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Wreck Diver (Wreck Diving Certification): This Is How You Become One

wreck diver - wreck diving in the caribbean - buceador de pecios

The great wreck diver, traveler and adventurer Ibn Battuta said “Traveling leaves you speechless and then turns you into a storyteller.”  Wreck diving in the Caribbean elevates this truth to the nth degree.

Look, wreck divers explore sunken vessels, from historic sites to vibrant reefs teeming with life to:

  • live thrilling adventures exploring wrecks and uncovering artifacts;
  • witness history: dive into WWII planes, ancient ships, and more;
  • unearth land vehicle mysteries: trucks, motorcycles, and cars.

In addition, these sunken structures are more than just wrecks.  Natural erosion transforms wrecks into thriving ecosystems, bursting with diverse marine life.

Any of these shipwrecks can be the lure that will make you descend towards one of the most fantastic experiences you have ever dreamed of, and that will undoubtedly turn you into a storyteller.

By the way, the narrator of this article about wreck diving is me, Víctor Córdoba.  Human Resources Director at Dressel Divers, PADI Course Director, and Technical Instructor Trainer at IANTD. I have more than 6,000 dives in my logbook, and I have carried out and led hundreds of wreck diving expeditions.

So, remember, safe wreck diving requires specific skills.

Ready to Become a Wreck Diver?

Learn how to explore responsibly and safely with a wreck diving certification! Read on for details.

wreck diver - 1

1. What Is Wreck Diving? 

As we said in the introduction of this text, wreck diving, also known as shipwreck diving, is an exhilarating form of scuba diving centered on exploring submerged vessels, aircraft, and other structures. These captivating wrecks span the globe.


Why Do People Go Wreck Diving?

Sunken wrecks become artificial coral reefs. However:  “This is not what makes them so attractive to divers. To see corals and fish,   Cozumel” – This is my humble opinion, of course.

What makes wreck diving in the Caribbean one of the most successful dives is the anticipation of discovery. “During the time wreck diving adventure lasts, you become a treasure hunter, a historian, and an archaeologist. Indiana Jones with a regulator, BCD, and fins. That adrenaline rush when you see your target for the first time or when you swim over the bridge of a ship or discover a camouflaged object submerged for decades is an unbeatable sensation.”

In other words, the allure of wreck diving stems from the excitement of discovery and the historical significance of these sites. Each dive unveils a unique story, a chance to connect with history and become a protector of these underwater monuments. And, yes, there is diverse marine life thriving amidst these artificial reefs.

Some wrecks were sunk to offer appeal to divers. Others by the unfolding of events. All of them are magnets to recreational divers who are looking for new horizons to explore and challenges to overcome.

We are talking about the transcending of human limitations through scuba diving, acquiring new skills to becoming a wreck diver.

But, do I always need a wreck diving certification?

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2. What Are the Different Types of Wreck Diving? 

A vital point is to choose very well which wreck you are going to visit. In the Caribbean there are hundreds of shipwrecks, many of them deliberately caused. That is, they were intentionally sank to attract tourism. These sunken ships are generally kept in very good condition and are at depths suitable for recreational wreck diving. Often, these shipwrecks are previously prepared, meaning the hatches, doors and everything not firmly attached, that could come off, was removed before sinking them. In addition, dangerous or sharp reliefs were cleaned and, in some cases, gaps were opened that allow natural light to enter the interior for the enjoyment of recreational divers.

However, other wrecks sank naturally, due to weather inclemency, war encounters or unsolved mysteries. The fact is that these vessels are usually much deeper or it is necessary to cross strong currents to reach them. These boats are not clean for divers and hardly any light enters them. In that case, wreck diving in the Caribbean involves technical training.

There are three main types of wreck diving, each with its level of risk and required skills:

  1. Non-Penetration Diving:
  • This is the safest and most beginner-friendly option. You can do it just with an Open-Water certification.
  • Divers stay outside the wreck, exploring its exterior features like hull, decks, and superstructure.
  • No special training beyond a basic scuba certification is required.
  • Ideal for observing marine life inhabiting the wreck and appreciating its overall structure.
  1. Limited Penetration Diving:
  • Divers venture slightly inside the wreck, remaining within areas with natural light penetration.
  • Requires additional training like the PADI Wreck Diver or SDI Wreck Diver certification.
  • Utilizes proper line management and navigation skills to stay safe within the “light zone.”
  • Offers a closer look at the wreck’s interior layout and potential artifacts.
  1. Full Penetration Diving:
  • The most challenging and potentially risky type, involves entering dark and enclosed spaces within the wreck.
  • Demands extensive training, often with technical diving certifications.
  • Requires specialized equipment like sidemount configurations, stage tanks, and rebreathers for deeper and longer dives.
  • Offers exploration of the wreck’s hidden depths, revealing its history and secrets.


wreck divers - double ok - buceador de pecios

3. Skills for Wreck Diving Safety? 

Future wreck divers should bear in mind that we’re discussing dives in an unnatural environment, where they’ll navigate through wooden or iron structures where there could be some potential hazards:

Situational awareness: The interior of wrecks can be complex and confusing. Be constantly aware of your surroundings, your buddy, and potential hazards

Line management: A wreck diver must understand that within a sunken ship, there will be no direct exit to the outside. Knowing how to use lines and reels is crucial for moving safely in the visibility conditions of a wreck. Many times, anchors land far from the wreck. So, wreck divers use weighted lines to descend since the anchor is usually useless.

Fin techniques and limited visibility navigation: Wrecks often have fishing lines, nets, or debris that could ensnare divers. Since there are sediments and silt within these underwater treasures, a wreck diver must learn to navigate without losing visibility. Therefore, they must know how to fin properly.

Buoyancy control, trim, and streamlining: Some wrecks have sunk naturally and have not been conditioned previously. Edges, doors, remains, and narrow passageways are aspects to consider when diving inside shipwrecks. So excellent buoyancy control is essential.

Need for Planning and Safety: Often, a wreck can be at different depths, and you must know this before jumping into the water, as well as the rule of thirds for air consumption. Do you know what that is?

Deep and wreck diving: please note that many wrecks are below 30 meters/98 feet. Therefore, wreck diving aims to safely discover wrecks at great depths, when recreational diving.

The Wreck Diver Specialty is interesting and entertaining as it brings together two specialties; deep and wreck diving.


Interested in exploring wreck diving further? Consider enrolling in a wreck diving course to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge. With proper training and preparation, you can unlock the wonders of wreck diving while minimizing risks and enhancing your underwater experiences.

If after reading about all these skills you feel you need to improve any of them to become a wreck diver, our advice is to take the SDI or PADI wreck diver course.

Are you ready to become
a Wreck Diver?
Ask us for more information on your wreck diving certification!
We’re here to help you.

team Dressel Divers

4. What Kind of Training Do I Need to Become a Wreck Diver?

Uncover the secrets of sunken ships and explore underwater time capsules with a Wreck Diver certification from Dressel Divers! We offer wreck diving courses through both PADI and SDI, two highly respected training agencies, recognized worldwide and tailored to your diving preferences.

Why Dressel Divers?

  • Choice of certification: Choose the program that best suits your needs and preferences.
  • Expert instructors: Learn from experienced professionals passionate about wreck diving.
  • Stunning dive sites: Explore diverse shipwrecks in breathtaking locations.

Choosing Your Certification:

Both PADI and SDI offer excellent wreck diver certifications, each with slight variations. Here’s a quick comparison:

Wreck Diving Certification Requirements:

  • SDI: Open Water Scuba Diver + Deep Diver specialty or 60ft experience.
  • PADI: Open Water Scuba Diver + Adventure Diver.
  • Minimum age: 18 for SDI, 15 for PADI limited penetration (parental consent required).

Course Duration:

  • Flexible: Combine eLearning at your own pace with practical dives (2-3 days).
  • Comprehensive: Learn essential wreck diving skills through theory and practice.

Dive Training:

  • SDI: Adaptable structure based on your skills and needs.
  • PADI: Standardized curriculum with four practical dives.

Dive Details:

  • Dive 1: Familiarize yourself with the wreck and create basic cartography.
  • Dive 2: Practice anchoring and line management outside the wreck.
  • Dive 3: Explore limited penetration with proper line use inside the wreck.
  • Dive 4: Final non-decompression penetration dive.
wreck divers - instructor - buceador de pecios

5. How Much Does It Cost to Become a Wreck Diver?

Please note that the following prices are dated February 2024. If you are reading this article later, they are likely to have changed. Please contact us to confirm the price.

  Price Price-20% online discount
SDI Wreck Diver Specialty + crew pack 205 USD 164 USD
PADI Wreck Diving Specialty + crew pack 260 USD 208 USD


6. What Equipment Do I Need for Wreck Diving? 

A wreck diver, in addition to the traditional diving equipment, needs some specific gear. It depends on whether you’re planning non-penetration, limited penetration, or full penetration. However, there are some essentials every wreck diver should have, regardless of penetration level:


Essential Equipment for Wreck Diving:

  • Dive Computer: A must-have for wreck divers, facilitating depth monitoring, decompression stops, and dive timing.
  • Dive Light: An indispensable tool for illuminating wrecks and ensuring visibility. Having a backup light is strongly advised.
  • Wreck Reel and Line: Vital for marking entry/exit points and navigating within wrecks.
  • Dive Knife: Sharp and durable, crucial for cutting lines, managing entanglement hazards, and exploring wrecks safely.
  • Gloves: Protect hands from cuts and abrasions while maneuvering through wreck environments.
  • Slate and Pencil: Used for communication and recording vital information underwater.


Additional Equipment (Depending on Penetration Level):

  • Sidemount Configuration: Offers enhanced gas management and maneuverability in tight spaces, ideal for full penetration dives.
  • Stage Tanks: Provide supplementary gas supply for extended and deeper dives, particularly useful for full penetration exploration.
  • Rebreather: Advanced closed-circuit system enabling longer dive times and minimizing bubble disturbance, suitable for experienced divers.
  • Lift Bags: Essential for recovering artifacts or assisting with buoyancy control, ensuring compliance with regulations.
  • Primary and Secondary Cutting Tools: Additional cutting tools such as shears or bolt cutters, are necessary for more intricate situations encountered during full penetration dives.
wreck diver in the caribbean - buceador de pecios en el caribe

7. What Are the Environmental Concerns of Wreck Diving? 

Wreck diving is an exciting exploration of underwater history, but it’s crucial to address environmental concerns and minimize impact.

Key issues include avoiding physical damage to wrecks and marine life, reducing pollution and chemical hazards, and respecting the ecosystem. Practices such as using reef-safe sunscreen, avoiding noise pollution, and not removing artifacts from wrecks contribute to the preservation of the historical and archaeological value of the shipwrecks.

Additionally, being mindful of observing marine animals from a distance and avoiding causing unnecessary stress, supporting sustainable dive operators, and adopting responsible practices are essential. By prioritizing these concerns, divers can ensure the preservation of underwater treasures for future generations.


8. Best Places for Wreck Diving in The Caribbean with Dressel Divers

Dive into history and excitement with a wreck diving adventure in the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean Sea, with Just an Open Water Certification

Discover four fascinating wrecks:

  • The St. George (Bayahibe, The Dominican Republic): A 73-meter transatlantic freighter resting at 44 meters depth, ideal for experienced divers.
  • The Astron (Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic): A 127-meter underwater mystery in two parts, with its bow near the surface and its stern just 12 meters below.
  • The Atlantic Princess (Bayahibe, The Dominican Republic): A cruise ship deliberately sunk in 2008 at a depth of only 12 meters, perfect for beginner divers.
  • The Mama Viña (Playa del Carmen, México): A former shrimp boat, intentionally sunk in 1995 for wreck scuba diving. You only need an Open Water certification to reach its deeper part, which lies around 28m/100ft depth, while the deck is at 15m/50ft depth more or less.

In conclusion, if you’re ready to become a wreck diver, look no further than Dressel Divers.

If you are not, the Caribbean keeps wrecks waiting to be explored.

So, why wait? Dive into history and excitement with us.

Contact us today, and let the wonders of wreck diving unfold beneath the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean Sea.