Scuba diving is one of those activities we all secretly fantasize about doing. We’ve all seen those documentaries showing underwater footage of wet-suit clad divers, drifting above coral reefs and amongst the most colourful schools of fish we’ve ever seen. ‘’I would LOVE to go diving!’’ is the typical response whined at the TV. Then they see the list of requirements and restrictions and that soon shuns their short-lived dream.
But here’s the good news: if anyone’s still interested in giving scuba diving a go, we’ve found the top 10 destinations for beginner divers. These diving spots are highly rated for their beginner-friendly dives. So let’s not reject our diving dreams just yet. On the other hand, divers with more experience can enjoy more daring spots in the world. That’s the wonderful thing about diving – we can stay tame or we can push the limits! For experienced divers out there, we’ve found the top ten destinations for daring diving.
Whether we’re experienced or inexperienced, we can all enjoy the wonders of scuba diving. And we’ve found some of the most exotic spots in the world to meet everybody’s needs. Some of them are closer while others require a longer flight. Either way, they are worth the visit!
20 For the daring: USS Oriskany, Florida
The Mighty O...It’s the largest artificial reef in the world and one of the few aircraft carriers to greet underwater guests. Starting at a depth of 80 feet, this isn’t really the place for recreational divers. For the more experienced and daring divers, however, it should be a piece of cake.
They’ll have to plunge 145 feet to admire views of the flight deck. However, the dive will be worth it when we see the magnificent 911-foot Oriskany shipwreck with so much to see. We doubt divers will get to see everything on one single dive down there. It’s larger than life!
19 For first-timers: Gili Trawangan, Indonesia
With its wonderful warm, clear waters, Indonesia is an aquatic haven and an excellent place for first-time divers or at least, less experienced divers who want to stay on the cautious side. These waters are home to over 3500 marine species including colourful corals, reef sharks and pygmy seahorses. Because there’s some fierce competition between European-run diving operators, course fees here are not too expensive. That appeals to a lot of people because in some locations, there isn’t as much competition and so the prices are much steeper.
Diving is all year-round here, although many divers avoid coming during the November to April rainy season.
18 For the daring: Barracuda Point, Sipadan
Barracuda Point is considered to be one of the top five dive sites in the world. However, it’s no place to go if we’ve never dived before. It’s particularly great for advanced divers who can bring an underwater camera along with them to snap photographs of the thousands of shoals of Barracudas that can sometimes make a tornado. Other marine animals we’ll see in the water include turtles, bumphead parrotfish, reef sharks, and batfish.
It’s an amazing spot to discover many different species. However, it is a bit of a risky dive for beginners, so make sure you have your certificate and are comfortable with the water before submerging.
17 For first-timers: North Male Atoll, Maldives
The Maldives is known for its calm waters, making it a perfect diving location for beginners. North Male Atoll is the particular spot for excellent dive sites. In spite of widespread bleaching in the waters, coral remains healthy and there is still plenty of tropical marine life to admire. And with over 30 meters of water visibility, we can see why people flock to the Maldives for an incredible diving experience. It’s also the only habitat in which whale sharks can be seen all year-round. Kurudu Resort is the biggest dive centre in the area, so that is a good choice for first-timers.
16 For the daring: Peleliu Express, Palau
The incoming and outcoming tides of Peleliu Express are often as strong as 4 knots. In other words, these waters should be for experienced divers only. One thing divers will love about these waters is the amount of wildlife circulating in them. Up to 50 gray sharks, rainbow runners, palette surgeonfish, and schools of oriental sweetlips, are swimming in the Peleliu Island waters.
Most people go diving to witness the ocean’s exotic species. If that is your reason, you will love the experience of swimming in these waters. And with its warm, crystal clear water, one can only dream of diving here.
15 For first-timers: Utila, Bay Islands, Honduras
The stunning Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System is the perfect location for diving. Although over-fishing has had a negative impact on marine life around Utila, there is still much to see and new divers wouldn’t notice.
Most beginners usually head to Roatan for courses. However, Utila offers better value for money for its beginner diving courses. The Utila Dive Centre is worth a look for those itching to get into the water. The good news is that diving is all year-round here in Utila, but if divers want to spot whale sharks, March to April or September to December are the best times to do it.
14 For the daring: Darwin’s Arch, Galapagos, Ecuador
Many divers go on several dives in order to explore Darwin’s Arch in Ecuador. This famed site takes more than one dive to explore. That’s why it’s the best choice for divers with experience. Darwin’s Arch rises over 50 feet from the ocean below. Because we cannot access it from Darwin Island, it can only be accessed from a liveaboard. Sea lions and turtles can be seen down there. Although many divers only really go to witness the famous historical site. We can also spot hammerheads and whale sharks in the Galapagos waters. It’s certainly an experience divers won’t want to miss.
13 For first-timers: Caye Caulker, Belize
Lying less than a mile from Caye Caulker, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System is another wonderful place to dive if one’s not so experienced at it. Here we will find countless diving sites with the opportunity to see everything from coral gardens to delicate sea fans to Belize’s famous Great Blue Hole. However, the Great Blue Hole, which can be reached from Caye Caulker, is only for advanced divers.
Now, there are downsides to diving in Belize. For starters, it’s one of the most expensive places to dive in Central America. Still, the diving here is considered to be the best. Come in May for the best weather conditions.
12 For the daring: Secret Bay, Philippines
If the goal of a dive is to see an amazing array of marine life, Secret Bay is one of the best choices. So many beautiful little creatures live in this ocean including mantis shrimp, frogfish, seahorses, snake eels, bobbit worms, nudibranchs, octopi and small reef fish. If it’s the big fish one is hoping to see here, it’s probably better looking elsewhere because we won’t find them here.
This is probably one of the least daring dives that we’ve seen so far, but nonetheless challenging because of its 60-foot-deep capacity. Plus, we can dive any time of year because the water is warm all year-round.
11 For first-timers: Dahab, Red Sea, Egypt
Dahab boasts beautiful coral habitats only a few steps from the beach. It offers some incredible opportunities for diving, both for first timers and for the more experienced.
Over Egypt’s prime dive centre, Sharm-el-Sheikh, which is 90km away, Dahab feels less chaotic and a lot more relaxed. Even though it’s not as mainstream as that one, Dahab still offers a great tourism infrastructure, meaning diving is still recommended here. The Red Sea is especially good for beginners because it has year-round visibility of 30m. Although we can go diving all year-round here, May to September are the particularly hot months.
10 For the daring: Roca Partida, Socorro Islands, Mexico
We can’t possibly write about Mexico without mentioning something about diving, can we? It’s the smallest of the islands, but Roca Partida makes up for it with its awesome diving opportunities. This volcanic outpost is home to the world’s highest number of giant mantas, which swank wingspans up to 22 feet. It is also home to 10 species of shark, including whitetip reef sharks, giant hammerheads and scalloped hammerheads.
Anyone who doesn’t have a fear of sharks will have a whale of a time here. For advanced divers, Roca Partida is a world-class dive that allows us to see so many marine species.
9 For first-timers: Ko Tao, Thailand
The 2004 tsunami has left no lasting effects on Ko Tao from what we’re seeing. It still looks breathtaking. It’s also one of the few places on earth where we can spot whale sharks. Come in March or April for a better chance of that happening. But that’s not all divers will see: barracuda, tropical fish and reef sharks are other marine species we’ll spot down under.
Few people would believe Ko Tao would be such a relaxing island, considering its neighboring party island that is Ko Pha-Ngan. July to September offers the best visibility, even though it is possible to dive all year-round.
8 For the daring: Race Rocks, British Columbia, Canada
With its fast currents, this diving spot is more for the experience and brave at heart than it is for beginners. An advanced certification is required in order to dive at Race Rocks.
On the charter, we’ll also be able to spot Steller sea lions chilling out on the rocks. But that’s just the beginning of our wildlife observation trip. At the bottom of the ocean, or not far from it anyway, we’ll see a range of marine animals – even killer whales!
Just make sure you book a charter in advance because they fill up fast! And it’s no wonder why when we hear everything this place has to offer.
7 For first-timers: Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Some say it’s the king of all diving spots, and that may be true – especially for first-time divers. Boasting visibility of more than 24m down, diving in the Grand Cayman is a delight and not too challenging for new divers. Stingray City is a particularly good spot for newbies because it’s only around 5m deep. This gives the beginners the chance to get the taste for diving or alternatively, try snorkelling. Thanks to its great all-year-round weather conditions, we can enjoy diving here any time we like. We can also admire the shipwrecks while we’re down there, but only from the outside.
6 For the daring: SS Yongala, Australia
A large number of divers consider this to be the best diving spot in the world. Of course what we consider to be the best is down to personal opinion, but this one stands a strong chance of winning.
Close to Townsville in Queensland, the SS Yongala wreck lies 33 meters deep with the top of the wreck measuring 15 meters deep. While the visibility of 10 to 15 meters isn’t ideal, the Yongala and the marine life surrounding it will leave us staggered. Bannerfish, Barracudas, eagle rays, bull sharks, tiger sharks, manta rays and turtles are some of the marine life we might spot while exploring the SS Yongala wreck. But because of the strong current, it is only for experienced divers.
5 For first-timers: Key Largo, Florida
With sites starting at 12m and free of currents, there is nowhere more ideal for new divers than in Key Largo, Florida. It is a perfect destination for beginners who aren’t too confident at swimming – but of course, can swim! In Key Largo waters, it’s also possible to encounter multiple animals like eagle rays and turtles while swimming. It’s an incredible way to explore the underwater world and its natural beauty. Just make sure you go with a qualified instructor or present your Open Water Diving Certificate.
Even though the waters are for beginners, it is still important to have an experienced diver there with us.
4 For the daring: Richelieu Rock Dive Site, Thailand
Richelieu Rock is famous for its whale shark spotting opportunities. Unfortunately, the chance of seeing this animal during a diving session is not as simple as it sounds. Nevertheless, it’s still a wonderful place for diving. The best chance to spot them is from February to May. But don’t worry if you don’t spot any during your dive, there is still much more to admire in Richelieu Rock. We can easily spot pelagic fish like dogtooth tunas, barracudas and giant trevallies. We may even spot a manta ray under the water. It’s also not impossible to witness tiger tail seahorses, harlequin shrimp and pipefish while we’re down there.
3 For first-timers: Perhentian Islands, Malaysia
Novice divers will love it here in the Perhentian Islands. Malaysia’s east coast in general offers a plethora of diving opportunities, excellent for rookies. With beautiful coral reefs and easy shore dives, the Perhentian Islands are rated as the number one choice in Malaysia for beginners. We don’t even have to take a boat out to dive here. We can simply wade into the water – with an instructor of course – and immediately start admiring the amazing marine life in the waters.
Reef sharks, sea turtles and stingrays are some of the animals we may spot, in addition to schools of colourful fish.
2 For the daring: Switzer, Solomon Islands
Switzer was named after Switzerland – obviously because it’s the home of the Alps and here in the waters of Switzer, we will find something similar: underwater mountains. This is a one of a kind experienced for divers who knows a thing or two about diving. They’ll enjoy a drift experience over the sheer slopes covered in hard coral and anemones. It really is a scuba diver’s dream diving destination because it’s something totally unusual. Photographers also love these islands – for obvious reasons. We’ll see a plethora of marine species whizzing past us in every direction. It’s dizzying, but nevertheless incredible.
1 For first-timers: The Visayas, Philippines
Situated at the heart of the world’s coral triangle, the Philippines is known for being home to the largest number of marine life on the planet. Love animals? Then we’ll love diving here
. Over 5000 species of snails, clams, and molluscs live here alone. Fringed with coral reefs, The Visayas makes for a perfect first-time diving experience and we don’t have to be experts to enjoy it either. There are plenty of diving opportunities here led by qualified instructors. In other words, it’s the ideal setup for first-timers. It’s best to come during the November to June dry season which offers the best weather and best visibility.
References: scubadiving.com, divezone.net, lonelyplanet.com, justgottadive.com, divephotoguide.com,