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.
Island of Socotra, Yemen
Socotra is an island in the Arabian Sea and part of Socotra Peninsula, just off of Yemen. Its unique diving spots and calm waters make it an ideal scuba diving location. From coral reefs rich with marine life, to old wrecks perfect for exploring, Socotra has it all. The island and its surroundings are excellent for a serene getaway, as the climate is warm and soothing, and the virgin landscape is breathtaking. Socotra has plenty of interesting diving spots. The notable dive sites you want to consider visiting are: Dihamri Marine Protected Area that is famous for its variety of fish species and corals, it has five diving spots – the deepest is 50m. Rosh Marine Protected Area is known for a reef that stretches about 1km off the coast, a place where night dives are suitable. The depth is 10-15 meters. Eastern Cape Ras Di Erissel is a place where ships have been colliding with rocks for centuries, and some of the wrecks still haven’t been explored completely. The most renown is the Sunrise Wreck, a sunken vessel that has created an artificial reef in the very center of the bay at a depth of 25-27 meters. A thrilling dive because it can often have currents, the Sunrise Wreck is a beautiful place. Around February to March the waters are very calm and it’s possible to see lots of species of fish schooling around the wreck.
Dive sites around Madagascar
Madagascar is located in the Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of Africa. The best diving is found around the islands and islets surrounding Nosy Be on the north and west coasts. There are also some good diving sites in the south of the island and dive operators operating there, mainly around Ifaty. Every year 10% of the world’s population of humpback whales migrates to Madagascar’s waters. From June to September, the whales come from the Antarctic to breed in Madagascar’s warmer waters. During this time they provide viewers with a magnificent mating display. By the end of August females give birth, and it is not unusual to see the mothers swimming with their calves. Whales can be watched from Isle Sainte Marie, Tuléar, Fort Dauphin, Nosy Be and in the Antongil Bay, which remains one of the world’s best places to see these imposing yet graceful creatures.
Mafia Island, Tanzania
The Mafia archipelago consists of one large island and several smaller ones, each boasting a unique history and bursting at the seams with nature’s personal touch. The tropical islands are teaming with a wide variety of animal species. Mafia Island is the site of Tanzania’s first Marine Park. The Park covers the Southern half of the island and part of the North-East coast. Almost all Mafia’s best diving is at depths of less than 30m, perfect for novice divers also. The reefs of the archipelago offer a staggeringly beautiful and varied display of marine life. Examples of most kinds of tropical marine habitat occur here, including exposed fringing reefs, rock walls, soft coral and algae-dominated reefs. The diversity of animal and plant life is hard to match, with over 48 genera of coral and 400 species of fish so far identified.
The Cathedral, Flic-en-Flac, Mauritius
The Cathedral offers a spectacular décor due to the topography of the place: cavities, caves, arches. This popular site is located off the Flic en Flac on the western coast of Mauritius and is definitely a must-visit site on your diving holiday to Mauritius. Although the bottom is quite sandy and bare, along the cracks and crevices of the chamber you can make the acquaintance of an abundance of marine life characters. You may brush shoulders with Gropers, Wrasse, Sweetlip, Angelfish and Clownfish. For the best diving conditions visit Mauritius from October to December and March to April. You’ll want to miss the peak cyclone season in January and February. Magnificent arches, colourful coral and an abundance of life hiding in the crevices all add to the wonder of this site. The dive begins at 18m, then drops very sharply to nearly 30m. As you descend deeper into the underwater cave along a narrow chute, you’ll notice plenty of crayfish and shrimp, including banded ghost shrimp if you’re looking carefully enough. The chimney effect ends in a beautiful cathedral-like cavern illuminated by filtered light streaming through the chute. The effect as you look up is purely magical and to make the experience even better, divers are often accompanied by dolphins on this enchanted journey through an unbelievably scenic dive.
Baa Atol, The Maldives
Justifiably famous for its incredible gatherings of manta rays and whale sharks at Hanifaru Bay. Here divers can witness barrel-rolling chains of mantas and gulping sharks, all feeding on the plankton that is concentrated by the currents in the narrow bay. However, the atoll also offers plenty of other dive experiences with beautiful reefs marked by swim-throughs, caves and overhangs, and current-swept thilas (submerged islands) packed with marine life. Baa Atoll is off the beaten track for many tourists and, outside of the Hanifaru area, the atoll retains a sense of peaceful calm – perfect for a relaxing Maldivian holiday. With the diverse marine life around its reefs, thilas, overhangs and swim throughs, Baa Atoll deserves its UNESCO status. Located to the east, and part of the atoll’s protected reef, is the Horubadhoo Thila at a depth of 12-16 meters. The thila is covered in different hard and soft corals, lots of macro life and large pelagic. On either side of the thila are large rocks where schooling black jacks hunt fusiliers. The south-west monsoon (May to November) sees manta rays using the thila as a cleaning station. Shoals of glassy fish also swim around the coral. Advanced divers can explore Dhonfanu Thila and its swim through. The thila starts at 8 meters, and as you descend you may see manta rays. Located at 25 meters is the base of a narrow swim through lined with black coral. You’ll ascend to its exit at 18 meters. Amongst the reef’s overhangs are yellow-lined snapper, soldierfish and cleaning wrasses. Expect to see lots of other fish: redtoothed triggers, black pyramid butterflyfish, parrotfish, angelfish and starry rabbitfish.
The Dubai Mall Aquarium, UAE
Cirkewwa is one of the most visited scuba diving sites on the Maltese islands. It is located on the north-west coast of Malta. There is something for everyone to dive in Cirkewwa: easy shallow training area Susie’s Pool and Madonna’s statue, two deep wrecks, P29 Patrol Boat and Tugboat Rozi, two beautiful natural arches (Right/Green Arch and Left/White Arch), and Wall Reef with many swim-through tunnels/caves. The wrecks P29 and Rozi were scuttled for diving attraction. The maximum depth of these wrecks is 34-36 meters.
Diving is available year-round. The average visibility is generally 30m. The average air temperature is around 10-15°C during the winter and 21-30°C in the summer. The average water temperature stays about 14-17°C from December through to April and 18-25°C from May to November.
Blue Hole, Gozo, Malta
The Blue Hole is a natural rock formation carved out over the centuries by wind and wave power. Offering a sheltered entry for a number of dives, this site includes a huge archway which starts at 8 meters and has a flat top, almost square in shape, and covered in golden cup coral (Parazoanthus Axinellae). There is a large cavern also worth exploring at the bottom of the hole, close to the entry point. This dive then leads you out of the Blue Hole and across a bay towards the Azure Window that starts at 16 meters. A large section of the Azure Window collapsed into the sea in April 2012, and these huge rock blocks now partially block the route under the window. This typography aids in underwater navigation as you will swim out onto the outer cliff face of the Azure Window. Watch out for shoals of Damsel fish, Bogue, Picarel swimming near the cliff face and if they suddenly dive towards the rock, look up as there are probably Amberjack or Dentex hunting them.
Asinara Marine Park, Sardinia, Italy
Sardinia is often considered as the best diving in Italy, some say the best throughout the Mediterranean. The area boasts with diving for all level of qualifications. Technical divers flock to the caves, the wrecks attract the adventurous and beginners can wade in with easy shore dives. Most of the diving takes place on the east coast. Beware of the west side of the island as it is exposed to stronger south westerly wind systems.
The marine protected areas of the Archipelago of the Maddalena and the Marine Park of Lavezzi offer plentiful marine life. The most visited of Sardinia’s dive sites is the Grotta del Nereo, a series of caves and tunnels reaching over 350 meters. There are three used entrances to the cave. Two are quite shallow while one is 30 meters deep. Divers often use the deeper entry and move through the chimney, exiting through one of the shallower openings. Slipper lobsters, octopus, red coral, nudibranchs and the largest mussel species in the world, the Pinna Nobilis fan mussel, can all be found here. Sardinia experiences classical Mediterranean weather patterns with hot summers and humid winters. During the summer water temperatures generally climb to 26°C. This is the best time to witness marine life in the area. The water temperature during the winter months drops to around 12°C. Make sure to time your visit during the right season as the water can be crystal clear.
Blockship Tabarka, Scapa Flow, Orkney Scotland
The Tabarka is one of the three enduring blockships sunk in Burra Sound to stop enemy vessels from gaining access to the Flow and diving the Tabarka is a unique adventure. This wreck can only be dived at slack tide and the timing needs to be perfect. It is common to see boats with divers fully kitted up and ready to go waiting for the last eddy of current to wane. The wreck is shallow at 15m of water and in an area of severe tides: at top speed the water will flow at 4 of 5 knots making for difficult navigation through the channel. The ship lies upside down so divers on the outside only see the bare metal of a hull covered in seaweed. It is within the wreck that the true magic of the Tabarka is revealed, making her one of the most unforgettable dives in the Flow. The high water flow nourishes the marine life, with lots of colour that decorates every surface. The ship’s cavernous cargo holds are pierced by holes that let rays of light pierce the darkness which creates an aura of beauty that captures your attention. Navigation inside the wreck is easy with all silt swept away in the strong tides. Turning each corner reveals another beautiful panorama.
Keep an eye out for Part 2 of our list of the Top 100 Dive Sites on Earth