The 10 Best Scuba Diving Locations in the World

There is no better way to explore the underwater world of marine animals, shipwrecks, fascinating coral towers, limestone formations and schools of colorful fish than scuba diving. Whether you are a beginner or an expert with decades of experience, the amazing underwater world you can discover around the planet is absolutely mind-blowing. From hammerhead sharks to manta rays to ancient cenotes; these 10 locations around the world are the best of the best.

10. Cozumel, Mexico

Divers will certainly have their choice of dive operators on this island as there are more than 100 offering everything from deep dives, wreck dives, night dives, and underwater photography dives. This world-class diving site offers everything from swim throughs to tunnels to walls of coral to cenotes to sharks to rays. It is best to dive here in the summer when the water temperature is warmer and the hotel prices are cheaper. Cozumel is also known for its incredible visibility and deep dives. Divers can expect up to 100 feet of visibility. There are plenty of dives both for the beginner and advanced but visitors should be aware that the current can be especially strong in some sites and diving experience is recommend for these. With the 600-mile long Maya Reef that stretches from Cozumel to Central America, and boasts an abundance of colorful fish and coral, it is easy to see why Cozumel is a premier diving spot.

Cozumel, Mexico

9. Hawaii, U.S.A

This Pacific paradise attracts divers from all over the world, both beginners and experienced. The remoteness of Hawaii means fewer fish species than waters like the Caribbean, but offers the chance to discover marine life found nowhere else on earth. One of the most popular dives in the world occurs off the island of Kona, the manta ray night dive. Divers descend into the darkness while giant manta rays swim overhead, most describe it is as truly magical. Diving off Lana’I is popular amongst those looking to discover new fish and rare invertebrates while Moloka’i offers divers the chance to catch a glimpse of the rare Hawaiian monk seal and hammerhead sharks. Kaua’i is home to an abundance of collapsed lava tubes and huge green sea turtles that aren’t afraid to get their pictures taken. Divers who are in the water from December to April may be able to hear the song of the humpback whales as they migrate through these waters.

Kauai Sea Turtle

8. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef is so large that one can actually see it from space and has been known over the years for being one of the world’s most premier diving spots. It stretches 1,430 miles along Australia’s northeastern coast and offers over 4,000 separate reefs, cays and islands. It could truly take more than a lifetime to explore this entire reef which features over 1,500 species of fish and shipwrecks. It is the world’s largest and healthiest coral reef system that teams with biodiversity and an array of species you won’t find anywhere else. Divers here will come face to face with large sea turtles, reef sharks, sea snakes, barracudas and dolphins. The size and variety of this reef makes it perfect for any type of diver and visitors won’t be hard pressed to find an operator in one of the many seaside towns.

Great Barrier Reef

7. The French Polynesian Islands

It has long been known as a destination for honeymooners and other species of lovebirds, but besides the gorgeous white sand beaches over the water bungalows and framed palm trees lays a world to discover under the water. There are over 118 islands and atolls throughout this vast area and with 11 of them offering diving centers; it is easy to be overwhelmed with choices on where to dive. Fortunately there is an array of varied dives, from the shallow lagoons for beginners to the drop-offs and passes for the advanced divers. Moorea Island is also known as ‘Shark World’ and is famous for its hand-fed shark and stingray dives. The atoll Rangiroa is also known for both its calm lagoon that teems with marine life and it’s thrilling passes that feature sharks, big fish species and turtles. These waters explode with colorful coral, fish, sharks and other marine species that proudly show themselves off. No matter where you dive, this promises to be unforgettable.

Diving French Polynesia

6. Roatan and The Bay Islands, Honduras

This popular diving spot has been attracting divers for decades as it feature amazing shipwrecks and endless colorful coral. It is here that the world’s second largest barrier reef is located and divers will be privy to swimming with eagle rays, schools of colorful fish and the all mighty whale sharks. Utila is where divers will head if they want to swim with these majestic creatures and it is one of the only places year round that the whale sharks can be seen. This destination is inclusive for all levels of divers and whether you are just getting your feet wet, or you have been diving for years, there is an experience here for you unlike anywhere else in the world.

Whale Sharks -Honduras

5. Malaysia

It is blessed with some of the richest waters and diving here offers experiences unlike any other in the world. Sipadan, the little island off the east coast of Borneo is what most divers come to experience. It lies in one of the richest marine habitats in the world and boasts an extremely high number of turtles, grey and whitetip reef sharks, and large schools of bumphead parrotfish, barracuda and trevally. Layang-Layang is another reason to dive in these waters as this little speck of an atoll is fringed by some of the best coral fields in the world along with its huge schools of scalloped hammerhead sharks. Where you want to dive and what you want to see will determine the best time of year to visit these waters as different seasons bring different water conditions.

Diving in Sipadan

4. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

It is where Charles Darwin came up with his theory of evolution, a place where countless mammals, reptiles and birds thrive and its waters are some of the most pristine areas left to dive in this world. These waters work best for experienced divers as currents are strong and conditions are often choppy. The tiny Darwin Island is an excellent choice for divers as the waters are full of fur seals, sea lions, whales, marine turtles, marine iguanas and schools of sharks. Isabela Island, the largest island in the Galapagos is home to penguins that shoot by you, sea lions, sea turtles, and a challenging underwater volcano that is swarming with Galapagos sharks, along with schools of hammerheads and barracudas. July to November is when divers choose to head here as the sharks tend to be the most active and plentiful. These waters deserve at least two weeks to explore and promise to surprise you at every twist and turn.

Diving Galapgos Islands

3. Turks and Caicos

It boasts some of the clearest water in the world and with so many islands that are uninhabited; it makes for a perfect place to escape the crowds of the Caribbean. Turks and Caicos is not only known for its brilliant turquoise water but also for its incredible wall diving. It is here you will dive into the world’s third largest coral reef system and find drops that plunge hundreds of feet into the deep. The Columbus Passage, a 35-kilometer channel that separates the Turks Islands from the Caicos Islands is a water highway for migrating fish, rays, turtles, dolphins and Humpback whales from January through March. With incredibly calm waters and an abundance of marine life, every dive here promises to be thrilling.

Turks and Caicos

2. Belize

Belize is most widely known for its famous dive spot the Blue Hole, an underwater sinkhole that descends over 400 feet. To dive the Blue Hole it is recommend that you are an experienced diver and you are well prepared for this magical experience. The Blue Hole doesn’t teem with colorful fish or coral; in fact the only marine life you might see deep in the depths of this hole is a hammerhead or reef shark. Instead you will dive into an ancient geographical phenomena complete with an array of limestone formations and bizarre stalactites. If you want colorful fish and coral, Belize offers plenty of that along the reef and is home to many species of sharks, rays, barracudas and many species of fish. Belize is known as a destination for the more adventurous divers and you will certainly benefit if you have some experience under your belt before you travel to this country.

Pete Niesen / Shutterstock.com
Pete Niesen / Shutterstock.com

1. The Red Sea, Egypt

For many people, Egypt is known for its incredible above the water attractions and although one should not discount the ancient monuments and pyramids, it is below the water that is the real jewel of the country. Divers here are privy to hundreds of miles of coral, millions of fish, warm water, great visibility, sheltered reefs, walls, coral gardens and wrecks. This destination is also known for having an excellent availability of instructors which makes the Red Sea a perfect spot for learning how to dive. Drift dives are quite common in the Red Sea due to currents as are night dives amongst towering coral and schools of fish. Whale sharks, moray eels, barracudas and tuna are all spotted throughout these waters. The warm water temperature year round makes diving here at anytime an unforgettable experience.

Diving Red Sea, Egypt

The 8 Best Places in the World to Swim with Sharks

“Actually, nobody wants to swim with sharks. It is not an acknowledged sport and it is neither enjoyable nor exhilarating.“ – Voltaire Cousteau, How to Swim With Sharks, A Primer.
See that quote there? Ignore it, because it was written by some dude back in the late 1700’s who may or may not have been an ancestor of Jacques Cousteau, the person responsible for the very idea of swimming with sharks the way we do today. The fact of the matter is that YOU want to swim with sharks, let some other weirdo tell you about how they communed with dolphins and wept about how special it was, you want to cement yourself at the top of the food chain in both land and sea. MapQuest Travel is going to help you realize that goal, with this handy guide.

8. Tiger Sharks -Hawaii

The Tiger Shark is known to be a solitary hunter that generally pursues its prey at night. This shark is also known as the “Sea Tiger” due to its distinctive striped features and aggressiveness, noted for having the widest food spectrum of all sharks (from lobsters to surfboards). The Tiger Shark can easily reach a length of 16 feet and is common around the Pacific islands, but less so in recent years due to the fact that they are considered to be a near-threatened species because some cultures prize their fins as a magical cure-all. The best people to help you swim with Tiger Sharks are the folks at Hawaii Shark Encounters. Owned and operated by Stefanie Brendl, who started the company with her late partner and Shark Week personality Jimmy Hall, Hawaii Shark Encounters offers full service eco-tourist packages that allow you to get up close and personal with these predators from the safety of a shark cage.  Find out more at http://hawaiisharkencounters.com.

Tiger Sharks -Hawaii

7. Hammerhead Sharks –Costa Rica

Shaped like your most intuitive workshop implement, the Hammerhead Shark is one of the most distinctive sharks under the sea. Scientists have been arguing amongst themselves for years about the evolutionary function of their noggins, some argue that it is to improve either sensory input, maneuvering, prey manipulation or all three. The Hammerhead usually likes to swim in schools by day, then switches to solo-hunter mode at night. These unique predators can be found along almost every warm coast of the planet, from Costa Rica to Africa. There are only 11 species of Hammerhead shark, of those only 3 are considered to be ‘bitey’ to humans, none fatal, as of 2013 there have been 33 recorded attacks, none of them fatal. In Hawaiian culture, the Hammerhead is a sign of fortune, and to be passed by one is a sign that the gods are watching over your loved ones, and the ocean is clean. If you find yourself in the clean waters of Costa Rica, spend some time with a reputable dive operator, requesting a dive in an area frequented by Hammerheads. Rich coast diving is a well-reviewed outfitter, you would be served well to check them out: http://richcoastdiving.com/.

Hammerhead Sharks –Costa Rica

6. Bull Sharks -Fiji

Of all the sharks, the Bull Shark is the most dangerous to people, and the one that’s most likely to nibble your pink hand/foot bits that dangle off the end of a surfboard. A story about the series of shark attacks on the Jersey Shore back in 1916 was the inspiration for Peter Benchley’s Jaws story (they only missed Snooki by a hundred years or so). Generally it is the Bull Shark one sees when you think of anything shark-like, and it gets its name from its stubby appearance and aggressive nature. The Bull Shark is one of the few species of saltwater shark that actually tolerates fresh water, and they have been known to swim up the Mississippi River as far as Illinois. Bull Sharks are found in any warm ocean water coastal areas, in rivers, lakes and large rivers that are open to the ocean. Some of the best Bull Shark diving in the world is found in Fiji, and a great number of diving professionals name the Fiji Shark Dive as the best shark dive in the world. The Fiji Shark Dive is hosted by the Beqa Adventure Divers, which attracts some of the world’s best underwater professional cameramen and photographers.

Bull Sharks -Fiji

5. Whale Sharks -Honduras

The Whale Shark is the largest species of fish in existence, and is a non-aggressive filter feeder. These aquatic gentle giants have a mouth that is about 4.5 feet wide, with a wide flat head and two small eyes at the front. Bearing distinctive yellow spots and stripes, the Whale Shark’s skin can be almost four inches thick, serving as natural armor against many predators.  Even though the Whale Shark is huge, they pose little danger to humans, they are known to be very docile and sometimes give “rides” to divers (they let you grab their dorsal fins and they pull you along). Like most sharks, Whale Sharks are found in most warm coastal regions, one of the most popular regions you can find them is the Bay Islands in Honduras. The Deep Blue Utila resort, in conjunction with the Utila Whale Shark Research Project offer up a unique PADI certified diving package, as well as paradise on a private beach.

Whale Sharks -Honduras

4. Whitetip Reef Sharks -Australia

One of most common sharks in the Indo-Pacific, the Whitetip Reef Shark is easily spotted by its grey skin, slender shape, pronounced gills, and irregular swim pattern (its distinctive and hard to miss). These string beans of the shark family grow to be about 8 feet long but only weigh about 44 lbs. Whitetip Reef Sharks like to hang out in coral reefs, reef edges, sandy flats and shallow lagoons (they are relatively short water swimmers). Only found in the Indo-Pacific region, the Whitetip Reef Shark’s best habitat for the discerning diver is the Great Barrier Reef (one of the seven wonders of the natural world) in Australia. The very best reef shark-diving experience is from aboard a dive boat, in a live-aboard 4 Day Coral Sea Trip spanning two reef systems. Learn how you can book your Whitetip Reef Shark experience on the Spirit of Freedom by visiting the Diving Cairns website.

Whitetip Reef Sharks -Australia

3. Lemon Shark -Moorea

The Lemon Shark is the most studied shark in history, unlike most of their shark kin, the Lemon Shark handles captivity better than any other observable species. They get their name from their distinctive light colored yellowish skin, and they grow to be about 11 feet long, usually weighing around 420 lbs. The lemon Shark has electro-receptors which help them track prey, it’s a sort of radar that senses the electric impulses emitted by all living things. In addition to this tingly sense, the have a secondary olfactory sense aided by magnetic sensors in their nose offsetting their poor vision. Lemon Sharks are social hunters that roam in schools, migrating thousands of miles through the ocean to reach mating locations (like shark nightclubs with half price drinks on Wednesdays). They love the tropical and subtropical waters along the coast of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans opting for shallow water, hardly going deeper than 80 meters.  Tahiti’s sister island, Moorea, is known as the Lemon Shark Diving capital of the world, and TopDive’s Moorea Shark Experience allows you to have a safe excursion into this apex-predator’s habitat.

Lemon Shark -Moorea

2. The Basking Shark -Scotland

The Cetorhinus maximus, also known as the Basking Shark, can’t help but eat with its mouth open, no matter what his mom says. Not a lot is known about this giant fish, second in size only to its cousin the Whale Shark, it grows over 35 feet long and has an enormous mouth over 3 feet wide. The mouth is not to be feared however, the teeth on this giant fish are tiny, and the wide open mouth is only menacing to the plankton and other small floating sea creatures it hoovers up as it swims along. Basking sharks like to swim in water that swings from warm to cool, and like staying close to the surface where their food lives. These big mouthed superfish patrol the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and can sometimes be spotted off the coast of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. When it comes to swimming with these living fossils, Oban Scotland seems to be the place to be, and there is an extensive dive program that caters to those that want to swim with Basking Sharks specifically. Feel free to check out their tour schedule at http://baskingsharkscotland.co.uk/.

Photo by: YouTube/Simon Spear
Photo by: YouTube/Simon Spear

1. The Great White Shark –San Francisco

This is it, the moment you have all been waiting for, I can feel the anticipation as you have plowed through this exhaustive shark list and muttered to yourselves “jeez, get with the Jaws already!!” This Boogyman of the Sea, popularized by Peter Benchley and Spielberg movies, is hands down, the deadliest predator on the planet, and we as a species are fortunate that we don’t share the same habitat. Seriously, why would you swim with these guys, what would your mother think? Well, actually, Great White Shark attacks are very rare, even when humans and Great Whites swim together. Generally these toothy fish just aren’t that into you, for example, in the Mediterranean Sea (where their concentrations are great), there are only 31 confirmed attacks against people in the last 200 years! Now, if you still want to swim with these guys, contact the good people at Great White Adventures who host dives in San Francisco and Guadalupe Mexico, tell them Mike sent you, they will ask what the hell you are talking about, just wink and say “gotcha”.

Great White Shark Cage Dive