Liveaboard diving trips are becoming increasingly popular. That’s especially true in Asia, where remote dive sites and limited infrastructure create the need for “traveling dive shops.” Whether the aim is to reach distant archipelagos or see as many dive sites as possible in one week, liveaboard holidays offer an unmatched advantage.
If an “eat, sleep, dive” vacation sounds like paradise to you, check out these great liveaboard diving destinations in Asia. From Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in the Philippines to Raja Ampat in Indonesia, these are some of the best liveaboard trips in the world.
1. Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Raja Ampat is a diving destination that has something for everyone. From impressive fish diversity and pelagic giants to mystical wrecks and pristine corals, you’ll always be kept busy under the surface. And, perhaps best of all, the hundreds of islands that make up Raja Ampat remain relatively undeveloped, providing a truly wild experience full of manta rays, pygmy seahorses and wobbegong sharks. To get the most out of this Indonesian destination, dive one of the many liveaboard routes available.
- When to Go: October to April
- Recommended Liveaboard: La Galigo
2. Komodo, Indonesia
Offering adventure above and below the water, Komodo is most famous as the home of the world’s largest lizard – the Komodo Dragon. And while visiting these impressive creatures make for a pretty cool day trip, Komodo’s underwater giants definitely deserve a headline of their own. Manta rays, numerous sharks, tuna, jacks and bumphead parrotfish are only a small part of the cast that will make up your dives in this part of Indonesia. You can also expect exciting drift diving mixed with colorful corals that rival the best in the world.
- When to Go: April to August
- Recommended Liveaboard: Duyung Baru
3. Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Philippines
Tubbataha is home to the largest abundance of coral in the world. And, it should come as little surprise that it is accompanied by an impressively rich diversity of marine life, too. Over 97,000 hectares make up the protected underwater landscape of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. Once inside, you might find mantas at cleaning stations or a whale shark just passing by. You are also likely to see grey reef and whitetip sharks along with tuna, trevally mackerel and eagle rays. And, if that’s not enough, visitors may also spot tiger sharks, hammerhead sharks or any one of the numerous whale species that pass through the area. Keep in mind that Tubbataha can only be reached by liveaboard.
- When to Go: March to June
- Recommended Liveaboard: SY Philippine Siren
4. Similan Islands, Thailand
The opportunity to spend time under the waves with whale sharks and manta rays is one big reason that divers travel to the Similan Islands. Eighty-four kilometres off Thailand’s western coast, this group of nine liveaboard-only islands are also home to over 500 species of coral and a mix of marine life that includes leopard sharks, whitetip sharks, blue spotted stingrays and guitar rays. The Similan Islands also boast underwater landscapes to stave off boredom. There’s a mix of giant boulders, caves and passages to be explored. Keep in mind, the Similan Islands are only open a few months of the year.
- When to Go: November to April
- Recommended Liveaboard: The Junk
5. The Visayas, Philippines
Although Tubbataha is considered the creme de la creme of Philippines diving, the Visayas still offer some of the best liveaboard diving in Asia. Home to gorgeous reefs, elevated plateaus, coral gardens and muck diving, this archipelago delights divers willing to make the journey from island to island. For the most part, visibility is excellent and the marine life is incredibly diverse. Thresher sharks, whale sharks and a plethora of small yet wonderful critters populate the area. While you can easily dive these islands from land, liveaboards are a far more practical way to discover all the best dive sites in this part of the Philippines.
- When to Go: November to May
- Recommended Liveaboard: Infiniti
With 26 natural atolls, the Maldives was practically made for liveaboard diving. In addition, the stringent rules in place for foreign guests and the sheer size of the atolls make liveaboards a convenient option for diving in the country. Whale sharks, manta rays and hammerheads are just a few of the marine life species you will spot on any given holiday in this paradise. So pack your bags and jump on the next flight out. Paradise (both above and below the water) is waiting.
- When to Go: January to May
- Recommended Liveaboard: Scubaspa Ying
Liveaboard diving in Oman is still a relatively recent occurrence, but this absence has left the underwater world healthy and teeming with marine life. Diving here can be split into two main areas: the Musandam Peninsula and the Daymaniyat Islands. Both are home to stunningly colorful reefs and give divers the chance to see bigger marine life, including passing a whale shark. Oman also offers a good mix of dive sites, including drop offs, wrecks, reefs and kelp forests.
- When to Go: October to February
- Recommended Liveaboard: Oman Aggressor
The waters off Myanmar’s western coast still remain some of the least explored in the whole world. And with such little disturbance, it’s no surprise that the area is home to a variety of fish species – both big and small. Many kinds of shark, including silvertip, grey reef, blacktip and bull, can be found here along with eagle and manta rays. On the smaller side, seahorses and crayfish are backed up by an impressive array of macro life and rare reef fish. Furthermore, the only practical way to dive Myanmar’s Mergui Archipelago is by liveaboard.
- When to Go: November to April
- Recommended Liveaboard: MV Miss Moon
9. Sipadan, Malaysia
At over 600 metres above the seabed, the island of Sipadan is Malaysia’s only oceanic island and feels a little bit like a diving oasis in open ocean. With steep, coral-filled walls stretching down from every side, dives are usually full of the green and hawksbill turtles that visit the island. You’re also likely to see any number of swimming or resting whitetip sharks as well as the island’s two sizable schools of fish. One is a school of jackfish and the other is barracuda. While it’s entirely possible to dive Sipadan from land, you’ll maximize your time at the island on a liveaboard.
- When to Go: April to December
- Recommended Liveaboard: MV Celebes Explorer
10. Banda Sea, Indonesia
Visits to the Banda Sea often come as part of other liveaboard routes, however don’t be fooled into thinking the Banda Sea doesn’t deserve its place on the list. Marine life ranging from pygmy seahorses to pilot whales can be seen in these beautifully clear waters, and while the large pelagic stars are here, most people want to visit the region for its impressive diversity of fish. Ambon scorpionfish, redtooth triggerfish, mandarinfish and schools of fusiliers make up part of this underwater menagerie. Dive environments also range from high-speed drifts and historical wrecks to easy reef dives where you can enjoy the outstanding fish diversity before you. To cap it all off, your top side time will be spent surrounded by pristine volcanic environments home to a limited population and few tourists.
- When to Go: March to April and September to December
- Recommended Liveaboard: SY Adelaar
Are you ready to jump into some of the most remote destinations in Asia? Get in touch with PADI Travel to book the liveaboard trip of your dreams!