Which famous shipwrecks can I visit via a yacht charter? 

Published 31 July 2023

Discover history first-hand and explore famous shipwrecks onboard an exciting adventure yacht dive charter. Start planning your next yacht charter holiday with Burgess.

Suspended in time, the underwater museums of First and Second World War wrecks attract divers the world over to view both the wrecks themselves and the marine life that call these artificial coral reefs home. From cruise liners to military ships, our Burgess charter experts reveal their top tips for the unmissable shipwreck sites located in cruising locations all over the world.  


Explore the famous Red Sea shipwreck amongst the vibrant sealife

The 126.5m British-built cargo ship Thistlegorm is regularly voted the top wreck dive in the world. This British-built steam ship embarked on her maiden voyage to the US in 1940, and then only took two more voyages before being struck by a German bomber in 1941. She is today a war grave and has become one of the iconic wrecks from the war, with artefacts including locomotives, tanks, trucks, motorbikes, and rifles all identifiable and visible on her cargo decks. Along with the military paraphernalia visible at every turn, divers can encounter all the usual reef fish of the Red Sea, along with batfish, barracudas, snappers and schools of jacks, making this a dive site where multiple dives are needed to properly explore her.  

Where is Thistlegorm’s dive site?   

Swim through the ship and discover the various military kits and items that were carried on board

The Thistlegorm was attacked from the air while moving through the shallow waters in the Strait of Gobal, just north of Ras Mohammed in the Egyptian Red Sea. The bow of the Thistlegorm lies just 15m beneath the surface, while the propellor is at a depth of 27m and the maximum diving depth is 32m, making the entire ship accessible to recreational divers on compressed air only.  

Aim for an early morning dive to avoid large crowds of people

What is the Thistlegorm dive like?  

One of the top ten dive sites in the world, and a favourite wreck dive for most well-travelled diving enthusiasts, Thistlegorm can be accessed year-round. Owing to its popularity and accessibility, the dive site can on occasion be very crowded, so early morning access is advised. The waters around the wreck usually have good visibility of around 25 – 30m, but the currents can be strong and variable, so the dive is recommended for experienced divers only. Suitable for Padi Advanced divers onwards, or Open Water divers with plenty of experience.  


The USS Kitiwake shipwreck is still well intact allowing for full inside and outside exploration 

Lying in shallow waters just off the coast of Grand Cayman, the Kittiwake is one of the most popular wreck dives in the Caribbean. This submarine rescue vessel was launched in 1945 and spent 49 years in service as a dive vessel before being decommissioned in 1994. After lying abandoned for eight years, Kittiwake was donated to the Cayman Islands to be sunk and used as an artificial reef. Unlike other wrecks, before being sunk Kittiwake was made more dive friendly, with large holes cut into the hull and doors, and other obstructions removed while she was also being prepared to environmental standards for sinking. Kittiwake eventually came to her final resting place in 2011 and can be discovered beneath the waves off Grand Cayman.  

Where is the Kittiwake shipwreck? 

This wreck sits just under 5m below the surface, making it great for all types of divers

Lying just 700m off Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman, Kittiwake’s convenient location attracts scuba divers as well as snorkelers and free divers to the iconic shipwreck. The wreck sits at 18m maximum depth, with the highest point just under 5m beneath the surface. Visibility is upwards of 30m in these waters, with water temperatures ranging from 21°C in the winter months and up to 30°C in the summer.  

Is Kittiwake a good dive site? 

Swim through the ship and discover all five decks

Kittiwake sits in shallow water, allowing divers of all abilities to take in her many highlights, including the mess hall, huge propellors and iconic wheelhouse. Open-water divers are limited to the first three decks, while wreck or rescue divers can explore all five decks. The marine life includes everything from Barracuda to turtles and grouper, while the artificial reef is covered in macro life such as arrowhead crabs and shrimp. Suitable for divers of all levels.  


The HMHS Britannic is one of the two sister ships to the world famous Titanic

Everyone has heard of the ill-fated Titanic and the thousands of passengers and crew she took down when she hit an iceberg in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. However, not many know about her two sister ships, the second of which was the lesser-known Britannic. Practically identical to the Titanic in construction, and considered unsinkable, the 268m Britannic launched in 1914, but sadly was never actually used as a commercial trans-Atlantic liner. Requisitioned by the Royal Navy for the war effort in 1939, HMHS Britannic completed five successful missions as a hospital ship before taking her last voyage. While cruising to the Middle East to collect wounded British soldiers she hit an underwater mine and immediately sank to the bottom of the Aegean Sea. Fortunately, unlike the Titanic, of the 1,066 passengers on board her at the time, just 30 died. She was the largest vessel lost during the First World War.  

Discovered by explorer Jacques Cousteau in 1975, Britannic is a heavily protected dive site and has been classified as a British war grave. This, added to the fact that she is somewhat out of reach, means that she has only been visited by a few experienced technical divers (approximately 100).  

Where is the Britannic shipwreck?  

This hospital ship sank in around 55 minutes with 30 fatalities and just over 1,000 survivors

Britannic lies three nautical miles off the Greek island of Kea. Listed on one side and largely intact, she is an exciting dive for experienced technical divers.  

How deep is the Britannic underwater? 

Situated 100m below the surface the HMHS Britannic is only accessible my experienced divers

At over 100m in depth, the Britannic is too deep for most recreational scuba divers to reach. Experienced technical divers can reach and explore the wreck, keeping in mind that it can take many months of preparation and permissions to access the dive site.  Added to this, the unpredictable currents in the waters where she lies can be very dangerous. However, if you are an experienced enough diver and manage to get permission, then the Britannic is one of the most spectacular wreck dives in the world and remains relatively unexplored. Suitable for experienced technical divers only. 


The wreckage is home to various marine species, such as barracuda and lionfish

Known for its rich and biodiverse waters, the Philippines is often referred to as the Amazon of the Sea. Part of The Coral Triangle, this marine area in the Pacific Ocean is home to some truly incredible dive sites including coral reefs, the UNESCO Tubbataha Reef Marine Park, and the World War II shipwrecks in Palawan. The latter are a gallery of underwater museums that transport divers to the Second World War. In 1944 the US Navy conducted a surprise aerial attack on a Japanese supply fleet of up to 24 ships at anchor in Coron Palawan, an archipelago of islands lying to the southwest of the Philippines. The air strike lasted less than an hour and left in its wake a massacre of burning and sinking ships, now known as the Coron or Palawan shipwrecks. Eleven are within recreational scuba diving depths of between 25m and 40m and remain in great condition with a variety of both marine life and historic relics.  

The biggest among the wrecks here is the Okikawa Maru, a navy oil tanker of the Imperial Japanese Navy Combined Fleet. Lying at a depth of between 12m and 26m, she is an excellent dive for both beginners and expert divers alike. The wreck is overgrown with stunning corals where a wide range or marine life can be viewed, including schools of batfish, snappers, and fusiliers.  

Where is the Okikawa Maru shipwreck?  

This ship has been at the bottom of the bay for over 75 years and is fully coral-encrusted 

The Okikawa Maru dive site lies off Busuanga Island, two miles south of the Philippines village of Conception near Coron Bay.  

How deep is the Okikawa Maru shipwreck?

The Okikawa Maru's main deck is 16m with its deepest point being 26m

At 168m long, the wreck of Okikawa Maru sits almost level at a maximum depth of 26m, with the main deck at around 12m. Visibility conditions vary, while the fierce currents here can also present challenging diving conditions. Advanced wreck divers can penetrate up to the propeller shaft and through the very large oil storage tanks all the way into the engine room. Suitable for divers of all levels.  


The USAT Liberty was originally named the USS Liberty

The USAT Liberty, also known as the Liberty Shipwreck, is widely considered to be one of the easiest wreck dives in the world. Originally known as the USS Liberty, she served during both world wars, but it was during her second commission as the USAT Liberty (United States Army Transport) in World War II that she was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in 1942. Originally the wreck was beached on the island of Bali, where she remained for over 20 years, before a volcanic eruption in 1963 moved her rusted carcass off the beach and into the water.  At 120m in length, and covered in both hard and soft corals, Liberty harbours a huge variety of marine life, including frog fish, parrotfish, turtles and ghost pipefish. Her interior unfortunately cannot be accessed, but many of the original fixtures and fittings that were not stripped by the American military can still be viewed from the outside, including her guns and anchor chain.  

Where is the Liberty shipwreck?

Located just 30m offshore, the wreck has easy access from the beach

The Liberty lies almost parallel to the small fishing village of Tulamben on the northeast coast in Bali. Just 30m offshore, she sits on her side on a black sand slope at a depth of between 5m and 30m and can be easily accessed from the beach.  

How deep is the Liberty shipwreck?  

With the shipwreck sitting between 5m and 30m under the surface making it suitable for divers and snorkelers

Ranging from five metres to a maximum depth of 30m, the Liberty is one of the easiest wrecks to dive in the world, making it suitable for both snorkelers and divers. Diving is possible year-round with warm water temperatures, however visibility averages at around 20m, and during the rainy season can drop to 10m to 15m.  

How easy is the dive?  

The wreck was caused by a Japanese submarine in January 1942

Liberty is considered to be one of the easiest dive sites in the world. With a combination of gentle currents and shallow depths, she is suitable for snorkelers, first wreck dives, or experienced divers who can also access a couple of swim throughs.  Suitable for divers of all levels. 

Start planning your next yacht dive charter holiday with Burgess today. Enquire now.

To find out more about Burgess’ yachts for sale and yachts for charter, please contact a Burgess broker. Alternatively, get in touch with one of our offices directly: London, Monaco, New York, Miami, Singapore or all other locations.

- Yachts, prices and availability are correct at the time of publication.

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