As many divers know, the world instantly becomes twice as large once we obtain our Open Water Diver certification. Suddenly, traveling takes on a double meaning. We can explore both the surface and the depths of the places we visit. Magical, isn't it? Egypt is no longer just the home of one of the most amazing and mysterious civilizations; for us, divers, it is also synonymous with diving on century-old shipwrecks, coral reefs, and sharks.
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And what about Indonesia? Bali is not only temples and beaches for surfing; it's also the USAT Liberty wreck, giant manta rays, and moonfish. Cuba is not just about music, history, or colonial architecture; it's also about coral gardens, silky sharks, and even diving with crocodiles. See how lucky we are? Divers travel twice in a single destination, we have the power to explore the uniqueness of both the surface and the depths.
Unfortunately, resources and time are limited, and although our imagination takes us to dive into the entire submerged planet, it is not possible for everyone. On the one hand, traveling for diving is not precisely cheap, and on the other hand, sometimes we don't know which destinations are the most suitable for our diving level, concerns, or preferences, or whether we should do it through liveaboard boats or from the shore.
In this article, which we intend to be an index to all our articles and resources on diving trips, you will find descriptions of the best diving destinations in the world, their most interesting dives, the fauna you will encounter, the best time to dive in each of these destinations, useful tips, recommendations, and links to offers from both diving travel agencies and liveaboard boats and resorts, where you can compare prices and even book online.
Where Do You Want to Dive?
Anemones and clownfish are a constant in the waters of the Red Sea. Image by Eric Burgers
The Red Sea is an ocean of diving options, one of the most popular destinations (if not the most popular), and where many divers usually start as their first international diving destination, especially for Europeans.
Why Is Diving in the Red Sea So Popular?
Firstly, due to the quality of its diving. We find healthy corals like those of Ras Mohammed in the north, passing through the sharks and adrenaline diving of Brothers, Daedalus, Elphinstone in the south, to St. Johns or Sudan in the far south with its wrecks and hammerhead sharks.
In the Red Sea, you'll find reefs teeming with life that receive deep currents loaded with food, providing shelter to some of the most sought-after beings by underwater photographers: clownfish, huge moray eels, nudibranchs, lionfish, turtles, and sharks are the sea stars of the Red Sea. All this in waters with an average temperature of 26 ºC and a super complete liveaboard offer.
By the way, yes, we also have Red Sea diving shirts.
Another important reason is the peculiarity of having a large number of sunken ships, some of them steamships with more than 120 years underwater, are a delight for divers who love this type of dives, highly appreciated. Some wrecks like the Thistlegorm, sunk by German ships during World War II, where we can still find remains such as motorcycles, boots, trucks, or different items for British soldiers during the North African campaign, are famous worldwide and a must-visit place for any diver.
The third reason why we like and is liked worldwide is that divers of all levels can greatly enjoy diving in the Red Sea. For example, open water divers can take such interesting routes with so much to offer, such as the classic northern route, with stops at Thistlegorm and Ras Mohammed National Park or Shark and Yolanda Reef, areas with few currents and without great depths, suitable for those with less experience. From there to more southern areas, with strong currents and great depths only suitable for experienced divers with at least 50 dives or even for technical divers who have in the Numidia wreck, for example, a place of pilgrimage, with the bow at only 5 meters deep and the stern reaching 85 m.
Two other basic reasons to have the Red Sea among the most popular destinations are its proximity (for Europeans and Asians) and its low cost. From Madrid, in just 6 hours, you are in Sharm el Sheikh ready to embark on a beastly destination like the Red Sea. No jet lag or almost time to fall asleep! Also, we can find offers for both flights and liveaboard boats and resorts super cheap and for less than €1,000 and have a great diving holiday in the Red Sea and return home with 20 spectacular dives.
We associate Indian Ocean diving destinations with white sandy beaches, luxury resorts and liveaboards (more Asian than Indian) where you can disappear, multicolored coral gardens for snorkeling, and all kinds of small tropical species. While it is true that diving in the Indian Ocean brings together many of these topics, it is no less true that it also has top-level adrenaline diving, with drift dives where you can dive with large predators, powerful currents, and some unique adventures that we reveal later :-)
What Are the Most Amazing Diving Destinations in the Indian Ocean?
The star of Indian Ocean diving. Maldives is one of the best diving areas in the world. Known by all divers for its mantas and whale sharks, Maldives has the most complete diving travel infrastructure in the world, with more than 40 liveaboards operating year-round on different routes and hundreds of resorts, some of the most luxurious on the planet.
This country is made up of more than 1,000 islands and 26 atolls through which water loaded with food flows, and through whose channels we can easily find two of the species that divers around the world dream of: mantas and whale sharks.
Yes, Maldives is the kingdom of these two enigmatic species, but also the home to up to 1,000 species of fish and invertebrates, immaculate coral gardens (mainly in the south), extraordinary sharks like the guitar or the tiger, and a whole series of tropical fauna such as napoleon fish, sweetlips, clownfish, turtles, or eagle rays. Maldives hooks you as soon as you dip your mask underwater.
Mozambique is also bug territory, especially whale sharks and mantas. Here, we have a massive channel between Africa and Madagascar where a huge plankton stream flows, taking advantage of the cold waters from Antarctica and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. This phenomenon attracts the ocean's megafauna. The two animals that are the essence of Indian Ocean diving, mantas and whale sharks, appear throughout the year in Mozambique, which also boasts rich coral reefs and extensive mangroves, making it an important nursery for this ocean. One unique aspect of diving in this country is the opportunity to do it with whales, mainly humpback and southern right whales, which migrate from June to December.
In Mozambique, more specifically in Tofo, where most of the country's diving is concentrated, we can also find 5 of the 7 species of sea turtles, dolphins, rays, tuna, huge potato groupers, or reef sharks. A destination for adventurous divers still relatively unexplored as it is a somewhat challenging diving area.
If the Red Sea is an ocean of diving options, the Indo-Pacific must be a universe. This is the most favored area on the planet in terms of conditions for an explosion of marine life. In this region, known as the Coral Triangle, a series of currents come together that, along with the temperature of its waters, have caused life to flow and evolve to extraordinary beauty parameters. Here, we will find a biodiversity unique in the world, the home of more than 2,000 species of reef fish and 37% of the total reef fish on the planet.
Indeed, the Indo-Pacific can be considered a paradise for the most demanding divers: the world's best macro, mantas, sharks, a large number of endemic species, vast unexplored coral gardens, the rarest species and creatures, sharks, cetaceans, dreamy beaches, surface and underwater volcanoes, resorts on deserted beaches, movie-worthy sailing dive liveaboards… Once you try the Indo-Pacific, there's no turning back.
What are the best diving places in the Indo-Pacific area?
The Indo-Pacific combines 7 countries, all with excellent diving, although not all with equal infrastructure and possibilities, let's see what these peculiarities are:
The blue-ringed octopus is a highly sought-after species by divers venturing into Indonesia's waters
Undoubtedly Indonesia is the Top 1 in the Indo-Pacific and one of the best diving destinations in the world. Considering that we are talking about more than 17,000 islands located in the heart of the Coral Triangle and that it is a country that has understood very well the economic benefits of the diving industry, there is no doubt that it is a destination that must be known and even if you go 100 times, there will always be much more to discover. On the one hand, we have an enviable fleet of liveaboard boats, with up to 60 top-level liveaboards that cover the best that Indonesia can offer in terms of diving.
Although it would take an encyclopedia to cover, we can highlight diving areas in Indonesia such as Komodo, with the National Park both to the north and south and thrilling diving with currents, walls, and coral gardens where you can dive with mantas, sharks, turtles, and excellent macro. Raja Ampat is another excellent diving area both on liveaboard and from resorts, where we will dive with mantas, spectacular schools of pelagic fish in the blue, extraordinarily healthy coral gardens, whitetip and grey reef sharks, the always special wobbegong shark, Napoleon wrasse… those who know it know that it is a truly extraordinary destination. Another area of great value for liveaboard diving is the Forgotten Islands, extremely remote islands with excellent pelagic diving (various species of sharks, mantas, and cetaceans are common) as well as beautiful macro diving on every dive. It is almost impossible to highlight destinations in such a rich area with so much to offer.
Another noteworthy feature of diving in Indonesia, which the Red Sea lacks, for example, is that resort diving can be as high quality as liveaboard diving. There are resorts in Raja Ampat and other areas such as Lembeh, Sulawesi, Ambon, Gangga, or Nabucco where lovers of the ocean's smallest and strangest creatures come hoping to see wonders of nature like frogfish, blue-ringed octopuses or mimic octopuses, pipefish of a thousand types, fragile seahorses… but also brings surprises of enormous size in the form of mantas or hammerhead sharks. As mentioned, Indonesia is an endless destination, impossible to summarize in three paragraphs, but we have been talking about it for years at Fordivers, and here we leave you with a few resources that will help you understand it better:
The Philippines is at the upper vertex of this sort of scalene triangle that is the Coral Triangle. It is also an extensive country, like Indonesia, in this case with "only" 7,000 islands with a great variety of diving. Also, as in Indonesia, we can find excellent macro, diving with large creatures, and many peculiarities. This is a destination that, although it has extraordinary liveaboard diving, shore diving is more common and concentrated in the Luzon and Visayas regions.
As for liveaboard diving, we can highlight mainly Tubbataha, a National Park with a very short diving season but "World Top" diving where the highlights are the schools of pelagic fish, sharks, visibility exceeding 50 meters, huge tunas, and whale sharks in an environment of coral health that is among the healthiest in the Indo-Pacific with simply spectacular sponges.
Tubbataha has achieved that extraordinary diving destination category thanks in part to eradicating illegal fishing and coral collection to turn it into a healthy reef where underwater life amazes, and divers from around the world book up to a year in advance to secure a spot. If you are looking for a destination full of biodiversity, with large creatures and healthy reefs teeming with tropical life, Tubbataha Reef and its liveaboard boats are the ideal choice.
Malapascua and Pescador Island are other highly demanded destinations in the Philippines that we can do both on liveaboard and from a resort. Starting from Oslob, where we will see whale sharks, we will go around the island passing through Monad Shoal, Gato Island, or Apo Reef, areas known worldwide for their dives with thresher sharks, large schools of sardines, all kinds of tropical fauna in extensive coral gardens. A highly appreciated destination also for Open Water Divers who can enjoy a high-level destination even with little experience.
To conclude with the Philippines (strange to talk about ending in a country where diving is practically inexhaustible), we highlight Apo Reef and Dumaguete because we are unwavering lovers of muck diving, and we know that many of our readers and clients are too. These two areas located in the heart of the Philippines have become a pilgrimage site for lovers of macro photography due to the large number and variety of strange creatures we can dive with. Beautiful creatures such as scorpionfish, all kinds of nudibranchs, frogfish, ghost pipefish, lionfish, among others, stand out on dark sandy bottoms… and it doesn't only have much to offer to macro lovers. For lovers of large creatures, there's also a lot to offer, such as sharks, turtles, mantas, and even dives with currents and walls. Finally, we highly recommend visiting Coron, a perfect destination for wreck enthusiasts where we can find many ships from the Japanese fleet that were sunk during World War II. With extraordinary specimens with a length of 118 meters like the Akitsusima Maru, sunk at 22 meters, and others from only 5 meters and suitable for Open Water Divers.
In short, the Philippines is one of those world-class, endless diving destinations that you have to experience over and over again as long as your budget allows.
The quintessential diving destination for pelagic lovers. Those who love diving with sharks, from whale sharks and great whites to hammerheads and even some more exotic ones like silky sharks or Galapagos sharks. In the Pacific, large animals find the ideal habitat both to reside and to spend short seasons feeding, reproducing, or raising their offspring before moving with the currents in their annual migrations.
The Pacific has special conditions where cold nutrient-rich currents merge with great depths that allow large predators to have enough food in the form of both plankton and medium-sized prey such as tuna, sea lions, rays, squid, etc.
If your dream is to fulfill (or repeat) diving with large predators, get ready for what awaits you :-)
The Best Diving Areas in the Pacific
Whale sharks, huge schools of hammerhead sharks, up to 27 other species of sharks (although "only" 7 are regularly sighted), tunas, dolphins, mantas, penguins, turtles, seabirds diving for fish balls… and yes, sometimes many of them together in the same dive.
Areas like Darwin's Arch, where we hang in the blue at about 10 meters and enjoy the passage of the ocean's largest creatures, or Wolf, where we see schools of almost 300 hammerhead sharks, eagle rays patrolling in groups, or the Galapagos sharks, have given Galápagos the reputation of being the world's TOP diving destination. And rightly so.
Galápagos is a destination for advanced divers due to the currents, which can be quite strong in some areas, even with down currents, with most dives being drift dives, and sometimes with cold waters and thermoclines. A dream for those who have always wanted to enjoy the wildest ocean.
Socorro Island is a Mexican archipelago that is gaining increasing interest among lovers of large marine animals, especially oceanic mantas. As expected when talking about Pacific destinations, Revillagigedo is far from the coast, about 400 kilometers away, in a perfect area for the passage of pelagics that take advantage of its currents and nutrient-rich waters for breeding, hunting, or reproducing.
What animals are we going to find in Revillagigedo? The most extraordinary are its mantas, huge, with wingspans exceeding 7 meters, and many sharks, 7 different species, from whale sharks to hammerheads, gray sharks, silky sharks, tiger sharks, blacktips… like Galápagos, an eminently shark diving destination.
Spring Sea, Revillagigedo | Pelagic Life from Pelagic Life
One feature that makes this destination special is the presence of an incredible mammal, humpback whales. In winter, especially in November, they use the currents of Revillagigedo in their transit south seeking warmer waters. You can see them, hear them, and dive with them along with other mammals like dolphins and even blue whales that occasionally make an appearance. Another must-visit destination for thrill-seekers underwater.
Cocos is the third vertex that forms the pelagic triangle of the Pacific along with the two destinations above. Cocos, or Cocos Island, also known as Shark Island, was described by Jacques Cousteau as the most beautiful island in the world. And this man had seen quite a few.
Cocos is fortunate to be a very remote island, over 300 miles from the coast, and where fishing is prohibited, which has facilitated the proliferation of sharks, many other smaller pelagics such as tuna, barracudas, or sailfish, and where we can find many endemic species like the famous red-lipped batfish.
Another great advantage of this small island, only 7 km long, is that it has 5 currents converging on it, creating a perfect environment for large pelagics and up to 8 different types of sharks that we can find, highlighting the schools of hammerhead sharks, some with up to 200 individuals, attracting hundreds of divers each year thanks to liveaboard diving boats, the only way to reach this adventurer's own island.