Sharks, dolphins, and the Great Wall, oh my! For a capital city that’s hours from the sea and doesn’t even have a major lake or river nearby, Beijing is a great place for scuba diving.

Beijing has three aquariums, and all three over scuba diving opportunities. Of those, the most conveniently located is the New Zealand Blue Zoo Aquarium, right at the south gate of the Workers Stadium. Underground, the main tank, about three meters deep and the size of an Olympic swimming pool, houses five species of shark, two table-sized sea turtles, moray eels, and a host of diverse reef fish from around the Pacific. This is a perfect opportunity for the first time diver to discover scuba and some of the ocean’s most interesting residents, all in a controlled environment. Pet the shark — it’s not a euphemism.

The Beijing Zoo near Xizhimen is best known for housing pandas and other zoo favorites like elephants, but within its gates stands the Beijing Aquarium, the city’s largest such facility. The Beijing Aquarium provides a unique encounter with Pacific bottlenose dolphins. Truth be told, these charismatic animals play with you more than you play with them. Hear their clicks and whistles around you as they race by, then swim up for a belly rub, feeling like a wet rubber ball. Certified divers may scuba with the dolphins, while non-certified divers may snorkel.

You can’t dive the Pyramids, but you can dive the Great Wall. This is not Huanghuacheng, the so-called Water Great Wall, or Shanhaiguan, the Great Wall’s eastern sea terminus. The Underwater Great Wall is 300 to 400 meters of Wall that disappeared under the Panjiakou Reservoir in Hebei province, after a dam was constructed in 1977 to provide for the newly rebuilt city of Tangshan nearby.

Diving the Great Wall is eerie and intimate. It’s a giant, sleeping dragon on the bottom that requires the diver to swim up close for a good look. The view reveals craftsmanship and aquatic life, including tiny fish and shrimp. Water depth and temperature vary by season, but divers with even an Open Water Diver certification will be able to see parts of the Wall.

To book any of these above adventures, or to enroll in a full range of PADI courses, contact SinoScuba, 18611133629,

Disclosure: SinoScuba Founder and PADI Course Director Steven Schwankert is the Executive Editor of True Run Media, the Beijinger’s parent company.

Photo: Colin Lee

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