From the subtropics in the north to the sub polar regions in the south – Argentina is diverse and intriguing. Choose between prairies, deserts, snow-topped mountains, or luscious rainforest – there is an amazing contrast between the sensational habitats. This expansive country has some of the world's most remote areas, allowing divers a chance to interact with some unusual and rare marine creatures. Endangered southern right whales, sea lions, and seals are a highlight of the underwater world.
In South America, Argentina borders Brazil in the north and the Andes in the west. The Southern Atlantic Ocean lies on the east and south. It is here divers get to experience the cold and abundant waters that are sure to delight. Peninsula Valdes, Ushuaia, and Puerto Madryn are the main scuba diving destinations.
Peninsula Valdes is a thriving UNESCO World Heritage Site and a mecca for nature lovers. During June to December, southern right whales descend upon this area and visitors can watch from shore or admire them underwater. Elephant seals start calving in October, and at the same time on shore, up to 500,000 Magellanic penguins arrive to nest and breed. Another highlight is sea lions calving from December to January; however, this activity also attracts orcas from March, who 'beach' to catch the sea lion pups. A dramatic sight not for the faint hearted. The city of Puerto Madryn is the main area to stay for this region.
Ushuaia, in Patagonia, is often called the 'City at the End of the World' because of its location at the very southern tip of Argentina. The Beagle Channel is great for cold-water diving - boasting fascinating kelp forests, many species of marine life, and some pleasing wrecks to explore.
Argentina covers 3.8 million square kilometers and borders Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Chile. The south and west of the country has dramatic topography with the Andes mountain range starkly contrasting the immense windswept plateaus, forests, lakes, and glaciers. The highest peak in the western hemisphere is here; Aconcagua reaches 6,959 meters. The Pampas are immense plains that cover central Argentina and are bordered by hills. This area is predominantly used for agricultural and livestock purposes. The north has subtropical rainforests and dense flora; a plethora of rivers exist in this area, culminating in spectacular waterfalls such as the stunning Iguazu Falls.
At the southernmost point of Peninsular Valdes lies the Beagle Channel. The town of Ushuaia is next to the Tierra Del Fuego National Park. Many small islands and islets are dotted throughout the channel, making great dive sites with kelp forests, coldwater marine creatures, and sea lion colonies.
Isla De Los Lobos is next to the Les Eclaireurs lighthouse, straight out of Ushuaia Bay. It takes about an hour to reach by boat and has one of the few sea lion colonies. The island is surrounded by a giant kelp forest – great for photography - with a maximum depth of 75 feet. Playful sea lions often approach divers making this a memorable dive.
Another great site in Ushuaia is Estancia Tunel. A small underwater wall reaches down to 30 feet and extends out on to a plateau at a depth of 75 feet. Divers can then explore a stunning kelp forest - sea lion interactions are frequent here too. Check out the rocky areas to find smaller marine creatures such as nudibranchs and king crabs.
The Monte Cervantes is the sunken remains of a 525-foot passenger cruise ship. In 1930, with 1550 people on board, she hit a group of rocks outside of Ushuaia, and started to take on water. All souls were saved, apart from the Captain. She remained lodged on the rocks until 1945, when she was cut in half and towed away. Sadly, she sank undertow and was lost for many years. Local divers re-discovered her upper deck, cabins, and masts at a depth of 130 feet. It is this area that experienced recreational divers can explore. Her hull is beyond safe diving limits lying in 300 feet of water. Weather conditions and currents can be challenging.
Punta Loma is a 25-minute boat ride out from Puerto Madryn, on Peninsula Valdes. Here visitors are treated to the fantastic experience of diving or snorkeling with sea lions. This site is shallow and a fun experience for novice certified divers. Sea lions often approach divers as they sit waiting calmly on the seafloor. Photo opportunities abound as the playful pups mimic divers and chew on your fins!
There are 32 SSI dive operators in Argentina. 16 of those are also PADI dive centers. The majority of the operators are based in Buenos Aires; the rest are spread out along the east coast down to Ushuaia at the southernmost point.
Ushuaia Divers is an SSI Dive Center offering certification courses with an online learning option; they are part of the Tierra del Fuego Association of Underwater and Nautical Activities (Asociación Fueguina de Actividades Subacuàticas y Nàuticas). Both shore and boat diving is available - a 28 foot dive boat and 4x4 are used by the dive center for excursions. Ushuaia Divers has full equipment rental, including neoprene dry suits in standard sizes. Dry suit orientation courses can be booked in advance.
Aquatours Buceo is a PADI 5 Star IDC Center and IAHD Center, based along Golfo Nuevo in Puerto Madryn. A long standing operator with over 20 years experience, it offers the full spectrum of PADI courses from beginner up to Instructor Development Courses. Two dive boats are used for diving groups of up to 12 people.
The Southern Hemisphere has opposite seasons to those in the north. On land, summertime is the best season to visit the Patagonia in the south, because of the milder temperatures and longer days. However, underwater the wintertime is best for calmer seas and higher visibility (plankton blooms are common in the summer). The wind can dictate the dive site during summer months. It is up to the diver to decide which they would prefer! The water temperature is 36 - 40 F in the winter and 46 - 50 F in the summer. Dry suits are definitely required.
The north experiences less rainfall and lower temperatures in the winter - making this a more comfortable time to explore on land; spring and autumn are very pleasant in Buenos Aires. Water temperature in the north averages 65 - 75 F, with air temperatures ranging from 45 - 75 F. Strong windstorms and flooding should be taken into consideration when planning your dive trip; earthquakes do occur.
The main international gateway when flying to Argentina is the Ministro Pistarini International Airport (EZE), also known as the Ezeiza Airport, in the capital city of Buenos Aires. Domestic travel is fastest by air due to the size of the country. Por Aerolìneas Argentinas/Austral, Aerochaco, Andes Líneas Aéreas, LADE, LAER, LAN Argentina and Sol Líneas Aéreas operate domestic flights.
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