As devoted adventurers, scuba divers are always looking for the next mind-blowing underwater experience. Whether its swimming with manta rays, finding rare frogfish, or simply exploring breathtaking underwater scenery, there’s a world-class dive site out there. And what better way to help you tick off that bucket list of unforgettable dives than a list of exceptional dive sites, as chosen by Zulu’s team of passionate dive travel experts.
We’re going back to basics, and exploring the world’s very best dive sites - from the dramatic pelagic sites of the Pacific, to Red Sea wrecks and Indonesia’s glorious muck diving.
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Our pick of the best dive sites in the world:
- Barracuda Point, Sipadan
- Darwin’s Arch, Galapagos
- Roca Partida, Socorro
- Bajo Alcyone, Cocos Island
- SS Thistlegorm, Egypt
- Blue Corner, Palau
- Tiger Beach, Grand Bahama
- Magic Mountain, Misool
- Tumakohua Pass, Fakarava
- Crystal Bay, Nusa Penida
- Hairball, Lembeh
- Batu Bolong, Komodo
- Tiger Zoo, Fuvahmulah
- Richelieu Rock, Thailand
- Bloody Bay Wall, Little Cayman
- Fujikawa Maru, Chuuk Atoll
Sipadan is a small island with a big reputation. Any keen diver is almost guaranteed to have heard of the island - and once you learn more, you’ll almost certainly want to go. Sipadan is home to several world-class dive sites, but Barracuda Point is regularly ranked as the best of the best. And, for the cynics out there who believe naming a dive site after a particular species means they’ll never actually see them, well think again - Barracuda Point delivers exactly what it claims to, and much more.
Barracuda Point is dived from the nearby island of Mabul, and is normally best dived at first light, when trains of bumphead parrotfish patrol the reef crest. The dive begins on a near-vertical wall, where a large school of jackfish is often being rounded up by giant trevally. As divers descend along the wall towards their maximum depth, a myriad of amazing creatures can be seen sheltering amongst the dazzling hard and soft corals. And don’t forget to gaze out into the blue, as you’ll likely pass dozens of turtles, whitetips and grey reef sharks along the way.
The marquee moment of this dive occurs where a current-swept channel cuts across the northern point. When the currents are running, hundreds, if not thousands, of barracuda can often be found swimming in perfect unison here, creating impenetrable walls or towering vortexes - a performance that is sure to leave you in awe. The channel’s sloping walls and coral bommies are also home to a variety of far smaller species, including nudibranchs, giant frogfish and leaf scorpionfish, while bumphead parrotfish often march by as you ascend towards the reeftop to make your safety stop.
While this dive site's namesake arch crumbled into the ocean in 2021, the dive site below remains as iconic as ever. Located off the southeast tip of Darwin Island, this site is over 100-kilometres from the main islands and dive sites of the Galapagos, making it accessible only onboard a liveaboard. Home to strong currents and formidable fish, this site is a playground best left to advanced and experienced divers. But no matter how seasoned you think you are, the drama and diversity on display at Darwin’s Arch will make you feel like a first-timer all over again.
The dive site itself has no predetermined entry or exit points, and experienced divemasters choose a spot based primarily on the conditions and currents. Once in, a quick descent is normal, following a slope of boulders tumbling towards the ledge. Skillful Galapagos dive guides will know exactly where to stop for the very best view, allowing their group to anchor themselves to a barren rock and watch in astonishment as the dive site's activity unfolds before them.
Powerful pelagic species putting on a show include barracuda, yellowfin tuna, and too many turtles to count, while dolphins, manta rays and eagle rays can enter the fray at any moment. Then there’s the impressive array of sharks! Stocky Galapagos sharks and slender silkies cruise alongside one another as passing tiger sharks patrol the blue just beyond. At the right time of year, huge female whale sharks are also regularly encountered, many of which are thought to be pregnant - a phenomenon seen almost nowhere else on earth. And, incredibly, the marquee attraction is yet to come, as hammerhead sharks gather here in unfathomable numbers, forming schools so vast they seem to block out the sun!
Located over 100-kilometres west of Socorro Island, Roca Partida is a tiny, guano-covered rock surrounded by nothing but open ocean. Measuring just 100 metres in length and eight metres wide, Roca Partida offers little natural protection from the elements, and Socorro liveaboards are careful to schedule their visits according to the most favourable weather conditions during each trip. While it may not look like much at first, this islet marks the top of an ancient volcano which rises thousands of metres from the seafloor, a natural beacon for powerful pelagic megafauna that help to create some of these island’s most exciting scuba diving.
Its modest size means that Roca Partida can be circumnavigated at least once, if not more during a single dive. As you’d expect, currents can be fierce at this exposed location, though one side of the islet is often a little calmer than the other. Depending on the day’s conditions, you will either drop on the protected side and begin your descent, or drop up-current out in the blue and drift onto the dive site. At a depth of about 25-metres, you will level out and begin cruising the islet’s vertical walls, keeping your eyes firmly fixed on the open water.
You’d think a dive site of this size could only offer so much, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The density and diversity of pelagic life here is simply astonishing and you genuinely never know what spectacular species might show up, and every dive is guaranteed to deliver something different from the last. Large schools of tuna and jacks are often encountered immediately after dropping in, while mackerel, marlin, and even dolphins can be seen a little deeper. It is also possible to see Galapagos sharks, oceanic whitetips, scalloped hammerheads, silkies, dusky sharks and even occasional whale sharks early in the season. Humpback whales also regularly pass through during their migration to and from Alaska. But, for many, the archipelago’s curious oceanic mantas steal the show as they investigate divers and frolic in their bubbles overhead.
Cocos Island is one of the most remote diving destinations in the world, lying 36-hour’s sailing from the Costa Rican mainland. Its intimidating isolation means that the island is rarely discussed outside of adventurous diving circles and attracts just a handful of visitors each year, intent on experiencing the absolute pinnacle of scuba diving. For these intrepid explorers, Cocos’ lonely location is just part of its attraction, as below the waves they are guaranteed to explore a healthy and diverse oceanic ecosystem - part of the renowned Hammerhead Triangle.
Originally discovered by the Cousteau Society and named after their expedition ship, Bajo Alcyone is an offshore seamount that has become Cocos Island’s best known dive. The site lies almost two kilometres southeast of the island itself, increasing the likelihood of having to negotiate powerful currents and choppy surface conditions. But, this tough environment is the ideal habitat for big pelagic marine life, offering a worthy reward for divers willing to take on the challenge.
The top of the seamount lies at a depth of around 25-metres and is where divers can take shelter as they absorb the spectacle unfolding before them. Scalloped hammerhead sharks in schools of a hundred strong can be encountered, their distinct silhouettes merging together to form an impenetrable wall. Other shark species that can be spotted include silvertips, silkies, Galapagos sharks, tiger sharks, and the biggest of them all, whale sharks. Manta and mobula rays are also usually present, drawn to several cleaning stations. To top it off, huge schools of big-eye trevally swirl continuously back and forth, often corralled by larger predators such as bottlenose dolphins.
As an area of outstanding beauty, and immense cultural and religious significance, the Sinai Peninsula has long established itself as a popular tourist hotspot. But the fascinating attractions aren't just limited to the land. The seas around the peninsula are major shipping routes, scattered with beautiful yet merciless reefs. As such, it's easy to understand why the northern Red Sea is home to such an astonishing selection of wrecks. In fact, this small area is home to a tempting selection of iconic wreck dives, along with many more that have long since been lost to the elements.
The SS Thistlegorm is, without doubt, the most famous wreck in the Red Sea, if not the world. Today, this legendary wreck sits upright in 30-metres of water at an area known as Shag Rock, having sunk in less than ten minutes after being struck by enemy bombers during WWII. In 1955, Jacques Cousteau and his team rediscovered the wreck, but it wasn’t until 1992 that the first tourist trip was offered to dive this incredible relic.
Measuring 130-metres in length, it can take several dives to fully explore the Thistlegorm wreck in its entirety, with the bow and stern each warranting a dive or two all to themselves. The bow section provides divers with unparalleled insight into the past, with several holds still packed with cargo. BSA motorbikes, Morris automobiles, and Bedford trucks, as well as rifles, bombs, munitions crates, grenades and anti-tank mines. Remnants of a tank and locomotive can even be found. Towards the stern, divers can identify two sizable machine gun turrets and the large propeller. Turtles, crocodilefish, Napoleon wrasse and nudibranchs of all kinds can be found sheltering amongst the man-made wreckage, with large schools of trevally hunting up above.
Palau has long been a bucket-list destination for thrill-seeking divers, but now, as the world’s first shark sanctuary, there’s all the more reason to visit. There’s few things these powerful predators love more than currents - so when it comes to exhilarating drifts, you can count on Palau to deliver. In fact Palau’s currents are so strong that local guides pioneered the use of reef hooks. These handy human anchors are vital pieces of kit in these conditions, enabling divers to remain in the currents and take in all of the action.
Blue Corner is located just north of Peleliu Island amongst Palau’s southwest reefs. The dive site focuses on a triangular-shaped reef peninsula jutting out from the surrounding walls which drop precipitously into the depths. During an incoming tide, plankton and algae rich waters are forced up and over onto the triangular terrace-like plateau, delivering a daily dose of nutrients to the reef and creating powerful and unpredictable currents in the process. These conditions have created a thriving underwater ecosystem which supports everything from tiny coral polyps to sizable pelagic predators.
Divers drop into this site from one of two buoys, and aim to follow the main reef wall towards the plateau. Here, they will hook in close to the drop-off and watch the action unfold. More than a dozen shark species have been spotted at this site alone, though grey reef sharks are the most common, with up to 50 individuals on a good day. Huge schools of trevally, snapper and barracuda can also be seen, as well as spawning aggregations of Bohar snapper at certain times of the year. When the time comes, divers can then unhook and drift over the hard coral shelf, eventually enjoying your safety stop in the blue with a panoramic view of the site.
The Bahamas is an intoxicating archipelago synonymous with sun-soaked rest and recuperation, but beneath the waves, some of the experiences here are a little less relaxing. The world-famous Tiger Beach dive site is located around 40-kilometres off Grand Bahama’s West End. Of course, you won’t find a beach this far from the coast, and this site actually gets its name from the submerged desert-like sandbank where the action takes place. But, while the beach may not exist, the tigers certainly do! At times, up to a dozen or more tiger sharks can descend on the site, alongside other species such as Caribbean reef sharks, nurse sharks, bull sharks, and even the odd great hammerhead patrolling above the powdery white sand.
Dives here are normally baited experiences, whereby an experienced guide places a crate of fish chunks on the sand, at a depth of around six-metres. Visitors line up either side, forming a V-shape on the seafloor with the guide and bait box at the narrowest point. The chum slick from the bait will then float down current, between the two rows of divers, luring sharks into the area. These sharks then swim between the divers as they follow the scent, putting on a show as they go. The guide will periodically reward each shark with a mouthful of fish, before they loop back around and line up for another pass. Thanks to the shallow depth, each dive can last up to two hours and surface intervals are often far shorter, allowing maximum interaction with these incredible creatures.
Raja Ampat is often regarded as one of the world’s greatest diving destinations, boasting many impressive accolades - including being home to the most biodiverse dive sites on the planet. You’ll also find some unbelievably healthy coral reefs here, as well as a high level of endemism, both in the water and on land. All but unreachable at certain times of year, the far southern reaches of Raja Ampat have become a mecca for passionate divers. Focused around the island of Misool and its vast marine protected area, this region has become justifiably known for delivering unparalleled underwater experiences.
Magic Mountain is an iconic dive site located a few kilometres from Misool’s southernmost protected islets and reefs. Also known as Shadow Reef, this site is a large underwater seamount bursting with life. Located away from the shelter of other islands, Magic Mountain is exposed to ocean currents that deliver an abundance of nutrients and attract huge amounts of life. The site’s ‘summit’ lies at just six metres below the surface and is covered in beautiful hard corals. From here, it drops one step at a time through a series of gentle shelves. To the west, a long peninsula protrudes from the main plateau and is covered in sea fans - providing plenty of opportunities for exploration at more advanced depths.
For many, this dive site provides the perfect combination of exceptional marine life, with critters such as nudibranchs and pygmy seahorses clinging to the corals, and bigger species gliding past on the current. Schools of barracuda, trevally, and surgeonfish are commonplace around this pinnacle, disturbing clouds of anthias as they flash frantically back and forth. Both whitetip and grey reef sharks are often found cruising the upwelling from the deeper waters beyond the peninsula. But, the standout highlight of this site is it's two busy cleaning stations where divers can often encounter both reef and oceanic mantas rays - making it one of just a few sites in the world to offer such an experience.
Part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve established to protect the rich diversity of its ecosystem, French Polynesia’s Fakarava Atoll is a true paradise for nature lovers. And when it comes to diving, this far-flung atoll is about as wild as it gets. Considering the size of this place, its dive sites might seem somewhat limited, focusing on just two channels located in the north and south. But, thankfully, Fakarava delivers quality over quantity - until you dive below the surface, where the quantity becomes immediately apparent through the sheer density of marine life!
Tumakohua Pass is the southern of the two channels and is both narrower and shallower than its northern counterpart. The dive typically begins on the ocean side of the channel and is timed with the incoming tide. A long white sandy slope marks the starting point and leads divers towards the entrance to the pass, where a ‘wall’ of grey reef sharks often awaits. Inside the channel, an entire microcosm of marine life can be found, from critters such as frogfish hiding amongst rose-like corals to purple-spotted bigeye, marble loach, snapper, barracuda, Napoleon wrasse and large schools of yellowfin goatfish. More shark action is yet to come, with several different species often seen casually hanging around a cave, including lemon sharks, whitetips, and the odd hammerhead.
Incredibly, all of this would be considered an ‘average’ dive in Tumakohua Pass. Because, this tight channel is also home to an annual spawning aggregation of 10,000 or more marbled grouper. At this time, Fakarava’s famous predators are out in full force, with hundreds of sharks gathering for the feast.
Over the last few decades, Bali has become one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations - driven, at least in some part, by Bali's outstanding scuba diving. There is an incredible breadth of underwater environments to be explored, all nurtured by Indonesia’s nutrient-rich waters. Within this wide spectrum of underwater experiences, Bali’s sibling islands of Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida have proven themselves the place to be for exciting diving and pelagic encounters.
Crystal Bay is located on the east coast of Nusa Penida, overlooking the Toyapakeh Strait and Nusa Ceningan beyond. The dive site gets its name thanks to its impressive visibility, enhanced by cold upwellings and strong currents. In fact, visibility aside, the conditions here can be less than favourable with temperatures dropping as low as 18°C at times and violent down currents appearing out of nowhere. Don’t worry though, because this site is totally worth the effort. As well as the hard and soft coral gardens and diverse marine life, Crystal Bay is arguably the best dive site in the world for spotting one of the ocean’s largest and most elusive fish, the mola mola.
The dive site consists of two distinct parts - the bay and the wall. At first, drivers will likely explore the sheltered bay area, which features a wide sandy slope with coral gardens on either side. As they begin to curve around the bay’s central island, the slope drops off and becomes a wall. This is where currents begin to increase, but is also where mola mola are most likely to be found. Other marine life frequenting this site includes tuna, trevally, and turtles, as well as mackerel, snapper and sweetlips. Banded sea snakes are often spotted as they probe the colourful coral reef, which also hosts frogfish, seahorses, nudibranchs, and more.
It’s likely that few serious divers haven't heard of Indonesia’s Lembeh Strait. While the term ‘muck diving’ was originally used to describe some of the sites in Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea, it’s an indisputable fact that the Lembeh Strait now reigns supreme as the mighty champion of muck diving and critters. Since its discovery in the 90’s this unparalleled stretch of water has become a hallowed destination for anybody interested in the peculiarities of the underwater world. And, in truth, peculiar doesn’t do it justice.
Typical of Lembeh’s muck sites, Hairball offers a gentle slope of murky black sand, scattered with the occasional sea sponge or sunken log. Divers shouldn’t be deterred, though, because this is muck diving as it should be. Steady searching and a bit of patience here can reveal all manner of weird and wonderful creatures. Large yellow and brown seahorses can be observed meandering back and forth between the algae, while shy Ambon scorpionfish do their best to hide amongst it. Flamboyant cuttlefish, cardinalfish, zebra crabs and coconut octopuses are just a few of the other critters that call Hairball their home. And, frogfish fans will not be disappointed as on Hairball, the question is not if you’ll find one, rather it’s how many you can count.
Dropping in at night and Hairball actually kicks things up a gear - if that’s even possible. Under the cover of darkness, a range of different species emerge from shadows and its possible to find include spiny devilfish, Spanish dancers, and the highly sought-after stargazer, among many others.
Somewhere between a mythical lost world and an instagram-tourist attraction, Komodo National Park is considered a must for many holiday-makers in Indonesia. While most will visit for the lizards, many fall in love with the diving, as this current-swept cluster of islands has gained near legendary status among scuba divers, with countless world-class dive sites heaving with healthy coral reefs and incredible wildlife encounters, as well as some of Indonesia's most exciting liveaboard itineraries.
Batu Bolong is an exposed pinnacle between Komodo Island and Tatawa Besar in the centre of the park, an area renowned for its volatile currents. In fact, Batu Bolong can only be dived when conditions are more predictable, and the starting point of the dive is dictated by the tidal conditions. On the up-current side of the site, the water flow hits the pinnacle and creates strong, swirling down currents that can be very difficult to manage. However, on the opposite side in the lee of the island, divers will find shelter from the onslaught and can explore with relative ease.
The dive starts with a stunning coral garden at around five-metres covered in dense clouds of beautiful anthias and awash with invertebrates. Divers then drop down to their preferred depth before slowly zigzagging back up the pinnacle, peering into the current on either side. In the deeper sections, soft corals and sponges prevail, and pygmy seahorses, nudibranchs, orangutan crabs, the occasional blue-ring octopus, and more can also be found. This dive site also offers plenty of action in the water column - it is nicknamed Fish Soup for good reason - with huge schools of fusiliers, surgeons, and giant sweetlips often obscuring your view. Giant trevally, dogtooth tuna, barracuda, Spanish mackerel and Napoleon wrasse all swim incredibly close to the steep walls, as well as reef sharks.
Covered with tropical woodland and surrounded by pebble beaches battered by ocean swell, Fuvahmulah doesn’t fit the typical ideal of a Maldivian holiday destination. So what brings so many divers here? Well, beneath the water this equatorial island really shows its wild side as Fuvahmulah has become known as one of the world’s very best shark diving destinations, with large pelagic predators appearing from the deep surrounding waters. The island’s isolated location within the Maldives’ Equatorial Channel has meant it has always been a beacon for sharks, but today divers can view with some of the ocean's most formidable inhabitants at a unique dive site - the infamous Tiger Zoo.
Fishing is a major part of life in Fuvahmulah and following the construction of the harbour and fish market, waste fish scraps were routinely thrown back into the sea at the harbour entrance. This regular fishy smorgasbord attracted the area’s bigger residents, including a species commonly referred to as garbage cans of the sea’ - tiger sharks. The spot was then nicknamed Tiger Zoo and for divers, it is the only place in the Maldives where encounters with this spectacular species are guaranteed - every day of the year!.
Located just metres from the entrance to the harbour, the dive site is a shallow sandy plateau scattered with rocks at a depth of about eight-metres. Once in the water, divers will drop to the bottom and form a line on the seafloor. Out of some 200 tiger sharks believed to frequent these waters, an average of 10 or more can show up on a single dive, with a nerve-shredding 35 individuals once recorded.
Thailand has been a much-loved dive holiday destination for decades, drawing new and seasoned divers from all over the world. While the Gulf of Thailand has plenty to offer, the country’s western coast is undoubtedly home to the most impressive underwater experiences. Here, cast out amid the Andaman Sea, the protected Similan and Surin islands deliver boulder-strew slopes, thriving, colourful corals, and the ever-present possibility of a bucket-list encounter.
Richelieu Rock is an isolated pinnacle incorporated into the Surin National Marine Park, close to Thailand’s northern border with Myanmar. Although part of the protected area, Richelieu Rock actually lies around 18-kilometres east of the Surin Islands, placing it at the mercy of powerful currents. The formation itself features a large central pinnacle surrounded by smaller rocky outcrops which arch outwards to form a horseshoe shape. On the southern side, inside the horseshoe, the pinnacle slopes somewhat gently down to the seafloor at a depth of 35-metres, while the outer wall falls away more steeply.
Almost every inch of Richelieu Rock has been colonised by colourful soft corals, sea fans and anemones which compete for space amongst the nutrient-rich current. With such a healthy reef to explore, it’s no surprise that a wide array of macro can be found here, including seahorses, frogfish, ghost pipefish, nudibranchs and other invertebrates. Leopard sharks are also often seen resting on the sandy seafloor. In the blue, big and bolshy species such as trevally, tuna and barracuda can be observed. For many though, it’s the hope of an up-close encounter with the biggest of them all that is Richelieu Rock’s biggest draw. During the frequent plankton blooms here, there’s the chance of a whale shark stopping by for a feast, sometimes accompanied by a friendly manta or two.
Little Cayman is the smallest of the Cayman’s and, understandably, offers the fewest dive sites. Still, Little Cayman’s coastline is packed with plenty of scuba diving potential. Underwater exploration focuses on the western side of the island, where two marine parks can be found - Preston Bay to the south and the legendary Bloody Bay to the north.
In truth, we’ve cheated a little bit here, because Bloody Bay Wall is not strictly one dive site. But, you could honestly dive any of the dozen or so sites along this precipice and be absolutely blown away by its beauty and overwhelming magnitude. Beginning at just five metres below the surface in places, it’s believed this vertigo-inducing wall drops to depths of a kilometre or more - depending on your source. Understandably, it can take even seasoned divers a moment or two to catch their breath as they swim out and over the drop-off. But, once the nerves settle, the unparalleled scenery and dazzling kaleidoscope of colour begin to come into full focus.
A plethora of sponges adorn the craggy cliff face here, providing dabs of paint-like pigment, while forests of sea fans cast spindly shadows in the marbled light. Many small cracks, crevices, caves and chimneys can be found along the wall, hiding a range of smaller marine creatures and creating the occasional swim-through for divers. With a keen eye it is possible to find seahorses, nudibranchs, Christmas tree worms, and a wide range of other invertebrates amongst the coral. Tiny, technicoloured reef fish also cling close to the wall for shelter while larger species linger in the blue, including green turtles, occasional eagle rays and curious Nassau groupers which often join buddy teams for the duration of their dive.
Located in the Pacific Ocean, roughly halfway between the Philippines and Hawaii, Chuuk is one of four states that form the Federated States of Micronesia. Amongst scuba diving circles, this remote atoll is perhaps better known as Truk Lagoon and is widely recognised as one of the world’s true wreck diving meccas. In fact, this single lagoon plays host to more than 50 diveable WWII wrecks, the highest concentration found anywhere on the planet!
In February 1944, the United States launched a two-day air raid on Japanese forces stationed in Chuuk, decimating over 50 vessels and 250 aircraft. One such vessel, the Fujikawa Maru, now stands upright on the seabed near the island of Eten, at a maximum depth of 30-metres. While there are certainly larger wrecks located within the lagoon, many visitors consider this to be one of the atoll’s stand-out dives. The vessel’s superstructure starts at around 10-metres, with the bow’s large, six-inch gun coming into focus as divers descend deeper towards the deck. Other exterior features include a second gun at the stern and an array of delicately-hued soft corals and sponges clinging to the wreck.
But, inside the vessel is where things get really interesting. Divers can easily explore the ship’s pilothouse, staterooms, and galley, as well as a bathroom complete with a row of urinals. Unfortunately, the roof of Fujikawa Maru’s renowned engine room has collapsed in recent years, but it is still possible to penetrate the machine shop. Here, divers will find a lathe, bench drill, grinding wheels, and a charismatic air compressor nicknamed R2D2. And, best of all, the holds are densely packed with disassembled Mitsubishi Zero fighter planes, their wings, propellers, nose cones, and fuselages all jumbled together alongside shell casings, machine guns, gas masks, and more.
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