Best Places In The World To Go Scuba Diving
As with any “best” list, you can ask ten scuba divers where you can experience the ultimate diving in the world, and they could give you ten different answers. That’s the great thing about scuba diving – every experience is different and unique to that person. A diver could see the most amazing manta rays in Fiji; another counts swimming with hammerhead sharks in the Bahamas; and a third enjoy swimming with dolphins in Mexico.
But this list is a good place to start exploring some of the world’s best marine life.
Hundreds of humpback whales travel up the coast from Durban to Mozambique from July to October to mate and calve in the Indian Ocean. The coastal town of Tofo, also known for its population of whale sharks, is a great home base where you can snorkel and dive with the whales as well as the myriad other marine life that call the area home. Or you can catch them during the infamous and epic sardine run off the coast of South Africa.
“If you are looking for the ultimate land and sea safari then South Africa is the perfect place for you,” said Julie Andersen, Global Director, Brand for PADI Worldwide. “March is an incredible time to encounter South Africa’s most amazing creatures with great weather and ideal sea conditions in both Cape Town and Durban.”
Head south to Cape Town to dive with Hout Bay’s playful fur seals, who hide among the seaweed. Or join a cage diving expedition to swim with great white sharks in the shark capital of the world. “While the great white sharks get all the attention, you’ll be absolutely amazed by the over 100 other shark species, many of which are only found in South African waters,” says Andersen. “I especially love the antics of the Pajama Shy Sharks in the Oxtang Woods.”
The Bahamas is home to some of the most spectacular megafauna in the world. “We love the Trifecta—Bimini, Grand Bahamas, and Tiger Beach,” says Andersen.
Plan a trip to Bimini to catch up with bull sharks, hammerhead sharks, friendly pods of dolphins and graceful schools of eagle rays. You will feel like you are on an island that is not yet heavily developed commercially and is traversed by golf carts. Bimini can be explored by divers and snorkelers alike – and is absolutely stunning above and below the surface. Head to nearby Honeymoon Beach to swim with the local pod of rays and don’t miss some of the wrecks, which have been sunk as artificial reefs and are always home to large schools of colorful fish.
Grand Bahamas offers a larger island vibe with incredible shark dives, beautiful coral structures, turtles by the dozen, and plenty of reef fish. It also features a freshwater cave and a cave system that is still being explored.
Depart from Bimini or Grand Bahamas for the world’s most spectacular tiger shark gatherings. Tiger Beach offers the opportunity to participate in some of the largest shark dives in the world. You will not only encounter tiger sharks, but also lemon sharks, the occasional hammerhead shark and many whitetip reef sharks in crystal clear azure waters that only an aquarium can surpass in terms of visibility.
The Bahamas is a paragon of shark conservation, with incredible research in the area. “Like the fact that scientists at the Shark Lab discovered this summer that sharks form lifelong bonds and have complex social structures — they’re literally the opposite of mindless predators,” says Andresen. “In addition, the Bahamas created the first shark sanctuary in the Atlantic Ocean, with over 40 species of sharks now living in this sanctuary. Ultimately, this has helped shark tourism in the Bahamas contribute $100 million to the economy each year — and thanks to a healthy ecosystem teeming with apex predators, the clam and lobster industry has also thrived. You can dive in the shark diving capital of the world while donating your tourism dollars to a country that is a leader in marine conservation.
Dive sites in Galapagos are generally volcanic in origin with a few corals scattered here and there. Channels around the islands feature strong currents that function like pelagic highways. “Because the best dive sites in the Galapagos are far away (as in the case of the Wolf and Darwin Islands) or scattered, joining a liveaboard is the best way to fully experience the archipelago,” says Andersen. “There is literally no more spectacular underwater location than the remote islands of Darwin and Wolf in the Galapagos. And you can only get there by boat.”
At the very edge of the archipelago, Darwin Island and its famous dive site, Darwin’s Arch, is the highlight of any liveaboard in the Galapagos. Manta rays, sea turtles, dolphins, eagle rays and the occasional whale shark delight divers with their presence. The real eye-catcher are the many sharks that are washed up by the strong current. You are likely to see schools of hammerhead, silky, black tip and Galapagos sharks.
“The Ecuadorian government has established more than 60,000 kilometers of new marine protected areas in the Galapagos,” says Andersen. “Furthermore, four Latin American countries have joined forces to ban all industrial fishing between Mapelo, Galapagos and Cocos – providing an additional 500,000 square kilometers of protected waters for the hammerheads, turtles, tuna and manta rays that frequent these waters.” A trip here in 2022 not only supports the country’s ecotourism efforts, but also helps expand the protection of this World Heritage site.”
If you dream of magical manta encounters and being surrounded by schools of hammerheads while an orca buzzes around you, then the Revillagigedo Islands are perfect for you. “The island, affectionately known as Mexico’s Galapagos, is a diver’s paradise and a UNESCO World Heritage Site,” says Andersen. “When you stop by Roca Partida, you often have to choose between swimming with a school of giant tuna, being surrounded by Galapagos and silky sharks, or encountering a whale shark. You can literally choose your own adventure.”
Sail on a liveaboard to the island chain’s most famous, Socorro, and dive with manta rays, bottlenose dolphins and even the occasional humpback whale.
“Of the 333 islands that make up Fiji, Beqa Lagoon off the coast of Vitu Levu in Fiji offers a shark paradise where you can see bull sharks, white tip reef sharks, black tip reef sharks, nurse sharks and even tiger sharks in just one dive . says Anderson. Plus, these massive shark gatherings take place amid the vibrant hues of healthy coral.
Known for its vast array of marine species, Fiji is the “soft coral” capital of the world. “From pristine reefs first explored by Jacques Cousteau to areas yet to be discovered, you will be amazed by the incredible colors of the swaying corals and the visits of blue ribbon eels, manta rays, schools of bumphead parrotfish and even pilot whales be excited,” says Andersen.