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20 Best Scuba Diving & Liveaboard Destinations In The World

By Two Monkeys Travel - Contributor February 20th, 2020 Posted in Cruising, Sailing, Travel Blog No comments

As sung by Sebastian the Crab of Little Mermaid “Under the sea; Darling it’s better; Down where it’s wetter; Take it from me.” What is in the sea kingdom is really amazing and out of this world for us who are living on land. The best way to discover the marine life is not through watching documentaries or visiting aquariums but to feel it in person via Scuba Diving.

On the sea or out in the ocean, the sea creatures are free; they swim freely in their natural habitat. Catch them hunting for their prey and eating without human intervention. See them up close by their own choice. Be in awe of the colors and the life under the sea.

There are many places where you can discover the beauty of Mother Nature down below, but we listed the Best Scuba Diving destinations in the world. You would see here; those that are well protected and maintained; the beauty is so magical and enchanting you want to be a full-time mermaid to see it all.

Here are the Best Scuba Diving Destinations In The World

1. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

20 Best Scuba Diving Destinations In The World
Photo by Dustin Haney

At the place where Charles Darwin got inspired to make the “Theory of Evolution” is one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world; Galapagos Islands. This is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, protected and preserved to its best as it is home to varied life from birds, fishes, to plants.

The best spots are the Darwin and Wolf Islands, both uninhabited and full of sea creatures. Find Marine Iguanas (the only type of iguana that swims) hammerhead sharks alone or in groups, friendly dolphins, and whales. A great way to discover the islands is through a liveaboard dive trip.

You can enjoy diving at Galapagos any time of the year, from January to June, the temperature is warm, and you can encounter many Hammerhead sharks as well as mantas. For the other part of the year, you have a higher chance to see Whale Sharks.

Suggested Liveaboard Dive Trip: Estrella del Mar

2. Komodo, Indonesia

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Photo by Rizknas

Komodo, the New 7 Wonders of Nature, is one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world. Discover aquatic life in different shapes and sizes; from manta rays, mola mola to seahorses. It is truly a diver’s heaven and fit to be crowned as a new Wonder.

If you want to rest after scuba diving, explore the pink beach as well as see Komodo dragons lingering on the Islands. As the Komodo National Park is protected and maintained, there are countless sea creatures, so prepare your camera and have a big memory; because it will be full after your trip.

You can see Manta Rays all year round, however during the rainy season (December to February), you will encounter schools of them. March to October has excellent conditions too, while from November to January, you can see the creatures clearly.

Suggested Liveaboard Dive Trip: La Unua

3. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

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Photo by Jess Bailey on Unsplash

The Great Barrier Reef is the vastest coral reef system in the Earth. With almost 3,000 reefs, nine hundred islands in Queensland, Australia. It is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Discover countless corals with different colors and shapes and the creatures living in them. You can try finding Dory and Nemo in this dive, just keep diving! Discover also other types of fishes like Angelfish, Batfish, Butterflyfish and turtles and sharks too. This is truly a diver’s paradise; you will be in awe.

August to December are a great time to scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef. From October to November, corals have babies too. Whales are spotted from May to November as well.

Suggested Liveaboard Dive Trip: Ocean Quest

4. Similan Islands, Thailand

One of the best scuba diving destinations in the world is the Similan Islands. There are many breathtaking dive spots in this place like Richelieu Rock, Christmas Point, and Elephant Head Rock that are full of rich and diverse marine life.

Get to see whale sharks up close, manta rays, leopard sharks, unicorn fishes, and many more. Prepare your cameras as you would love taking pictures of the colorful corals and the other sea cretins living there. Since this is very popular, make sure to book a liveaboard dive trip in Thailand.

In the Siliman Islands, October to May is peak season as the water temperature is excellent as well as visibility.

Suggested Liveaboard Dive Trip: The Junk

5. Belize Barrier Reef, Belize

The second-biggest reef system in the world is the Belize Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is home to abundant marine life, which 90% has not been discovered yet. The most famous diving spot is the Great Blue Hole that has been formed 150,000 years ago.

You would see midnight parrotfish, black and queen triggerfish, various species of sharks, rays, and turtles. With crystal clear waters and healthy marine life, this is truly one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world.

March to June is the best time to dive in Belize, from April; there are whale sharks too.

6. Tubbataha Reef, Philippines

Although the Philippines offer a lot of best scuba diving destinations in the world, Tubbatha is in our top 20. It is not only a UNESCO World Heritage site but also was nominated as a New 7 Wonders of Nature. With a highly populated marine life as well as birds, it surely is a great destination to dive.

According to its website, “the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is home to no less than: 600 species of fish, 360 species of corals (about half of all coral species in the world), 11 species of sharks, 13 species of dolphins & whales, 100 species of birds, and also nesting Hawksbill & Green sea turtles.” It’s truly a wonder and the best way to see this is through a liveaboard dive trip.

March to June, summertime, is the best time to dive there as it’s not rainy and the seas are clear and calm.

Suggested Liveaboard Dive Trip: Seadoors, Philippines

7. Rock Islands, Palau

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Photo by Kurt Cotoaga

One of the top tourist activities of Palau is scuba diving as there are many species of corals and fish in this part of the earth. This is one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world that allows you to swim with Jellyfishes, don’t worry, it’s very safe as they don’t sting.

Rock Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; from high current drifts to shallow lagoons, you’ll get confused about which one is going to be your favorite. See Manta Rays, Sharks, and schools of fish too. There are also famous wrecks sites in Palau.

The best time to visit is when the weather is dry and the seas are calm which is from November to April.

8. Baja California, Mexico

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Photo by Matthew T Rader

Do you want to experience cage diving with Great White Sharks? In your scuba diving trip to Baja California, you can try seeing these fantastic sea creatures up close. As the best scuba diving destinations in the world, you can swim with other types of sharks, dolphins, mantas. You might see migrating humpback whales too.

The most popular diving spot is Isla Guadalupe where numerous great whites freely swim. Hopefully, you don’t make another Jaws movie, so stay in the cages. You will find Northern Elephant Seals and Guadalupe Fur Seals, too, as the island is a major breeding site of pinnipeds. 

The best time to see whales are from July to November, with males fighting with each other (though not seriously) and females starting September.

Suggested Liveaboard Dive Trip: Quino el Guardian, Mexico

9. Red Sea, Egypt

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Photo by Nariman Mesharrafa

The Red Sea isn’t only famous because of the Bible, Moses lifts up his staff, and the Red Sea parted allowing the Israelites escaping from the Egyptian Army. Nowadays, the Red Sea is one of the best diving best scuba diving destinations in the world, with abundant marine life and thrilling wrecks.

The waters are shallow and current free as well, so it’s not scary, especially for beginners. Catch breathtaking reefs, countless marine life, and amazing shipwrecks. The colors, as well as the life in the Red Sea, would make this a memorable trip.

You can dive at the Red Sea all-year-round, however, the nice ones are when the temperature is warm.

Suggested Liveaboard Dive Trip: Emperor Elite, Egypt

10. Maldives

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Photo by Jailam Rashad

Aside from the fantastic beaches and the resort, diving is one of the most popular activities, and there are many dive sites in this country. With planktons found in the ocean, sea creatures are attracted to the Maldives.

There three atolls that you can choose from if you are short on time. In the south, there is Ari Atoll for big fishes like sharks, whales, barracuda, and manta rays. Baa Atoll on the north, for more fishes as well as beautiful colorful corals. And lastly, the Rasdhoo Atoll in the north part where there are also big fishes like hammerheads and friendly dolphins.

Though you can dive all year round, December to May have calmer waters.

Suggested Liveaboard Dive Trip: Emperor Atoll

11. Sabah, Malaysia

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Photo by sheryl

In the Sabah Islands of Malaysia are one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world; the Sipadan, Mabul and Kapalai Islands. These islands are well protected by the government; so you need to have a permit to dive and check dates since they may be closed for rehabilitation.

Discover giant turtles like the hawksbill and green turtles, schools that form a tornado-like the barracuda, rays, and sharks in Sipadan. At Mabul, dive to witness beautiful reefs and exotic tiny sea creatures living there. Octopuses and squids are found at the reefs of Mabul too. Prepare your underwater cameras in Kapalai, also, for countless of macro shots for little sea creatures.

The best time to dive is on the summers from April to October as the temperature is warm, and it’s not rainy season.

12. Cocos Island, Costa Rica

Get to see schools of sharks at Cocos Island National Park. With limitless coral reefs, caves, and tunnels, this is indeed home to a lot of sea creatures, from fishes to crustaceans to corals. The biodiversity and pristine waters make this one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world.

Encounter big creatures such as whales, dolphins, sea lions, and turtles. Discover schools of tuna, marlins, eels, and many more fishes. You will truly love to explore this hidden kingdom.

From June to November, you can see manta rays, whale sharks, and hammerheads; however, the waters could be rough. You could also try going from December to May as the sea is much calmer.

Suggested Liveaboard Dive Trip: Okeanos Aggressor, Costa Rica

13. Great Astrolabe Reef, Fiji

The Great Astrolabe Reef is one of the biggest barrier reefs in the earth and known for its Soft Corals and diverse marine life. It’s also where many types of fishes breed as it is far to reach. Great efforts to protect and preserve this have also been observed.

You can snorkel or scuba dive and see manta rays, tuna, marlin, and many more fishes. Be in awe of how beautiful the corals are, too, and the fish that live there. Fiji is truly one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world.

To have excellent visibility of what is underneath try going from July or December. Summertime, from May to October is also peak season for tourists, so if you want to avoid that you can still enjoy diving in other months.

14. Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia

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Photo by Marek Okon

One to see amazing reefs as well as enchanting wrecks? Dive at Chuuk Lagoon that is considered one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world. In World War II, this lagoon was a main base of Japan, that’s why there are about 50 wreck dive sites here featuring ships and airplanes.

Don’t get scared or creeped out to see haunting wrecks under the sea; but get your cameras ready to take pictures of them as well as be in awe. You can also find corals near the ruins as well as fish and turtles swimming there.

Though you can dive all year round, December to March has calmer seas and better weather for diving.

Suggested Liveaboard Dive Trip: Truk Master, Micronesia

15. Tuamotus, French Polynesia

These groups of Islands are found in the South Pacific Ocean that is composed of 80 islands and atolls. There many pearl farms as well as great diving spots, one of which Tiputa Pass; that helped Polynesia being coined as one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world.

You will see large schools of big sea creatures pass like grey reef sharks, manta rays and turtles. You will totally experience one of the best dives in the world, especially if the dolphins swim with you!

If you want to see a huge number of sharks, dice in September. February to November are also great months to scuba dive. On colder times, you can see whales too!

16. Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

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Photo by Einar Jónsson

Thingvellir National Park is one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world as it has Silfra. It’s not found in the ocean or a sea but in a lake that was formed due to a tectonic drift. You will have a unique experience as you will dive between tectonic plates.

However, don’t expect a lot of fishes to see in Silfra, there are only 3 different species that aren’t as pretty as other diving sites. However, diving between fissures is one of the coolest experiences you will ever have.

Mating season of the Arctic Char is from August to September, so you could see these when you dive in the stated months.

17. Big Island, Hawaii

On the west coast of the Big Island are wonderful dive sites that you would greatly enjoy. Dive at Turtle or Paradise Pinnacle, Rob’s Reef, the Hive, Manta Ray Heaven or Crescent Beach. The marine life around the island is amazing as they are abundant and countless.

See sharks, mantas, and other sea creatures on these dive sites. Get a selfie with amazing turtles or find fish following them around. This place is truly one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world.

You can dive in Big Island all year round, however, December to May may let you see humpback whales swimming and hear them singing. 

Suggested Liveaboard Dive Trip: Kona Aggressor II, Hawaii

18. Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

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Photo by Jacob Waldrop

Do you want to see, touch or play with stingrays? Sting Ray City in Grand Cayman is where to go! Stingrays gather in large numbers and when they hear boats coming, they become excited and think of food. Get to hand-feed these lovely creatures.

There are also other diving spots in Grand Cayman, in the North, Northwest, East, and South, making this one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world. Say hi to angelfish, sponges, parrotfish, sea horses, and many more. There is also a wreck if a submarine in the Grand Cayman.

The best months to dive are in May and June.

Suggested Liveaboard Dive Trip: Cayman Aggressor V, Cayman Islands

19. Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique

Bazaruto Archipelago is a marine national park composing of 6 islands that has lovely beaches and great diving stops. The most popular site for diving is Benguerra Island. There are absolutely stunning reefs and marine life especially megafaunas (giant animals.)

See whale sharks, humpbacks, mantas and turtles in your adventure here. There are also parrot, angel, surgeon, and butterfly fishes to name a few. Plus, it has the largest population of mermaids, I mean dugong or sea cow, so it’s absolutely on the best scuba diving destinations in the world list.

Whales are present from June to November; however, if you want to see a stonefish, you can see it from December to April. 

20. Gozo, Malta

The top popular diving spot in the Mediterranean as well as one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world list is at Gozo. There are wrecks, caves, and various types of marine life found around this island.

The famous sites are the Blue Hole, Xlendi Reef and Tunnel where you can see a cave. See a wide array of fish, interesting tunnels and enchanting wrecks under the sea. You might want to try a night dive too!

From June to September, during the summer, you can have a great time diving in Malta.

There are indeed a lot of interesting and amazing places to dive and the best way to experience those is through a liveaboard. The world under the sea is magical and enchanting, I really like to explore them all if I got a chance. Hopefully, with this list of the best scuba diving destinations in the world, you could choose which one would you do first, or at least experience. It will be one epic and memorable adventure, so go and dive!

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Written by Two Monkeys Travel - Contributor

Two Monkeys Travel Group – Community Travel Blog is a travel blog and website. We quickly grew into a valuable source of inspiring travel stories, advice, itineraries and travel guides, with the aim of demonstrating how to live a sustainable life of travel, whilst living your own definition of success. If you'd like to contribute and write a guest post, contact us at [email protected]