With 176,214 km2 of continental land and 142,199 km2 of jurisdictional water and small river islands, Uruguay is the second smallest sovereign nation in South America (after Suriname) and the third smallest territory (French Guiana is the smallest). The landscape features mostly rolling plains and low hill ranges (cuchillas) with a fertile coastal lowland. Uruguay has 660 km of coastline.
A dense fluvial network covers the country, consisting of four river basins, or deltas: the Río de la Plata, the Uruguay River, the Laguna Merín and the Río Negro. The major internal river is the Río Negro ('Black River'). Several lagoons are found along the Atlantic coast.
Most people probably wouldn’t think of Uruguay when thinking of fabulous beach destinations, but there is a place in Uruguay that will truly take your breath away. If you are a diver, then you will find this destination even more appealing because it has wondrous sites to behold beneath the waves as well as above. This is Punta del Este on the southern shore of Uruguay and it is Uruguay’s best kept secret.
There are a number of dive sites in Punta del Este. The first of these is Gorriti Island, a beautiful oasis with an interesting history. Besides the many famous explorers, such as Sir Francis Drake, Charles Darwin, and Magellan, who have set foot on the island, it is the site of a very large and old cemetery. The island was also used as a quarantine hospital in the late 1800s when the European cholera epidemic made thousands of people sick. Today this island is a paradise and this is especially true for divers. Diving in the waters of Gorriti Island offers divers incredible cave diving.
Other dive sites in Punta del Este include Minas and Maldonado Bay. Minas is the place where divers can explore a submerged goldmine. In Maldonado Bay, divers can explore ship wrecks such as the wreck of Lord Nelson’s favorite ship, the HMS Agamemnon. This incredible 64-gun Navy vessel sank slowly into the bay in 1809. It is now a powerful underwater reminder of the grandeur of the ship in its sailing days and is just waiting to be explored.