The other day we were scuba diving in Nusa Lembongan, an island off the coast of Bali.
I watched a giant manta ray swim gracefully by me, mouth open as it fed, and it got me thinking… what is scuba diving like in other places around the world?
We are headed to the Philippines next, as we’ve heard it is one of the best places to scuba dive – but is this the truth?
I decided to ask a number of travel bloggers what their favourite scuba diving spots are around the world, and I got some brilliant feedback.
If you’re planning on booking a scuba diving trip soon, I recommend you take notes…
Best scuba diving spots around the world
The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Charli from Wanderlusters
A mecca to scuba divers and one of the few living organisms visible from space, the Great Barrier Reef encompasses one of the most biologically diverse habitats on earth. The product of a collaboration between billions of tiny organisms, the reef supports a colossal ecosystem which impacts life in oceans across the globe.
The most notable sight when diving the fringing Ribbon Reefs has to be the wealth of colour that blankets the sea bed. From the schools of vibrant and patterned reef fish to the hard and soft corals, colour is everywhere. A marine jungle, rich and bountiful, the reef offers insight into the grand design of our earth. A prime example of the great miracles which can be achieved when species work together for the good of the collective.
Diving the Ribbon Reefs of the Great Barrier Reef is like exploring an alien world. No evidence of human life exists, just a colourful metropolis of coral structures and marine life. From the giant clam with its fluorescent interior, to the vivid flame file shell and the elusive leafy scorpion fish, a wealth of pelagic and macro life thrives here.
Starting to the north of Cairns and finishing to the east of Lizard Island, this 200km stretch of reef fringes the edge of the continental shelf and is accessed by just a couple of live-aboard dive boats. Prices range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand depending on your length of stay on the reef and standard of accommodation. We highly recommend taking the full seven day excursion from Cairns which encompasses much of the Great Barrier Reef’s most iconic dive sites, as well as those around the remote atoll, Osprey Reef.
Turks and Caicos Islands
Where Turks and Caicos destination really comes top for me is for beginners or nervous divers. Average dives were between 10 and 15m, creating kaleidoscopes of colour underwater enough to distract even the most nervous diver.
Diving in this area you can see plenty of reef sharks, turtles and the whole spectrum of colourful fish including clown fish. Nemos are a fish guaranteed to get my husband excited… he can play with them for hours! We saw a number of reef sharks which were as close as about 2m from us so the diving was really up close and personal.
Sites around Turks and Caicos are perfect for beginners due to the shallow dives and protected bay. We experienced virtually no current and I would argue this would be the perfect place to learn to dive.
Turks and Caicos is not the dive destination for super serious divers. Although the corals are some of the prettiest I have seen, it is some time now since I’ve visited the Turks and Caicos Islands and the restrictions imposed by the resort on the depth and length of dives (we could only go down for 40 minutes at a time) would frustrate me now. Having said that, that doesn’t preclude diving with other dive companies on more challenging dives in the area.
To get there, we flew with British Airways from London via the Bahamas. If you’re based in the United States, it’s an even easier journey.
Lina from Divergent Travelers
Sipadan is famous for its large schools of jack fish, barracudas and hammerhead sharks. You can also see giant turtles, grey reef sharks, white tip reef sharks, black tip reef sharks, giant trevally’s and most other marine life in great abundance here.
You must be an Advanced Open Water diver to dive Sipadan as there are strong currents in many of the dive sites and one whole side of the island is a 600m wall drop that requires sufficient knowledge of buoyancy.
Sipadan is a protected marine reserve, so you can only access it from some of it’s neighboring islands. We stayed on Mabul, a small island off the coast of Semporna, Sabah, Borneo, and did four days worth of diving around the islands of Mabul, Kapalai and Siamil – which offer some of the world’s best muck diving. We also did one day of four dives at Sipadan.
You cannot dive Sipadan without acquiring a permit from one of the Semporna based dive shops and they all require the booking of a multi-day dive package to be considered for a permit.
Dive packages to dive in this area are not cheap by south-east Asia dive standards. As mentioned before, you will be required to book a package that includes accommodation and all your dives. Expect prices to start at around US$1200 for four days, including 13 dives per person.
This package will include your meals, transport and Sipadan permit fees. In this package, expect to only get a permit to dive Sipadan for one day.
Malpelo Island, off the coast of Colombia
Amanda from The Adventure Junkies
My favourite dive spot in the world is Malpelo Island, located over 300 miles off the Pacific coast of Colombia. It’s known as the Mount Everest of sharks for a good reason. Hammerhead sharks travel in schools of hundreds around the island. Galapagos sharks, silky sharks, giant pacific manta rays, whale sharks and large schools of fish can also be seen here.
Malpelo is not a place for beginners. Strong currents and deep dives (over 100ft) are the norm here. You need to have at least an advanced certification. There are serious risks that you have to calculate for while diving in Malpelo so it is only recommended to highly experienced divers.
The island is very remote and the only way to get there is by a liveaboard. There are two operators, Coiba Dive Expeditions and Inula, both leaving from Panama. I went with Coiba Dive Expeditions. The price was US$3,930 including all dives, accommodation and food.
Koh Tao, Thailand
Little did we know we were going to fall for scuba diving while wandering around Thailand a few months back. But soon we learnt that 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 in the area: Japanese Gardens, Twins (Nang Yuan) and White Rock, all up to a depth of 18m.
We saw slingjaw wrasse, blue ringed angelfish, longish banner fish, chevron barracuda, blue spotted ribbon tail ray, magnificent anemone, saddel-back anemone fish, blotched porcupine fish, parrot fish, titan trigger fish, long faced emperor fish, barrel sponge, hexagon grouper, crocodile fish and pink anemone fish.
We managed to see such a broad range of species over the four preparation and two regular dives we did after becoming qualified divers.
Atoll of Fakarava, French Polynesia
Gilles from Grand Escapades
The reason why divers come to Atoll of Fakarava in the Tuamotu Islands in French Polynesia is to spend as much time under the water as possible.
We are just overwhelmed by the sheer abundance of fish we saw over five dives. It’s like diving in the Red Sea, with at times hundreds of small fish of all colours surrounding you.
But the colourful fish were not what we came here for! In five dives, we actually saw more than two hundred grey reef sharks, sometimes being surrounded by them and having them swimming between us.
We also saw silvertips sharks resting on the ground – these are one of the very few species of sharks that can breathe without moving. One of them was far more than two meters long. We also saw many eagle rays, one a mother with three young ones, a lot of Napoleon fish, and the usual barracudas and parrot fish.
This dive spot isn’t a place for beginners and most dives in this area have strong currents and depths between 30 and 35m. Therefore, an OWD Advanced license (or equivalent) and at least 50 dives are mostly required.
It isn’t that cheap to five here, as a two tank dive will set you back about 150€ (with a 10 to 20% discount if you dive several over days).
But the most expensive aspect to diving in this location is living on Atolls in French Polynesia, where the cheapest place with shared bathroom cost more than 70€ per night and half a kg of salad will cost you 10 € (!).
To reach Fakarava, you must fly through Papeete (Air France, Air Tahiti Nui, and LAN Chile have regular flights). Then Air Tahiti Nui has daily flights connecting Papeete & Fakarava and Rangiroa (another unique atoll to scuba dive).