The 10 most exotic scuba diving destinations in the world

There’s nothing quite like the scuba dive – you glide downward into what just might as well be another world, and in many ways is. You see things that are impossible anywhere else. It’s a passion that has to be lived to be fully understood. Here’s a look at 10 of the top places in the world to dive, with a look at some specific dives and general locations.

Sipadan

Home to several outstanding dive sites, Sipadan Island is on every diver’s bucket list. Barracuda Point is one of the best, where you can see thousands of the streaking predators streaking by. Pelagic fish and reef sharks are plentiful as well. The Hanging Gardens is another world-famous Sipadan dive, as is the cave area known as Turtle Cavern. Sipadan is the only oceanic island in Malaysia, and it stands out as one of the most complete dive destinations on the planet and a must see.

1-Sipadan

Belize

With a coral reef second in size only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the diving off this small Central American country is bountiful. Ambergris Caye is near a cut in the reef that is full of outstanding specimens of marine life and coral colors. The Blue Hole is just that – hole in the reef areas that has spectacular formations and is a good site for spotting good-sized bull sharks in their natural habitat.

2-Belize

Silfra Canyon

This is the only freshwater dive on the list. Descend down between the continents, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are separating – at a rate of about 2cm a year. The water is just above freezing and comes from glaciers, seeping into Thingvellir Lake after hundreds of years spent passing through lava rock. You can’t find better clarity and the underground formations will dazzle.

3-Silfra

Red Sea

The Egyptian Red Sea offers an amazing diversity of colorful marine life all along the coast with several spectacular dive sites. Butterfly fish, rays, angelfish, excellent coral, and intricate rock formations are easily explored. From the northeastern coast of the Red Sea down through Sharm el Sheik and down toward Sudan, the region is relatively uncrowded, with lots of great diving.

4-Red Sea

The SS Yongala Wreck

Sunk in 1911 off the coast of Australia, the site in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is haven for all manner of marine life. It’s the largest – and most intact – shipwreck in Australian waters. It just might be the best wreck dive in the world, with such an incredible array of things to see that you will want to dive it again and again.

5 - SS Yongola

Grand Cayman

This is a great dive area for persons looking for a wide variety of experience. Dives for all levels of expertise are available and there is something to challenge everyone. Exceptional wall dives, the world-famous Stingray City, some interesting shipwreck sites, and abundant sea turtles can be seen and enjoyed.

6- Grand Cayman

Richelieu Rock

Considered Thailand’s best dive site, it’s a top site for seeing big pelagic fish. It’s one of the most likely spots in the world to see whale sharks in their natural habitat. Constantly changing strong currents can make it somewhat challenging, so it’s advisable to use a guide. It’s an exposed location with no moorings, so weather can sometimes be an issue.

Corals on Richelieu Rock, Thailand

Cozumel

Go south to the reef areas outside of the busy spots frequented by cruise ship passengers and slip down into a wonderful marine world with colorful tropical fish, shy but menacing looking eels, wall dives, and coral tunnels. There are shallow reef dives with calm water and nearby deeper excursions with currents for fun drift dives and much to see.

8- Cozumel

Rocktail Bay

Found off Kwazulu Natal in the Maputaland Marine Reserve on the Indian Ocean coast of South Africa, it is a bit off the beaten path – but well worth getting there. The diversity of fish life you will see once you get in the water will tell you as much. It’s an important breeding site for loggerhead and leatherback turtles and the waters are frequented by whale sharks and humpback whales cruising the waters.

9- Rocktail Bay

Rangiroa

The name means “long sky,” and as Rangiroa is the second longest atoll in the world, you can understand why. What is called “shooting the pass” between the ocean and lagoon when the tides turn has been called a great adrenaline rush, but it’s the marine life that is the ultimate draw. Surrounded by all manner of fish, you rush through the inlets, water swirling around you. Venture out to the drop-off walls and see sharks, rays, and more.

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Hopefully, the incredible dive sites listed above will inspire you to explore the underwater world. If you are an expert or a beginner, the sheer number of great experiences out there enticing you to dive get the excitement building. Diving brings an extra dimension to the lives of those who enjoy it that once you do it, you realize it is a dream fulfilled.

Pierre Fortier is General Manager for Palmex International.

Comments (14)

  1. AJ says:

    Come find the “hidden gem” island they also call “Tahiti of the Caribbean”, St.Vincent. A perfect mix of old & new. No crowds or big resorts. Thriving reefs & maybe the longest stretch of elk horn coral in the world. Migratory route for whales and breeding grounds for hawksbill turtles. Rain-forests,waterfalls and hidden exotic beaches. Comfortable, affordable, luxury, come find St.Vincent before everyone else does.

  2. Simon Lee says:

    Good to see that my home country is featured in ALTB again, now it is about underwater:)

    In the close proximity to Sipadan, Mabul Island and Mataking Island are both spectacular for muck diving. For visitors who are looking for a luxury retreat, Kapalai island located within the same vicinity is the best island to enjoy.

    Thanks again.

    Simon

  3. António says:

    Who made this article unfortunately for sure don’t know the Azores islands and of course I will say anything about by this way. So welcome to Azores and discover the best place in the world for scuba diving. Be my guest.

  4. There are many other diving destinations that deserve a spot on your list, but I agree that your 10 are the top ones. I’ve never done on all of them (I’ve been to 7 of 10) but my friends did and they said that they are beautiful.

  5. Coetzer says:

    Then there is also that little island (almost 2000) country of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean……

  6. Lake Silfra in Iceland is memorable too, the clearest visibility I’d seen. Rangiroa has long been on my list! Been hearing great things about the shark pass.

  7. I agree with Coetzer – Maldives definitely has to be on that list. Sipadan is great, but its only 1 Island, I wouldn’t classify it as its own destination, since more than often you would be diving only 2 or 3 out of 7 days on average on Sipadan itself, the rest of the time you would be diving on ‘Mabul’ Island due to the permit issue.
    Also, I agree with Holy – Sifra lake in Iceland is a great location as well. Very unorthodox but stunning.

  8. Henry says:

    I’ve been 3 out of 10. They are beautiful, but you need to check Raja Ampat, indonesia, I believe it’s one of the best spot diving in the world.

  9. Jason Lewis says:

    Hi,
    The list is good. But I don’t think it’s the perfect list. Because I went to St Thomas for scuba diving and believe me that place was an exotic one.

  10. Mary Smith says:

    Hi this is mary. i loved the blue hole. But sharks bAD. There are many sharks there. there is a lot of water. thanks for making this site. it is easy to finsd info on what i need. Byeee

  11. Randy Bonds says:

    Glad to see that Cozumel made the list. By far my favorite place to dive for many reasons. A must while there is diving a cenote in the region as well. Awesome!

  12. Harriet says:

    Nosy Be, Madagascar really ought to be on this list too. Unspoilt and mostly undiscovered. New sites and experiences for even the most well travelled divers.

  13. Jill Golding says:

    You left out Mozambique, in particular, Tofu Beach in Inhambane Province where there is a hotspot for megafauna, namely whale sharks, giant mantas and humpback whales May to September. A very special place and unforgettable experience!

  14. Dominic Evans says:

    Cenote diving is the most unique and magical diving experience in the world.

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