The ultimate guide to the world’s best dive sites
The world is huge and there are so many dive sites to discover. Diving allows people to discover this world so different from ours, but also natural submerged beauties and abundant marine life. This universe, so special and diversified… It’s hard to find a complete guide book of the best dive spots since it’s a subjective matter and every point of view is different. But still, let’s give it a try and travel together to find the best dive sites in the world.
The best destinations to dive in Europe
In spite of being less famous than Indonesia, Maldives or Thailand, Europe does not have to ashamed at all as it has some of the world’s best dive spots . What does make it so special? Maybe its diversified reefs and reliefs, its extraordinary fauna or the thousands wrecks laying in its bottoms. If you intend to tour around the best dive sites of Europe, just read what’s coming next.
Who never heard about the underwater cemetery of Scapa Flow where lots of German battle ships dated from the WW1 constitute a giant playground for divers coming from all over the world. Despite the lack of visibility and the cold temperature of the water, this site offers a unique show as it is one of the rarest spots where people are able to see so many large wrecks in shallow waters. The most famous are: Blockship Tabarka, SMS Markgraf. Diving in Scotland is trully amazing
Gibraltar territory that belongs to United-Kingdom is at the crossroad of Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, a place where sinkings are common. We can find there some of the most beautiful wrecks of the world: SS Excellent, Camp Bay Conservation Site, The 482M… In the Canary Islands, divers will also be able to find several of the best European dive spots. Why? Because of the crystalline water, the volcanic rocks, the rich marine life including sharks, rays, eels, small octopuses and turtles. In Lanzarote, the best dive spots are: Richies place, La burrera, Las canas. We can also mention the Balearic Islands, Baléares and Costa del sol.
Diving lovers will enjoy their time diving in France as the country has a lot of extraordinary diving sites, spread all over the territory. The Glénan Islands in Finistere, Western part of France attract numerous divers that come there to admire the jade-green or turquoise waters, making the place looking like a tropical paradise. The various granitic rocks are the refuge of several crustacean species, pouts and congers that hide in interstices and kelps. The star wreck’s names ; Pietro Orseolo, a silent monster measuring 140 meters long. In Brest harbor, the Dellec and Émile Allard’s wrecks are laying. Diving Normandy is also a must-see for wreck passionated divers. Most of the wreck there had sunk after collapsing with shelfs, and the others are the vestiges of the Operation Neptune. For example the Empire Broadsword, l’USS Meredith III, le Fort Norfolk and the Courbet. South of France is divers’ favorite French area. The French Riviera and more particularly the department of Var is the tombstone of various ships like the Donator, the Rubis or the Sagona. Diving in Corsica allow you to discover a wonderful island . In the south, the Porto Gulf attract divers looking for exceptional reefs. La Corse est une île magnifique. Au sud, le golfe de porto attire les plongeurs à la recherche de récifs exceptionnels. Red porphyry cliffs ending directly in the sea give a wonderful sight. This piece of art is still present underwater and can be seen from the Punta Mucchilina and Capo Rosso dive sites. Finally, the Lavezzi Islands also enable to see beautiful elements for underwater photography thanks to rocky scattered bottoms in which families of groupers inhabit this place for vacation. We can considered Mérouville as the best dive site of Corsica.
Kilkee is a little coastal city of County Clare, famous for having the best Irish dive spots . Divers dive there to admire the quartz made topography, the fauna and flora constituted of mackerels and other invertebrates. The most famous spot is Diamond Rocks. Some lucky guy also spotted some basking sharks in the area.
The Þingvallavatn Lake is worldwide known for its dive spot Silfra , considered by some divers as the best dive spot of the world . The reasons why are that it is the only place of the world where you can dive between two continental plates, and it has the best visibility more than 300 meters.
Malta is a popular destination for divers looking for warm waters during summer. The country offers diversified dive spots changing from wonderful natural best to all kind wrecks . The Blue Hole of Gozo is known as one of the best dive spots in Europe. Way different from Dahab and Belize blue holes, Gozo’s Blue Hole is still an amazing place. It has a vertical wall going down to 60 meters deep, a lot of rocky caves and a deep blue colored water. Other dive sites are extraordinary, like the Rozi wreck, the Um el Faroud, the P29 or the Karwella. Dive in Malta is really worth it.
For lovers of big green and empty spaces, Norway, and most particularly Lofoten raises astonishement among divers that had the chance to go there. In this nutritional elements rich water, the cold and warm currents coming from the North Atlantic ensure the good development of the subaquatic plants such as giant kelps. The visibility there is good until 20 meters deep in optimal conditions and the water temperature can go up to 15°C. The luckiest one will even be able to dive with orcas living there.
Others best diving destinations in Europe
It is pretty hard to list every good places for diving in Europe. However, we’re gonna try to give you the ones you should not miss. In Greece, you have to explore the underwater surrondings of Chios Island. Dive in Italy, you will find the best dive spot of the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Pearl or Secca Della Colombara, that is located near Ustica Island. There are some other famous italiens wreck ships: KT12, Entella, Isonzo. In Madeira, Portugal, water is warm and clear, and divers from all over the world dive there to observe giant groupers, Carangidaes, barracudas and rays, particularly in Canico Baixa. The Azores in one of the rare places in the world where you will be able to swim with the fastest fish, the blue shark. During the end of summer, these sharks come near the archipelago during their annual migration through Atlantic Ocean. Can you imagine yourself floating in this deep blue sea with one of these predators swimming right next to you? Have a look and dive in Korcula or Fortunal, Croatia or go to Cyprus or…. There is so many and many European dive sites that deserve to be explored…
The best dive area of Asia
The world’s most beautiful dive spots are probably in Asia since it has thousands islands, protected coral reefs, endemic species and pelagic fish species…
This country is the biggest archipelago of the world, containing 17 508 islands. It is obvious, considering the hugeness of its coastline, that dive in Indonesia represents a real paradise for divers. Some of the best dive spots of the world may be in these waters. Let’s begin with what is actually the best in Indonesia: Rajat Ampat, Cape Kri, Komodo, Castle Rock, Canibal Rock, Batu Bolong and Bunaken Island. Bali is the new place-to-be, the new trend for divers and there are several reasons explaining this: the dives are great, the places are affordable, the water is clear, the black volcanic sand is magical and there are strong chances to admire pelagic species. The best Bali dive sites are: the USAT Liberty wreck, ranked in the world top 10, Crystal Bay, Manta Point, Gili Selang and Secret Bay. The islands located in the north of Sumatra are not that known, like the island of Pulau Weh … A huge mistake because some of the dives there are simply fantastic, especially during the pelagic migrations eagle rays, manta rays, sharks, whales and orcas. You absolutely have to see the Shark Plateau, the Canyonor the wreck of Sophie Rickmers.
To dive in Malaysia, the first thing you have to know is that the country is divided into two definite parts: Peninsular Malaysia, where we can find the Perhentian national park, famous for its great number of turtles, and East Malaysia which spot Barracuda Point located in Sipadan Natural Park is often described as the best dive spot of the world. The spots entrance is regulated and only lucky ones who can afford it will be allowed to immerge into these clear waters full of pelagics. South Point and Layang Layang dive spots are also great.
Maldives became extremly popular among divers thanks to its protected reefs that are the refuge of various tropical fish species and pelagics like eagle rays, humphead wrasses, manta rays, whale sharks that are very rare or hammerhead sharks. People consider, rightly or wrongly, that Maldives are the cradle of the world’s best dive sites. In case you go to Malaysia, we highly recommend you to dive at Maaya Thila, South Ari Atoll.
Philippines probably does not have the most spots of the world, still, the underwater bottoms and colored fauna remain fantastic. The National Park of Tubbataha, Pallawan is protected diving area located 10 hours away from the first city. It is only possible to get there by boat. Marine life there is abundant, full of pelagics and macro species. Near Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro, you’ll have the opportunity to dive into two wonderful spots: Sabang Bay, which is made for macro lovers and The Canyons. In the famous underwater sanctuary of Apo, Apo Reef, you’ll be able to see reef sharks, turtles, giant devil rays, manta rays or barracudas, if you are lucky enough of course. In Boracay, Yapak 2 and Crocodile Island are the two best spots around. The first one will permit you to admire sharks, tunas and rays whereas the second is a vertical wall on which you can find splendid reefs. Philippines has various knockout dive spots like Taiei Maru Wreck in Coron, Monad Shoal in Malapascua which is one of the rare spots offering to see thresher sharks. Or even Verde Island, Drop Off…
Probably the most touristic destination for diving in the world. Thailand is divided into two distinct parts: the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea. The faster the better to announce that most of Thailand’s best dive sites are located in the second area. In Similan Islands, Richelieu Rock is quite simply the best dive spot of Thailand. Elephant Head Rock and Koh Tachai complete the podium. Off the coasts of Koh Lanta, Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, there are strong chances to do some fantastic dives on enormous pinacles where it is possible to see manta rays and whale sharks. Finally, in the south of Koh Lipe Island, Stonehenge and 8 Mile Rocks will also please the divers.
Finally, if you have the chance to travel and dive in Sri Lanka, please do not hesitate to explore the wreck of the world’s first aircraft carrier: the HMS Hermes, sunk by the Japanese aviation in 1942.
The most beautiful destination to dive in Africa
4 African countries are always mentioned when speaking about the best dive sites of the world: Egypt, South Africa, Sudan and Tanzania.
KwaZulu Natal National Park gather most of South Africa’s best dive spots. This reserve is a paradise for divers where they wll be able to explore a 7km reef, only accessible by rubber dinghy. The great number of dolphins, whales, turtles, tiger sharks and hammerhead sharks will please big thrill lovers, for example in Raggie Cave or Shark Alley. Sardine Run is the best dive spot if you want to see huge sardine scools that gather here every year during their migration. Those ones are often attacked by swordfish, dolphins and other marine birds. Keep on your trip by going to Uniforms, Antons and Hotspot in Sodwana Bay that all provide different experiences pelagics, corals, lights, colors. Another monster haunts those waters : the great white shark. In Mossel Bay, Storms River Mouth dive site permits you to face it. Under cover in a steel-reinforced cage, you’ll attend one great white shark’s meal. Finally, another creature recently became famous, the coelacanth, famous thanks to the French diver Laurent Ballesta. A few centers offer to dive with it. For the record, this fih lives at more than 100 meters deep…
Diving in Egypt is really exciting. In the North of the Red Sea, you can find the very touristic cities: Hurghada, Sharm El Sheik and Dahab. By boat you have access to a large choice of exceptionnal dives. The most beautiful wreck of the world is probably here and it is nothing else than the wreck of Thistlegorm. Not far from there, Ras Mohammed, Shark and Yolanda Reef, Jackson Reef, Straits of Tiran dive spots offer splendid submarine walls over hundreds of meters and a wonderful coral. In Dahab, the Blue Hole is indisputably the world’s most famous dive site. Marsa Alam acts as a boarding place for the various cruises sailing in the South of the Red Sea. The best dive sites of this area are Elphinstone Reef, Big Brother and Daedalus where you can find manta rays, hammerhead sharks, tunas or other carangidae. Some dive spots are simply stunning, like Abu Dabbad that give the chance to dive with a dugong, or Dolphins House Reef, with dolphins.
Sudan is not really a touristic destination, mostly because of its politic instability. However, this country has everything to attract demanding divers: wonderful, coloured and protected reefs, strong presence of sharks, not crowded dive sites, beautiful wrecks and great schools of fishes. The Umbria wreck is one of the most beautiful in the world and one of the Sudan crown jewels. This Italian war supply ship was built in 1912 in Hamburg and sank in 1940 scuttled by Italian sailors to prevent it from falling into British troops hands. Precontinent Cousteau is for a lot of passionated divers the most symbolic site but also the strangest site ever faced. Cousteau and his men tried to live sleep, eat, work… there in underwater compartments, for periods going from days to months.
There are some other fantastic dive sites in Sudan as well, like Sha’ab Rumi South, Angarosh, Sanganeb Reef, and Toyota wreck.
The Zanzibar Archipelago is one of the most idyllic and fascinating tropical destination that also became a privileged playing area for divers coming from all over the world. This island has some of the best dive sites of the world if you wish to see humpback whales and sperm whales in September and October, and manta rays and whale sharks from December to April. In the atoll of Mnemba, the Wattabomi dive site allows people to dive in crystalline waters and wonderful landscapes where it is possible to encounter turtles and reef sharks. Leven Bank is the best dive site of Tanzania or the ultimate dive site for adventurers! With great subaquatic walls and an excellent visibility, it is the best place to meet hammerhead sharks, reef sharks, giant groupers and enormous moray eels. You can also explore Fundu Gap South, Manta Point and Kokoto Caves dive spots.
The best places to dive in Oceania
Australia is offering some of the best dive sites of the world thanks to its amazing and enormous Great Barrier Reef, in Queensland. It measures 2000km long, is the world’s biggest coral reef, and has, thanks to its surprising biodiversity, one of the richest ecosystem. You’ll find there numerous endemic species. Just have to board at Cairns or Port Douglas to get to Australia’s best dive spots and even sail around for a day or a week. What’s the program? Well, sea turtles, manta rays, whales, dolphins, reef sharks, tiger sharks, hammerhead sharks in North Horn or even giant groupers in Cod Hole. In the south, Townsville is described as one of the best dive spot of the world thanks to the Yongala wreck.
In the south, 7 hours flight away from there, the HMAS Brisbane wreck is also worth it. Finally, in the south of Brisbane, the Fish Rock Cave is the best cave dive spot of Australia. There is also the Ningaloo reef that is less famous than the Great Barrier but offers great subaquatic experiences. Indeed, you will be able to dive with whale sharks and manta rays, like in Navy Pier, a great place of biodiversity. Some other wonderful dive sites are distributed over the territory : the HMAS Swan wreck in Dunsborough, the Perpendicular wall of Christmas island and Cocklebiddy Cave in the south of the country.
Composed of 137 islands, Hawaii is one of the 50 states of the United-States. This state has the largest protected subaquatic area that spreads over 36 million hectares and contains more than 7,000 subaquatic species including 25% of endemic species. In this marine sanctuary, you can find the laying YO-257 wreck, a supply vessel used during the WW2 then sunk to serve as an artificial reef. Some other historic wrecks, like the ones of the Pearl Harbor attack, are laying in the bottoms of the Hawaiian waters but remain inaccessible. The Manta Ray Night Dive, Molokini Crater Wall and Kailua Kona dive sites are the most famous among divers and considered as some of the best dive spots of the world.
This archipelago of the Pacific Ocean is worldly known for being the host of the most beautiful dive spots of the world, especially nearby giant and sublime wrecks. The Truk Lagoon is the world’s biggest subaquatic wreck cemetery. Every year, the Fujikawa Maru and the San Fransisco Maru are recorded as some of the best wreck in different online surveys. However, that’s not fair to restrain Micronesia to its wreck, let’s not forget Ulong Channel and Blue Corner Wall dive spots that will please sharks buffs.
Not as famous as Australia, New Zealand however has some subaquatic treasures. Thanks to the numerous warm currents in the area, the tropical waters are sanctuaries for a lot of fish species, corals, sponges, gorgonians and other marine algae. The best dive spots of New Zealand are:
Poor Knights, a dive spot described as an underwater heaven by Jacques Cousteau, where 125 different species has been recorded. Middle Arch, a kind of caves and cavities muddle, as well as Riwaka Cavers. Finally, White Island gives the chance to dive around an active volcano, the possibility to observe gas emanation emerging under the water and also to admire craggy rocks.
Tiputa pass is most probably the best dive spot of the world thanks to its strong presence of sharks. Hundreds and even thousands of sharks come by this place that remains a key attraction. Besides, you will be able to admire the Tuamotus fauna and especially the hammerhead sharks and the dolphins that are very curious when divers get close to them. There is also the south pass of Fakarava, a shark wall and Tikehau. Diving French Polinesia is a wonderful experience of a lifetime.
Other destinations are also well-liked by demanding divers. In Papua New Guinea, the wreck of the plane Blackjack B17, a popular bomber sunk during the WW2. Another wonderful wreck lays in the bottoms of Vanuatu, the American liner USS Coolidge . This ship hit mines that were supposed to protect after receiving unclear information while entering the American base of Espiritu Santo. One of the last must-see is the wreck of the Japanese battleship Nagato, located at 40 meters deep in the Marshall Islands. Finally, you should definitely dive in Grand Central Station, in Salomon Island.
The best places to dive in America
For a lot of advanced divers, the best dive spots of the world are located in Central America. Indeed, Costa Rica and Ecuador offer exceptional dives and unforgettable subaquatic experiences.
If you dream to dive in Costa Rica, I recommand you to go directly to the Cocos Island considerated as a World Heritage Site and a protected national park. This island is also famous for being the hiding place of treasures pirates used to steal from Spanish. That’s why it is called the «Treasure Island». Other treasures can be found there, but underwater, bringing more and more divers around the world. Some divers consider it as the world’s best dive site. Indeed, big species lovers will be able to admire dolphins, orcas and whales. Discovered by the commandant Cousteau, the Bajo Alcyone dive site is famous for its hammerhead sharks walls that appear one after another. Other shark species are frequently present in these waters, like the silvertip shark, the blacktip reef shark, the silky shark, the tiger shark and even the guitar shark. They are followed by a great number of other ray species like devil rays, Manta rays, and eagle-rays which whirl around you looking for a washing point. The Dirty Rock dive spot is a high standard dive spot.
The Galápagos National Park, which is registered on the Unesco World Heritage site list, is a reserve for the local biosphere. Every year, 173 000 tourists come here to visit the park and 70 dive sites are reachable all year long. The world’s best dive spot, or at least Galápagos’, is unquestionably the Darwin’s Arch, a unique site where you’ll be able to admire incredible hammerhead sharks schools, Manta rays, eagle rays, reef sharks and sometimes whale sharks it is very common to meet with 4 or 5 of them during a dive. The biggest fish of the world tend to use pinnacles as a spot during their migratory journey. You will also see a lot of turtles, marbled electric ray, seals, barracudas and giant trevally. Gordon Rocks and Wolf Island will also be part of your dive schedule to keep exploring the sea with hammerhead sharks. Diving in Ecuador is a must do in your life.
It seems fair enough to find some of the world’s best dive spots in such a big country. But in fact, United states mainly but only got 3 worldwide classy wrecks. The Spiegel Grove, located in Florida, owe its name to the 19th American president. It was sunk in 2001 by the government of Florida to serve as an artificial reef and a touristic attraction. Lots of groupers elected to live there, as well as other schools of fish. Another wreck of Florida is the aircraft carrier: USS Oriskany. It measures 275 meters long and constitutes le largest artificial reef of the world. Near the wreck, it is possible to observe big pelagics such as sharks and dolphins. Finally, the last important wreck is located in North Carolina. It’s a German submarine called U-352, sunk in 1942 by the US army off the coast of Cape Hatteras and discovered again in 1974. Laying 33 meters deep in sandy bottoms, this dive spot will seduce history and wreck lovers.
Cenotes are probably one of the best cave dive spots. This natural wells network reach dozens of kilometers long and will please experienced divers. Sistema Dos Ojos is Mexico best dive spot to start diving and Playa del Carmen the place to start. This caves network is charted today as spreading over 82 kilometers, with 28 known entries. The visibility there is great and the water temperature come close to 25°C. On a different note, the Manchones Reef dive site is the biggest underwater museum of the world. Hundreds of statues of the famous sculptor Jason de Caires have been immerged between 3 and 6 meters deep to offer a unique cultural experience.
America has plenty of other dive spots that are part of the best dive spots of the world. Here they are: One Thousand Steps and the wreck Hilma Hooker in Bonaire, Bianca C, a fantastic wreck located in Grenada, the stunning Blue Hole of Belize, the wonderful dive of Odyssey in Honduras, and finally Scotts Head Pinnacle in Dominica…
The best places to dive in the Caribbean
These islands located in the Caribbean hold various subaquatic treasures. The popular Jacques Cousteau said that the Bloody Bay Wall dive site was the “pearl” of the Caribbean. This almost 2000 meters wall will take you directly into the abyss. A forest made of coral, sponges and gorgonians is hung to this vertical wall, feeding the abundant fauna living there. It is also possible to observe eagle rays, turtles and other offshore visitors on this incredible dive spot. A little far away, Babylon is also an amazing dive site with its black corals and numerous species. Stingray City is also hold up as an example of world best deep water dive site. You’ll find there dozens of giant common rays that perfectly go along mankind presence. Finally, on a different note, Cayman Islands have two of the most beautiful wreck of the world: USS Kittiwake, a US deep submergence rescue vehicle, deliberately sunk in 2011, and the MV Captain Keith Tibbetts, a Russian frigate measuring 100 meters long, sunk in 1996. These two ships will pleased divers provided that conditions are optimal.
Of course a lot of extraordinary dive spots have been forgotten, so don’t hesitate to share your knowledge and experiences in the comments.