Top 10 Diving Spots

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 to vibrant reefs and kaleidoscopic marine life, these diving destinations are truly unforgettable

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. This underwater paradise is riddled with fabulous diving destinations from top to bottom, boasting sites for all levels of divers. 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.

2. Mexico

Just south of the coastal town of Playa del Carmen is a majestic limestone bedrock that underlies the Yucatan Peninsula and is riddled with fresh water-filled sinkholes called centos, of which the 14 metre deep Connote Taj Maja is one of the best. Filled with still, crystalline waters, it 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.

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. 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.

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 existence 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 and now 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.

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.

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 world’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. 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

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. 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. 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. 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.