Scuba diving around Australia's furthest outpost – the Cocos (Keeling) atoll – hardly hits the diver radar. Little known these days, Charles Darwin sailed through on the Beagle, the area inspiring much of his work on coral atolls. During the two World Wars, Cocos was the location of an important telecommunications station used by several navies.
The scenery is typically Indian Ocean: a bright turquoise lagoon is ringed by tiny islands, pale yellow shorelines merging into deep green vegetation. For divers, there are two distinct dive types. The Cocos lagoon is surprisingly barren but affectionately known as ‘diving the desert’. Shaped by currents and tidal surges, smooth rocky surfaces are peppered with small hard coral heads where the marine life gathers for shelter. There are a couple of small wrecks and the remains of that all-important telecomms cable.
Outside the lagoon, the underwater landscape couldn't be more different. The reef drop-offs are smothered in lush hard corals in fabulous condition. At the base of the walls are huge fan corals and more patrolling sharks. There are all sorts of pelagic fish – tuna, barracuda and trevally – and, if you are lucky, a school of bottlenose dolphins will come to play.