There’s nothing wrong with enjoying looking at the surface of the ocean itself. Except that when you finally see what goes on underwater, you will realize that you have been missing the whole point of the ocean.
Dave Berry’s words ring true in every sense.
Scuba diving is an experience like no other. It opens you up to an entirely different world and puts you in awe of it! Be it an amateur or an experienced diver, scuba diving is on almost everyone’s bucket list.
Here is a crème de la crème of scuba diving locations in the world as suggested by travel bloggers.
- Raja Ampat, Indonesia
- Tubbataha, Philippines
- Sipadan, Malaysia
- Koh Tao, Thailand
- The Maldives
- Dahab, Egypt
- Sharm El Sheik, Egypt
- Malindi, Kenya
- Ningaloo Reef and Muiron Islands, Australia
- Byron Bay, Australia
- Berlengas islands, Portugal
- Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia
- Roatan Island, Honduras
- Cozumel, Mexico
- Bonaire National Marine Park, Bonaire
- Reef conservation
Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Margherita of The Crowded Planet(Check out her blog on Instagram) had the following to say about Raja Ampat which is widely known for its rich marine diversity.
“There are so many reasons to love Raja Ampat, and diving is definitely one of them. These remote islands in the western part of Indonesia only see a fraction of the tourist multitudes that descend on Bali, meaning that beaches and landscapes are still in pristine conditions – and the same is true underwater!
We only had time for two dives in Raja Ampat, as we only had three days in the islands and also wanted to see more, but I can say without the shadow of a doubt that during the first of my two Raja Ampat dives, I saw more than in all my other 40 dives combined!
The first dive site we visited was Sawardri and in one single dive, we saw barracudas, sharks, turtles, giant shrimps, lots of different fish and multicoloured corals. On top of that, there was no one in sight! I really loved diving Raja Ampat and I’d love to be able to return next year, perhaps for a liveaboard!”
Find all information about travelling to Raja Ampat Indonesia on her blog The Crowded Planet.
Mary from Move To Vietnam has been raving about Tubbataha and this is what she had to say about it.
“Tubbataha has been attracting visitors from all over the world since the 1970s and it seems like it’s not done impressing the world yet. Tubbataha Reef is separated from Puerto Princesa, everyone who wishes to explore its beauty is required to take a 12-hour boat ride. There are over 360 coral species, which covers almost two-thirds of the part. It shows off magnificent reefs, vast lagoons, and ever two coral islands. If you decide to try out scuba diving in Tubbataha, I assure that you will have the dive of a lifetime, however, if you are a beginner, I would highly recommend you to take an advanced training beforehand to appreciate its beauty.”
“To put it simply, scuba diving in Sipadan, Borneo, Malaysia is some of the best diving I have ever done. So what makes it so special? In 2002 and all resorts were banned from the island to protect the environment by the government. This means divers can no longer stay on the island and have to then stay at nearby places such as Mabul or Semporna. You usually have to have a certain number of dives completed, and be certified as an Advanced PADI Diver. Permits are then issued each day, allowing only 120 people to dive there so you often need to book in advance.”
“This may seem like a lot of effort, however, it makes the diving world class as nature flourishes in full swing in Sipadan. You can see schools of various fish, sharks, and turtles bigger than some coffee tables! Hammerhead sharks are also spotted there if you are lucky.
There is one dive site at Sipadan called The Drop Off where you go from standing and being waist deep in water to a 600-metre drop, so keep an eye on that depth gauge!”
“There is also an opportunity to swim into the blue to see massive schools of barracudas. I saw so many amazing sights, in such a small amount of time. If you want to visit the top places in the world to scuba dive then you have to add Sipadan to your list!”
Koh Tao, Thailand
“Little we know we were going to fall so badly for scuba diving while wandering around Thailand a few years back. But soon we learned that the small island of Koh Tao was a learner’s paradise for its easy and great dives, affordable prices and overall good vibes. ”
“Apart from getting our Open Diver licenses by an SSI school, we got to dive a few cool spots – Japanese Gardens, Twins (Nang Yuan) and White Rock up to a depth of 18m. Slingjaw wrasse, blue-ringed angelfish, longish bannerfish, chevron barracuda, blue spotted ribbon tail ray, magnificent anemone, saddleback anemonefish (Nemo), blotched porcupine fish, parrotfish, titan triggerfish, long-faced emperor fish, barrel sponge, hexagon grouper, crocodile fish and pink anemonefish were some of the species we were fortunate enough to spot during our 4 prep dives and 2 extra fun dives after getting our licenses.”
Read more about this Thailand paradise Koh Tao on their blog A World To Travel.
When I was collating this list suggested by other travel bloggers, I thought of adding a suggestion of own too about the Maldives.
The Maldives may be known for its luxury resorts and over water villas but the best part about the Maldives is under water. Especially on the radar for a variety of sharks and big fishes like grey tip and white tip sharks, tiger sharks, whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, eagle rays and Manta rays. I’m glad that I chose Maldives to get certified as a PADI Open water diver.
Out of the four dives I went on in the Maldives, I personally loved Kadooma Thila for it colourful and vibrant underwater life. It is apparently the best dive site in the Maldives and has a visibility of over 30 meters.
Guraidhoo Manta point was another one of my favourite dive points, for I witnessed many Manta rays and eagle rays near the cleaning stations coming up to clean their gills and skin from the smaller fishes.
Also, there are many wreck diving opportunities available for advanced scuba divers. If you want your travels to be focussed on diving, then try out live boarding experiences in the Maldives.
Read on how to plan a trip to Maldives on a Budget on The Roving Heart.
Lisa of Scuba Around The World talks about her diving experience in Dahab, Egypt in the pristine Red Sea.
“Dahab is a coastal town in the south-east of the Egyptian South Sinai peninsula. It lies on the Gulf of Aqaba, at the northern end of the Red Sea. Most dive sites in Dahab are easy to access shore dives that can be easily reached by car. With up to 30 different dive sites, the visibility that’s often over 20 to 30 meter, Dahab is rich in marine diversity. Also, it has plenty to offer for both advanced and novice divers. Combine this with Bedouin hospitality, 365 days of sunshine and plenty of other activities and you’ve found a great spot for your next diving holiday.”
“If you have a few extra days a tryout diving safari which is a unique and fun experience. Travel along the coast with your Bedouin guides (by camel if you want) and set up a dive camp in the middle of nowhere. Sleep under the stars and go on an early morning dive or try a dusk dive at some of the more remote dive sites.”
Check out the best Dive spots in Dahab Egypt on her blog Scuba Around The World.
Sharm El Sheik, Egypt
“I have always wanted to scuba dive in the Red Sea. Our cruise through the Middle East gave us the perfect opportunity when we stopped in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt. We found most of Sharm El Sheikh to be deserted. Tourism is well below normal. But we did find a scuba shop to take us out for a dive from shore. Sharm El Sheikh is a great spot to access the Red Sea. We encountered large schools of fish, colourful corals, giant grouper, and crocodile fish.”
Sharm El Sheikh is a treasure trove of historic dive sites, wall dives and colourful reef dives full of diverse marine life.
Read more about scuba diving in the Red sea at her blog Retired and Travelling.
“For now, Malindi, in Kenya, isn’t on the mainstream diving radar, meaning that the coral reefs and marine wildlife are more untouched and not as exploited as in other popular destinations. There are two main barrier reefs in front of the Malindi beaches, both of which are home to multitudes of fish and turtles. There are two marine national parks in Malindi, one is Malindi Marine National Park and the other is called Watamu Marine National Park, just a short 20-minute drive away from each other.”
“The marine flora and fauna are very similar, the only difference is the presence of algae at different times of the year. In winter, low season, Watamu has the clearer water and the beaches in Malindi are covered in algae, whilst in summer it’s the other way around. When you visit make sure you dive at the park and barrier reef with the clearest water at that time of year!
Find out more about scuba diving in Malindi on her blog Greta’s Travels.
Ningaloo Reef and Muiron Islands, Australia
“Exmouth Australia was our favourite part of 2 months visiting Australia. The World Heritage Ningaloo Reef area, including Ningaloo Marine Park and the exquisite Muiron Islands Marine area, are spectacular dive destinations. As advanced divers, diving for approximately 20 years, we found Exmouth and the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area one of the best places to dive. I was personally drawn to Exmouth because of the fantastic dive reviews that claim it is much better than the Great Barrier Reef.
After diving both, in my opinion, the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) pales in comparison to Ningaloo Reef and Muiron Islands.“
“We found the sea life to be more plentiful than the GBR. The corals are alive and pristine. Many of the live corals look green at depth. We have never seen so much live coral, like the huge fields of staghorn coral with all the sea life around it; they are immense and staggering to see.”
“We swam among beautiful and plentiful reef fish – many that we had never seen before. You’ll see spotted wrasse, bluetail wrasse, speckled wrasse, stars and stripes puffers, barimundi (a type of codfish), filefish, many varieties of starfish, small and large crayfish (lobster), coral pigfish, various types of colourful nudibranchs, and much more. Some of the big animals we spotted include sharks, giant clams, mantas, blue spotted lagoon ray, wobbegong shark (we have never seen one before; it’s a shark with a goatee – a type of carpet shark).”
Find out more about Exmouth, Australia on her blog Adventurous Retirement.
Byron Bay, Australia
Chris Stevens of Backpacker Banter(Check out his blog on Instagram) talks about his surreal experience diving in Byron Bay, Australia.
“Out of all the places I’ve dived around the world one of my absolute favourites has to be Byron Bay in Australia.
Not only is this barefoot hippie beach town one of my favourite spots in Australia but the diving here is stunning.
Sure it doesn’t have the coral gardens of say the Barrier Reef and the water isn’t quite as warm, but Julian Rocks is one of the countries top dive sites.”
“This rocky outcrop is famous for the big fishes. Be ready to encounter the Grey Nurse Sharks, huge rays, heaps of woebegone sharks and curious leopard sharks.
The shark encounters here are some of the best I’ve had and nothing quite beats seeing those shadows loom out of the deep and cruise past you without a care in the world, it’s something you’ll never forget!”
Learn more about Byron Bay in his blog Backpacker Banter.
“Malta may not be the first destination that pops into your head when you think of scuba diving, but here’s why you should change that! Malta is home to unique, impressive geology that looks even more impressive underwater. You’ll get to explore sheer sea walls teeming with underwater life and dive through caves and tunnels (not as scary as it sounds!). You’ll find parrotfish, octopus, lobsters, damselfish, eels, and more.”
“Due to Malta’s geographic position between Italy and North Africa, it’s not surprising that there are tons of shipwrecks from World War I and II here.
Keep in mind that many of these wrecks require advanced open water certification though.”
Berlengas islands, Portugal
Berlenga Grande has high, jagged cliffs and looks imposing as you enter the water of the Atlantic. Watch the Haliotis shells with silvery interiors litter the gritty ocean floor. Beneath the surface, you’ll be able to see octopuses and silvery shoals of fish. You can find beautiful caves full of red gorgonians and various coloured anemones that make their home here. There are dozens of dive sites for divers of all certifications and experience. Also, there are tons of shipwrecks here at different depths making this area the largest shipwreck graveyard in Portugal.
The Berlengas islands rise from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, roughly ten kilometres off the Portuguese coastline.
Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia
“The state of Chuuk is made of a 50 by 30-mile barrier reef enclosing a few sizeable islands and several other smaller ones. This protected reef is the reason why Chuuk was chosen as the main Japanese naval base in the Pacific following WWI.”
“In 1944 the US attacked the Japanese combined fleet stationed in Chuuk Lagoon in what was known as Operation hailstone and destroyed it all: ship, planes and land deployments.
Today, what remains is between 50 and 70 wrecks preserved underwater in what is the greatest wreck diving destination in the world.
Most of the wrecks are at deeper depths and require Advanced diving certifications and Nitrox. However even if you are just an Open water PADI diver like me, be rest assured to find several wreck dives here.”
Read A complete guide to Chuuk on her blog Once In A Lifetime Journey.
Roatan Island, Honduras
I asked Campbell and Alya of Stingy Nomads(Check them out on Facebook and Twitter) about their favourite diving. Here is what they had to say about the best diving they experienced in Central America.
“Roatan is the largest of the Bay Islands off the east coast of Honduras.
The Mesoamerican Reef around Roatan Island is the largest reef in the Caribbean and the second largest in the world.
The reef creates dozens of different dive sites all around the island, each with special and unique characteristics. Texas had large groupers and pelagics such as barracudas and horse-eye jacks swimming over the beautiful reef. Deep Seequest showed us turtles and rays swimming over the sandy bottom. Seeing a big school of barracudas swimming next to West End Wall was a treat. Diving on the wreck of El Aguila was fantastic. This wreck lies at about 35m and was scuttled to form an artificial reef for diving. Big holes in the wreck are safe and easy for penetration. I enjoyed looking at many massive groupers and snappers swimming in this area. Offering a variety of marine life, beautiful reefs and warm clear water makes diving around Roatan Island spectacular.”
Find more about Scuba diving at Roatan Island at their site Stingy Nomads.
“It’s definitely not a secret anymore because the reefs of Cozumel are out of this world. Those huge coral formations that you can find at the Palancar Reefs will make you drop your regulator. Not many stay long enough to discover all the reefs.
But even if you’d dive the same dive site for a month straight, you would find different things on each dive.
I spotted eagle rays, big green moray eels, tiny sea slugs and many nurse sharks. In the right season, you can spot some blacktip sharks too. Turtles are also frequent visitors and will stop by to greet you.”
“My favourite dives sites on Cozumel? All of them are unique and so special, I couldn’t pick one. Maybe I prefer Palancar and Yucab just a little more than the others.”
Bonaire National Marine Park, Bonaire
“Bonaire is a tiny island in the Caribbean, quite close to Curaçao and north of Venezuela. Completely surrounded by reefs, it’s a perfect place for a diving vacation. Bonaire lies outside the usual hurricane routes, and the weather is pretty much perfect all year. Cactus is what grows best, rain is minimal, and the tidal variation is very small.”
“But here’s what makes Bonaire a magical diving spot: the entire coastline is protected as Bonaire National Marine Park, and the reefs line the shore, starting at the low tide line. You can literally wade into the water anywhere you choose around the island and enjoy a stunning dive. Any dive shop, of course, will give you tips about where the best spots are, but my husband and I loved the freedom of renting our equipment for the week. We stopped by our dive shop each morning to trade our empty air tanks for full and took off for whatever spot looked interesting.
Some days we just went diving from the patio of our beachfront rental cottage. It was magnificent.”
Coral reefs may have been around for as long as 500 million years, but scientists are warning that they might be gone or decimated by the end of the century. Due to various factors like rising temperature, plastic pollution and many others, corals are dying at a rapid rate than ever before. Where would the fishes go without the corals then? Doomsday doesn’t seem so far away now!
However, with urgent and collective action, we can mitigate it from happening.
Reduce pollution, practice safe and responsible diving and snorkelling, or even using a natural sunscreen that can help bring down reef destruction.
Additional Read: 10 Easy steps to protect coral reefs.
It is necessary that we preserve the corals for posterity, otherwise how else would future generations be in awe of this fascinating underwater world if there is nothing left to see?
So, what are your favourite scuba diving locations in the world? Where did you have your best diving experience yet? Let me know in the comments below.
Credits to Featured image and Pinterest image – © Viktoria Urbanek | Chronic Wanderlust