Wondering where to go for your next diving trip? We have done the research for you and compiled a list of the top 100 dive sites on Earth. Deciding where to go first, now that’s up to you.
Madeira Island, Portugal
Madeira Island is an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean below Portugal. It hosts a UNESCO World Heritage site, a couple of marine parks and won the 2015 Best Island Destination award. Those credentials alone prove what a great scuba diving destination Madeira island is. The protected waters around the island create a sanctuary for various varieties of marine flora and fauna and it’s one of the best destinations for whale and dolphin watching. With the Azores close by it is the largest whale sanctuary in the world. Madeira offers warm, year round climate with mild winters and extended summers, perfect for those looking to escape the winter cold. It’s a well rounded destination for all to enjoy, praised for its gastronomy, culture and indigenous flora and fauna. It is home to the largest Laurisilva forest in the world, now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Madeira is at the top of a volcano on the Tore underwater mountain range and is surrounded by reefs with a great variety of marine life. Getting to dive sites is easy, from the shore or by boat. Some of the best diving can be found in Porto Santo, a tropical diving destination and the Madeirense wreck.
Farne Islands, England
The Farne islands are made up of about thirty Islands and rocky outcrops. It is home to one of the biggest colonies of grey seals which draws many divers to this destination every year. When diving it is very common to experience a friendly encounter with one of these curious creatures. If you time your visit right you will drop by in the height of the breeding season. The Farne islands become home to an abumdance of nesting seabirds such as puffins, guillemots, shags, eider ducks and kittiwakes. Diving in the Farnes provides many options, from shallow diving to exploring with tek. The islands also provide a variety of wrecks scattered around.
Silfra, Þingvellir, Iceland
The Silfra fissure is known as a top diving destination. The Silfra crevasse is actually a crack between the North American and Eurasian continents. If you take a plunge in the fissure you are diving where the continental plates meet. They are constantly moving and drift apart about 2cm per year. Silfra is quite the unique dive spot as it is the only place where you can dive directly in the crack between two continental plates. The water visibility in the Silfra fissure is over 100 meters, which creates an underwater experience that will rarely, if ever, be surpassed. Many claim that it is the cleanest water you can dive in on Earth. There are mainly two reasons for this unprecedented visibility. The water is really cold (2°C – 4°C all year ) as it is glacial water from the nearby Langjökull and this water is filtered through porous underground lava-rock for 30-100 years until it reaches the top of Thingvellir lake, seeping out from underground streams. You may want to consider a drysuit specialty if you’re used to diving in our warm South African waters. The Silfra water is as pristine as water can get and you can drink it at anytime during your dive, although a warm coffee might suit you better.
Elephant Head Rock, Similans, Thailand
Located 1km South West of Similan island number eight, right in the open ocean you will find Elephant Head Rock. It gets its name because it resembles an elephant when the rock pierces the water at low tide. Waves and strong currents can make it difficult because it is so exposed. Braving the elements can be worth it for the fascinating and unique contours that make it an unmissable dive. If you spend some time in this unique location you can get the chance to see some sharks, rays, giant Trevally, Tuna and more. A group of granite boulders create spectacular swim-throughs, caverns and channels that make for some exciting exploring opportunities. This site is accessible for Open Water divers as it starts at depths of 10m. More experienced divers can follow boulders down to 50m.
Tubbataha, Palawan, Philippines
The Tubbataha Reef National Park consists of 97,000 hectares of marine preserved area which makes the scuba diving stunning. You can expect thriving reefs and an abundance of marine life of all shapes and sizes. Scuba diving in Tubbataha Reef National Park is ideal for divers to see the benefit of protecting the marine environment. It is a gem that represents the true beauty of what can be underwater if humans don’t interfere with nature. The twin atolls of Tubbataha have slopes and vertical walls with great visibility, often greater than 30m.
If you get the opportunity to travel to Moalboal you can go diving in the Pescador Island Marine park. Moalboal is a small town located on the Southern side of Cebu. The island’s tourism industry developed along with diving so you can find all types of accommodation to suit your needs, from backpackers to opulent resorts. This ensures that all your needs will be met before you hit the water. Moalboal translates to bubbling waters as it was named for all the natural springs in the area. If you venture inland you’ll find these springs surrounded by tropical rain forests. The variety of marine life in the area is impressive. This is thanks to the Pescador Island Marine Park and its protected waters that are a 10 minute boat ride away. The typography offers stunning contrast of schooling sardines and barracudas in mid-water to pristine coral on walls with massive drop-offs. The lavish macro life makes it hard to decide where to look; searching for little treasures in the coral or watching the mesmerizing clouds of sardines above.
El Nido, Philippines
El Nido is located on the Northern tip of Palawan island in the Philippines. The area is made up of 45 islands, some left natural and untouched by humans. This is just 45 of the 1760 islands that make up the province of Palawan. This area is as close to paradise as you can get. The lush white beaches contrast beautifully with pure blue water and limestone stretches of islands dotting the horizon. Due to its popularity the area’s resources is now protected to ensure the marine life flourishes. You can expect to find over 800 species of fish, four types of sea turtles (read more about the species of sea turtles you can find in South African waters) and about 105 species of coral. The area is ideal for beginner divers as it offers shallow reefs and calm, clear waters.
Located close to Moalboal in the Philippines, Malapascua is 7 kilometers form the northern tip of Cebu. Its main attraction is the Thresher shark which can be found in these waters year round. The area boasts with a large diversification of dive sites which makes Liveaboard diving popular. The typography draws certain species to the area. Shoals surrounded by 200m deep drop-offs allow local predators like Thresher sharks, Devil rays and Manta rays to ascend in pursuit of cleaning stations when not hunting below. This behavior allows divers to come into contact with these ocean gems that were otherwise out of reach. You can find Kimud Shoal in the area. If you want to see hammerhead sharks this is the destination for you. Hammerhead season is from December to May when you can expect to see schools of up to 200 at a time.
Coron Bay, Philippines
If you love exploring the forgotten ships that once sailed the oceans you may want to consider a trip to Coron Bay. It is a graveyard for Japanese ships that sunk during World War II, a variety of which lie within recreational diving limitations. Coron is an island that lies north of Palawan and West of Manila. Coron Bay can be found on the island of Busuanga. It boasts the characteristic beauty of Philippine islands with pristine white beaches, clear blue waters and black limestone rock faces. The area allows for all types of diving like Open Water, Advanced and Tek diving. Some of the wrecks you can consider for diving are:
The Kogyo – A freight ship, 180m long an at a depth of 35m.
The Okikawa – A tanker ship of about 170m long. The upper deck lies at 12m making her ideal for Open Water divers.
The Irako – Suitable for advanced divers only. She lies at a maximum depth of 45m and her deck lies at 27m.
The Akitsushima – a 120m long plane carrier. She came to rest on her port side.
Seaventure House Reef, Mabul, Malaysia
The Seaventure House Reef is located directly below the Seaventure dive rig. The rig, once a working oil rig, now converted into accommodation, is north of the Island of Mabul. The reef offers a variety of sea creatures easily accessible from the rig above. You can expect to see trumpet fish, angel fish and Surgeons. This is the only diving rig in the world so it’s worth a visit.
Keep an eye out for Part 4 of our list of the Top 100 Dive Sites on Earth