Where is the best place to go Scuba Diving?
We go scuba diving and explore the underwater world to see some amazing stuff. Some of us go to the nearest reef while some of us go to far-flung areas and seek the wildest adventure. But, where is the best place to go scuba diving?
The Earth is vast and houses a long-list of amazing scuba diving sites. However, there are certain areas that stands-out when it comes to giving you a spectacular scuba diving experience. In no particular order, here are some of the world’s best places to go scuba diving.
Best places to go Scuba Diving
Best dive spot: Manta rays in Kailua Kona and Wreck Diving in Waikiki
Hawaii is dotted with islands located in the heart of the Pacific Ocean. It is a popular tourist destination where scuba diving is a big hit. Being volcanic in nature, its nutrient-rich waters supports a diversity of flora and fauna where divers are always amazed by the immensity of marine life.
Of all the hundred dive sites in Hawaii, there is one experience that attracted divers from around the globe - night diving with manta rays. Located on the west coast of the Big Island of Hawaii, divers explore the coast of Kailua Kona during night time to interact with giant manta rays. As you enter the water and turn on your underwater torch, plankton tends to converge and concentrate themselves as they are highly attracted to bright light. This is turn attracts the manta rays which feeds on them. In most occasions, several manta rays joins this underwater feast where mantas come in and glide from any direction. Most divers who have been to Kailua Kona said that you sometimes need to move away from the feast to prevent from accidental hitting of their wings to any part of your body. But do not worry as this feeding frenzy is relatively safe when compared to the aggressive behaviour of sharks.
Wreck diving is a popular sport in Hawaii where one of the famous spot takes you to the western shores of Waikiki and explore a former Chinese vessel - the MV Sea Tiger. After being confiscated for carrying 90 plus illegal immigrants, this trade ship was sunk to become a part of Hawaii’s Dive Enrichment Effort. This 45-meter long wreck now lies in an upright position at the bottom of the seafloor at 30 meters (100 feet) deep. It is now encrusted with corals, sponges and other marine life where some of its residents include eagle rays, moray eels, whitetip reef sharks and sea turtles. While at it, consider taking a look at our guide to scuba diving in Kauai where we dive into top spots of the island and best dive shops providing guided tours to scuba divers.
Best dive spot: Drift diving in Blue Wall and Deep Diving in Peleliu Wall
This Micronesian Republic, with over 340 stunning islands, has consistently been listed in the World’s Best Dive Destination. Diver’s choose Palau for the following reasons: diving is whole year round, visibility is clear reaching over 30 meters, currents ideal for drift diving and lots of big stuff like sharks.
Among the long-list of diving sites in Palau, Blue Corner sits on top of the list. Located 25 miles (40 kilometers) southwest of Koror, you will start your dive by descending to the upper part of the reef at 12 meters (40 feet) deep that is filled with gorgonians such as sea fans. You will never miss the school of jacks where their spinning motion has been described as an underwater tornado. Your dive guide will often lead you to the edges of this underwater plateau while riding moderate current. You will then arrive at a popular spot where you will see several species of sharks, barracudas and eagle rays. Please take note that you will need a reef hook to secure your position in the reef and prevent from being swept away.
If you want to go deep diving, then we recommend Peleliu Wall. Situated on the southern tip of Peleliu island, this dive spot is composed of deep crevices and steep canyons that has become the refuge of large pelagic fish such as bull sharks, silvertip sharks and hammerhead sharks. This dive is a combination of drift and deep diving where exploring this offshore reef allows you to ride along strong current and can go as deep as 40 meters (130 feet). Nonetheless, this dive is stunning wherever you focus your sight. The reef is encrusted with corals of all sort, huge sea fans and the surrounding perimeter is jam-packed with schooling fish like jacks, snappers and emperors. If you are lucky, then expect to see the passing by of pygmy killer whales.
Best dive spot: Anemone City, Shark Reef, MV Yolanda and SS Thistlegorm
If we speak of Egypt, one of the few descriptions we can come up are vast deserts and pyramids. But we tell you, Egypt is also one of the best places to go scuba diving. Located in the Red Sea, Egypt is dotted with amazing dive spots that has amazed scuba divers around the world.
A popular diving experience in Egypt is located in Ras Mohammad area where you can explore three different spots in just a single dive. Initially, your dive will start in a reef called Anemone City. You will follow a steep slope filled with sea anemone where Nemo and its cousins abound. Your dive guide will lead you to the edges of this sloping reef that connects to another coral mound – the Shark Reef. As the name suggest, this reef is filled with sharks. But if it is your lucky day, you will see not just any shark but the biggest fish in the world – the whaleshark. With air permitting, your dive will usually end at the remains of MV Yolanda - a Cypriot cargo ship where its freight full of toilet bowls litter the seafloor.
Ras Mohammed is like the X-files underwater (if you are not sure what X-files are, it is a TV show about extraterrestrial life and different planets and this is kind of what it would look like). At the tip of the Sinai peninsula (dividing Africa and Asia) you will see the most amazing coral reefs in the world. The abundance of fish and coral from big to small and darker colors to light up the night is amazing. It really makes you love and appreciate everything the ocean has to offer.
While MV Yolanda may have sparked your interest about wreck diving, you should also check SS Thistlegorm. This 128-meter (419 feet) long British merchant ship was sunk in Ras Mohammad Egypt while carrying military supplies for the Allied forces. Exploring its remains allows you to see trucks, rifles and train carriage. But there is one thing that you should never miss which has become the signature object of this wreck – a Harley Davidson motorcycle.
Best dive spot: Sipadan Island, Mabul Island and Lankayan Island
Malaysia is a world-class diving destination where divers from all levels of certification can enjoy stunning dive spots that are concentrated on the eastern side of its coast. Diving in Sipadan Island alone will fill-up the pages of your dive log as numerous dives sites awaits your presence underwater. Going to the west side of Sipadan Island allows you to go diving in Malaysia’s best dive site - Barracuda Point. Aside from a wide array of marine life like sharks, corals, gorgonians, turtles and reef fish, divers keep coming back to this barrier-type of reef for one reason: to see hundreds and thousands of barracuda swirling in a vortex formation.
If you are in to Muck Diving, then head out to the southeastern coast of Sabah in Mabul Island. Once you get in the water, we guarantee you that the lens of your camera will be busy taking pictures of small and exotic specimens like the blue-ringed octopus, mimic octopus, flamboyant cuttlefish, nudibranch, gobies and frogfish. Lankayan Island in Beluran Sabah, Malaysia is another good spot for macro-photography. But what is good with Lankayan is that underwater photographers can either choose to go macro or wide angle photography as there are lots of big stuff like, scads, barracudas, blacktip sharks, and on a lucky day, whalesharks.
Best dive spot: Great Blue Hole
The origins of this Central American Republic can be traced back during the Mayan Civilization where its remaining and preserved structures are a big attraction for tourist. But as you go to the eastern side of the country, archeological and historical tourism is diverted into a diving tourism where extensive barrier reefs measuring 300 kilometres (190 miles) has become a playground for scuba divers in the Caribbean Sea.
The Great Blue Hole is Belize’s prime spot for diving. Located 70 kilometers (43 miles) from Belize City, this Karst type of topography that is enclosed within an atoll is a large marine sinkhole measuring 318 meters (1,043 feet) in diameter and 124 meters (407 feet) deep. Diving in the Great Blue Hole is just like dipping in a bathtub as the waters are warm and not that cold even during the winter season. This is a great spot to observe halocline where you can clearly see the transition level from saltwater to freshwater at 15 meters (50 feet) deep. While cenotes or underwater caves are known in Central America, the Great Blue Hole of Belize has its own version of this type of tunnel system and by doing a deep dive to 25 meters (82 feet) where you can penetrate an ancient cavern filled with stalactites and stalagmites.
Best dive spot: Queensland and Western Australia
Aside from being known to house the largest reef system in the world - the Great Barrier Reef, the Land Down Under is popular for aquasports where some parts of Australia are consistently listed as one of the best places to go scuba diving.
Despite having an extensive reef system, Australia’s top spot for scuba diving takes you to an artificial structure in an offshore location in between Townsville and Cape Bowling Green and see the remains of a 107 meter (350 feet) long passenger steamship. Considered by many as the best spot for wreck diving, the SS Yongala is fully intact and now encrusted with corals, sponges and gorgonians. Penetration is not allowed as the government strictly prohibits such action. On the other hand, you don’t need to penetrate the internal structures as the surroundings of its exterior is already amazing. Lots of marine life like, sea snakes, octopus, sea turtles, sharks, groupers the size of a car, barracudas and a lot more.
From east to west coast, the Navy Pier in the Indian Ocean Drive is the most popular spot for diving in Western Australia. You don’t need a boat to explore this site as shore entry is the fad of diving and you will never miss to spot this site as the T-shape structure of the pier can be clearly seen on the road. Underwater navigation in this site relatively simply as you only need to follow the standing structures of this 300-meter (1,000 feet) long bridge. Aside from nudibranch, moray eels, lionfish and scorpionfish, the Navy Pier is the perfect spot to see a native Australian shark - the Wobbegong.
Best dive spot: Richelieu Rock, Hin Daeng and Hin Muang
Recognized as one the most visited countries in Southeast Asia, Thailand is popular spot for vacation with over a million tourist arrival each year. Aside from visiting historical sites where most are classified as a World Heritage Site, scuba diving is a big hit in Thailand courtesy from its numerous islands in the Andaman Sea that are well conserved and protected.
Located in Khao Lak is Thailand’s most famous dive site - Richelieu Rock. This horseshoe-shaped rock is an offshore pinnacle the breaks just below the surface. Wide angle photography is very popular in Richelieu Rock as large subjects are often seen like giant groupers, manta rays, whalesharks, schooling barracudas and jacks. On the other hand, this offshore site is also great for macro-photography as small creatures litter the reef such as seahorse, pipefish, nudibranch and shrimps.
Another spot in Thailand that houses two of its most popular diving sites is Koh Lanta. Located inside the Mu Koh Lanta National Park, Hin Daeng and Hin Muang are nearby adjacent sites that are known for brightly colored soft corals. Once underwater, you will be amazed by the immensity of the soft coral beds especially as they sway their tentacles with the flow of current. Many divers have told us that due to the abundance of purple-colored soft corals, the entire site is brightly lit into purple undertone especially when the sun is high.
Best dive spot: Tubbataha Reef in Palawan and Malapascua Island.
With over 7,100 island and dotted with numerous reefs that are considered to be one of the most diverse in the world, the Philippines is a hotbed for scuba diving. On top of nature’s bounty, tourist from all corners of the globe visit the Philippines for its tropical weather, cheap prices and warm hospitality where every filipino, including your dive guide, will always give you a nice smile.
Tubbataha reef in Palawan is the country’s premier spot for scuba diving. Your week-long liveaboard cruise to this offshore site is all worth it. Several dive sites awaits your presence and all the sites are known for their crystal clear visibility, flourishing marine life and you can perform all types of diving like deep, nitrox, drift, wall and night diving.
If you are in to sharks, Thresher sharks in particular, then we recommend you visit Monad Shoal of Malapascua Island. Located in the northern tip of Cebu, this offshore site is popular for interacting with Thresher Sharks where some have close to a diver’s group. Many have shared their stories on how they got hypnotized with the swaying of the sharks upper tail fin which is relatively long in length. The only downside with diving in Monad Shoal is that you need to wake up very early and hit the water before the sun rises as the sharks only goes up to the shallow part of the reef during this time. Nonetheless, if you are late, you will still able to see some big stuff where many have seen manta rays gracefully coming in close to the reef.
Best dive spot: Ari Atoll, Sun Island and Male Atoll
This is one of the countries that has the word “dive” in its name. And true to its name, Maldives is a haven for scuba divers in the Indian Ocean where diving usually takes you to a special place - coral atolls. With over a hundred islands grouped together in a chain of 26 atolls, Maldives features dive spots that has its own and unique underwater landscape. You can either explore a Thila which is an underwater mountain, a Kandus which is a channel in between atolls and lagoons which are located inside an atoll.
Maaya Thila in the South Ari Atoll is considered the best dive site in Maldives. This underwater pinnacle, that rises from the seafloor and reaching 6 meters (20 feet) before the surface, is a popular spot for drift diving. While cruising along moderate to strong current, you will pass by a healthy population of fish like jacks, barracudas, stingrays and resting nurse sharks. There is one spot in Maldives that exclusively features whalesharks. Yes, nothing else but the largest fish in the world. The shallow underwater plateau of Sun Island is a playground for whalesharks where there presence is a total guarantee.
While most of the dive sites in Maldives are associated with strong current, newbies and beginners can head to Banana Reef in Male Atoll. Its shallow reef is free from strong currents but still filled with the big stuff like sharks and napoleon wrasse. But just in case you want to try a bit of drift diving, just go to the outer edges of this reef and ride along mild to moderate current.
Cocos Island, Costa Rica
Best dive spot: Bajo Alcyone, Manuelita, Dirty Rock and Silverado
Many have considered Cocos island as their ultimate diving destination. Located 550 kilometers (340 miles) mainland Costa Rica, your 10-day liveaboard cruise is all worth it as all the dive sites are stunning and jam packed with underwater action with the big boys of the deep – sharks.
Bajo Alcyone, Manuelita and Dirty Rock are two separate dive sites that features a common species - hammerhead sharks. Not just one, not just ten, not just hundred, but thousands of them all line up forming the so-called wall of sharks. For close interaction, your dive guide will often lead to a cleaning station where hammerheads come in for a quick clean against parasites courtesy from the cleaner wrasse and barberfish. Silverado is a special spot in Cocos Island where it features the highly mobile Silvertip sharks.
And lastly, what’s good with Cocos island is that you will that have this rare opportunity to go deep sea diving onboard a submersible. Many divers have already been to 300 meters (1,000 feet) deep without getting wet. All they did was sit down on board the submersible then plunge and explore the abyss where you can see rarely seen creatures like the rosy-lipped batfish, jellynose fish and the prickly shark.
There is definitely something magical about this place I have to say. I will get to the diving in a second but the people, the food, there is nothing short of extraordinary here! You will be in for the trip of your life. There are 118 islands over 1200 square miles and more reefs than you could ever imagine. I know it is supposed to be a single best dive but I will incorporate a couple because if you are going there you will most likely go to a few dive locations and it will be well worth it!
Lets start with Bora Bora. About a 45 min flight from Tahiti and you will be surrounded by over water bungalows and sailboats. The dive crew will pick you up from where ever you are and get ready! There are 919 different species of fish throughout French Polynesia... I will let that sink in just a little bit for you. In all of the lagoons you will so such a variety of marine life. You can Dive with reef sharks and sting rays, head down and see a 6 meter long Manta Ray and then go off and see lemon sharks. Now you may not see up to 919 fish but you will see a lot in Bora Bora. Just make sure you are wearing reef safe sunscreen to keep the French Polynesia Beautiful!
Moorea is also another great island to dive from where you get a chance to see humpback whales! These whales are bigger than the eye can see and you can't even capture the whole whale in a photo because you can get so close and feel so safe! You will be able to see them from mid July to late October.
Well of course Darwin's survival of the fittest theory will prevail on our top list and spectacular, mind blowing and breath taking are 3 phrases that honestly don't even do this place justice. Around 650 miles off the coast of Ecuador you will find this amazing place. With over 20% of the species here you cannot find anywhere else in the world!
El Arco located off of Darwin Island is where you will see the big ones, Hammerhead sharks! So if you are up for seeing something spectacular this is the place. You can see whale sharks and even eagles rays.
Also another couple great dives as you are probably only going to go once you have to check out Roca Redonda off of Isabela Island and Cape Douglas off of Fernandina Island.
As you can see it is not just about 1 great dive but it is about a few great dives in a few remarkable places. If you are going there, I would recommend dedicating your time to diving!
Bali, Indonesia - Liberty Wreck
This wreck dive is accessible from shore and has been my favorite I must say. With tons of marine life and swimming through the wreck it is definitely once that has always stuck with me. From about 10 down past 110 feet you can check out the ship and all it has to offer. When I went in the winter (January) the water was clear and warm which was much nicer than the cold back home!
The USAT Liberty was sunk during WWII and in 1963 an eruption broke out from Mount Agung and pushed the ship another 110 feet off the shore. It is amazing and spectacular and very cool going into the ship!
How I researched the dive spots in this article?
When I found out I got to write about the best places to go scuba diving I could not have been more overjoyed. My mind went racing about all of the amazing sea life and places I have been. I started thinking about Indonesia, Australia, French Polynesia, almost all of the Caribbean, Galapagos , more in Asia and Europe. Then I went through my log books and realized how many other places I have dove and somehow forgot about. Then I started looking through my to do list (a very long list of dives that through research and talking with amazing people I have met over time doing my dives, who have told me that these are the ones to do) so that list is very long.
After a long talk friends, family, acquaintances, other dive instructor/dive master I sent out an email in regards to their top 10 diving spots in the world. Now what I got back was very interesting. Some places were so remote that I had never even heard of so I did research and had to think about that on my list and then I went and did a excel sheet trying to figure out if this was even possible to do? Can you really ask the question... Where is the best place to go Scuba Diving?
Then I started to consider dive conditions, time of year, maybe you were just unlucky where you were at that specific dive. I have had friends who have told me that certain places were the best and I had to go but when I went, unlucky conditions and vice versa. You know how it goes? I was just in French Polynesia and got very lucky to see a 6 meter manta ray and then on the next dive I was surrounded by lemon sharks. The dive master told me he has never seen so much sea life ever in that area. The luck of the draw I guess.... my luck to!
After months of excel and see what other peoples top 10 etc lists were I realized that you cannot just have a best dive spot in the world. I mean you can but then I would start a whole can of worms and I don't think that it would be helpful for people who are trying to get new dive spots and vacations out of the article. So what I have decided to do is write out the Top 5 places to go scuba diving in to particular order! Just 10 of the best diving spots in the world!
So of course I may have left off a couple of dives that could have or should be on the list but these were the ones from myself and fellow peers all agreed upon. The ocean is such a wonderful place and has so much to offer. Never underestimate it and enjoy all it has to give. Never stop diving and learning!