Coming up with a list of the top 10 destinations that offer the best diving in the world is tough, especially when you consider that there are over a hundred dive spots that deserve a spot on the list. Making it harder is the fact that the list is purely subjective since every diver will have his or her own favorite dive site as influenced by a variety of factors like beauty, fish life, visibility, and overall dive experience. Nonetheless, if you’re still in the process of making your diving bucket list, here’s a quick rundown of some of the places that offer the best scuba diving in the world in no particular order.
1. SS Yongala, Australia
The SS Yongala, located off the coast of Queensland, is considered to be one of the best dives sites not just in Australia but also in the whole world. If you’re looking for some of the tops of the list shipwreck diving destinations, this is the spot you want to visit.
This former steel passenger and freight steamer sank (along with its 120 plus passengers) in 1911, though it has only been found around the 1950s. But even after being submerged for over a century, the SS Yongala is still in very good condition and divers can still see most of the boat, including the masts and even the toilets. Yet more impressive than the condition of the ship is the abundance and variety of marine life that made the sunken SS Yongala their home.
This dive spot is famous for its large species of fish which include schools of Barracudas, Giant trevallies, as well as various species of sharks including the rare Bull shark and Tiger shark. During the right seasons, it is even possible to encounter Minke Whales, Humpback whales, and gargantuan Whale sharks. Rays, eels, and other species of aquatic life can also be seen swimming in the superb garden of hard and soft corals.
The eerie shipwreck with the abundant marine flora and fauna makes the SS Yongala an excellent spot for underwater photography, so be sure to bring your diving camera.
2. Richelieu Rock, Thailand
Richelieu Rock in Thailand is one of the must-visit diving destinations in the world. Underwater, Richelieu Rock forms a horseshoe-shaped landscape composed of several groups of rocks, pinnacles, overhangs, and small caves just waiting for you to explore. So be ready for some serious leg workout as you’ll be flapping your scuba fins for a good amount of time while swimming through these areas and exploring this pristine underwater landscape.
Soft corals are more plentiful than hard corals in this area given the currents sweeping over this pinnacle. However, marine life is still bountiful, with seahorses, ghost pipefish, harlequin shrimp, or frogfish all swimming around. If you’re lucky, you may even spot the rare tomato clownfish that live in the area.
There’s also a healthy population of pelagic fish in the waters surrounding Richelieu Rock. Large schools of trevallies and barracudas can be spotted out in the blue along with snappers and fusiliers. Whale sharks and manta rays were also reported to have been sighted near the area, though not all divers were lucky enough to do so.
3. Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Raja Ampat in Indonesia is revered as a diver’s mecca and is visited by countless divers from around the world annually. It has been described as pristine and untouched considering that the islands are far removed even from the nearest towns. The clear waters surrounding the tropical islands are home to an expansive collection of marine flora and fauna, many of which are exclusive to the place. In fact, over the past few years, many new species have been discovered in the area.
The surrounding waters of Raja Ampat are thriving with pelagic fish in every direction, from sharks to dogtooth tunas and trevallies and more. Even the elusive Wobeggong shark and dugongs were reported to have been sighted here. Aside from them, other inhabitants of Raja Ampat include dolphins, giant groupers, as well as macro life, and just about all the critters haunting a diver’s dream.
Raja Ampat is considered to contain the richest marine life on the planet, with exceptionally thriving biodiversity it has so much to offer all in one location and ensuring that divers who come here are never disappointed.
4. Blue Corner, Palau
Palau is one of the most visited diving destinations in the world, and divers who make their pilgrimage here often do so because of the Blue Corner. This dive site with exceptional visibility holds the promise of an epic adventure consisting of sightings of numerous species of shark, multitudinous schools of fish, and reefs adorned with beautiful corals everywhere. Not to be missed are the various caverns and caves all waiting for the eager diver to explore.
This diving destination is a paradise for divers. It is home to an abundance of marine life including the majority of the world’s species of giant clams, over a thousand species of reef fish, and 500 species of soft and hard corals. Typical pelagic fish in the area include trevallies, tunas, snappers, and barracudas. Hawksbill and green turtles are also frequent residents of the reef, as are bump-head parrotfish, mackerel, wahoo, scorpionfish, lionfish, and anemone fish.
Farther into the dive you can see rays, reef sharks, hammerheads, tiger sharks, and whale sharks materialize before your scuba mask. If you’re lucky enough, you may even be rewarded with the view of marlins and sailfish roving in the area.
Keep in mind though that Blue Corner has variable currents that can change direction at any given moment. Because of the unpredictable currents, you’ll want to make sure that you use your reef hook and inflate your buoyancy compensator device (BCD) to avoid crashing into the reef.
5. Roca Partida, Mexico
Roca Partida is a little rock with impressive sights above and under the surface. It is so small that it is possible to swim around it several times during one dive even without the aid of an underwater scooter.
The waters surrounding Roca Partida are home to a variety of marine life. This includes giant manta rays, dolphins, Galapagos sharks, whale sharks, humpback whales, large schools of jacks and tuna, and many others. If you’re up to it, you can go exploring several small caves where whitetip sharks are known to rest alongside large lobsters. Moving away into the blue, you can see large schools of Hammerhead sharks swimming about. There are also giant pacific manta rays in the area, sometimes swirling and swimming over the heads of the divers and even following them all the way back to their boats.
6. Similan Islands, Thailand
The Similan Islands is one name that always pops up when you look at the top ten destinations in the world, and for good reasons, too. Located Northwest of Phuket, this National Marine Park is composed of nine granite islands with white beaches, tropical jungles, and warm clear waters. For divers though, what lies underneath the pristine water’s surface is more interesting than what is above.
The Similan Islands boasts of different dive sites. The Eastern coast has hard coral reef dives, with some soft corals and a huge variety and abundance of marine life. The currents here are somewhere between weak and moderate, making it a perfect spot for amateur and recreational divers. The Western end is usually reserved for the more experienced divers considering the depths and variable currents in the area. However, those who dare are rewarded with awesome views of deep rocky gorges, submarine rock formations, huge granite boulders, narrow passages, and caves all waiting to be explored. Be sure to wear your diving gloves while exploring these places to avoid cutting yourself.
Aside from the stunning landscape, the Similan Islands also boasts of over 500 species of hard and soft corals as well as a wide diversity of fish species. There are leopard sharks, guitar rays, whale sharks, manta rays, and turtles. There are also little critters as ghost pipefish, sea moths, frogfish, ribbon eels, and many different nudibranchs.
7. Barracuda Point, Malaysia
As the name suggests, Barracuda Point offers some of the most astounding views of large schools of barracudas and jackfish circling around and above the divers, hundreds of them swimming around in unison and perfectly synchronized maneuvers to form impenetrable whirlwind walls that block the sunlight from above, so much so that you’re going to need a good underwater camera strobe if you’re planning to take photos of this spectacular view. Other notable large fish species in the area like a white tip or grey reef sharks patrolling the reef in search of lunch. There are also countless species of smaller fish living in the reefs, as well as turtles swimming undisturbed everywhere.
The variety of fish species is not the only attraction in Barracuda point though. The whole area is teeming with extraordinarily rich aquatic life including huge gorgonian sea fans, sponges, and black coral interchange with soft corals of all shapes and colors.
8. Darwin’s Arch, Galapagos
Darwin’s Arch is a premier diving destination located on the northernmost island in the Galapagos archipelago. Diving in Darwin’s Arch often starts in the protected shallows where divers are treated with a sighting of sea lions and turtles. Swimming out into the blue, divers have rewarded encounters with whale sharks, huge schools of fish, and eagle rays, and other marine species.
One of the highlights of diving in Darwin’s Arch is the huge number of Hammerhead sharks in the area. If you haven’t seen a hammerhead shark before, be prepared to see a dozen (possibly more) of them in a single dive. The place is also home to a variety of other shark species including Galapagos sharks, Tiger sharks, and Silky sharks.
However, the aquatic life in Darwin’s Arch isn’t just limited to sharks. Here you’ll come across barracudas, bar jacks, and tuna. There are also eagle rays, sea lions, green sea turtles, moray eels, and dolphins in the area.
It should be noted that diving in Darwin’s Arch is challenging and will probably be one of the most difficult dives you’ll do in your lifetime. Thus, you’ll want to brush up on your scuba diving safety know-how and bring emergency signaling devices to the trip.
9. Cocos Islands, Costa Rica
Coco’s Island is a tiny and remote island located off the coast of Costa Rica and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the 1990s. Unlike other popular dive sites, this volcanic island doesn’t have colorful reefs and white sandy beaches. Instead, it has steep walls and large underwater boulders sparsely dotted with hard corals.
What makes Coco’s Island a premier destination for divers is the abundance of shark species roaming in the surrounding waters. In fact, it has been said that every dive at Coco’s Island is a ‘shark dive’ so if you’re into scuba diving with sharks, this is where you’ll want to go. Divers will be treated with encounters with large schools of hammerhead sharks, tiger sharks, whale sharks, whitetip sharks, and Galapagos sharks. Aside from these large predator fish, there is also an abundance of dolphins, mantas, stingrays, mobula, and eagle rays.
10. Maaya Thila, Maldives
Maaya Thila is without a doubt one of the most popular dive sites in the tropical nation of Maldives. A world-class diving destination, Maaya Thila features an incredible diversity of aquatic lifeforms including turtles, morays, octopus, several reef shark species, and barracudas. There is also plenty of colorful parrotfish, scorpionfish, and even giant frogfish. Divers armed with high-end underwater camera lenses will have a grand time taking photos of the smaller creatures and vibrant nudibranchs thriving in the area. There are also several small caves in the deeper waters and large overhangs for the more experienced divers to explore.
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There are surely plenty of other diving destinations in the world that deserves to be visited, though the ones mentioned above do deserve to be on top of the list of the places that offer the best diving in the world considering the beauty of the underwater landscape and the abundance and variety of marine flora and fauna thriving there. That said, pack your scuba diving gear and head out to these places so you can tick them off your bucket list of must-see places for the best scuba diving in the world.
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