Bikini Atoll Diving
The Marshall islands diving liveaboard is a haven for wreck enthusiasts. Diving the Bikini Atoll’s sunken fleet of former naval vessels is an entirely unique experience.
The Bikini Atoll, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is in the Marshall Islands archipelago and is a wreck divers paradise. Underwater, there are a unique collection of historical World War II battleships, the remnants of post-war testing for nuclear bombs.
The Bikini lagoon and atoll first opened to divers and tourism in June of 1996 once the islands original inhabitants returned to Bikini.
A large ‘mock’ naval fleet was assembled to record the impact that the 67 atomic bombs would have on them. Most of the ships sank as a direct result or very soon after. Now 60 years on, the wrecks are now encrusted with corals and surrounded by fish life. Moreover, scuba diving in the Marshall Islands is now high on any wreck diving enthusiast’s destination wish list.
The underwater fleet consists of naval destroyers, submarines, cruisers and attack ships. As a result of the testing, Bikini Atoll has the only aircraft carrier inside the recreational dive limits. This maritime fleet is the only wreckage ever sunk by an atomic bomb, making it truly unique.
Divers can expect to see torpedo tubes, depth charges, flight decks on Japanese and United States wrecks. The USS Lamson sits upright and some diving operations may visit it.
Divers must be advanced to join, and many wrecks are beyond recreational depths.
Take a look at the Liveaboard Cruise options below.
Bikini Atoll Diving - 1 LIVEABOARDS
In 1946 Bikini’s inhabitants were moved to another atoll so it could become the site for explosives testing on a large scale in the post-war years under Operation Crossroads.
Tourism began in 1996 when Bikini Atoll was opened to the public for divers to experience some of the most historic wrecks in history.
Best Places to Dive in Bikini Atoll
The unique shipwrecks of Bikini Atoll were formed by the ‘mock’ naval fleet being created for nuclear weapons testing on a large scale fleet. Not less than 23 atomic bombs were tested in the area between 1946 and 1958 under the Operation Crossroads framework and several other code names.
This includes the infamous March 1954 Castle Bravo hydrogen bomb 1000 times more powerful than that used at Hiroshima. This particular test left a crater 2km wide and 76m deep.
There has been some resistance to the Marshall Islands and Bikini Atoll being opened up to tourism. The Island residents themselves decided to invite tourists as a way to tell their story and keep it alive. Guests on board will view historical footage of documentaries telling their story as well as island tours of the atoll area.
Best Dive Sites in Bikini Atoll
This is the most famous dive in Bikini Atoll. The Saratoga is the only aircraft carrier that is within diveable limits and the largest wreck. Less than 10% of the vessel has been explored so far with no penetration inside the engine room.
Parts of the wreck are less than 20m deep and within easy reach of divers.
A German cruiser was scuttled due to being radioactive as she survived some test explosions. Part of her is still visible above the water line, and her port propeller was salvaged and is at the German Naval Memorial at Laboe. Her bell was also removed and is at the Naval Museum in Washington DC.
A Japanese battleship that was the first to have 16-inch guns to her hull. She lies capsized at 48-50m of depth with the bridge area at 45m. She was one of the most powerful and versatile war vessels during her time and was the flagship of the Imperial Japanese Navy during the Pearl Harbour attack.
She was an American dreadnought and is 171m in length. She was capsized in 55m of depth in nuclear test Baker in 1946. She lies on her starboard side, and the propeller shafts are visible as are two submarines one in pristine condition.
Bikini Scuba Diving Highlights
- Common sightings - Shipwrecks
- Special sightings - USS Saratoga
- Topography - Wrecks
- Visibility - 30m+
- General information - Divers should be deep certified with a technical diving certification if possible to visit some of the sites.
Best Time to Go
Marshall Islands diving takes places in the summer months between May and October each year. This time of year is generally when the seas are calmest. Temperature is tropical and constant throughout the year.
Water temperature year around is 28 to 29C, and a shorty 3mm wetsuit is sufficient for most divers.
How to Get There
You should try to arrive at Kwajalein airport as this is where the vessels departure port is located.
There are two routes, from the US via Honolulu or from Asia and Europe via Guam.
Local time vs GMT
What to pack
Food and drink
USD (limited ATMs available)
On entry for most nationalities
English and Marshallese
Marshall Islands International Airport (MAJ), Kwajalein Airport (KWA)
Suncream, lightweight cotton clothing and a raincoat
25 - 31 C daytime, 24 - 25 C evenings
Fish, coconuts, bananas, some canned meats