We have put together a list of some of the best coral reefs in Asia for divers to explore. Many experienced divers get hooked on experiences like searching for muck species, exploring shipwrecks, or encounters with marine megafauna. But, if you think back to your first dives, you were probably captivated by tropical coral reefs. These complex ecosystems are some of the most biodiverse on the planet, offering shelter to thousands of marine species in all shapes and sizes.
If you're new to diving and hoping to check out some of the earth's most incredible reefs, or you're an experienced diver looking for some inspiration, this is your article! Our team of diving experts has rounded up their favourite coral hotspots from all around the world, to help you narrow down the selection and plan your next big adventure. Keep reading for all the details!
1. Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Stretching over 40,000 square kilometres, this protected marine area is home to some of the richest coral reefs on the planet. Head north to the Dampier Strait and Waigeo for current swept coral scapes and pinnacles, with frequent visits from large pelagics like giant trevally, manta rays, and reef sharks. Or, immerse yourself in some of Indonesia's most intricate hard and soft coral gardens in Misool.
The best part about diving in this region is that each area features unique conditions and reef types, but equally exciting underwater landscapes and marine life. And, with over 2,000 species of fish and coral here, you'll never run out of new and exciting things to see underwater! There is no question that Raja Ampat is at the top of the list of best coral reefs in Asia.
- When to Go: Visit between October and April for the best diving conditions and the most marine life.
- Highlights: Drift diving, sharks and manta rays, spectacular hard and soft coral cover
- Pro tip: Add a trip to Cenderawasih Bay or Triton Bay to your itinerary for whale sharks encounters
Discover the best places to dive in Raja Ampat, Triton Bay and Cenderawasih Bay in this free guide to West Papua's diving.
2. Komodo island, Indonesia
While Komodo is most famous for its namesake species of giant prehistoric land-going dragons, the region is also home to epic diving with some of the best coral reefs in Asia. Try your hand at high-speed drift diving, with currents so powerful that you won't even have to kick. Just relax, keep breathing, and watch this stunning underwater environment whiz by!
In addition to its beautiful coral reefs, Komodo is one of the best places in the world to dive with manta rays. Whether you're diving legendary northern sites like Karang Makassar or the world-famous Manta Alley in the region's south, you're nearly guaranteed to spot these oceanic acrobats during your trip.
- When to Go: North Komodo offers year-round diving, but conditions are best in the south between October and December
- Highlights: Drift diving, manta rays by the dozen, incredible hard coral gardens in the region's north, spectacularly-rich reefs in the south
- Pro tip: Head north for better visibility from June to October, or south for cold upwellings, more diversity, from October to December and into January.
3. Tubbataha Reef, Philippines
Few diving destinations can claim the kind of isolation, exclusivity, and biodiversity found in Tubbataha Reef. This remote marine protected area is only open for a few short months each year, and can only be accessed via liveaboard.
For visitors, that means undisturbed access to the region's best coral reefs and big fish encounters - with hardly another dive group in sight! Found at the heart of Southeast Asia's Coral Triangle, this incredible destination plays host to marine megafauna like whale sharks, manta rays, and massive shoals of fish. But, the real treat here is the reef itself, with thousands of species on display and simply stunning hard and soft coral gardens.
- When to Go: Tubbataha Reef is only open to visitors between March and June
- Highlights: Colourful coral reefs teeming with tropical fish, marine megafauna, uncrowded dive sites
- Pro tip: During the seasonal transition, divers can book liveaboards that hit all the hotspots in between Palawan and the marine park
Diving season in Tubbataha is right around the corner, and liveaboards here fill up fast. Read our complete guide to the region and start planning your adventure today!
4. Mergui archipelago, Myanmar
If you've never heard of the Mergui Archipelago, don't worry, you aren't alone. This remote and isolated region has only been open to foreign visitors since 2014. Take a liveaboard trip to this nearly undiscovered destination for incredible diving opportunities on rich coral reefs, completely encrusted with hard and soft coral, sea fans, and sponges.
The archipelago's current-swept reef ridges and isolated pinnacles offer some of Southeast Asia's most impressive underwater landscapes, plus chance encounters with manta rays and whale sharks. But, the true highlight while diving here is the region itself, with spectacular islands and stunning scenery, plus a total escape from civilisation!
- When to Go: Conditions are best between October and May, with whale shark sightings from February through the end of the season
- Highlights: Kaleidoscopic coral reefs, incredible landscapes above and below water, and a total escape from everyday life
- Pro tip: This region is home to surprisingly good muck and macro diving, with rare and hard to spot pint-sized species
If you’re ready to start planning a trip in this unspoilt and isolated region, check out our complete guide by clicking the link below!
5. Layang layang, Malaysia
This isolated atoll in the South China Sea is the final frontier for scuba diving, promising intrepid guests a chance to dive on some of the planet's most pristine and least visited coral reefs. Dive sites are typified by massive fields of hard coral, huge walls dropping off into the abyss, and plenty of big fish action.
Lying hundreds of kilometres off the coast of Borneo, Layang Layang is home to just a single resort. So you'll likely have the region's sun-drenched coral gardens all to yourself, setting the perfect stage for wide-angle photography with stunning reefscapes filling each frame. And, lucky divers can encounter scalloped hammerheads in these waters, sometimes schooling by the hundreds.
- When to Go: Visit during April and May for a chance to witness hundreds of hammerhead sharks schooling out in the blue
- Highlights: Coral reef perfection with kilometres of unspoilt reef and no other divers around
- Pro tip: You're most likely to see the region's famous sharks well off the reef's edge, making this a perfect place for blue water diving
Learn more about this fascinating and far-flung region with our comprehensive guide
6. Maratua island, Indonesia
We couldn't make a list of the best coral reefs in Asia with including Maratua island. The Derawan Archipelago is one of the most off-the-beaten-track diving destinations on the planet. Divers can expect kilometres of stunning coral on most sites, with massive reef systems waiting to be explored. Plus, diverse wildlife with something for everyone. You'll discover colourful clouds of tropical fish, cool macro critters, plus marine megafauna - with manta rays making frequent appearances on Sangalaki, whale sharks near Derawan, and vast schools of barracuda in the channels around Maratua.
Plus, occasional encounters with shy and elusive species like thresher sharks. Make Maratua Island your base for exploring the region for close access to all these incredible sites, plus Kakaban Island, home to plentiful sharks and the world-famous jellyfish lake.
- When to Go: Diving here is possible all year round. Visit between March and October for the best conditions possible, or during November and December for marine megafauna
- Highlights: Diverse diving with massive and pristine coral gardens, and only a handful of visitors each year
- Pro tip: Getting to Derawan is an adventure, but it's well worth your while. Book transfers through your resort for the easiest journey possible.
Read all about diving in the Derawan Archipelago, with pro tips for Maratua, Sangalaki, and Kakaban included.
8. Banda Sea, Indonesia
Bridging the gap between Raja Ampat in the north and Komodo in the south, the Banda Sea is one of the wildest places left on the planet. This huge expanse of open ocean is home to massive volcanic pinnacles, spectacular coral reefs, and incredible biodiversity, all fueled by the region's nutrient-rich waters.
Head to Gunung Api and Gili Manuk to dive alongside sea snakes gathering by the hundred to mate. Or, Ameth and Banda Island for schooling hammerheads and fascinating underwater lava flows. This biodiverse diving area is also home to incredible muck and macro diving around Ambon - home to insane species like the psychedelic frogfish.
- When to Go: Visit during March and April or September and November for the best conditions and the most wildlife
- Highlights: Incredible coral reefs, sea snakes, hammerheads, and cool macro creatures
- Pro tip: Join a seasonal transition liveaboard, diving at all the hotspots in between Raja Ampat and Komodo for a truly once-in-a-lifetime adventure
9. Fiji, South Pacific
Known as "The Soft Coral Capital of the World", Fiji is home to some of the most colourful and fascinating reefscapes you'll ever see. Although not technically in Asia, our list of best coral reefs wouldn't be complete without it. These huge coral reefs systems boast massive fan corals and sponges, and a kaleidoscopic selection of fragile formations swaying in the current.
Fiji's deep channels and nutrient-rich waters also beckon a variety of marine megafauna in from the ocean depths - with sharks as the main attraction. Visit Beqa Lagoon for stunning coral cover, well-preserved shipwrecks, and sustainable bull shark feeding dives - with a chance to see up to eight shark species during just one tank. Or, head to Tavenui to experience the world-famous Rainbow Reef, boasting a thick carpet of coral and schooling hammerheads.
- When to Go: Dive during November, or April and May for optimal conditions and plenty of wildlife, minus the tourist crowds
- Highlights: Stunning soft coral gardens, sharks, shipwrecks, and fast-paced drift diving
- Pro tip: Only 20 guests a day are permitted to join Beqa Lagoon's shark diving experience, so plan a few days of diving here to ensure your place in the water
Learn more about Fiji’s colourful reefs, exhilarating shark encounters, and vibrant island culture!
10. Red Sea, Egypt
Egypt's Southern Red Sea is famous for pristine coral reefs, endless visibility, and powerful currents packed with pelagic fish. Encompassing Fury Shoal, Zabargad, Rocky Island, and St. John's Reef, this region boasts incredibly diverse scuba diving with sites to suit adventurous and advanced divers of all stripes.
Explore shipwrecks, meandering coral channels and tunnels, plummeting walls, and deep-water sites with sharks galore! Or, focus on the reef itself, with shallow light-filled coral gardens teeming with clouds of colourful fish. If you're up for a bit of excitement, go for a few fast-paced drift dives here. You'll have a chance to spot unbelievable wildlife like hammerheads, thresher sharks, oceanic whitetips, and manta rays.
- When to Go: Plan your trip between September and November for outstanding weather, warmer water, and fewer divers exploring the region's most famous sites
- Highlights: Thriving colourful coral reefs, ripping currents, sharks, and shipwrecks
- Pro tip: Though you'll find a selection of dive resorts in this region, the only way to dive all the best sites in just one trip is with a liveaboard
Now that you know a bit about the best coral reefs our blue planet has to offer, it’s time to start planning your trip. Get in touch today for additional travel insights, plus expert assistance with every aspect of your diving holiday.