12 of the Best Scuba Diving Sites in Asia
Sometimes, the most beautiful things in the world simply can’t be found on land. What dwells beneath ground level in our vast oceans is like a universe all of its own, and if you have an adventurous bone in your body, you’ll agree that it’s worth exploring. Here at Ampersand, we offer Scuba Diving Experiences across all destinations in Asia. Read on for some of our favourite diving spots:
Rising out of the water off the coast of Phuket is the treacherously-titled Shark Point, otherwise known to the locals as Hin Musang. If you’re expecting to swim with the sharks, this is the ultimate diving spot in Thailand to do so. Although just a small spear of rock, spiking no more than 20 metres above sea level, what resides beneath is something of a surprise to many divers; the reef below is vast with gardens of both hard and soft corals and the water offers around 10 to 20 metres of visibility. As well as being a great dive spot for catching sight of the beautiful Leopard Shark and Reef Shark, you will be able to see many schools of tropical fish and sea-life. Typical sights will include Morays, Snapper, Scorpio Fish, Cuttle Fish, Squid, and a whole variety of different coral. Although Reef Sharks and Leopard Sharks are considered safe enough to swim with, diving at Hin Musang is certainly not for the fainthearted. Despite the slight danger element, this dive spot is suited to all diving levels.
Top Tip: Never dive in dark or murky water where you will not have full visibility when diving with sharks – and always research the different species in the water before your expedition.
2). Derawan Islands, East Kalimantan, Indonesia
Diving off the Derawan Islands is an adventure with so much diversity; from big green turtles to barracudas and sharks, the marine life is simply breathtaking. But amongst all the different species, one of the most incredible creatures is the Stingless Jellyfish. Through evolution, this jellyfish species has lost its natural defence system so you can get up close to these magnificent animals without running the risk of being stung. Other amazing sea-life to look out for includes Napoleon Wrasses, Cuttle Fish, Spanish Mackerel, Jacks, Batfishes, Squid, Crocodile Fish, Scorpio Fish, Sea Horses, and over fifty different types of coral. Another notable feature of the Derawan Islands is that the Chelonia Mydas Turtle can be spotted on land hatching their eggs; a rare and beautiful sight.
Top Tip: Some of the water’s most bizarre creatures can be found beneath the pylons of the 200 metre long jetty. A great diving spot not to be missed!
Isolated from the rest of the world, the Mergui Archipelago is a hidden gem. Largely uninhabited and consisting of around 800 small islands, this is a fantastic spot for seasoned divers looking for a new, exciting challenge. Truly off the beaten path, this part of the ocean is almost untouched by tourists and since the area was only open to tourism in 1997, diving in Burma is still a very rare and unique experience. Featuring huge boulders and a series of tunnels and drop-offs, this rugged diving location is a top spot for seeing sharks and various other species such as Red Lionfish, Manta Rays, Barracudas, Dogtooth Tuna, Unicornfish, Batfish, Ghost Pipefish, Frogfish, Lobsters, Crabs, Shrimps and more.
Top Tip: Dive off Black Rock for the best shark sightings, Northern Rocky for bright fan corals and cup corals, or Tower Rock for all the smaller species.
If you’re looking for the crème de la crème in diving, Raja Ampat is not to be missed. This unique diving location has the highest recorded species of fish and coral on the planet; over 537 different kinds of coral and 1,074 recorded species of fish. This is much more than just a world-class diving destination; it’s the ultimate diving destination. Raja Ampat has been resistant to coral bleaching and disease, and so marine life is flourishing and reproducing. With this in mind, overfishing can still be a very real threat – as is water pollution. Whilst the islands are thriving, now is the time to visit. Located off the tip of Bird’s Head Peninsula, Raja Ampat (also known as the Four Kings) comprises four main islands and over 1,500 small isles.
Top Tip: In addition to scuba diving, make sure you grab a snorkelling kit to explore the areas closer to shore. This is where you are likely to find some of the local dolphins and many of them are friendly enough to interact with swimmers.
The untouched islands of the Koh Rong Archipelago, off the Cambodian coast of Sihanoukville, are home to friendly fishing villages, white sand beaches and warm turquoise waters teeming with colourful marine life. The beautiful coral gardens here breed Soft Gorgonias, Whip Corals and Big Mountain Corals, which house a wide variety of tropical fish, Cuttlefish, Barracudas and Giant Trevallies. Cambodia’s first and only private island resort resides here; Song Saa spans two discreet islands with twenty-seven private pool villas designed around the theme of a Cambodian fishing village, but with all the luxuries and modern conveniences of a world-class resort. Combine a leisurely scuba dive with a private picnic on the powder-white sands of Five Mile Beach, or explore the many dive sites in the area.
Top tip: Song Saa’s in-house marine biologist will be more than happy to discuss your underwater discoveries – guests can visit the resort’s Life Centre to learn more about the local environment and the conservation work being done to protect these coral reefs.
If you’re looking for a diving holiday with a difference, the private island of Soneva Fushi has to be next on your bucket list. For luxury seekers who want adrenaline-pumping dives in the morning, lavish spa treatments in the afternoon and fine dining in the evening, we highly recommend this paradisiacal resort. As one of the most intimate and extravagant private resorts in the Maldives, the experience can be very much tailored to your needs; you can enjoy a range of different island activities or you can kick back on the glorious white sandy beaches and do nothing at all. This amazing resort has its own PADI diving school so you can enjoy diving and snorkelling every day.
Top Tip: Take advantage of our ‘Stay 7 Nights, Pay 6 Nights’ offer which includes half board on this wonderful island.
Komodo is small cluster of islands best known for the Indonesian species of lizard, the Komodo Dragon – which is the largest living lizard on earth. These lizards are abundant on the islands but Komodo is also recognised for its 50 plus dive spots, all of which provide an excellent dive and an opportunity to see Manta Rays, Eagle Rays, Shark species, Dolphins, Eels, Turtles and the very rare and exotic Blue Ringed Octopus. The coral life is also beautifully rich here; go scuba diving in the Komodo Islands and you will be sure to see an incredible rainbow of colours.
Cocoa Island is another private island in the Maldives. This intimate resort offers the finest of luxuries when it comes to accommodation, facilities and fine dining. Additionally, it’s also a world-class diving destination and offers dives to suit all levels. The Cocoa Island Dive Centre is open from 8am to 6pm every day and the diving instructors are always there to help you find the perfect dive site to match your needs, experience and interests. There are 33 over-water suites so you can slip right into the water, and you can expect to see anything from Giant Trevallies, Eagle Rays, Red Snappers, Fusilers, schools of Tuna, various species of reef fish, and some of the most beautiful big green turtles. Grey Shark and White Shark sightings are also extremely common.
Top Tip: To book your dive, be sure to visit the Cocoa Island Dive Centre before 5:30pm the day before. Even if you are unsure about diving, it’s better to book your slot as there is no charge for cancellations.
The most incredible dive site in the Andaman Islands is by an extinct volcano off Narcondam Island. Often compared to the dive spot over at Barren Island (the only confirmed active volcano in South Asia), Narcondam offers just as much thrill and excitement of volcano diving except the sea-life here is really flourishing. At this diving spot, the beautiful species of fish and coral are thriving within their healthy environment, making it a much better choice for spotting marine life in comparison to Barren Island. Barrel sponges grow up to four metres tall and Sea Fans are twice as large as the ones found in the Similan and Surin Islands. It really is a paradise for keen divers – with so much untouched marine life just waiting to be explored!
Top Tip: If you want to avoid peak travel times (November to April), the best time to visit the Andaman Islands is the off-peak season in February and March. August and September are the wet months but diving can still be enjoyed during this time (the waters, though choppy, will offer its very own wet weather charm).
Diving in Japan may not be at the top of your list but with subtropical waters, you can guarantee a warm, comfortable dive full of amazing marine life. On top of that, dive visibility often exceeds 30 metres. So if you haven’t been scuba diving in the Kerama Islands yet, make sure you add this to your bucket list too. Host to more than seventy dive sites, the Kerama Islands is prime for divers of all levels. Akajma Island’s Marine Science Laboratory (founded in 1988) is the hub of all marine life monitoring and intelligence, and is the heart of Japan’s protective practices. With much thanks to the local community and the Akajma Laboratory’s data and guidance, all of the sites are very well preserved. Typical sightings include Barracudas, Humpback Whales, Manta Rays and Cuttle Fish.
Top Tip: A great base to explore the entire Okinawa Island chain is the southernmost end of the chain; the Yaeyama Island Group. There are a number of luxury resorts and beautifully idyllic beaches to enjoy here.
Moyo Island is a pristine island with the most rugged, untouched coastlines. Life is very basic and simple on this island; in exchange, the local villagers of Labuan Aji get to enjoy some of the most incredible natural surroundings, such as their unspoiled beaches, virgin woodland and some of the most spectacular waterfalls. Diwu Mbai Waterfall and Mata Jitu Waterfall are definitely worth a visit when you’ve returned to land after a day of diving in the crystal clear waters. The island came to a small level of fame after the late Princess Diana took refuge on Moyo to escape the paparazzi but it still remains as one of Indonesia’s best kept secrets. Here at Ampersand we can offer a full 16 Day Tour to Moyo Island which also includes other destinations such as Lombok, Sidemen, Pemuteran and Uluwatu.
Top Tip: Boats to Moyo Island can be arranged from Sumbawa Besar – they can either be booked by your hotel or you can bargain for a boat at Muara Kali.
12). Qiandao Lake, Zhejiang Province, China
Just under 3 hours’ drive from Hangzhou, this fantastic lake is definitely worth the detour. There’s nothing else like it in the world and even the most seasoned divers will be in awe of what lies beneath in this 365 square mile lake. Peppered with thousands and thousands of islands (at least 1,000 of these are large islands), it’s an interesting spectacle before you even submerge yourself underwater. Once you get in deep, you will be graced with one of the most mind-blowing underwater views; a 1,800 year old city that has been lost to Qiandao Lake. The flooded metropolis was lost to the water back in the 1950s after the construction of a hydroelectric dam and is now submerged in over 100 feet of water. Although many like to call it the “Lost City”, the true history of this underwater world (which spans almost 62 football fields) is that it was a sacrifice to make way for the dam. At the time, 290,000 people had to relocate to other parts of the region.
Contact us for more information on our favourite scuba diving destinations or to start planning your own tailor-made scuba diving holiday:
+44 (0) 20 7819 9770 / email@example.com