Top Dive Destinations

Top Dive Destinations

 TOP dive destinations

Following on from our article on the Best Scuba Diving in the World, we gave you a great sample of some of the best scuba destinations. From the remote Socorro Islands off Mexico’s west coast to the ever-popular reefs of Jardines de la Reina in Cuba, our list encompassed something for everyone. In this article, we cover six more top dive destinations.

 

TOP DIVING DESTINATIONS

Pick a destination or scroll down to read the entire list:  

1. Cocos Island, Costa Rica - Big Ocean Diving with Sharks Galore

2. Komodo, Indonesia - World-Class Drift Dives in Species Rich Waters

3. Solomon Islands - Remote and Unspoiled with a Variety of Environments

4. Papua New Guinea - Surprises Around Every Corner

5. Cayman Islands - A Great Introduction to the Underwater World

6. Mozambique - Thrilling Adventure for the Explorers at Heart



1. COCOS ISLAND, COSTA RICA

BIG OCEAN DIVING WITH SHARKS GALORE 

On par with the Galapagos and Socorro Islands, Cocos Island National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre and a mecca for all things sharky. Diving here typically wouldn’t be described as pretty, as there is virtually no colorful coral, and therefore none of the associated vibrant reef species. But don’t be fooled - the waters around Cocos are some of the richest in the world, with Pacific Ocean currents converging to bring all manner of shark species, and a myriad of other pelagics to the island. 

Best Diving in the World - Part II

Most divers visit Cocos to photograph the immense schools of scalloped hammerheads that visit the island’s cleaning stations throughout the year. These normally nervous creatures gather here in such numbers that it’s impossible not to get great shots of them, dive after dive. Whitetip reef sharks are also prolific, and it is an experience to dive with them at dusk when they come out to hunt. Galapagos, silvertip, and silky sharks are all common, and lucky visitors may spot an occasional tiger shark.  

Best Scuba Diving in the World Part II Best Scuba Diving in the World - Part II

Many other impressive pelagic species visit Cocos Island; expect to see tuna, wahoo, and jack, dolphins, and even whale sharks passing through. Marble rays and turtles are also a regular sight along the rocky walls. Such an abundance of exciting marine life is difficult to match, and marks Cocos Island as a standout destination and home to some of the best big animal scuba diving in the world

 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Diving Season: Cocos is a year-round destination, however, species sightings will vary slightly depending on when you visit. December - May is the dry season with calmer waters and smoother crossings. The rainy season runs June - November and while visibility is lower, sharks appear in greater numbers due to the increase in plankton. June and July are shoulder months when you may experience both big animals and calm seas, but this can be highly variable. 

Skill Level: Large surface swells, surge, strong currents and sometimes low visibility can lead to challenging conditions best suited to advanced divers.

Water Temperature: Between 80-82oF (27oC) in the summer, and dropping to 72oF (22oC) in the winter. Expect thermoclines and temperatures in the 60s (15-19oC) at depth.

Getting There: Cocos Island lies about 340 miles southwest of mainland Costa Rica and is only accessible by liveaboard. Fly internationally to Santamaria International Airport (SJO), San Jose and arrange transport with the boat to Puntarenas where you’ll embark for the 35 - 37 hour crossing, which can be choppy at times.

Where to Stay: Cocos is uninhabited and liveaboard trips generally visit for 7 - 10 nights.

Non-Diving Activities: Most liveaboard trips include a land visit on the island for a short excursion, however we would recommend spending some time in Costa Rica before or after your trip. It is one of the best wildlife destinations in the world.

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Join our next photography workshops on the Okeanos Aggressor I:

Cocos Island July 2022 | Jul 20 - 30, 2020 | Led by Mark Strikland | From $4,199

OR view the availability of some of the best liveaboards in the Cocos Islands and book online at the best price!

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KOMODO, INDONESIa

WORLD-CLASS DRIFT DIVES IN SPECIES RICH WATERS

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the extraordinary Komodo National Park encompasses three main islands and a wide range of diving to suit all tastes. However, what Komodo is best known for is its world-class drift diving. Here, divers can spend dive after dive flying past rich and colorful coral reefs teeming with life, or hook in and enjoy huge schools of fish circling the island’s many pinnacles. Komodo’s diving can be split north and south, and although underwater topography is similar, the marine environments vary dramatically between the island’s coastlines.

Komodo Diving Manta Ray

Influenced by the warm waters of the Sulawesi and Flores Seas, North Komodo enjoys clear blue, tropical waters and diving is typical of what you might expect from other top Indo-Pacific destinations. There are a good number of both big-fish and macro sites, and the aquarium show can be quite spectacular.

In contrast, South Komodo experiences upwellings of deeper cool water along its coast, bringing with it the brisk currents that the island is famous for, and encouraging a heavy plankton soup that can reduce visibility. This concentration of plankton feeds a plethora of fish and marine life, however, and species are larger and more abundant because of it. Expect to see a huge variety of some 260 species of vibrant corals, 70 types of colorful sponges, tiny amphipods such as the unique ladybug, sea apple cucumbers, and a myriad of other critters such as frogfish and stargazers to name a few. There are also notable big-fish sites in the south, such as the iconic Manta Alley, where mantas can be found year round in the shallow waters.

Best Scuba Diving in the World Part II

Drifting through the cornucopia of Komodo’s protected waters is a truly thrilling adventure, and unique to this part of the world. Another ‘must visit’ destination and one of our top Indonesian scuba diving experiences.

 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Diving Season: The summer months of May through to September offer better top-side conditions, although the waters in the south are typically cold and murky. December until March is rainy season so although the southern waters are warmer with better visibility, there are less boats to choose from. 

Skill Level: Suitable for all levels, although strong currents feature on many of the southern dives.

Water Temperature: The north enjoys temperatures between 80 and 86oF (27 and 30oC), however south coast temperatures can drop as low as 66oF (19oC). The warmest months are November to January.

Getting There: Most liveaboard boats depart from Labuan Bajo on Flores Island, but some special itineraries depart from Bali, or Bima on Sumbawa Island. Fly international to Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS) and then transfer on to Komodo Airport (LBJ) on Flores, or Sultan Muhammad Salahudin Airport (BMU), Bima as required.

Where to Stay: There are a good number of resort options on Komodo and neighbouring Alor Island. However, a liveaboard affords the best option for covering as much of the island as possible during your trip.

Non-Diving Activities: Most liveaboard trips include a land excursion to visit the prehistoric Komodo Dragons on either Komodo Island or Rinca Island.

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 View the availability of some of the best liveaboards in Komodo and book online at the best price! 


SOLOMON ISLANDS

REMOTE AND UNSPOILED WITH A VARIETY OF ENVIRONMENTS

Sitting in the Pacific Ocean to the east of Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands are one of the world’s least-visited dive locations. As such they boast more pristine dive sites than anywhere else in the world. There is a fantastic variety of diving to be done here, from caves and canyons to lush coral gardens, great macro and muck, and hundreds of historic WWII ship and plane wrecks. 

The reefs in the Solomon Islands rival any of the other big Indo-Pacific destinations for  diversity, however what sets them apart is that they are so untouched. This is one of very few places where diving and fishing have had virtually no impact on the marine environment. Huge sea fans, vibrant soft coral and a healthy abundance of hard corals creates a bountiful reef environment for all manner of macro to medium subjects, and big ocean species such as manta rays, whales, and dolphins frequently visit. Mary’s Island, a small uninhabited outcrop in the centre of the archipelago, is the key site for spotting large pelagics, and divers here can expect to see huge funnels of schooling jack and barracuda, as well as plenty of reef sharks and bumphead parrotfish. 

 

There are over 60 shipwrecks and close to 1,300 plane wrecks scattered around the Solomon Islands, casualties of the WWII Battle of Guadalcanal. Just off the shore at Honiara on the main island, three Japanese shipwrecks provide ready access for those keen to explore the region’s military history. The Hirokawa Maru is a local favourite; largely intact, it features lots of swim-throughs and easy access to the cargo holds. The marine life is, again, staggering, and these artificial reefs are covered in huge amounts of macro life. Finally, the amazing topography at sites like Leru Cut on the Russell Islands is unforgettable; “shafts of sunlight create an ethereal ambience as they illuminate otherwise hidden recesses within the convoluted limestone walls that extend into the island’s interior.” Bluewater Trip Leader & Photo Instructor, Mark Strickland.   

The Solomon Islands provides exclusive access to some of the ocean’s last remaining pristine reefs. This sought-after destination is a truly unique experience and one that not many divers have had the privilege to visit.

 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Diving Season: Year round, but the wet season is from January to March.

Skill Level: Suitable for all levels.

Water Temperature: Between 81 and 88oF (27 and 30oC) year round.

Getting There: From the US or Europe, fly to Brisbane International Airport (BNE) or Cairns Airport (CNS) in Australia, or fly to Fiji’s Nadi International Airport (NAN). Then transfer on to Honiara International Airport (HNS), on the main island of Guadalcanal.

Where to Stay: There are only two liveaboards that service the Solomon Islands, the Bilikiki and the Solomons PNG Master. Between them, they offer a range of itineraries and trip durations. There are also several well-regarded dive resorts throughout the region.

Non-Diving Activities: It is possible to take hiking excursions to the interior of the islands, although most activities revolve around watersports such as kayaking, surfing and sailing. Cultural tours are popular, as are visits to various historic WWII sites.

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 Join our next group trip on the  Solomons PNG Master:

Solomon Islands May/June 2021 |May 25 - June 4, 2020 | Led by Katie Yonker | From $3,895

OR view the availability of some of the best liveaboards in the Solomon Islands and book online at the best price! 

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA

SURPRISES AROUND EVERY CORNER

The breathtaking scenery and exotic wildlife of top-side Papua New Guinea is mirrored below the waves, where 20,000 square miles of diverse reef system showcase some of the most exciting diving in the coral triangle. The best sites are concentrated around New Guinea’s south eastern tip, and the islands of New Britain and New Ireland. Being somewhat off the beaten track, divers can spend their entire trip here without encountering any other visitors.

On the north coast of New Britain, Kimbe Bay is home to what has been described as one of the most beautiful reefs in the world. Sites such as Susan’s Reef are ripe for wide-angle photography, as sharks and barracuda slip past lively reefs of colorful soft corals and sea fans. Various marine mammals also visit the bay, and there are often sightings of dolphins, pilot whales, and even the occasional pod of orcas. 

Papua New Guinea Trip Report Papua New Guinea Trip Report

To the south, Milne Bay boasts a host of small critters such as ghost pipefish, seahorses, frogfish, cuttlefish, and even the coveted rhinopias scorpionfish. This is where muck diving originated, and is one of the reasons Papua New Guinea has secured a spot as some of the best scuba diving in the world. The topography of Milne Bay is also fascinating with dramatic walls, pinnacles, and long sloping reefs as a backdrop to many dives.

  

Other world-class dive areas such as Bootless Bay, Oro Province, and Kavieng are equally rich in marine life and provide consistently excellent diving with the opportunity to spot a myriad of reef regulars and rare species alike.

 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Diving Season: Year-round, but the wet season is from January to March.

Skill Level: Suitable for all levels.

Water Temperature: Average 79oF (26oC) in the Coral Sea sites to the south, and 88oF (31oC) in the Bismarck Sea to the north. 

Getting There: Regular flights from Australia and Asian hubs to Jacksons International Airport in Port Moresby (POM) on New Guinea. Arrival to nearly every dive resort and liveaboard will require a domestic flight.

Where to Stay: Diving here covers large areas, so a liveaboard is a great option. However, there are some great resorts that also cater well to underwater photography.

Non-Diving Activities: Diving is only one of many activities available in Papua New Guinea. Opportunities such as birdwatching and cultural experiences visiting local land tribes are not to be missed.

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 Join our next trips on the MV Oceania:

PNG Custom Group Trip 2020 | Oct 14 - 23, 2020 | Led by Katie Yonker | From $4,299

PNG Photo Workshop May 2021 | May 27 - June 5, 2021 | Led by Craig Dietrich | From $4,901

OR view the availability of some of the best liveaboards in the Panua New Guinea and book online at the best price! 

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CAYMAN ISLANDS

A GREAT INTRODUCTION TO THE UNDERWATER WORLD

The Cayman Islands are fun, friendly, and have an excellent dive infrastructure, making it a top destination for all standards of diver. There are three main islands, each of which offers its own take on the area’s fantastic life-filled reefs. On the biggest island of Grand Cayman, the bottom of the world-famous USS Kittiwake lies in 65 feet of water and is a great introduction to wreck diving. Also on Grand Cayman, divers can feed the hundreds of stingrays that gather at Stingray City in the North Sound. This is one of the island’s most popular activities, and certainly not to be missed.

Cayman Islands Stingray

Eighty miles to the east, Little Cayman is the smallest of the three islands and also the least developed. There are over 50 sites to choose from here, with the dramatic walls and remarkable swim-throughs of Bloody Bay Marine Park creating a breathtaking experience and the island’s top dive site. Further east again, Cayman Brac boasts some of the best wall diving in the Caribbean, as well as the fascinating wreck of the Russian destroyer, renamed the MV Cpt. Keith Tibbetts. This sponge- and coral-coated artificial reef is suitable for even the least experienced divers, and another ‘must do’ dive of the Cayman Islands.

Cayman Brac Reef underwater photo Cayman Brac Reef underwater photo

The Cayman Islands offer a wide range of diving suited to all abilities, however the warm waters, great visibility and huge number of exciting but accessible sites makes it a destination that is especially suited to those new to the underwater world.

 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Diving Season: Year round, with holiday high season being mid-December through to mid-April.

Skill Level: Suitable for all levels.

Water Temperature: 78-82oF (26-28oC).

Getting There: Regular direct flights to Owen Roberts International Airport (GCM) on Grand Cayman from Boston, Chicago, New York and Miami. From here transfer on to Little Cayman or Cayman Brac as required.

Where to Stay: The majority of diving is resort-based, to suit a full range of budgets. Bear in mind that food and accommodation can become more expensive on the less developed islands. The Cayman Aggressor V is the only liveaboard that services the Cayman Islands. 

Non-Diving Activities: The islands boast great beaches, hiking, cultural and walking tours and some lively festivals.

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 View the availability of some of the best liveaboards in the Cayman Islands and book online at the best price! 

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MOZAMBIQUE

THRILLING ADVENTURE FOR THE EXPLORERS AT HEART

For those seeking the ultimate megafauna adventure, diving Mozambique’s 1,500-mile coastline is a hidden gem. This southeast African country enjoys the best of the Indian Ocean’s spectacular marine life, in a wild and exhilarating environment quite unlike anywhere else. 

In the very north of the country, the Quirimbas Archipelago sits within one of the largest Marine Protected Areas in Africa. Relatively undeveloped, 125 miles of secluded islands and sandbars are home to flourishing coral reefs and mangroves, some fantastic wall dives, and exciting underwater topography. Five of the ocean’s seven species of marine turtle can be found in Mozambique, and three of them make this region their home. Further south, the more accessible Bazaruto Archipelago lies in the swift currents of the Mozambique Channel, offering the chance for some thrilling drift dives. Again, there is plenty of marine life here, including Mozambique’s largest dugong population, and the chance to explore a myriad of impressive overhangs, canyons, and caves.  

Scuba Addicts Scuba Addicts

The coastline around the southern town of Praia do Tofo is a prime location for year-round whale shark and manta sightings. These ocean giants are attracted by the plankton-rich upwellings of the Mozambique Channel, and in August and September humpback whales also congregate with their young. One of the best sites is the aptly named, Giant’s Castle, where visitors have a good chance of seeing all three species in one dive!

The frontier town of Ponta do Ouro, in Mozambique’s deep south, is a spectacular location, and one of the best in the southern hemisphere to dive with some big pelagic shark species. Bull sharks, known here as Zambezi sharks, and hammerheads, are just two of the 19 species that have been spotted. Ponta do Ouro also has some notable macrolife, with sites such as Pinnacles Reef covered in thick coral formations, patrolled by gigantic potato bass. 

Scuba Addicts Scuba Addicts Scuba Addicts

Diving in Mozambique may not be the most accessible, but for those willing to explore even a small section of this untamed coastline, the rewards are spectacular. 

 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Diving Season: The northern archipelagos are best dived between June and September, whereas the southern sites can be dived year round. There is a lull in shark activity from April until July.

Skill Level: Some sites are suitable for all levels, however the more exposed sites and those with stronger currents require some experience.

Water Temperature: Quirimbas Archipelago 77-79oF (25-26oC), Bazaruto Archipelago 73-75oF (23-24oC), Praia do Tofo and Ponta do Ouro sites 73-84oF (23-29oC).

Getting There: Fly international to Maputo International Airport (MPM), and then transfer on to Vilankulo International Airport (VNX), or Inhambane Airport (INH) as required. To reach northern areas it may be easier to fly to Dar es Salaam’s Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) in Tanzania, and then transfer on to Pemba Airport (POL). From here, fly or take a ferry to the islands.

Where to Stay: The northern islands are very undeveloped with few lodges and virtually no resorts so forward planning is essential. The Bazaruto resorts are very high end, so again, you may want to plan ahead. On the mainland, a wider range of resorts and lodges is available to suit most budgets.

Non-Diving Activities: Mozambique is a great cultural location, with lovely colonial buildings and market streets to explore, as well as some good museums. Fishing and watersports are popular.

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The wonderful diversity of scuba diving is reflected perfectly in the variety and excitement of the underwater environment. Our selection of sites showcasing the top dive destinations in the world really does emphasize the broad range of diving. From windswept islands to tropical reefs, whatever your interests you can find your perfect dive destination.

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how to book a trip

Bluewater Travel can book you on a liveaboard or resort in Socorro, French Polynesia, Galapagos, Cocos, the Bahamas and 40+ other destinations in the world for the same cost or less than booking any other way. We know the diving, seasons, boats and cabins and when to go better than anyone else!

Email us or write to us in the live chat box to book a resort, liveaboard, or a Bluewater trip! 

 

Further Reading

Check out these useful resources from our sister websites, Bluewater Photo, and the Underwater Photography Guide

Top 5 Big Animal Encounters 

Shark Photography Tutorials

Wet Wide Angle Lens Buyer's Guide

Best Underwater Cameras (2019)

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