Scuba Diving in Antarctica

If you’re looking to get as close to the underwater world of Antarctica as you possibly can; then scuba diving below the surface is an adventure you won’t want to miss. The water is ice cold; but once you’re in, the majestic ocean captivates you and the shock of the water leaves your body as mesmerising fish and sea creatures swim around you.

Pre Requisites  

Whilst you must be a fully experienced diver to scuba dive in Antarctica; getting your international accreditation shouldn’t take much longer than a few months if you’re new to diving. Technically it can take as little as a few weeks but you really want to make sure you’re 100% comfortable in the water to maximise your experience.

In addition to the accreditation, you also need to have completed the prerequisite 20-30 cold-water dives. Depending on your Antarctic operator, there may be more or less required cold-water dives. These cold-water dives must be completed wearing a dry suit, as you will be required to wear one while diving in Antarctica.

Essentially experience is the key. It’s a risk scuba diving anywhere in the world; but the risk is even bigger in Antarctic waters due to the ice cold temperatures. Furthermore, the ice itself is constantly shifting, closing off entry and exit points, opening them elsewhere.

 The hardest factor to manage will be the cold water. Now when we say cold, we mean freezing, numbing ice cold temperatures that will quickly anesthetise the few parts of exposed skin (your cheeks). As time goes on, you’ll feel the cold finding its way through your suit hitting so hard, it may feel unbearable. But with all this discomfort, you’re greeted with the greatest reward: Antarctica below the surface; an underwater world, so mystical and bewildering; you’ll forget how cold you are.


Your operator supplies most of the diving equipment, including compressors and weights. You will definitely be required to bring your own dry suit. And depending on which operator you choose, you may be required to bring a pressure gauge, stabilising jacket, depth gauge/watch/ or computer, mask, fins and snorkel. More or less equipment may be required, so be sure to check with your operator for a full list of what to bring.

Marine wildlife

While you may not expect to see very much coral, given the ice cold water temperature; the coral and sea life create a lush rainbow of colour and texture across the sea. At various depths of the ocean the types of plants and animals you see quickly changes.  You can go from forests of kelp at 30 -50 feet, to thick masses of feather hydroids (colonial animals related to corals) and no kelp whatsoever below 165 feet deep.

Expect to see anything from starfish and crabs to sea urchins and jellyfish.

When diving, you might notice a serious contrast in the size of some the marine life in Antarctica compared to other parts of the world. Sea spiders for example, are a polar gigantism; tiny and almost invisible to humans pretty much everywhere else in the world, but in Antarctica, these creatures a huge and have seven-inch legs!

Of course a dive in Antarctica wouldn’t be complete without penguins. Depending where you are and what time of year you’re diving, you may be lucky enough to see penguins, seals, sea lions or maybe even some whales!


Diving in Antarctica is truly incomparable to anywhere else in the world. The landscape consists of ice sheets, glaciers and icebergs. While ice, ice and more ice may not seem that exciting, it is truly magical. A true winter wonderland with ice sheets glistening in the sunlight, the spectacle only gets more spectacular underwater. Swimming amongst glaciers and under ice sheets is truly like no other experience.

Diving in Antarctica is something people often only dream of doing.  Swim through the iciest waters in the world amongst colourful coral.  Encountering sea creatures that are unique to the Antarctic waters makes this an unparalleled experience. So, why wait? Get that diving training underway and start planning your Antarctic dive today!

References:  Thank you Oceanwide ExpeditionsScubadiving.comAurora ExpeditionsWaterproof ExpeditionsNational Geographic

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