Scuba Diving offers a wildlife experience like no other.
The ocean appeals to the adventurous and the curious and offers a rare experience indeed to get up close and personal with some of the biggest, strangest, (and possibly scariest!), life on the planet.
Maybe you’ve already been to some of these or maybe you’re looking for some inspiration Dream destinations to add to your scuba diving bucket list
Here are the ten best scuba diving destinations in the world, enjoy!
1. Raja Ampat, Indonesia
If you close your eyes and visualise scuba diving heaven – it will probably look like Raja Ampat
Raja Ampat (meaning “Four Kings”) is situated within the coral triangle and is home to a quarter of the planet’s fish species, and 15% of the world’s coral.
The “Four Kings” is in reference to the islands Salawati, Batanta, Waigeo and Misool, although Raja Ampat is actually made up of hundreds of tiny islands
It is known globally as the epicentre for marine biodiversity, and holds the world record for the most fish species encountered in a single dive (374!)
The hundreds of the tiny islands which form Raja Ampat are fairly remote and it’s not the simplest dive site in the world to get to, but that also means the marine life and reefs are unspoilt and in pristine condition.
Sorong Airport (SOQ) is the main airport and the best and most commonly used location in order to reach Raja Ampat.
There are a number of different liveaboards and dive resorts in Raja Ampat which cater to various different budgets.
But, if your budget allows it then you won’t be disappointed with one of the many liveaboards on offer allowing you access to the best and most remote locations.
Marine Life In Raja Ampat
I couldn’t possibly begin to list all of the marine life that can be seen in Raja Ampat, but special highlights include: Manta Rays, Reef Sharks, Sweetlips, Turtles, pygmy seahorses, large schools of fish and plenty of pristine hard and soft coral.
2. Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Located off the coast of Queensland, Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef structure in the world.
Composed of over 2900 individual reefs, 900 islands and coral cays, the Great Barrier Reef spreads over a distance of 133,000 square miles.
In fact the reef is so vast, that it is even visible from outer space!
The diving here is truly world class due to the amazing abundance of marine life, and is why the Great Barrier Reef is listed as one of the seven natural wonders of the world
The one and only Will Smith ticking an item off his bucket list – Scuba Diving The Great Barrier Reef!
There are a ton of different options for diving the great barrier reef, with plenty of dive resorts and liveaboards in the area to choose from.
Cairns is the most popular access point to the reef, but due to its enormous scale there are many boat trips available from various towns and cities up and down the coast.
Whether you’re just looking to go on a day trip or looking to spend several nights exploring all the reef has to offer, you’ll easily find something to fit your needs and budget
Marine Life In The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef has some of the highest biodiversity in the world – 1500 different species of fish and 350 types of coral inhabit the area. Some notable sightings include:
3. Egyptian Red Sea
A much loved location by many divers, the Egyptian Red Sea offers a really wide variety of sights, locations and marine life to explore.
You name it, the Red Sea has it – There are plenty of dive resorts and liveaboards to choose from, and under the surface of the water there are wreck dives, shore dives, pinnacles, walls and more.
Over 1000 different species inhabit the Red Sea, about 10% of which are native solely to this area. There are also 200 different forms of soft and hard coral.
There are many different dive sites to choose from but the most famous and most popular tend to be the Blue Hole at Dahab, and the Thistlegorm Wreck
Best Scuba diving In The Egyptian Red Sea
There are options for liveaboards in the Red Sea but unlike some other places a lot of really great diving is just offshore. This also makes it a very popular area for snorkelers as well
Blue Hole, Dahab
One of the world’s most famous dive sites (and also it’s deadliest). What makes this site a bucket list must see?
The Blue Hole is a submarine sinkhole with a maximum depth of just over 100meters. The Blue Hole attracts divers from all over the world for its wonderful uniqueness. The area is home to an abundance of marine life and is also a very popular location for freedivers.
Thistlegorm, Sharm El Sheikh
The SS Thistlegorm was an English merchant Navy ship that was sunk in the Red Sea in 1941 – The wreck sits at a depth of around 30 meters and is very accessible to divers wanting to explore this Interesting piece of history.
The ships cargo (motorcycles, Rifles, Trucks and more), can all clearly be seen and explored in the ships cargo hold.
The SS Thistlegorm often makes many top 10 lists of the best wreck dives in the world.
Marine Life in The Red Sea
Manta Rays, whale sharks and various other types of shark like hammerheads and threshers. and the chance to see Dolphins. Moray eels, scorpionfish, lionfish and sea turtles
4. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The Galapagos Islands – Which consist of 13 main islands, and 6 smaller islets, are often ranked as one of, if not the best big marine animal dive locations in the world.
Darwin Island, which is one of the most northern islands which makes up the Galapagos was named after Charles Darwin, and it’s said that his time there is what inspired his ‘Theory of Natural Selection’
Liveaboards are the only way of accessing the Darwin and Wolf Islands, but there are daily tours operating to other areas if you budget doesn’t accommodate a liveaboard
The Islands were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in **** – because of this, coupled with its remote location expense to travel to, the islands enjoy relatively unspoiled conditions, and the area is teeming with wildlife.
The two varying seasons that the Island experiences bring out their own unique wildlife and many Rare species can be sighted and are only found in this area, such as marine iguana’s.
Best scuba Diving in the galapagos
Located 620 miles west of the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean – Getting to the best dives sites in the Galapagos isn’t the easiest or the cheapest. But it is worth it for the once in a lifetime experience of witnessing rare marine animals that swim through here in droves
The best dive locations like Darwin and Wolf Islands are only accessed by liveaboard making these remote areas expensive to get to – But well worth the money.
Marine Life in Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos are known for marine life that’s big, and rare.
Galapagos sharks, schools of hammerhead sharks, sea lions, turtles, schools of tuna, whale sharks, marine iguanas and penguins!
Mexico is a very popular tourist destination in general, and an easy place to get to – Especially in comparison to some of the other locations in our list.
A favourite destination for families and explorers alike – Mexico as a vacation destination really does cater to everyone.
Mexico’s versatility also extends to it’s water sporting activities – For snorkelers Mexico offers some of the best in the world, and gives people the rare opportunity of being able to snorkel with whale sharks.
For scuba divers there are a very diverse range of dive locations and marine life to be seen.
The East coast/Gulf of Mexico has something to offer scuba divers of all abilities and ranges from spectacular reef dives, underwater museums, and cavern diving in cenotes.
The West coast/Pacific side of Mexico caters to advanced divers, and offers you the chance to see humpback whales, schools of sharks, and offers some of the best cage diving in the world.
best scuba diving in mexico
The East and West coasts offer such a diverse range of scuba diving between them.
The Yucatan (the East coast of Mexico) is home to popular tourist hotspots Cancun, Playa Del Carmen and the Riviera Maya to name but a few.
The Pacific side of Mexico (the West Coast), is much less tourist based but has some of the best big marine life scuba diving in the world.
The scuba diving on the Yucatan Peninsula is easily accessible, and it doesn’t take long to reach your dive location.
Most of the dive sites are around popular tourist destinations like the Riviera Maya and Cancun therefore simple day trips to these locations is all that is needed.
One of the most unique areas to explore are one of the many cenotes (sinkholes).
Diving the many freshwater cenotes in Mexico is atop many peoples bucket list. While the cenotes don’t sustain much, if any marine life, they make for fascinating exploration and have some of the most shockingly crystal clear water you will ever see.
EL MUSEO SUBAQUÀTICO DE ARTE
This underwater museum which is located near Cancun consists of 500 life sized sculptures!
Located between only three to six meters under the surface – This underwater spectacle opened in 2010 as a way to tempt divers away from the reefs as a way to help preserve them, and is the world’s largest underwater display.
Socorro Island was recently named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is one of the very few places in the world that offers the chance to swim with humpback whales
Socorro is only accessed by liveaboard, and due to the strong currents in this area it is reserved for advanced divers only.
Other impressive sites that you can see in this area include whale sharks and large schools of Hammerhead sharks
Marine life In Mexico
On the Pacific West Coast – Humpback whales, Hammerhead sharks, manta rays, schools of various different wrasse
On the East Coast – Sea Turtles, Bull sharks, lobsters and plenty of colorful, tropical fish
The Federated States of Micronesia (or simply referred to as Micronesia) are composed of over 600 small Islands and atolls within the Pacific Ocean.
The four main states are -Palau, Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae provide some of the worlds most very best diving, and are home to some of the world’s best wreck dives
best scuba diving in micronesia
Micronesia is located between the Philippines and Hawaii, just north of the Equator.
The Islands that comprise Micronesia reach across an impressive distance, spanning over 1600 miles of the Pacific Ocean!
They may not be the easiest destination on our list to reach, but they are certainly one of the most exciting and varied in terms of what you’re able to see and experience.
Palau gives the opportunity to tick a great many items off your scuba bucket list. With great wall diving, WW2 Wrecks to explore, shallow reefs, caverns and an abundance of pelagics and macro inhabiting them all, Palau never fails to deliver.
A coral peninsula, at this world renowned dive site a reef hook is essential. Just hook in to the top edge and watch as schools of sharks, unicorn fish, tuna and turtles pass by. Best suited for advanced divers due to the strong and unpredictable currents
Regarded as one of the world’s best wreck dives – Chuuk Lagoon was used as a base for the Japanese fleet which was bombed by American forces in 1944.
There are over 60 wrecks in this location and many of these wrecks are well within recreational diver limits. Whilst exploring this fascinating part of World War II history you can view the Fujikawa Maru aircraft ferry, and the Nippo Maru cargo ship as well as airplanes, tanks and ammunition.
Marine Life In Micronesia
Manta Rays, schools of sharks, tuna, mackerel, turtles,
The Philippines lies within the coral triangle – one of the most bio-diverse areas in the world.
It’s no coincidence that more than one location within the coral triangle makes our list of the best scuba diving destinations.
best scuba diving in the philippines
Located in SouthEast Asia, the Philippines are an archipelago consisting of over 7000 islands!
With thousands of islands comes thousands of dive sites – Diving in the Philippines offers a spectacular range for both beginner and seasoned divers.
Tubbataha Reef Natural Park, A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1993 is accessed via liveaboard, and boasts pristine reefs with plenty of large pelagics to see.
About 600 species of fish and 350 different species of coral reside here, truly making this a diving paradise.
Coron Bay is the site of several Japanese ships which were sunk during World War II and offers some spectacular wreck diving. Some of these wrecks can be dived by beginners and some are reserved for advanced divers only.
Okikawa Maru, a 525ft ship is only 10meters from the surface making it accessible for recreational divers. The sheer size of this ship alone is impressive, and you will find fishes such as scorpionfish, red lionfish, cuttlefish, crocodile fishes and nudibranch
Marine Life In Philippines
Barracuda, hammerhead and thresher sharks, wrasses, emperor fish and pygmy seahorses
8. Sipadan, Malaysia
Frequently regarded as one of the top scuba diving destinations in the world, Sipadan Island attracts divers from all over for it’s great variety of macro and large pelagics.
Sipadan was formed by living corals growing over thousands of years over an extinct volcano cone. It is located in one of the most marine rich locations on earth, and is home to over 400 different species of fish
The reefs at Sipadan are healthy and thriving, and the warm waters and sheltered reefs make for relatively easy reef diving.
is a very popular destination for recreational divers as well as advanced.
Best scuba diving In Sipadan
The marine life at Barracuda point is sure to impress due to the size and amount of the marine life to be seen.
The main attraction however is in the name. Watch in amazement as huge schools of barracuda swirl around you.
Marine Life In Malaysia
Large schools of barracuda, turtles, bumphead parrotfish, manta rays, hammerhead sharks
What kind of world’s best scuba diving list would this be without Belize?
As home to one of the largest barrier reefs in the world you can imagine why!
Scuba diving in Belize offers a truly diverse range of experiences that will be hard to beat anywhere else.
Best scuba diving In Belize
Great Blue Hole
A scuba diving trip to Belize just isn’t complete without exploring the Great Blue Hole.
This giant marine sinkhole is 318 meters in diameter and 124 meters deep, and entices divers from all over the world.
Proclaimed by Jacques Cousteau as one of the top five scuba diving sites in the world, you will not see a large amount of marine life inside the blue hole. Instead you will find stalactites and stalagmite formations looming within submerged caves within the hole.
Belize Barrier Reef
The largest barrier reef within the Western Hemisphere is the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (MBRS).
Thirty percent of the MBRS stretches along the length of the Belize coastline, and is known as the Belize Barrier Reef.
Home to 500 species of fish and over 100 different species of coral the Belize Barrier Reef is a popular site for divers and snorkelers alike, and is a perfect location for beginners to dive.
Marine Life In Belize
Sea turtles, reef sharks, bull sharks, whale sharks and the Whitespotted Toadfish which is endemic to the Belize Barrier Reef
Hawaii is at the top of the list of many people’s dream destinations list, and it’s no different for divers.
Hawaii has a lot to offer both the recreational diver to the more advanced, and is time and again regarded as one of the best places in the world for scuba diving.
Beautiful translucent water, healthy reef systems, wreck dives and more await you in this tropical paradise.
Best scuba Diving In Hawaii
Big Island/Manta Ray Night Dive
Off the coast of Kailua-Kona is where you can take part in the world famous Manta Ray Night Dive.
Plankton are attracted en masse to the divers and snorkelers dive torches which, this in turn triggers a mass gathering and feeding frenzy of Manta’s, and possibly one of the most exciting and memorable dives you will ever witness.
Marine Life In Hawaii
Nesting sea turtles, manta rays, wrasse, parrot fish, yellow tang, reef sharks and the state fish of Hawaii, Humuhumunukunukuapua’a
Unspoilt reefs, rare pelagics and amazing macro life in high numbers, and some historic shipwrecks.
I hope the above list gives you some good inspiration for your next scuba diving trip!
There are still some epic destinations that didn’t make our list of the best scuba diving in the world.. Should we do a Top 20?