Best Scuba Diving In The World: 13 Spots In Asia
Asia has some of the most gorgeous locations you’ll ever see. In a way, it makes sense—being the largest continent, it has the largest capacity for hosting a variety of places (in a variety of climates) that are pleasing to the eye.
However, all of the places listed below are so breathtakingly beautiful that they defy logic.
Life underwater is a world all its own, and this sense can easily be enhanced by traveling to exotic locations you’ve never seen before and may never see again.
In such an instance, your new world becomes twofold, providing wonderful opportunities for meaningful experience and growth.
From India to Indonesia, Thailand to the Philippines, there are so many great places to dive that you may find yourself overwhelmed with options.
Below is a list of 13 places you definitely want to hit for scuba diving before you die.
1. Tubbataha Reef, The Philippines
Covering almost 400 miles, Tubbataha Reef is a Marine Protected Area that features two coral atolls and Jessie Beazley Reef just north of them.
Conservation efforts keep the area as pristine as it was in the past. Its distance from settled land kept it in isolation for years, until motorboats enabled fishermen to access the area.
Now it’s a favorite location for divers and biologists who study the hundreds of types of fish, corals, birds, and other rare animals that populate the area.
Being within the Coral Triangle not only gives Tubbataha Reef an exceptional amount of diversity but also a notable amount of resistance to climate change.
If you want to focus most of your wildlife study in one place, Tubbataha Reef is ideal since it offers roughly half of all types of coral in the world.
Visibility during dive season is 30 to 45 meters.
Dive season only lasts three months long (March to June), so anybody heading there should plan accordingly.
The location is ideal for beginners as well as advanced divers, since dive courses are offered by some of the commercial dive boat operators.
Tubbataha Reef is one of the most beautiful, fascinating, and significant places in the world for divers or anybody who appreciates a high concentration of oceanic wildlife.
2. Carl’s Ultimate, Papua New Guinea
Named after the first African American and amputee to become a Navy Master Diver, Carl Brashear, Carl’s Ultimate in Papua New Guinea is a location that Brashear discovered in the northeastern entrance to Eastern Fields.
Boasting 400 square miles, this dive site is as beautiful as it is mysterious, with much of it unexplored.
The closest settlement is Port Moresby, which is 90 nautical miles away.
Carl’s Ultimate offers bounteous oceanic wildlife, the highest concentrated diversity found anywhere in Eastern Fields. Notable species include pygmy seahorses, Phyllodesmium nudibranches, and Rhinopias, and families include parrotfish, angelfish, wrasses, and barracuda according to one diver’s account.
Although Carl’s Ultimate is a wonderful dive site with much to offer, it isn’t best suited for beginning divers because of its strong currents.
But even if you are a newbie, just view the currents as something to look forward to, since they offer the biggest burst of ocean life you’ll ever see in the area—possibly anywhere.
It may take you a while to work up to this dive site’s challenges, but once you do, it will be completely worth it.
3. Raja Ampat Islands, Indonesia
Raja means “King” in Hindi, so you know this place means business.
Like Tubbataha Reef, the Raja Ampat Islands are in the Coral Triangle, which means lots of biodiversity in its waters.
The area is resistant to climate change and other threats to marine life, and it is the superhero of all coral reefs because its currents send coral larvae to other places where corals are dying off due to bleaching and other diseases.
This makes it just as important to environmentalists and conservationists as it is to divers, and divers can be happy that they can dive in a variety of areas with an abundance of healthy coral reefs thanks to the healing power of Raja Ampat Islands.
Offering a grand total of 537 coral species, three quarters of all currently discovered coral species in the world, the Raja Ampat Islands contain the highest marine biodiversity on the planet.
There are thousands of other species as well, running the gamut from plants to birds to fish. Because the location is so large and so diverse, divers can spend a lot of time there and still never see everything there is to see.
This makes each dive a unique, thrilling experience, perfect for divers who prefer novelty over habit.
4. Lovina Beach, Bali
With diving courses available, Lovina Beach is a great location for beginning divers who want a fresh, gorgeous locale.
Lovina Dive staff members oversee your dives, keeping you safe while you enjoy the vast sampling of marine life that is native to the area.
Some of the things you’ll see include turtles, fish, sharks, dolphins, manta rays, and, of course, many types of coral reefs. There are also some shipwrecks in the area that you can explore.
Dive sites include Tulamben U.S.S. Liberty Shipwreck, Menjangan Island National Marine Park, Lovina Reef, Amed, and Secret Bay—which is on top of volcanic sand rather than coral reef.
If you’re a little more advanced and would like to do things on your own, you can swim out to Lovina Reef from Secret Bay (the black sand beach) or pay a boatman to take you out there.
Clown fish and sea cucumbers are just two of the species you’ll encounter. Best of all: Lovina Beach—and Lovina Reef in particular—is a lesser-known location and isn’t jammed with tourists.
On an especially slow day, it’s almost like having the entire reef to yourself—excepting, of course, thousands of fish.
But they barely count, since you don’t need to weather awkward small talk with them.
5. Kerama Islands, Japan
These 20 islands provide myriad dive sites.
Some have low currents and others have high currents, so the Kerama Islands are ideal for any diver no matter his/her skill level.
As long as you choose a site in accordance with your experience level, you are guaranteed to have a fun, safe time diving here.
Sea fans, reef fish, and nudibranchs give the area a burst of color, while sharks and manta rays make things interesting.
The Kerama Islands also offers 5 different species of turtles and, during the spring, humpback whales.
In addition, visibility is usually 30 meters or greater.
Although Kerama Islands has many good points, its greatest point is perhaps the area’s lack of development.
No big resorts populate the area, and nothing disturbs the diving conditions of the water. This keeps the marine life and visibility essentially the same as it has been for centuries.
And thanks to shallow depths, most parts of the Kerama Islands are friendly for divers of all experience levels.
This location is said to be one of the most peaceful, low-key environments out there thanks to shallow dive depths and fairly smooth terrain.
Night dives are especially ideal for those looking to unwind.
6. Similan Islands, Thailand
The Similan Islands comprise a national park, and dive conditions there are great throughout the year.
That said, monsoons push all diving trips between November and May.
Boasting many dive sites (including Elephant Head and Christmas Point), and the best marine diversity in Thailand and some of the best in the world, the Similan Islands give divers a lot to experience in a small amount of time, and mild currents make the area approachable for beginning divers.
More advanced divers can tackle the deeper and rockier dive sites. No matter how many times you dive, you’ll never get bored with the variety of leopard sharks, batfish, barracudas, surgeonfish, and unicornfish, among other sea animals.
With the best that Thailand has to offer, the Similan Islands is a great choice for all sorts of divers who are looking for an experience that differs with every dive.
The area is becoming increasingly popular with plenty of people flocking to the islands between December and March, the high season.
Divers who want the full experience should consider participating in liveaboard trips to sample all of the significant areas in the region.
Make the most of your dives by heading to the Similan Islands, which feature a beautiful locale and more oceanic wildlife than you’ll know what to do with.
7. Mergui Archipelago, The Best Of Myanmar
If nothing else, check out Mergui Archipelago for its unique limerock terrain.
Or you can take advantage of being in a tiny country where most other people have never been (and may not have ever heard of).
Either way, Mergui Archipelago is definitely a dive location that should be on your bucket list.
Shallow depths are dominated by reefs and reef fish in a splash of fun colors, and 10- to 40-meter visibility provides a vast visual experience underwater.
Dive season is November though April, so divers can go during their downtime from the December-March season for some (relatively) nearby Thailand locations.
There’s a lot more room for study and new discoveries are abundant in the area, making it a great spot for adventurous divers to take part in the exploration.
There are over 800 islands, so you should get started now if you want to see most of the archipelago’s marine life for yourself.
Better yet, you might not even run into any tourists: the only people who live there are sea gypsies.
Those interested in Mergui Archipelago diving should go as soon as possible, since blast fishing poses a great threat to the habitat—and right now, Myanmar isn’t doing a lot about it.
The sound of bombs going off may disrupt your peace of mind when diving there, but you should go while you can still experience Mergui Archipelago in a relatively natural state.
Although it’s too soon to tell what the outcome will be, it won’t be good if blast fishing doesn’t stop.
8. Andaman Islands, India
There are no busy resorts in India’s Andaman Islands—just plain nature.
Divers are greeted with a mix of hard and soft coral and lots of marine life with no pollution or other human-sourced environmental issues to curb it.
One of the least-explored places in the world, the Andaman Islands are as untouched by humans as you’ll ever get.
This area isn’t for the faint of heart, although experienced divers may embrace the challenge of making their own discoveries.
Any diver who travels here is truly an intrepid pioneer, so once you make that decision give yourself a pat on the back.
You’re about to get into areas where—potentially—no man has gone before.
So boldly go, and don’t worry about split infinitives—explorers don’t need to tussle with grammar!
Some of the Andaman Islands’ best features include a live volcano, swimming elephants, and, as mentioned above, thousands of miles of unexplored land.
The only known Paleolithic hunter-gatherer tribe remaining—the Sentinelese—lives here on North Sentinel Island.
If nothing else proves the unmarked nature of the Andaman Islands, that fact surely does. Declared a World Heritage Site in 2002, the Andaman Islands continue to inspire many from afar.
Be one of the rare people who bridges the gap, visiting what must be the most undefiled location on Earth. And be sure to bring your explorational spirit, since you’ll need it in bucket loads.
9. Big Mushroom, Taiwan
If you go to Big Mushroom thinking it looks the way it sounds, you will not be disappointed.
Located off Green Island, Big Mushroom might actually be the most aptly named location in the world—or at least one of them.
Coral grows in a “stem” 12 meters high into a “cap” 30 meters long. Not only is the “mushroom” huge (as can be gathered from the name), but it is also remarkably resilient.
Two submarines have crashed into it, and the coral survived and started growing in the indents.
Some estimate the structure to be a millennium old, and divers would be wise to visit before a third submarine crashes into it.
It’ll probably survive since it’s survived twice before, but they say the third time’s the charm, so you never know.
The relatively shallow depth and low current make this a great location for novice divers as well as experienced ones.
Bring your underwater camera if you have one, since visibility exceeds 30 meters at Big Mushroom.
The location is also very accessible, as Green Island is accustomed to accommodating tourists.
And don’t neglect to check out Green Island on the way to Big Mushroom, since Green Island is itself a coral cay that is 6,000 years old and contains both a reef and a rainforest environment.
10. Busselton Jetty, Australia
Australia may be its own continent, but the waters surrounding it belong to the Asia-Pacific region.
Named after a jetty in the Australian town of Busselton (quite aptly), Busselton Jetty is a hub of bustling oceanic wildlife.
Busselton Jetty is a great place for all divers, but it is especially ideal for beginners because there are no currents, diving courses are offered, and dives can be supervised through a dive tour program.
In addition, the maximum depth is ten meters, making it a safe place to learn the basics of diving if you’re a complete beginner.
Uniquely, Busselton Jetty also offers an Undersea Walk that requires no diving experience. It’s incredibly accessible, being a favorite with tourists, and it is available all year for divers.
Some of the living things you’ll see are starfish, clingfish, and sometimes jewfish. Visibility ranges from 12 to 18 meters.
And if you like night dives, Busselton Jetty is a very good place for them.
For those who like to kill two birds with one stone, it’s good to note that the dive site isn’t the only significant constituent of this location.
The actual jetty is over a mile long and the second longest jetty in the hemisphere. It’s worth taking a look at if you’re as comfortable above water as you are below.
11. The Rainbow Warrior, New Zealand
Divers can unleash their inner hippie to appreciate the wreckage of the Rainbow Warrior, a Greenpeace ship that was bombed by French Secret Service, although they certainly don’t need to to be able to do so.
Photographer Fernando Pereira drowned with the ship, and the two agents responsible for the sinking were charged with manslaughter.
If you’re a deep thinker, adding politics or environmental philosophy to your dive along with the Rainbow Warrior’s context could be just the thing for you.
Knowing that that boat was sunk, then reassembled for investigative purposes, then deliberately re-sunk to create an artificial reef for marine life—along with other important details of the sinking—could dramatically impact your dive to the wreckage.
Rainbow Warrior’s history makes it one of the most emotionally rich dive sites in the world.
And even if you just prefer to dive without such issues in mind, the colorful sea life can quickly make you forget about any political agenda.
The shallow 22-meter depth may just be Rainbow Warrior’s best feature, since you can stay down as long as you want.
12. Cannibal Rock, Indonesia
Don’t worry—there’s no association (or risk) of human cannibalism with this site.
The cannibalism in the name refers to one Komodo dragon that was seen eating another near the site.
No need to be alarmed about dragons either, since a Komodo dragon is actually a lizard—albeit the largest lizard in the world, so you may mistake it for a small dragon if you see one.
Located off World Heritage Site Komono Island, Cannibal Rock boasts a variety of sweetlips, fusiliers, stingrays, eagle rays, pygmy seahorses, clown frogfish, featherstars, and black snappers among other living things.
You’ll also see large anemones and sea apples (which are animals rather than plants, despite the name).
With an average depth of 20 feet and a maximum depth of 40 feet, Cannibal Rock offers a diverse array of oceanic wildlife at both shallow and deep levels.
On the best days, visibility reaches 25 meters. Cannibal Rock is a wonderful place to explore colorful anemones and reefs and all sorts of wildlife.
Also, the story behind it makes it a cool place to go in general.
13. Cod Hole, Australia
Probably the most famous of all dive sites, Cod Hole lies on the Great Barrier Reef and is named after the gargantuan potato cod that inhabit the dive site.
Some of the largest fish you’ll ever see, potato cod can weigh over 60 pounds.
Adding to the spectacle, the potato cod seem to enjoy posing for the underwater camera and actually approach divers because they are so used to seeing them!
Potato cod aren’t the only giants that inhabit Cod Hole, though: abnormally large clams can be seen there quite often, as well.
Other prevalent types of fish include wrasse, red bass, and emperor.
Cod Hole offers the best of both worlds with a remote location (that makes for great dive conditions) but easy access due to longstanding popularity.
It’s best for intermediate divers.
Divers looking for a surreal experience will often find it at Cod Hole.
If the mammoth fish don’t do it for you, then the varied, colorful wildlife should.
You’re all but guaranteed to see them, too, since the fish are fed on a regular basis by dive guides.
Although Cod Hole is very popular, it isn’t overrated, and it should be on everybody’s list of goal dive locations.
What do you think about this article and what are your favorite dive sites in Asia? Please feel free to leave a comment below this post. Please go on and share it with divers and friends all over the world.
See you out there.