RTW Traveler

Dive Blogger Justin Carmack on Globetrotting for the World’s Best Underwater Destinations

Justin Carmack inside an Aruba shipwreck on his mission see the top 100 scuba diving sites in the world. (Photos Justin Carmack)

Justin Carmack is on a quest to visit the world’s top 100 dive sites and he’s been on the move, nonstop, for over four years trying to achieve his goal. He blogs about his under and above water adventures at True Nomads, chronicling the time he took a camel ride to one of Egypt’s premiere dive sites, Abu Galum, or the time he went shark whispering in the Bahamas.

“Diving and traveling are my two passions, and luckily they go hand in hand,” Carmack says. “I think that if you are a true explorer, there is no better place to do it than the ocean. Even when I dive the same location 100 times, I still see some new and crazy thing each time.”

Carmack is up to 70 dive sites after his around the world journey with Star Alliance and Marriott TRAVELER, where he crossed the Philippines, Maldives, Malta and Aruba off his list. Here, he shares his trip highlights and tips for mastering underwater photography.

justin carmack scuba diving
Aruba coral reef

What got you hooked on diving? Tell us about your first dive experience.

Easy. Whale sharks. I first breathed underwater in 2010 in Mozambique in southern Africa. I haven’t stopped since and I have spent thousands of hours underwater searching for weird critters!

Why did you select the dive destinations that you did for this RTW journey? What makes them must-dive destinations?

This is a popular and complicated question. Basically, I compiled a huge list from big diver magazines and experts, then my readers voted, and this list appeared with locations that even hardcore divers will love and new divers would die for.

justin carmack scuba diving
Eel spotting on Aruba scuba dive

What new dive sites did you visit on this RTW trip? What was most the most unexpected dive experience during your trip? Why?

I crossed off Puerto Galera in Philippines, a site in Maldives, a few famous sites in Malta and then Aruba. I got to dive more than those, like around Waikiki, as well. Ironically, I think my best underwater footage came from Hawaii, from a couple wrecks where I took my first underwater timelapse. When I looked at the footage later I saw that a submarine had gone by!

When you were out of the water, what was the most memorable moment of your RTW trip?

The remote and deserted islands in Maldives were insane. I’ve never seen sand and beauty like that. I will be back for sure.

tokyo sushi
Sushi in Tokyo

Looks like you got to sample some of Tokyo’s street food. What was your best bite?

Everyone who knows me knows that I am a sushi freak (Ironic for a fish lover, huh?). I got plenty of that in while in Tokyo.

You shoot quite a bit of video during your dives. Can you share your best tip for shooting video under water?

It’s definitely a tough art to learn. I think the most important things are color, lighting, more color, and staying steady. If you want to be an underwater photographer, you have to be a skilled diver first, with great buoyancy, then the photography can be learned.

What is your favorite camera to shoot with and why?

I carry six cameras with me now, but underwater I shoot with a compact Canon G7X, RecSea aluminum housing, 2 4000 lumin Anchor Dive video light, a super macro lens and a wide angle fisheye lens from Bluewaterphotostore.com. I use the G7X because it is super compact and much smaller to travel the world with. It needs a smaller housing, but it still shoots in RAW and I can correct the white balance at any depth to make up for lost light color. In my opinion, it is the perfect mix of professional quality underwater video and portability.

Loved the rolling luggage shots captured in your Tokyo and Seoul video. How did you do it?

Ha! That took ages! I had to get a special tripod from Benro, then I did the very long lotion stop video with another canon DSLR, it took hours to shoot that 10 seconds or so clip! I had to set up the tripod in the hotel hall ways, in a spot where no one would ever move it. Then I would move the luggage inch by inch by inch. Every time I moved it an inch I would go hide, take a photo with the cameras shutter remote, then repeat. Move bag, run and hide, take photo, go move bag again. It was pretty funny because I was on the executive floor and people thought I was crazy. When I was done I had like 2,000 photos and I compressed them into my video editor at .01 seconds per frame(photo). So when you play it as a video, it looks like the luggage just left my room alone, rolled down the hall and got into the elevator. I originally wanted to keep it going through the lobby, into the bus, out of the bus, through the airport and into check in…. but you can imagine how long that would take. So I just mounted a gopro on the top and rolled it myself.

What scuba diving destination would you go to again and again, and why?

All of them really, but Philippines will always be a favorite. Every time I dive there I see some tiny macro critter that is a photographers dream, and some exotic looking alien critter. Great place.

justin carmack scuba diving
Diving in Malta

If you could offer one piece of advice to the novice diver what would it be?

I would tell them to take up two or more rescue courses with PADI, because the rescue course built my confidence, perfected my buoyancy and much more, and was the best course to be a better diver.

Had you taken a continuous trip around the world before? What are your recommendations to others who aspire to do a RTW journey like yours?

Yes with my job as a dive blogger, I am on a constant RTW trip! I have not been home to Colorado in 6 years and have just been constantly traveling to 86 countries so far. My advice to people who want to travel is to definitely go now! Traveling and diving has changed my life, and opened so many doors I didn’t even know existed. You discover crazy things around the world that you had no idea could be there. And if you do a RTW trip like I did, try to choose one location from a different region or continent, and experience as many cool new things as possible.