Diving enthusiasts often find themselves torn between the allure of tropical paradises with their warm, inviting waters and the mystique of colder climates, where an entirely different underwater adventure awaits. Some think that there is more adventure in the quieter less explored cold waters. Others believe that it's the warm waters where the animals thrive. When it comes to the debate on warm vs cold water diving there are many factors to consider from marine life and visibility to environment and interval times. Read on as we explore the joys of both warm and cold water diving....

A group of sea lions diving in clear blue water

Marine life

The first factor to consider when weighing up warm vs cold water diving is the marine life. When you picture warm tropical waters the image likely includes colourful corals and hundreds of floral and fauna species. And you'd be right. Higher water temperatures foster the life and growth of numerous species, while incoming sunlight enhances vibrant colours. Coral reefs support a huge variety of marine life, including fish such as clownfish, parrotfish, and triggerfish; larger fish such as groupers and schools of wrasse; and bigger animals such as reef sharks, eagle rays, and manta rays. You'll find turtles thriving in the warmth alongside macro critters like nudibranchs and frogfish, and various types of starfish.

Splashing into colder temperatures also reaps animal rewards. Cold waters are home to elusive marine life - including sea lions, salmon schools, giant squid, greenland sharks and walruses - lush kelp forests and cold-water corals. If you brave the really cold temperatures, you'll get to dive beneath extraordinary ice formations. These ethereal underwater landscapes provide nursery grounds for various species, such as sea spiders, starfish and anemones.

two technical divers getting ready to go into the water in dry suits

Comfortable diving

Of course, water temperatures are a key consideration when considering warm vs cold water diving. Warmer water means a warmer dive. Throw on a shorty, a 3mm wetsuit, or just a rash top, and you're good to go. Getting ready for warm water diving is a piece of cake since you have less gear to deal with and carry less stuff to carry from the site.

But cold water diving doesn't mean freezing yourself. These dives can be just an enjoyable and comfortable with the right gear. Long and thick wetsuits with hoods, gloves and boots will keep you toasty as you explore artic cold temperatures. Sometimes you may opt for a dry suit, in which case pop on your favourite long johns underneath and stay cosy as you explore the eerie, crystal waters.

Aerial view of Three Humpback whale mother and calf swimming in the icebergs of Ilulissat Icefjord. Greenland


Beneath the surface, the visibility of the underwater world is impacted by temperature, sediment and seasonal changes. Tropical and warm waters often boast exceptional visibility due to the absence of plankton blooms and suspended particles. With clear blue skies, the sunlight can easily pierce through these waters bringing out the vibrant colours of the corals and fish.

In contrast, cold waters often have lower visibility creating a serene environment with a mystical ambiance. This is due to the increase in plankton populations and sediments stirred up. However, some destinations such as Norway and Iceland are world renowned for their water visibility. It's so clear that for a second you may even forget that you're underwater.

In conclusion, one is just as good as the other when it comes to the warm vs cold water diving debate. Both offer adventure, encounters with marine life, stunning panoramic views and a comfortable, warm dive (as long as you kit up correctly). Whether you want to relax in the heat and dive in tropical waters or get cosy with a hot chocolate in between dives in colder climates, we're here to help you plan an unforgettable dive holiday.