Top Diving Sites in the World To Add In Your Bucket List

If you could ever leave your house and go somewhere, where would you want to be? Will you be in the African wilderness enjoying the wild? Or, will you be visiting temples or marvel at the wonders of the world? Perhaps, you would like to see the seas, dive in with its magnificent creatures, or explore new underwater sites? If you want the latter part, then add these top diving spots to your bucket list for your next adventure.  


Barracuda Point, Sipadan Island, Malaysia

Barracuda Point
Dive PeriodAll Year RoundDive TypeOpen Water
Depth5 to 40mVisibilityAt least 20m year-roundUp to 50m during the dry season
Water Temperature26⁰C – 34⁰CLevelAdvanced

This diving site location is in Sipadan Island, located in the Celebes Sea, just off Sabah’s east coast (East Malaysia). The island, the only oceanic island in Malaysia, consists of living corals formed over an ancient, extinct volcano cone. It’s about a 3-minute boat ride to the jetty’s right, and the site extends to about 20 meters down.

Jacques Cousteau has made the diverse sea life around Sipadan island well known after publicizing his dives in the region. Although it is a relatively easy dive for those with limited experience and other divers, it is not for beginners due to strong currents.

The area visibility is quite good, making it easy to stay in one place while having some of the best sea life views. Barracuda Point is named as such for its large schools of barracuda. You may get to see the barracuda tornado if you are lucky. Hard and soft corals also abound in the area and other marine life like the blacktip reef sharks, bump-head parrotfish, eagle rays, and triggerfish.

Make sure to get a permit when you are diving around Sipadan Island. Sabah Parks Management closely monitors diving. It limits the number of divers allowed per day to ensure longevity and preserve this region’s ecology. 

USS Liberty Shipwreck, Bali, Indonesia

USS Liberty
Dive PeriodAll Year RoundDive TypeWreck
Depth5 to 35mVisibilityUp to 30m
Water Temperature20⁰C – 28⁰CLevelAdvanced

The Tulamben Liberty Wreck or USS Liberty Shipwreck is a must dive around Bali, Indonesia. The shipwreck is of the American warship (US army transport) USS Liberty torpedoed by the Japanese amid WWII (11 January 1942). The warship was sailing through the Lombok Strait with a military shipment, heading to the Philippines from Australia. It was first towed to Bali by two other American ships that were in the area. However, it was taking on too much water and was beached near the fishing village of Tulamben. When Mount Agung erupted in 1963, the eruption’s tremors pushed the ship off the beach. The vessel lies between 8 meters for the stern down to 31 meters for the bow.

Today the hull acts as artificial caves that are home to a lot of marine life. Some 400 different species have been found in this diving spot –  unicornfish, parrotfish, barracuda, napoleon fish, and sunfish. 

The sea condition is usually calm, and the currents are pretty light. The high season is from May to September (the area can be crowded). Although conditions are still right, few people dive from October to April because sometimes the visibility is reduced due to the rainy season. 

Blue Corner Wall, Palau

Blue Corner Wall
Dive PeriodAll Year RoundDive TypeDrift
Depth8 to 30mVisibility15-28m
Water Temperature28⁰C – 30⁰CLevelIntermediate to Advanced

Blue Corner Wall is located 40km southwest of Koror and to the northwest end of Ngemelis Island. And it is considered one of the top dive sites globally and is known for its variable currents, which can change direction (horizontally and vertically) at any given moment. And because of the strong, unpredictable currents, divers are advised to use their reef hook.

There are two main entry points in this dive site – along the main reef wall and at the eastern end of the reef, where you descend to a cavern at 22m. The reef’s central part is an underwater promontory at 15-20m that juts out of the reef like a triangular terrace, overhanging the steep walls. These walls provide the perfect vantage point to witness life on the reef. (In this situation, you should aim for the edge of the plateau to hook in).

Palau’s marine biodiversity includes 7 out of 9 of the world’s species of giant clams, approximately 1,400 species of reef fish, 300 species of soft corals, and 400 species of hard corals. This claim has been supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Notable critters here include the leafy scorpionfish, nudibranchs, and lionfish. And the typical pelagics are the big-eye trevallies, schools of snapper and barracuda and bluefin tuna.

You will need a Peleliu State permit to dive, which costs $32 per person, valid for 14 days.

The Yongala, Australia

The SS Yongala
Dive PeriodAll Year RoundDive TypeWreck
Depth25 to 40mVisibility15-24m (winter)9-15m (spring or summer)
Water TemperatureJun-Sep (22⁰C – 25⁰C)
Dec-Mar (26⁰C – 31⁰C)
LevelAdvanced

The SS Yongala dubbed as one of Australia’s best wreck dives and the world. It is located closest to Townsville, Queensland, and situated inside the Great Barrier Marine Park, approximately 48 nautical miles from Townsville. 

It is a 110m former steel passenger and freight steamer that sank in 1911 during a tropical cyclone. In 1958 the shipwreck was found when a local fisherman, Bill Kirkpatrick, relocated the wrecks to make a salvage claim. Penetration and touching are forbidden in the wreckage as protected under the Historic Shipwreck Act of 1976. These rules were made to avoid any corrosion due to the air bubbles and preserve the wreck. The ship’s superstructure remains intact and in good condition.

The wreck has been home to diverse marine life, including giant groupers, eagle rays, manta rays, sea turtles, barracuda schools, and giant trevallies. You could also see rare species of sharks like a bull shark and tiger shark. You can spot minke whales or humpback whales around the wreck from June to November if you are lucky. And a possible encounter with the gentle giant whale shark from October to January.

Access to this diving site is by permit only due to the wreck’s protected status. So, make sure to get a licensed operator when diving here. 

Shark and Yolanda Reef, Egypt

Shark and Yolanda Reef
Dive PeriodAll Year RoundDive TypeWall/Reef
Depth10 to 30mVisibilityUp to 30m
Water Temperature22⁰C – 28⁰CLevelAdvanced

Shark and Yolanda Reef is the most famous dive site in Ras Mohammed National Park. It is located right next to the shore in proximity to Ras Mohammed. These are two coral pillars, named “Shark” and “Yolanda” reef, with a diameter of approximately 40m that rise flush with the surface from a sandy terrace situated 10-15m below that, is called “The Saddle.” 

If the conditions allow, the dive can start from Anemone City, a launch-platform used by divers, then crossing the stretch of open water that separates Anemone City from the Shark reef’s wall. Multicolored soft corals cover the Shark reef’s wall, and shoals of barracuda hang out in the strong currents at 30m. In July and August, some silky sharks can be found in the middle of the barracuda.

Then, divers can continue toward Yolanda; a shoulder at 14-30m joins Shark reef to Yolanda reef. Large shoals of aquatic species like sharks and myriads of reef dwellers of different sizes, colors, and habits will accompany divers crossing toward the reef. And, the dive changes from a deep wall to a sandy plateau with lots of sightings of moray eels, stonefish, scorpionfish, napoleon wrasse, and stunning coral gardens.

Another exciting thing to see in Yolanda reef is the mast of the cargo ship’s wreckage “Yolanda.” The wreckage marks the reef corner, and as you move around onto the sandy plateau, a sight of hundreds of British standard toilets and bathtubs will greet you.

The Great Blue Hole, Belize

The Great Blue Hole
Dive PeriodAll Year RoundDive TypeWall/Reef
Depth5 to >40mVisibility25-30m
Water Temperature26⁰C – 28⁰CLevelAdvanced

The Great Blue Hole is namedone of the most fantastic dive sites globally, located 43 km in the Lighthouse reef centre. And, it is about halfway between Half Moon Caye in the south and northern caye. It is approximately 44 miles (70 km) east of Ambergris Caye and is one of the furthest offshore dive sites. The hole is over 300m across the rim, and the depth is at 124m, as measured by the Cambrian Foundation in 1997.

The only way you can access the sapphire blue circular site is through two narrow channels. Otherwise, it is surrounded by coral reefs. And depending on weather conditions, the dive could begin on either the north or south side. To assist with orientation, you will have to stay reasonably close to the wall—nothing much to see here in terms of wildlife. The coral growth and fish are restricted here because of the lack of light that penetrates the Great Blue Hole. You will only see sea plants that mainly cover the walls, feather-duster worms, and algae. 

The Great Blue Hole has two dive sites – the North and South.

North Side
The Northside has stalactite formation at 30-42m deep but has no lower ledge of stalagmites. Just the upper “jaw” of stalactites hanging over the sunken karst abyss. The bottom is another 80+m below, and there was minimal exploration down there.

South Side
On the Southside, you will approach the shallowest cave systems at about 30m. The angle of the wall on this side changes, resulting in an overhang burdened by stalactites. Some of these stalactites are more than 3 feet in diameter and up to 20feet in length. The fallen stalactites litter the lower ledge of the caye some soft 15m below where the stalagmites grow upwards. Below these stalagmites is an entrance to a cavern system, which adds an eerie feel to the dive.

And once you have completed your brief tour of the rock formations, when you head back up, you may be greeted by Caribbean reef sharks and bull sharks that come barrelling out of the depths. And, your chances of seeing these creatures on your dive is quite good.

After a slow ascent, you will need to spend some time offloading some of the nitrogen absorbed during the dive. And the best place to do that is the coral reef that rims the hole. You can see angelfish, butterflyfish, and colorful groupers in these shallow coral gardens. You can also see dozens of Pederson’s cleaner shrimp and neon gobies.

Thistlegorm Wreck, Egyptian Red Sea

Thistlegorm
Dive PeriodAll Year RoundDive TypeWreck
Depth15 – 40mVisibilityUp to 30m
Water Temperature21⁰C – 28⁰CLevelAdvanced

North of the Red Sea in the Strait of Gubal is where you can find the Word War II shipwreck of SS Thistlegorm. It is a former 128m British transport ship sunk in 1941 by two German bombers passing by. 

It was Jacques Cousteau who first discovered the wreck, but he kept the location secret. Then, in the early 90s, the wreck was rediscovered by the local dive guide and quickly gained status as the world’s best wreck dive.

The Thistlegorm is like history because of the artifacts that you can find, which is still intact. Some artifacts are locomotives, tanks, army trucks, jeeps, motorbikes, stacks of rifles, etc. You can dive here into two parts. In the first dive, divers can visit more profound points (propeller and rudder). Then in the second dive, divers can explore what the wreck holds.

The current can sometimes be strong and can make the dive quite challenging, so dives here are reserved for PADI open water advanced and CMAS 2*. The marine biodiversity here includes batfish, resident turtles, barracudas, snappers, schools of jacks, and all the usual reef fishes of the Red Sea.

Manta Ray Night Dive, Kona, Hawaii

Manta Ray Night Dive
Dive PeriodAll Year RoundDive TypeNight
Depth9 – 12mVisibility4-9m
Water Temperature23⁰C – 26⁰CLevelBeginners

Manta Ray night diving is unique to the Kona Coast, Hawaii, and one of the world’s top night dives. You can find Manta rays at so-called locations – “cleaning stations” and “feeding stations.” Here on the big island, there are three known feeding stations off the Kona coast: these manta rays often go to Manta Village, Manta Heaven, and an unspecified location off the Kohala Coast.

Manta Village
Manta Village is the original night dive location for manta ray sightings. It is off the coast from the Sheraton Keauhou Bay resort and spa in Keauhou (about 7 miles south of Kona). This site is the location with the highest success rate in manta sightings.

Manta Heaven
This location is offshore of the Kona International Airport, about 8 miles north of Kona. Manta Heaven is a popular spot for daylight dives and is also known as “Garden Eel Cove.” It is also known for manta ray night dives, although sightings’ success rate is a bit than Manta Village.

Kohala Coast
This third location (unnamed) is close to Waikoloa Village and Kohala resorts near Kawaihae Harbor. There are fewer tourists here compared to the two other sites. Unfortunately, there are fewer manta rays here and seen less frequently. If you don’t want a crowded spot, then this would be the right choice for you.

The Hawaiian manta rays first started coming to the feeding stations to feast on all the plankton attracted by bright hotel lights shining in the water. These manta rays belong to the Mobula alfredi species (reef manta rays) and are the world’s second-largest species. They can grow up to a wingspan of 18 feet (5.5m) on average. The manta rays you can see around Kona are about 12 feet.

Takeaway

Before going for a dive, check with the local authorities if a permit is required or find a licensed operator to help you get familiar with the dive sites, especially if it’s your first time in the area. Plan in detail so you could enjoy your dive in full. 

Check out 5 Philippines Top Diving Spots for local diving spots.

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