Although scuba diving was developed for military and commercial purposes, recreational divers have gotten the most out of itmore than 2.5 million Americans enjoy scuba diving, and about 500,000 are certified each year.
The most ferocious fish isn't a shark or a barracuda, but rather this damselfish. Very territorial and aggressive, they will attack intruders of any size. But divers need not worry: damselfish grow only up to two and a half inches and weigh just a few ounces.
Credit: West Stock
The Belize Reef, home to sponges, eels, and fish, is the longest in the Western Hemisphere (and fifth-longest in the world). Running the length of the Belize coast, the reef eventually rises above the water to form hundreds of caves.
The Rainbow Warrior, a popular New Zealand dive, memorializes the tragic events in 1985. The French Secret Service bombed the Greenpeace ship while it was docked in Auckland for a nuclear site protest. Two years later, the vessel became an artificial reef.
Credit: New Zealand Tourism
Divers have plenty to see in the Sea of Cortez. Sustaining more than 900 species of marine vertebrates and 2,000 invertebrates, the sea is the most biologically rich body of water on the planet. And the number of recorded species keeps growing.
Extending 1,240 miles (2,000 km) along the coast of Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest living structure. Coral forms the basis of the reef, while 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 species of mollusks call the reef home.
Credit: Australian Tourist Commission
Although most shark dives at Caribbean island resorts report few shark attacks, precautions are still necessary. Shark feeders often don 20-pound chain mail suits as protection from their fierce diners.