1. Komodo Islands – Indonesia
Rugged, wild and packed with the promise of adventure – Komodo is one of Indonesia’s most famous diving destinations. Manta rays, sharks, immense schools of fish and colourful reefs are just few of the stars of Komodo. While Komodo is a popular liveaboard destination, staying on land in Labuan Bajo offers amazing sunsets night after night and increasing facilities for visitors.
The area is well known for its strong currents and is often recommended for divers with experience.
Komodo is relatively remote but if you want an adventure and incredible diving it should be at the top of your bucket list. Expect to find an array of dive sits perfectly suited for drift diving. Water temperature can be chilly, sometimes dipping below 77°F (25°C), so bring extra layers of neoprene or a hood on top of a basic 3mm suit to stay warm. It is possible to dive year round due to the dry weather.
The north area of Komodo National Park is a good place for shark spotting at underwater seamounts. Visibility is usually quite good at 66-100ft (20-30m) and if the current is strong enough, a reef hook will come in handy, allowing you to relax and take in the action. This is also an area for exhilarating drift dives as there are several channels in-between the many islands with swift currents.
One of the most interesting dive sites is Makassar Reef. This is a 1.2mile (2km) channel with a unique seascape featuring craters and dunes of small rocks which have been shaped by currents. It is often said that it looks like the surface of the moon. For macro lovers, Komodo National Park has plenty to offer as well. Sheltered dive sites boast a myriad critters hiding amongst slopes and walls of healthy hard and soft corals.
2. Similan and Surin Islands – Thailand
The best way to dive in The Similan Islands is from a liveaboard boat. The majority of trips leave from Khao Lak, but there are departures from Ranong and Phuket too. The recommended length is a four-day four-night trip, but there are shorter options available. If time is your enemy then from Khao Lak 1 day, two days and three days trips are available.
The diving is rich and plentiful with larger pelagics being regularly seen between February and April. Current does exist and while novice divers are welcome most operators would like to see an advanced certification or require that you book to take the course aboard. Sites vary from towering boulder city-like-scapes to soft coral reefs pulsating with life. The visibility is usually excellent and the abundance and variety of marine life hard to overstate.
The big ticket draw here is the chance to see manta rays and whale sharks which is most likely to occur between February and April. Don’t let that stop you coming at other times, though. There are plenty of colourful reef fish to dazzle you along with giant barracuda, jackfish, batfish, snapper, fusiliers and so much more. Camouflage critters include scorpionfish, stonefish and octopus. Cuttlefish scoot around and put on a colour display. Lionfish menacingly float around, and a range of morays seem to threaten from their holes. Pipefish, seahorse, shrimp, nudibranch and other quirky macro delights wait to please.
3. Koh Tao – Thailand
The beautiful island of Koh Tao forms part of the Chumphon Archipelago on the western shore of the gulf of Thailand. This idyllic island is a tropical paradise with white sand beaches fringed with palm trees, rugged cliffs and stunning sunsets. Koh Tao’s underwater scenery is just as spectacular with coral encrusted rock pinnacles, vibrant reefs and some great shipwrecks. Koh Tao offers the opportunity to see passing pelagics including whale sharks and spotted eagle rays. When you’re not looking out to the blue you’ll be mesmerized by the plethora of colourful reef fish all around you.
4. Bali – Indonesia
5. Perhentian Islands – Malaysia
- Raja Ampat – Indonesia
- Sipandan – Malaysian Borneo
- Pulau Bunaken – Indonesia
- Togean Islands – Indonesia