Are you in need of inspiration for your next adventure holiday? Maybe it’s time to expand your options for recreational travel to include diving. After all, with coral reefs housing 25% of all marine life on the planet, you’re guaranteed to see something unique and well removed from the norm of your everyday.
We’ve put together a list of some of the world’s best diving destinations to help you plan your next trip.
1. Pulau Weh – Indonesia
A tiny Island off the north-west tip of Sumatra, Pulau Weh, is a peaceful community made up of locals and divers. There are only two dive companies on this tiny tropical rock, Rubiah Tirta Divers and Lumba Lumba Diving Centre, but both have access to the kaleidoscope of life in the Adaman Sea.
A popular dive site is Batee Tokong, a rock that drops down to 22 metres, before sloping down to 40. Prepare to jump off the boat on top of a school of tuna or trevally and expect larger visitors such as mantas and devil rays.
2. Maaya Thila – Maldives
More than a thousand islands that make up this nation are grouped into 26 atolls, or ring-shaped coral reefs encircling a lagoon. It’s no wonder then that the Maldives are a pristine diving destination for beginner and advanced divers alike.
Our pick is the Maaya Thila dive site for its huge diversity of wildlife, coral and caves. Expect to see white-tip reef sharks, barracuda, dog-toothed tuna, angelfish and batfish among the abundance of marine wildlife.
3. Great Barrier Reef – Australia
At 2,300km long, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system and can be seen from outer space! The sheer size of the reef, and the year-round visibility, makes for some outstanding and diverse diving.
Cairns and Port Douglas are popular base locations for day trips to dive sites like the famous Cod Hole, where you can dive with friendly giant gropers. However many people choose to take a liveaboard trip for at least 3 or 4 days to access the outer reef sites.
A week-long liveaboard will give you access to the remote Osprey Reef, where you can spot whitetip reef sharks, silvertip sharks and even tiger sharks at North Horn dive site.
4. Ningaloo Reef – Western Australia
Unlike the Great Barrier Reef, the Nigaloo Reef, approximately 1,200 kilometres north of Perth, is a fringing coral reef which means it is directly attached to shore. The access from land is a defining and convenient feature of this dive destination.
Along with manta rays, turtles, dolphins, and beautiful coral, you could be lucky enough to see whale sharks in the right season. We like the Navy Pier dive site, accessible from Exmouth. It’s an easy shallow dive with all sorts of marine life including the colourful nudibranch and curious frog fish.
5. Cayman Islands – British Overseas Territory
One of the best things about the Cayman Islands is their accessibility to divers of all levels. Located in the western Caribbean, these Islands offer newbie and experienced divers alike an incredible experience. The deep ocean waters and lack of river and stream runoff, makes for excellent visibility which rarely drops below 22 metres.
Our pick is Babylon dive spot – a deep dive (starting at a depth of 40ft) off Grand Cayman’s north shore where divers can appreciate the rare wire coral, rope sponges and black coral.
6. Galapagos Islands – Ecuador
It’s no wonder the location for Charles Darwin’s ‘The Origin of the Species’ is a pinnacle dive experience. With the mixing of currents, these waters are teeming with life – both macro and micro.
The conditions of the Galapagos are friendlier to advanced divers, although there are some sites that are gentle enough for beginners.
The Galapagos are home to 28 different shark species, including the gentle giant whale shark, and massive schools of fish such as barracuda, groupers and yellowfin tuna. Of course there are also sea lions, green sea turtles and dolphins to be seen.
Belize offers divers a wealth of dive experience including shallow and deep coral grottos, marine biodiversity and the world-famous geographical phenomena, the Blue Hole.
Part of the lighthouse reef system, the Blue Hole is a perfectly circular sinkhole more than 90 metres across and 125 metres deep.
Inside are many species of coral and in the deeper waters of the Blue Hole you might see blacktip tiger or hammerhead sharks. Belize also includes amazing dive sites such as those located on Turneffe Island and Lighthouse Reef Atolls.
8. Palau – Micronesia
The Republic of Palau, an island country located in the western Pacific Ocean, firmly deserves its spot as one of the world’s most spectacular diving destination.
Its diversity is inimitable, with an astounding spectrum of coral, fish, and rare sea creatures such as giant clams weighing a quarter of a tonne. Divers have a choice of coral reefs, wartime wrecks, hidden caves and tunnels, vertical drop-offs and the phenomenal Jellyfish Lake – filled with nearly two million stingless jellyfish.
9. Similan Islands – Thailand
These isolated, uninhabited islands are located off the west coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea and liveaboard trips don’t get much better than this.
The waters abound with a rich mixture of reef and marine life. Expect to spot many blacktip and whitetip reef sharks, leopard sharks, trigger fish, unicornfish and pelagic fish such as barracudas and giant trevallies.
There are many liveaboard operators to choose from and most leave from the city of Khao Lak, north of Phuket.
10. Cozumel – Mexico
Mexico is famous for its surfing, tequila and Mayan archaeological sites. However, amongst the diving community Cozumel, the small island off the eastern coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula is a diving paradise.
It’s known for its currents, which have not only formed the topography of the island but also the marine biodiversity. Our pick of the crop is Cozumel’s east side which offers shallow diving on micro-atolls, coral gardens and swim-throughs. And since Hurricane Wilma in 2005, there are newly exposed cannons, anchors and countless cannonballs to be seen.