By Briana Seftel
Calling all Jacques Cousteaus! Whether you just got certified or you've been diving for yers, these ten dive spots around the world will shorely rank among the highlights of any vacation. Pop that gear on and explore the mystical, magical underwater world teeming with life.
The Maldives is a postcard perfect destination in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Composed of 26 ring-shaped atolls, this tropical nation is a favorite among divers for calm waters and a colorful array of fish including moorish idol, tall fin batfish and parrotfish. Two of the most popular dive spots are Maaya Thila (dubbed the "White Tip Reef Shark Capital of the Maldives") and the UNESCO-protected Baa Atoll.
2. Great Blue Hole • Belize
Located 60 miles off the coast of Belize, the Great Blue Hole is a massive underwater sinkhole near the center of Lighthouse Reef. The world’s largest natural formation of its kind, it was made famous by Jacques Cousteau in the 1970s when he filmed a show there. In addition to giant stalactites and stalagmites, divers can observe nurse sharks, giant groupers and several types of reef sharks including the blacktip shark.
3. Molokini Crater • Hawaii
A crescent-shaped volcanic crater off the south coast of Maui, Molokini is a popular diving and snorkeling spot in Hawaii. Most of the crater is submerged in water and is home to a beautiful reef covered in dramatic cauliflower coral. Experienced divers can explore the reef’s backside, which drops down to about 360 feet, while beginner divers stick to the inner reef’s calm waters.
4. Red Sea
Wedged between Africa and Asia, you’re probably more familiar with the Red Sea in holy texts than diving. However, this inlet in the Indian Ocean is home to some of the world’s best diving with 1,240 miles of coral reef and more than 1200 species of fish. One of the most well-known dive spots is Ras Mohammed National Park in Egypt. Divers flock here to see the wreck of the SS Thistlegorm, a British navy ship that sunk in 1941.
5. Great Barrier Reef • Australia
No list of dive spots is complete without the most famous reef in the world. The Great Barrier Reef, located off the coast of Queensland in Australia, is the world's largest coral reef at a staggering 1,400 miles long. Offering a variety of dive zones for both the beginner and the experienced diver, the Great Barrier Reef is astounding in its breadth. It’s also the only living organism visible from space!
Bonus: The Yongala is one of the world's top wreck dives in the Great Barrier Reef. The 358-foot ship has been on the seafloor since 1911 and is home to a great diversity of marine life.
While travelers flock to the magical island of Bali, Indonesia is also home to some stellar diving spots around its more than 17,000 islands. A popular and unique dive spot is Lembeh Strait, which involves muck diving or exploring the ocean floor. Other well-known spots include the luxury dive resort Wakatobi, the Raja Ampat islands and Liberty Wreck off the coast of Tulamben in Bali.
7. Cenotes • Yucatan, Mexico
These deep, freshwater sinkholes in Mexico’s Yucatan make memorable diving excursions. Formed by the collapse of limestone caverns, cenotes draw divers from around the globe for their purified, crystal clear water and intricate cave systems. While marine life can be sparse, many cenotes boast impressive stalagmites and stalactites formed over millions of years. Popular cenotes include Sistema Dos Ojos in Playa del Carmen and Cenote Dos Ojos and Gran Cenote near Tulum.
8. Sipadan Island • Malaysia
Consistently ranked as one of the most beautiful diving spots in the world, Sipadan Island is an oceanic island in Malaysia with some of the highest concentrations of sea turtles in the world. While getting to Sipadan Island is a journey in itself, divers are rewarded with sights they won’t see anywhere else on earth, including tornado-like schools of barracudas.
Travel tip: The island limits dives to 120 per day, so make sure you book your diving permit well in advance.
9. Utila Island • Honduras
Located about 18 miles off the coast of Honduras, Utila Island is a laidback Caribbean paradise and an in-the-know diving destination. Bordering the Mesoamerican barrier reef system, the world's second largest reef system, divers can explore more than 60 dive sites including wrecks and caves. The main attraction here in spring and fall is the whale shark, the largest fish species on earth. If you’re looking to get scuba certified cheaply, come here!
10. Koh Tao • Thailand
This island, part of the Chumphon Archipelago, is synonymous with diving. You can wake up, have breakfast, go diving, and be back in time for lunch at this easy-to-get-to diving destination that’s popular with beginners. Spot tropical fish, reef sharks, stingrays and barracuda all year round in this paradise in Thailand.