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.
Layang Layang (near Borneo) Malaysia
Layang Layang is a little jewel in the South China Sea. It is an atoll formed by thirteen reefs, surrounded by water two kilometers deep. It is part of the Spratly islands, a series of six hundred shoals and reefs located in the South China Sea. The island is known to locals as Swallow Reef (Translated from local Malay). The island is mostly just a landing strip. It houses a navy base and only one dive center. Liveaboards generally don’t venture into this area so making use of Layang Layang Dive Center is your only option. You’ll need to plan accordingly as the dive center is closed from November to February when heavy monsoon rains fall in the area. Layang Layang falls within the regions of the equator so expect pleasantly warm weather. You might expect high humidity in this area but the wind system generates constant breezes which makes spending time on this island comfortable. Expect dives with visibility of thirty to fifty meters all year, perfect for the vibrant coral walls you will get to see on dives.
Southern Point, Sipadan Island, Malaysia
Sipadan island is known to many divers as an item on their bucket list. This island is located off the Eastern coast of the Sabah state in Malaysia. Sipadan island is made up of coral growing over an extinct volcano in the Celebas sea. If you want to dive here you’ll need to stay on one of the neighboring islands and take a boat ride over, Mabul and Kapalai being your closest options. The area is pristine as only a limited amount of diving permits are issued per day. Allow yourself a minimum of five days to stay. Diving permits are not issued ahead of time so not even the resort can guarantee you the chance to dive. You can expect good diving year round with your safest bet being from February to July and October to December. The rainy season is typically from the end of December to February. Many divers boast with amazing sightings of schooling Chevron or Black Tail Barracuda. Don’t spend all your time looking up though, you’ll miss the amazing variety of macro life.
Barracuda Point, Sipadan Island, Malaysia
Speaking of barracuda, there’s a diving spot in Sipadan famous for them. Located on the other side of the Sipadan island is Barracuda Point. Sipadan is an area of almost 17,000 hectares of marine protected area. This is why it’s so hard to get a diving permit here is peak season. This makes for some spectacular marine life sightings. Divers who have had the pleasure of experiencing the swarms of Barracuda have described the them as a tornado or vortex, being completely engulfed by the school of fish. This won’t be the only attraction as the area also boasts with Bump-head parrot fish, black tip reef sharks, eagle rays and trigger fish. Depending on the weather this might be a dive for more advanced divers as the currents can get quite strong.
Lembeh muck diving, Indonesia
Yes you read that right. Muck diving. It’s not as dirty as it sounds though. Muck diving refers to diving in an area with sediment, typically sand, silt and natural debris such as decomposing coral. You’re likely to find some man made debris also. The Lembeh strait has a black sand bottom as the region is volcanic. The water is often times a bit murky but this allows divers to focus on the macro details the area has to offer. The fun lies in searching the bottom for little critters hiding from predators. You spend hours searching nooks and crannies for a fin or eye of a creature that might allude you otherwise. This type of diving teaches you to search for the macro life instead of the big stuff. Just make sure your buoyancy is on point as a careless fin kick can affect visibility and irritate other divers.
This is another diving location that boasts with its spectacular macro life. Sightings of wunderpus, cuttlefish, bobtail squid, ghost pipefish and frogfish are very common. Many endangered species are present in these waters. Close to Dauin is Apo, an island with protected waters surrounding it. This is one of the healthiest marine protected areas in the world. It is so famous that the Chicago Aquarium’s enclosures were modeled from the reefs of Apo. The area Apo is established on is volcanic so black sand creates amazing contrast photographers strive for.
Liberty Wreck, Bali
Diving the USS Liberty wreck at Tulamben is considered one of Bali’s main attractions. Many consider the Liberty to be one of the best wrecks to dive in the world. During the second world war the Liberty was beached off the shore in Bali when it was hit by a Japanese torpedo. A volcanic eruption in 1963 caused the vessel to slip off the beach. It came to rest in water between 9 and 30 meter.The dives can get crowded so your timing needs to be ideal when you decide to dive this wreck. It is a great location for a night dive so this can be a lot of fun for the more experienced divers out there. The wreck is ideally located for shore entries and you can dive there any time of the year. Keep a look out for Black Tip sharks on your dive.
Batu Bolong, Komodo Island
Komodo island is a great location for diving if you need a destination with some diversity. It’s location makes it ideal for those seeking a little bit of everything. It’s located between two oceans, the Indian ocean to the south and the Pacific ocean to the north. This creates some ideal diversity. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and listed as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Along with the islands Rinca and Padar it was declared a nature reserve in 1965. Diving happens year round. Most Liveaboards cruise in Komodo from May to November. The rainy season is from November to May but the weather generally doesn’t interfere with Liveaboard cruises. Expect good visibility in the north during the summer months. During the winter you can expect the best visibility in the southern region when water pushes up from the south. This means crystal clear water with 40m visibility.
Richelieu Rock, Thailand
Richelieu Rock is considered one of the best dive sites in Thailand. It’s an outlying pinnacle roughly 12km east of Surin island. The top of the pinnacle is just visible at low tide and completely submerged at high tide. Richelieu Rock is crescent shaped, made up of several groups of rocks, pinnacles and overhangs. There are some small caves to explore also. The maximum depth is 35m and average depths are between 20 to 30 meters. You can expect to see lots of soft corals. The currents can become powerful which is why you don’t see a lot of hard coral. Dive sites are simply adjusted to the current by diving on the right side of some of the pinnacles and rocks, sheltering divers form the current. Richelieu Rock is too big for a single dive, most Liveaboard cruises include 3 dives in the area. Expect to see lots of macro life like manta rays and whale sharks.
Arborek, Raja Ampat, Indonesia
If paradise is on your bucket list Arborek is a perfect destination. The Arborek Jetty is worth a visit if you’re in the area. It is popular for the schools of fish that shelter underneath it and the picturesque coral that grow on the pier’s columns. It’s a shallow dive and you can definitely see lots if you want to snorkel. Raja Ampat is made up of about 1500 islands. Raja Ampat is located on the island of New Guinea. The island is split between two countries, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. Raja Ampat is located in the west on Indonesia’s side. It is considered as the spot with the most diversity in the Indonesian coral triangle.
Puerto Galera, Philippines
Located on the island of Mindoro this area is popular for its picturesque white beaches. The area is littered with dive resorts so you have plenty to choose from. The area boasts some awesome scuba diving as it’s a marine protected area. The diversity in the area offers something for all. You can expect to see lots of reef sharks yet the area is also popular for macro photography. There are some small wrecks that were sunk to create reefs but also some remnants from the second world war. When there consider diving the canyons. Three canyons make up this sight that attracts schooling fish in their thousands. You can expect to see groupers, snapper and barracuda.
Keep an eye out for Part 5 of our list of the Top 100 Dive Sites on Earth