Map of dive sites to avoid
Divers should know dive sites to avoid

- Jens Stolt

There are plentiful web pages listing the world’s best dive locations, but these pages rarely, if ever, tell you which dive sites to avoid.

As divers will understand, we’re not talking about the threat of sharks here; rather, we’re talking about countries where divers could be exposed to serious health risks.

Most of these places are also ill prepared to deal with any medical issues arising from a diving-related accident. International SOS, a company that deals with medical and travel-security assistance, recently compiled a Health Risk index of the world.

This data takes several factors into account such as: hygiene and sanitation, threats of infectious disease, frequency of accidents and the quality and availability of the local health infrastructure.

Unfortunately, some of those areas assessed to be extreme risk include popular dive locations. So while we’re not suggesting you amend your bucket list, it’s best to be informed of any potential risks before you travel.

Extreme Risk

The healthcare systems in these countries are either severely over-taxed or almost non-existent. There is little or no availability of emergency care or quality prescription drugs. There is also a very high risk of waterborne infections.

Madagascar: Problems here include poor sanitation and inadequate hospitals, especially in remote areas.

Haiti: The degree of risk in this country depends on the specific area you plan on visiting.

Often you’d be able to stay and dive form the Kaliko Beach Club or other big resorts, but in case of an emergency you are really not in good hands.

Here's Safer Diving: Always Have A Backup Plan

For a safer option you could go to the Dominican Republic, it’s the other half of “Haiti” and will offer you same great diving.

Madagascar is one of the dive sites to avoid

Whitetip reef shark Madagascar- Credit:

High Risk

The health-care systems, including emergency care and access to quality prescription drugs, are limited in these countries. There are threats of serious infectious diseases.

Cuba: Although this country has internationally renowned doctors, there is a high risk of infections if treated in the hospitals and a general health concerns in the rural areas. In these remote areas the medical treatment will be far below your average standard and even minor injuries could cause severe health risk. It’s advisable to choose one of the international hospitals here, for example Havana Hospital. Cuba has at least 6 decompression chambers, so this doesn’t need to be of your concerns when diving here.

Egypt: A dive destination favored by many divers from all over the world. Still this is one of there areas where you’ll need to pick your medical facility with care. In many areas the emergency service is very basic and among the points in the report are counterfeiting and improper storage of the drugs used in treatments. If you do get into trouble here I’d suggest requesting for a transfer to one of the bigger medical facilities in the country.

Know more about Southern Egypt Dive Camps

You might not want to reroute your dive trip to the Red Sea, but do travel with care. Stay in the cities and in areas with proper infrastructure and remember that a good travel insurance will also offer medical evacuation.

It's also best to know How To Choose Your Dive Insurance

Cuba is one of the dive sites to avoid

A dive wreck in Cuba - Credit: Sergey Dubrov

Medium Risk

While there is generally good health care in these countries, this is not the case for all areas. The emergency services are generally tolerable, but there is some risk of waterborne diseases. So make sure you drink bottled water and eat well prepared food before your dives the next day. There’s nothing fun about bad stomach on a dive boat.

South Africa, Morocco, and Thailand: While there is adequate health care in these countries, there are risks of certain diseases like typhoid, malaria and dengue fever here. Check with your doctor of what you can do to prevent these diseases a few months before you leave. This ensures you’ll have time to get any vaccinations well in time of your trip.

Thailand is one of the dive sites to avoid with medium risk

Lagoon at Surin Island,Thailand - Credit: Pixmania

Indeterminate Risk

The quality of medical care in these countries varies between cities due to the rapid, uneven development of infrastructure.

Brazil: High quality health care services are available, but only in the major cities.

Indonesia: Here the popular tourist spots, like Bali and Lombok, will have the best international standard medical services available, but once of the beaten path the quality drops. Medical air evacuation is available, so make sure your insurance covers this expense if you’re going off on a far out liveaboard.