Diving Asia Pacific should really be at the top of your list if you haven’t had the opportunity to explore the waters in this part of the world. From the Coral Triangle to Micronesia’s group of magnificent tiny islands and Australia’s world-famous Great Barrier Reef, there are some serious highlights to check out below the waves. We’re just skimming the surface here with our top 14 diving destinations in the region, but these are 14 solid contenders you have to visit at least once in your lifetime.
Divers usually visit Bali for two main reasons: to explore the USS Liberty Wreck in Tulamben, and for the chance of spotting mola molas in Nusa Penida’s Crystal Bay from July through October. These odd-looking, gigantic flat and silvery beasts are the heaviest of all the bony fish. They can measure up to four metres vertically, and three metres horizontally, and weigh up to two tons.
When it comes to muck diving, Lembeh’s hard to beat. Black volcanic sand makes up most of the seabed, and the grain’s so fine that one kick might cause the visibility to drop immediately (that being said, your buoyancy had better be good should you choose to explore Lembeh). Look out for the many weird and wonderful macro critters here, including the hairy frogfish and the mimic octopus.
Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Countless marine biologists who’ve carried out surveys in the vast, liveaboard-friendly waters of Raja Ampat have said that the biodiversity found in the area is one of the highest recorded on Earth. That’s a lot of species and a lot of good diving to look forward to!
Beqa Lagoon, Fiji
There are many great shark dives in the world, but not many offer a multi-level dive all year round, on which you can have close encounters with up to nine different species of shark – blacktips, whitetips, grey reefs, silvertips, tawnies, sickle fins, lemons, tigers and bulls. Book a flight to Fiji for picture-postcard beaches, pellucid, coral-filled waters, and a high-octane (cage-less!) shark dive you will never forget.
Situated in the Celebes Sea off the east coast of Sabah, Malaysia, Sipadan’s dive sites – like Barracuda Point and Turtle Tomb – are world-famous, and it seems like the big guys (barracudas, sharks, turtles, bumpheads) never leave these protected waters. The legendary Jacques Cousteau even described Sipadan as “an untouched piece of art”.
Poor Knights Islands, New Zealand
New Zealand’s Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve is situated close to the path of the subtropical East Auckland current. Because of its geographical location, it boasts an unusual mix of temperate and subtropical marine species. In fact, studies suggest there may as many as 65,000 species in New Zealand’s waters.
Palau is known for its stunning World War II wrecks and dive sites like Blue Corner and Chandelier Cave, but for a truly out-of-this-world experience, you can’t miss Jellyfish Lake. Locked in a massive body of green water, these stingless jellyfish have lost their ability to sting because where they live, they don’t have any predators. So, no, you will not get stung.
The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
We’re talking about the world-famous Great Barrier Reef here. With a whopping total of 2,300 kilometres of coastline, 3,000 coral reefs, and 1,050 islands and cays, it’s no wonder this beautiful living system can be seen even from space! Super popular, must-visit spots include Osprey Reef, the Ribbon Reefs, and Lady Elliot Island.
Discovered in the late 1970s, Tubbataha Reef in the Philippines is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site situated right smack in the middle of the Sulu Sea. Featuring plenty of majestic walls and stunning lagoons, this marine zone has a rather high number of marine species. Best way to explore it? On a liveaboard, of course.
The only place in the world where you are practically guaranteed an encounter with the elusive and ever-startled-looking thresher shark. These bullet-shaped beauties are regular visitors to Monad Shoal, Malapascua in the Philippines where they emerge from the deep waters to have their skin maintained by the resident cleaners.
The Maldives, Republic of Maldives
A place synonymous with clear water, sandy, secluded islands and dramatic underwater seascapes. Schools of sharks, manta night dives, eagle rays, whale sharks and dare-devil drifts all make the Maldives probably the most iconic bucket-list dive destination on the planet.
From July through October, you can get up close and personal with the humpback whales of Tonga in Vava’u. The thing is, you wouldn’t even need your dive gear; just grab your mask, snorkel, and fins and you’re good to go.
The Yonaguni district in Japan is home to strange formations that litter its underwater realm. So far, scientists have found structures that resemble pyramids, castles and even roads. Man-made? Natural? Nobody knows, though the stones appear to be fused to the sea bed, the search for answers is ongoing.
What exactly is in Hebei, China that’s diveable? Well, there is a section of the Great Wall of China at the Panjiakou Reservoir that’s submerged to a depth of about 20 metres, and everyone’s free to explore it. You’ll see an interesting mix of artefacts and marine life, but be warned: it can get very cold down there. Take your drysuit.