Top 10 Diving Spots

Explore a world beneath the waves in these remarkable regions of pure underwater artistry, just a jump from the yacht deck.

Diversity, depth and dramatic seascapes are all integral ingredients in a world-class diving destination and this list of natural oases will not disappoint on any yachting itinerary. Chosen for stunning underwater scenery from fascinating wrecks and oceanic architecture, to vibrant reefs and kaleidoscopic marine life that fill the temperate seas with magical colour, these diving destinations are truly unforgettable. How you choose to dive these fabulous sites is up to you; onboard a professional boat, alongside an expert instructor or simply go it alone if you have the appropriate skills, equipment and experience.

1. The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Number one on this list would come as no surprise considering its position as one of the seven natural wonders of the world. An unwavering favourite, this underwater paradise is riddled with fabulous diving destinations from top to bottom, boasting sites for all levels of divers.

Coral Sea

Perhaps the best of all is the Coral Sea, whose remarkable visibility of almost 60 metres makes spotting fantastic sea snakes and sharks distinctly easy. Featuring the world's largest collection of corals alongside sponges, molluscs, rays, and dolphins, the reef also shelters over 1500 species of tropical fish and around 20 types of reptiles including sea turtles and giant clams over 120 years old. The area is also a well-known breeding ground for humpback whales. About a 30 minute sail from the luxurious Lizard Island, you will encounter boundless ribbons of coral in truly spectacular hues of blue, green and yellow drenched in sunlight merely inches from the surface of the water. Other excellent drops include Cod Hole where potato cod the size of small cars patrol the waters, and Osprey's Reef which is rife with sharks and fascinating underwater walls.

Yongala

Not to be missed is the incredible shipwreck Yongala, a 109 metre giant which sunk during a 1911 cyclone. Located 90 kilometres southeast from the coast of Townsville, she is often considered the best diving site in the world all on her own. Swimming within her massive bulk can be seen manta rays, sea snakes, octopuses, turtles, bull sharks, tiger sharks, clouds of fish and kaleidoscopic coral, although entering the vessel is strictly forbidden.

2. Mexico

Mexico is home to a number of awe-inspiring dive sites which warrant a visit to this northern gem for them alone.

Playa del Carmen

Just south of the coastal town of Playa del Carmen is a majestic limestone bedrock that underlies the Yucatan Peninsula and is riddled with freshwater-filled sinkholes called centos, of which the 14 metre deep Connote Taj Maja is one of the best. Filled with still, crystalline waters, the cenote boasts an 18 metre sinkhole that leads to an impressive network of underwater caves. A true labyrinth for divers, they sink and swim through rock passageways to cathedrals of stalagmites, stalactites, and coral fossils. Far below, flowing seawater from the ocean creates a strange layered, mirror like phenomenon known as the halocline effect, where a layer of saltwater meets freshwater above.

Santa Rosalia and Espiritu Santos

Halfway down the Baja Peninsula on the western edge of the Sea of Cortez is the town of Santa Rosalia; the base of divers in search of the giant Humboldt squid. Known to grow up to almost two metres in length, these beasts frequent the deep waters in groups and often venture further towards the surface to feed. For another fantastic sight there are a pair of jagged islets known as Los Islotes in the Bay of La Paz on the northern end of the Espiritu Santos islands which are home to a massive colony of sea lions. These animated creatures are accustomed enough to the presence of divers that you can swim alongside them in their natural habitat.

Cozumel

The Island of Cozumel off the Mayan coast is another must-dive, surrounded by stunning reefs and sublimely clear water seemingly made for scuba diving. Visibility can often be up to 200 feet and while the gentle currents that run parallel to the reef are a drift diver’s dream, cave divers can head towards the mainland to dive the freshwater caves. Be sure to explore cracks and crevices for the whiskered Splendid Toadfish which is found nowhere else on Earth.

3. Vanuatu

Like most regions in the South Pacific, Vanuatu is a home to an extraordinary world beneath the water, with the most staggering site being the mighty shipwreck of the SS President Coolidge.

SS President Coolidge

Located off the coast of Espiritu Santo, the 22,000 tonne ship sank fully-laden during World War II just off the beach, leaving its holds jammed with war machinery and scattered with helmets, gas masks and personal effects. The world below is a mix of rising walls, plunging cliffs, massive caves and interconnecting tunnel networks that shelter a myriad of sea life from soft corals and sponges to acropora gardens and schools of fish in unimaginable colours.

Tongoa and Million Dollar Point

North of the main island of Efate is the famous Tongoa wall where divers can explore the edge of a live volcano, while off Espiritu Santo is Million Dollar Point, the dumping place of military equipment. Vanuatu experiences its highest visibility from June to October when water temperatures are slightly cooler. She also comes highly recommended as a night dive.

4. Virgin Islands

The sleepy Virgin Gorda island is home to the most celebrated diving site in the Caribbean, the wreck of the HMS Rhone off Salt Island. Many divers plan their entire yachting vacations around a trip to this famed site, in existent since 1867 when the royal mail steamer went down during a hurricane. The ship is now just as much a natural reef as it is a wreck, easily recognisable for its former glory although now it plays home to brightly glowing orange cup coral and technicolour schools of fish. The wreck is classified as a Marine National Park and lies in waters between 9 and 27 metres deep and stretches from Lee Bay on Salt Island westward to include Dead Chest Island. The National Parks Trust has installed mooring buoys for use by all commercial, charter and private vessels. Ginger Island also includes a number of spectacular sites including; Alice’s Wonderland, a magnificent coral garden filled with grand waving purple and green sea fans alongside five types of gorgeous butterfly fish, and; Ginger Steps which is a set of ledges sliding down to 300 metres and sheltering angel fish, fairy basslets and squirrel fish amongst the sponges and vibrant coral heads. The Dog Islands are also justifiably popular, featuring the colourful coral wonderland of Bronco’s Billy off George Dog, The Cora Gardens Aeroplane Wreck off Great Dog, the marine-life centre of Seal Dog off West Seal Dog, and the captivating The Visibles off George Dog amongst many others.

5. Egyptian Red Sea

Consistently ranked among the world's best and for good reason, the eastern edge of the Sahara supports one of the most spectacular dive sites yet to be seen. Naturally separated from the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea has been allowed to develop an individual reef system like no other; 30% of the area’s marine life is completely endemic to the region. Most of Egypt's marine parks require you to have logged at least 50 dives but beginners need not worry as the snorkelling is just as good.

Thistlegorm

Located in the Strait of Gobal, north of Ras Mohammed, this 131 metre British vessel was attacked from the air and sunk in 1941 whilst carrying a cargo of war supplies. Due to her excellent condition, diving the wreck has been described as an eerie yet historic adventure into a time past where everything from trains and tanks to rifles and boots can be spotted.

Elphinstone

Just 6.5 miles from shore, Elphinstone reef is about 300 metres long with sheer sides and while it’s middle is only one metre deep, its walls spiral steeply down to the depths. Fish, fish, and more fish fill the scope of the mask here while soft corals provide plenty of colour. Due to the strong currents of the area, this dive site is recommended for experienced divers only.

6. Rangiroa, French Polynesia

About 400 kilometres from Tahiti lay the incredible islands of the Tuamotu Archipelago, including a string of coral encircling a luminous turquoise lagoon known as Rangiroa, the second largest atoll in the world. Consisting of 240 tiny islets over 177 kilometres there is no wonder this is one of the word's most intriguing and diverse dive sites. Being so extremely remote, there is nothing to intrude on the tides and marine life that surrounds the area and divers get to experience what is known as “shooting the pass”. Divers simply float with the Pacific waters that flow into the gorgeous lagoon alongside grey reef sharks, dolphins, mantas and millions of brightly coloured fish.

7. The Maldives

The best diving in the Indian Ocean can be found in the glorious tropical paradise of The Maldives. The channels are full of caves, caverns and overhangs hiding soft corals, colourful sponges, and fascinating invertebrates. Dotted with atoll lagoons, there are plenty of sites to explore in this amazing region, and away from the pull of the reefs you can spot pelagics such as manta rays, eagle rays and an impressive array of sharks. Particularly stunning is the Ari Atoll, where the opportunity to spot immense schools of fish and pelagics is second to none in the Maldives. Due to the large spread of the diving sites found both inside and outside of the atolls' lagoons and channels, yacht is the perfect way to explore the various adventure dives on offer.

8. Sipadan Island, Malaysian Borneo

Unbeknownst to many, Malaysia is home to some undeniably beautiful diving experiences, enriched by the country's relatively untouched environment. It's only oceanic island is the tiny Sipadan (Pulau Sipadan) in the South China Sea, less than an hour sail from the mainland. It is an absolute magnet for stunning fish from barracuda and trevally to horse-eye jacks as well as stunning green turtles well accustomed to the presence of divers. At Barracuda Point you will find yourself swimming in a swirling sea of the fish so dense sunlight often disappears. At South Point you can encounter reef sharks, huge schools of trevally and awe-inspiring herds of parrotfish. Close by are the reefs of Mabul and Kapalai; well-renowned for macro divers and simply swarming with rare mandarin fish, sea wasps and immense amounts of nudibranchs. Sipadan is a wonderful spot for experienced divers year round due to its often strong currents, although the best conditions exist from April to December with July and August being the highlights.

9. Cayman Islands

Located on the massive underwater mountain range of the Cayman Ridge that drops off to kilometres deep near the shore and is fringed by coral reefs, there is no surprise this group of three islands is a world-class diving destination. Although Grand Cayman is the most established diving destination, for a more relaxed but equally as enthralling experience, set up base in Little Cayman. Little Cayman is one of those special spots in the Caribbean that has managed to retain its small island atmosphere and unspoiled natural beauty beneath the water. On the northern shore is the fascinating Bloody Bay Wall and Jackson’s Point; a sheer coral cliff swimming in remarkably clear waters dropping 2,000 metres into a submarine trench. The Mixing Bowl is arguably the finest wall diving in the Caribbean and besides its unbelievable drop, is home to the famous grouper Ben, who some divers would have you believe will allow you to tickle him under the chin. For comfortably warm waters and relatively easy diving conditions, this wonderful island is hard to beat.

10. Surin and Similan Islands, Thailand

Thailand's best diving can be found in the Adaman Sea, home to such interesting sites as Hin Daeng (Red Rock) and Hin Mouang (Purple Rock) in the southwest and Similan and Surin Islands. Similan Island is a relative wilderness dive where meadows of soft corals and sea fans support an immense fish population make this a first-class diving site. The Surin Islands are home to the famous Richelieu Rock, a 30 metre dive famous for shark sightings, giant schools of fish and superb Macro photography opportunities. Hin Mouang and Hin Daeng are excellent feeding grounds for pelagic fish and attract huge shoals of these kaleidoscopic creatures. Hin Mouang is a scenic dream of massive pinnacles, clouds of fish, multi-hued anemone gardens, soft corals and gorgonia. Depths of the dive range from eight to 70 metres. Hin Daeng is a haven of leopard sharks, grey reef sharks, morays, barracuda, octopus, crayfish, shrimps, and even nurse, whale sharks and manta rays can often be spotted amongst the walls, plateaus and rocks of the 35 metre dive site.