Perhaps you’re a seasoned scuba diver with plenty of underwater experience since you first passed your PADI Open Water Diver course during your gap year or round-the-world trip. Or maybe you’re new to the sport but would love to find out which places are regarded as the very best on the planet. Either way, here are some of the world’s top scuba diving destinations.
Where to scuba dive in Thailand
Thailand offers some of the world’s ultimate diving experiences. Many people head to the country to learn to dive, then find that they keep coming back time and time again. Here are some of the Thai diving hot spots.
Richelieu Rock lies about 125 miles north of Phuket, within Thailand’s Mu Koh Surin marine park in the Andaman sea. It is a horseshoe-shaped reef, famed for its purple and red coral and rocky pinnacles.
This area is renowned as a great spot to see large aquatic creatures such as barracuda, manta ray, grouper and whale sharks. Divers can also witness large schools of batfish, snappers, lionfish, triggerfish, bannerfish and shovelnose rays. This is also a great spot to see and photograph smaller, more unusual creatures such as harlequin shrimp, ghost pipefish, seahorses, pineapple fish, orangutan crab and frogfish.
Currents in this region can be very strong. The best time to dive here is between December and April, and you will need to do a number of dives if you want to cover the entire area.
Mu Koh Similan National Park
Often simply referred to as the Similan islands, this group of nine islands is a favourite among seasoned divers. Ideally, take an organised diving trip from Khao Lak, Phuket or Ranong. Such trips are usually around four days long, but shorter trips are available for those with less time.
Visit between February and April if you want to see larger sea animals, and if you don’t already hold your PADI certificate then many operators will insist that you take the course while on board – this is partly due to the strong currents that can occur here. Despite this, visibility is usually very good and you can see towering rock formations as well as soft coral abundant in colourful marine life.
Koh Tao is a paradise island with white sand beaches, swaying palm trees and spectacular sunsets – and its underwater life is every bit as beautiful. There are brightly shaded reefs, colourful shoals of tropical fish and rock pinnacles, as well as a number of shipwrecks – plus you may spot passing eagle rays or whale sharks.
The dive sites are dotted around the island’s coast and are reached by boat. You can dive down to coral gardens, including the fabled Japanese Garden. Bear in mind that during November, the monsoon season begins. This can occasionally lead to choppier waters and reduced visibility, but the norm year round is calm, clear waters which provide ideal conditions for learner and newly qualified divers.
Where to scuba dive in Hawaii
Hawaii may be known as a surfing paradise, but it’s just as good when it comes to scuba diving. This US-owned collection of Pacific islands has its own range of world-class diving destinations.
In particular, this area of Hawaii’s Big Island is famed for the Manta Ray Night Dive, during which plankton are attracted by underwater lighting, bringing manta rays in their wake. You can get really close to these magnificent aquatic creatures, so much so that you may even have to duck out of their way.
On Maui, Molokini Crater is famed for both wall and shark diving. The crescent shaped volcanic crater forms a barrier between the strong currents and waves of the Hawaiian Islands, although stronger, more experienced divers do drift dive from the sheer drop of the outer wall.
Inside the crater is a colourful reef with very good visibility, especially in the early morning. During the winter, you can also take whale watching trips. Whales aside, there are more than 250 species of tropical fish at Molokini and they come in a kaleidoscope of colours, from red pencil urchins or yellow tang to bluefin trevally or black triggerfish.
Where to scuba dive in Europe
Europe may not be as renowned for dive sites as more far flung destinations, but the continent actually boasts some real beauties.
Zenobia is the site of a roll on, roll off car ferry wreckage from the vessel that sank just outside Larnaca Harbour in 1980 on her maiden voyage. It is a large area that requires several dives to do it justice, and is often said to be one of the most dramatic wreck diving sites in the whole world. No human lives were lost in the disaster, but animal bones from the creatures on board can be seen on one of the car decks.
This site has something for all kinds of diver – there are simple, shallow dives for beginners, while more intrepid scuba divers can undertake some more adventurous dives if they so wish.
Ċirkewwa is the site of two wrecks, namely the Rozi tugboat and the P29 patrol boat. The latter can be seen during a shore dive, while the former is located on the seabed at a depth of around 35 metres. Both boats were deliberately sunk in 1992 and 2007 respectively – as tourist attractions. The wrecks can be seen from glass bottomed boat trips as well as by scuba divers. Fish are attracted by the fact that tourists feed them, so there is plenty to see.
Chios island, Greece
Chios is located in the Aegean Sea, just four miles from the Turkish coast, and is Greek’s fifth largest island. The region is particularly popular with divers between April and June or September to October, and around the island you can dive to small wrecks as well as seeing a variety of caves, reefs and marine life.