There are many beautiful places for diving in Chile, for those who dive all the time and those who want to try it for the first time! If you want to try diving in Chile for the first time, Quintay has sunken ships and beautiful fauna for your Discovery Dive. Learn more here about diving in Chile and Quintay.
Although I would love to just breathe the air and see the sunsets above 20,000ft for the rest of my life … mother nature often reminds me that her plans are the final ones, not mine. After coming down off Aconcagua (6962m / 22842ft), my plan was to go directly to Ojos del Salado (6892m / 22614ft), the tallest volcano in the world.
But, upon checking the weather, it was high winds and 30-40cm snow a day. So, yep, no more climbing… and I found myself with a few spare days of vacation. A friend called, who was doing a diving course in Quintay, and my interest was peaked.
There’s a whole colorful underworld.
So, I decided to see what it’s like at the other end of this world.
And with that, tried my hand at scuba diving in Chile.
Diving in Chile, Quintay and its sunken ships
Early in the morning, I hopped on the first bus headed to Quintay. It’s known as one of the best beaches for scuba diving close to Santiago, in the Valparaiso region. I had snorkeled a few times in Mexico but had literally NO experience with scuba diving. We’ll see, I thought.
Quintay is known for scuba diving in Chile because its fishing cove used to be a whaling plant, and there are sunken whaling boats that are now enveloped in underwater life. The plant is also now a museum, which you can enter for only 800CLP ($1.50USD).
The big beach in Quintay, not far from where you can scuba dive.
I went to a great place called Austral Divers (info below), which is the original dive shop in Quintay, with over 15 years of experience and the only one with 5 stars. There are maybe 5 dive shops on the 2 block strip that makes up the Quintay diving area.
It was a great experience and, although a tiny bit more expensive than some of the others, I felt okay with that for safety/quality. All their dive masters are PADI certified (which is the main international certifier).
The Discovery Dive, for first timers
As a scuba newbie, you participate in what’s called “discovery dive” (also nicknamed a “baptism”). First, you watch a 5ish minute video about scuba diving, its risks, and the basics. Then, an instructor gives you a brief course about the equipment, how it works, to teach you the main scuba sign language, and to help you understand what to expect during your scuba dive.
I asked a lot of questions, and thankfully the instructor had patience with me, phew haha.
Sunken ships in Quintay
Then, we got our wet suits on and headed to the boat… out to one of the sunken ships and an area called “Caldera” (or “boiler” in English). It’s called this, because it’s literally an intact boiler of the sunken whaling ship.
On the boat with all the gear, I felt a little suffocated at first because all the equipment was heavy and the suit constraining, but after a little bit, I got used to it. It was a little nerve wrecking to sit on the edge of the boat and do the typical “fall backwards.”
“ok” the language of “all’s good!”
I was a little nervous about that first breath underwater, but, as I bobbed there in the ocean, the instructor took my hand and we did a little exercise of bowing my face into the water and me just getting used to breathing. That was good because I was breathing like 20 breaths a minute at first haha.
So there I was, face in the water, breathing, and looking down at the life underneath. It was really surreal. I relaxed and thought, “hey, I think I’m gonna like this.”
We went down slowly, with the instructor always holding my hand, or my arm, or my shoulder, and constantly giving me the “ok” sign to make sure I was ok. I have sensitive ears, which were even worse since I was coming down off almost 7000m, so I had to go down slowly and keep “blowing” my nose to pop my ears. It wasn’t uncomfortable though, which was good.
It’s hard to imagine the life under the water, until you see it for yourself.
We swam around this sunken boat for around 30 minutes, seeing shrimp (which will crawl on your hands if you want them to!), starfish, and lots of fish. I thought that I would be totally freezing, but it wasn’t until the last couple of minutes that I started getting chilly.
It’s so fun, so interesting, so different that you’re so distracted. I wasn’t nervous and felt super comfortable all the time, but randomly I’d notice that I was death-gripping my poor instructor’s hand.
There are big plants and you swam right through them. As they brush your face as you glide through and then you meander around to a section of the boat… you literally feel like it’s a scene out of The Little Mermaid haha.
By the time we headed back up, I was already feeling pretty adventurous. I was ready to let go of my instructor and just have him nearby as I ventured more independently.
Where’s a good place for diving in Chile?
There’s a whole unknown world under the water and it’s hard to imagine if you don’t see it yourself!!
As a nature lover, I really enjoyed this glimpse into the underworld. I headed back to Quintay a couple of weeks later do to the Open Water Diver Padi Chile certification with Austral Divers, which gave me an international certificate that doesn’t expire and allows me to scuba dive down to 18 meters, without having to be attached to an instructor. I had an amazing experience with them.
And because you’ll be hungry after diving….
And, not to be left out nor underestimated, one of the best add-ons to diving in Chile … is the delicious, straight out of the ocean seafood you get to eat after. We treated ourselves to parmesan scallops and crab casserole, with pisco sours and fresher than fresh Chilean salsa on fresh baked bread at Miramar, one of the oldest and renowned restaurants right on the beach. When went back for my course, I wanted to eat something else or try a new place, but I was so craving more crab casserole so… there was no choice!
AUSTRAL DIVERS – QUINTAY, CHILE
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Purpose-driven people who feel compelled to make life meaningful for yourself and others.
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