Scuba diving has become one of the most popular recreational activities in the world, and who can blame people from getting excited about it? Whether you like exploring a vibrant new underwater world, spending time with marine wildlife or even catching glimpses of the past in shipwrecks and sunken ruins, scuba diving certainly has something for everyone. Of course, what would scuba diving be without the right diving spots? But with so many diving locations to choose from, each with their own unique flavor, it can be a bit overwhelming deciding which ones are the best places to scuba dive.
So, to help you choose the location for your next scuba diving holiday, we’ve listed some of the best countries in the world for scuba diving.
Aside from its phenomenal cuisine and its unique culture, Thailand offers some of the best places to scuba dive in Southeast Asia, with Phuket, the Surin Islands and Ko Tao just to name a few. Also known as the “Land of Smiles”, it has two major bodies of water that you can explore, each with their own collection of diving locations.
Thailand is flanked by the Gulf of Thailand to the east, where you will find Ko Samui and Ko Phangan, and the Andaman Sea to the west, where Phuket and the Similan Islands are located. This country has a good collection of reefs, walls, drop-offs, cave systems and large marine animals, including a large variety of shark species, rays and even the elusive whale shark.
One of the best places to scuba dive if you’re new to the hobby is Malaysia. What makes Malaysia a special place for novice divers is the fact that the waters here are very calm, especially on the east coast, where you will find the islands of Redang, Tioman, Tenggol and Lang Tenga.
Scuba diving in Peninsular Malaysia is also very rewarding if you like swimming with wildlife. One island in particular, Sipadan, is always bustling with activity, with its many bright corals acting as homes to hundreds of fish species. Aside from Sipadan, many of the islands in Eastern Malaysia are frequented by other animals, different species of sea turtles in particular, including the endangered Leatherback Turtle. Layang-Layang Island is also a great place to visit if you want to catch a glimpse of sharks, including reef sharks, hammerhead sharks and leopard sharks.
From sheer diversity alone, Australia is one of the best places to scuba dive, thanks to its large assortment of diving environments available. Each of Australia’s six territories offer a unique experience you certainly need to explore at least once, from the giant kelp forests in the south, to the bright coral reefs in the north. Australia also has a good assortment of shipwrecks if such a thing is your fancy.
One of Australia’s biggest attractions is the Great Barrier Reef, a reef structure that holds the distinction of being the world’s largest. The reef itself is so massive, that it can be seen from space, and as such, a large place like this is home to hundreds of thousands of species you’ll get the chance to swim with. It’s certainly a magical place.
Between the abundance of marine wildlife and the large collection of lava tubes you can swim through, Hawaii is certainly a great place to go diving in. Since it’s such a remote archipelago, there’s always something going on underneath the waves in Hawaii. The accessibility here is also phenomenal, thanks to the hundreds of dive operators available.
The reefs and the wildlife are also protected here, which means there’s no shortage of animals for you to swim with. The northern parts of the island chain is home to the largest marine reserve in the United States, where it’s common to see manta rays, sea turtles, seals, and even humpback whales if you’re lucky. It’s certainly one of the best places to scuba in United States if you love diving with wildlife.
With more than 13,400 islands, Indonesia is home to 25% of the world’s fish species and 15% of the coral, making it a veritable epicenter of biodiversity. This country in Southeast Asia is one of the best places to scuba dive for the sheer variety of marine wildlife available here and is certainly a diver’s paradise. The Gili Islands in particular offer a great backdrop to any of your dives, and the best part is that staying here is way cheaper than its neighboring region, Bali.
Indonesia has thousands of dive spots available, each with something unique to offer, including many beautiful night diving locations. True to being a center of marine biodiversity, whichever dive spot you choose in this country, there won’t be any shortage of fishes and other marine life.
Sandwiched between Mexico and Guatemala, Belize may be small, but its diving spots have as big a personality as other diving destinations do. Belize houses a little over 400 islands, pristine atoll beaches, winding cave systems, the longest barrier reef in the western hemisphere and of course, the famous Blue Hole.
The Blue Hole is one of Belize’s best places to scuba dive, and is actually a deep marine sinkhole, approximately 1000 feet across and 450 feet deep. The hole itself is surrounded by a coral barrier and the waters here are known to be crystal clear. Schools of shark, such as hammerheads, bull sharks and reef sharks make this area their home, and is considered by many as one of the best diving spots in the world.
The Philippines has more than 7000 islands available to explore, each offering a great experience for every level. It’s a known graveyard for World War 2 ships, and it also has a huge collection of marine wildlife for any diver to enjoy. It’s certainly one of the best places to scuba dive if you’re a World War 2 history buff or if you love surrounding yourself with rich wildlife.
Aside from the man-made attractions found in its collection of shipwrecks, the Philippines is known to house 400 of the 500 known coral species in the world, making it a great home for many of wildlife’s 1200 species, in fact. The beaches in this country aren’t half as bad, either, especially in the more famous places like Boracay. So you can certainly enjoy yourself whether you’re above water or under it.
By sheer number of islands alone and variety of dive spots, the Federated States of Micronesia is arguably one of the best places to scuba dive in Oceania. Its many diving locations, including Palau, Pohnpei, Kosrae and Chuuk, offer a large selection of environments for you to choose from. Incredible reefs, extensive caverns, drop-offs, tunnels, walls and a host of World War 2 shipwrecks offer great opportunities for any diver to sink their teeth into.
This country encompasses an expansive area in the Pacific, with only 1000 square miles of landmass spread out across 3 million square miles of ocean. Micronesia’s lands are made up of pristine islands and atolls ringed with vibrant corals. Because of its remote nature, this country is one of the best places to scuba dive if you want a less-than crowded diving location.
With more than 4300 miles of beautiful coastline rich in reefs and wrecks, Brazil is fast becoming a popular diving location for many adventurers. From the rocky diving sites in the south to the vibrant reefs in the north, this country certainly has much to offer, with its famous Fernando de Noronha Marine Park proving itself to be one of the best places to scuba dive in the world.
Because it has such a long and diverse coastline, Brazil’s underwater wildlife boasts a variety that’s not seen elsewhere in South America. Brazil’s giant kelp forests, wrecks and coral reefs each provide not only great homes for its bustling wildlife, they also give divers a good variety to choose from whenever they visit the country.
Tucked between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, Israel has the best places to scuba dive if you love exploring cavern systems and coral gardens, both of which you’ll find in abundance here. Its access to two different seas means that divers visiting Israel will get the chance to experience two very different environments all in the same area.
Israel is home to one of the world’s premier shore diving capitals in Eliat, one of the best protected coral reefs in the region. he Mediterranean shoreline of Israel is also home to the Rosh Ha Nikra Caverns, a unique cavern made of chalk that is easily accessible from the shore.
Nestled in the heart of Central America, Honduras is another country rich in natural beauty and diving sites that can take your breath away. The Bay Islands, in particular, has an incredible reef system that is one of the best places to scuba dive by far, and is certainly a veritable hive of activity for diving enthusiasts.
Honduras also has partial access to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest, and lesser known barrier reef in the world. Roatan and Utila Island in particular have beautiful and vibrant coral reefs that is home to many fish species and giant sponges that are just a joy to swim around. Compared to its Caribbean neighbors, diving here is certainly cheaper, making it popular to a lot of backpackers.
With its many islands scattered across the vast Indian Ocean, the Maldives’ warm waters are the best place to scuba dive you’re out looking for whale sharks, manta rays as well as other tropical fish. Less than 300 of its 1000 islands are inhabited, making for a diving scene that is less crowded than most, and coral reefs that have seen fewer meddling in the hands of humans.
It has an abundance of healthy and vibrant coral reefs, fed by the Indian Monsoon Current, with many tropical fishes taking full advantage of this area’s wealth. It all culminates to very welcoming diving locations where beginners and experienced divers alike love to return to every time.
Mexico’s access to two different oceans on either of its coasts make for a land diverse in diving opportunities, and certainly is an awesome place to go diving regardless of your diving experience. Both its coasts have excellent locations, with large kelp forests in the Pacific, the Caribbean’s collection of shipwrecks, the beautiful vibrant reefs of the Sea of Cortez, and the pristine clear waters of the Yucatan Peninsula.
People who love swimming with pelagic life will also be please to know that Mexico is a veritable breeding ground of fishes and other wildlife in many of its sites. The best part is many of these dive spots are available all year round.
14. South Africa
High visibility in its clear waters, the opportunity to swim with massive sharks and an abundance of reefs and wildlife, South Africa’s coasts are certainly rich in natural beauty. A 1700-mile coastline caps Africa’s southern tip, practically cutting a line between two oceans, the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. The dive spots here are varied, and while most of the good ones involve colder waters, it certainly is a great place to explore for the adventurous.
South Africa offers a unique opportunity for people who love diving with large wildlife, particularly the sharks that make their home in these waters. If the heart of Africa has the big five, then the waters here have its own collection of animals, namely the great white shark, the hammerheads, bull sharks, reef sharks and tiger sharks. Certainly not a diving location for the weak of heart.
Known as the “Soft Coral Capital of the World”, Fiji is home to one of the most vibrant and colorful underwater ecosystems on the planet. It’s a good place to dive in if you love swimming through coral, with its outer reefs home not only to a large collection of soft coral, but also a huge variety of pelagic wildlife and sharks. Fiji is certainly a world-class diving destination that can cater to all manner of divers from any background.
Also known for being a crossroads in the Pacific, Fiji is home to 390 species of the more than 500 of the world’s species, with more than 1000 species of fish living under its waves. It is also home to 7 species of turtles, including the leatherback turtle, 9 species of sharks, and at least 12 species of whales. With its stunning visibility at your disposal, it’s certainly easy to make the most out of Fiji’s dive spots.\