Where to dive in January? 4 must-see destinations

by Kathryn Curzon

January is a great month to go diving and escape the winter blues. There is plenty of sunshine and warm water to enjoy, whilst diving with ocean giants and exploring remote paradise islands. Here are our top picks of the best dive destinations to visit in January.

Diving the Maldives

Diving in the Maldives is synonymous with whale sharks, manta rays, pristine atolls and turquoise waters. It is a wish list destination for many divers and understandably so. January is a great month to visit to take advantage of the long dry days and dive with numerous manta rays at some of the best atolls.

Rasdhoo Atoll, a tiny collection of 4 islands and 3 sandbanks, offers some of the best Maldives dives with large pelagics, including at Madifaru. This horseshoe-shaped reef has almost every type of Maldives marine life in one area; including plenty of manta rays, grey reef sharks, scalloped hammerheads, eagle and mobula rays, stingrays, turtles and dolphins. Manta Block is especially good for manta ray sightings at cleaning stations from November to April and Hammerhead Point offers the chance to swim with hammerhead sharks.

Ari Atoll is perhaps the most well-known Maldives atoll, made up of over 100 small islands, and is a great atoll for pinnacle diving amongst manta rays. January offers calm seas and the chance to see both mantas and whale sharks there. Some of the best sites for manta rays are in southern Ari Atoll, including Rangali Madivaru.

If you want to experience somewhere truly remote, be sure to visit the far northern atolls. Few liveaboards venture to the far north but the rewards are well worth it. The topography of these atolls is unique, and you can see mantas, guitar rays, zebra sharks and numerous critters. The Amba liveaboard offers far north atoll safaris at this time of year.

Scuba diving in Mexico

There are two great destinations to visit in Mexico during January; the Sea of Cortez and the Socorro Islands. Both of these world-class diving areas offer the chance to enjoy megafauna diving during the Mexican winter.

The Socorro Islands is a group of four volcanic islands only accessible by liveaboard diving and is paradise for a variety of large pelagics. There are at least 10 species of sharks found at the islands, plus whales, dolphins and the renowned friendly Giant Pacific manta rays. January is a particularly good month to visit, as thousands of humpback whales arrive, giving divers a chance to see and hear them underwater. There are a handful of liveaboards that visit the islands, with safaris for both new and experienced divers.

If you visit the Sea of Cortez during January you can swim with the large whale shark population at La Paz bay, plus spot grey whales, mobula rays and humpback whales.

Diving Palau, Micronesia

With more than 2000 forest-clad islands and numerous dive sites in the Pacific Ocean, Micronesia offers something for every diver. January brings flat seas and dry weather, plus great visibility and numerous whale sharks and mantas.

Palau is one of the main dive destinations of Micronesia and is made up of over 250 islands. Given the sheer number and remote nature of the islands, it is best explored by Micronesia liveaboard diving. The dive sites have flourishing reefs teeming with over 1300 species of fish and hundreds of coral species. There are also sponges, critters and colourful mandarin fish to find. Fans of larger marine life won’t be disappointed either, as there are plenty of turtles and sharks in Palau’s waters.

Blue Corner, a natural corner in the ocean, is well worth diving to experience an array of corals and schools of fish. There is a wall that drops down to 330 meters and the diverse marine life is very tolerant of divers, making it perfect for photography. German Channel is a good dive area for manta rays and the well-known Iro Maru wreck is not to be missed. Fans of cave diving should visit Chandelier Caves for the chance to dive a series of caverns filled with stalagmites and stalactites.

Liveaboard in Djibouti

This tiny country is a relatively new diving destination that offers the chance to swim with whale sharks and enjoy pristine coral reefs without any crowds. Bordered by both the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, Djibouti has a huge variety of marine life and diverse dive sites.

Credit MSY Elegante

You can dive between two tectonic plates at the Gulf of Tadjourah and swim with juvenile whale sharks at Goubet Al Kharab. You can also see manta rays, grey reef and nurse sharks depending on when you visit. There are a handful of liveaboard operators there, including the MSY Elegante and Deli liveaboards, who offer whale shark safaris and sailing dive safaris from November to January each year.

Credit MSY Elegante

This article was written by divers and writers for LiveAboard.com