leave you speechless. But what will really blow your mind is the marine fauna: turtles, tuna, rays of all kinds, and even dolphins and whale sharks if you’re lucky! All thanks to the 2011 eruption, which regenerated the seabed creating a unique underwater spectacle.

Crater, Molokini Maui, Hawaii Molokini is a partially submerged volcano forming a crescent-shaped island, perfect for divers of all levels! If you’re experienced, you can dive into the crater and marvel at the scenery. Beginners, don’t worry, there are shallower areas with little current to practice your buoyancy. The best part is you’ll be accompanied by beautiful tropical fish: from bluefin jacks to butterflyfish and fire gobies.

Santorini, Greece Santorini is synonymous with luxury, and its underwater world is no different. Here, you’ll find the world’s largest volcanic caldera and can dive onto its volcanic reef. Of course, there are plenty of marine animals to discover. Get ready for a VIP diving trip with expert instructors and exclusive boats.

La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain La Palma is another volcanic island. Diving here, you’ll encounter numerous basalt columns and lava formations that look straight out of a sci-fi movie. The marine life here is also very diverse, so get ready to see creatures of all shapes and colors. The best part is there are areas perfect for beginners wanting to try diving for the first time, and deeper areas with breathtaking panoramas for more experienced divers.

Now you know how and where to practice volcano diving. Does the idea entice you? Share it with us on Facebook.