You’ve sunbathed on gorgeous beaches sipping a fresh coconut and you’ve zipped from island to island on a speedy long tail boat, but beneath the turquoise waters of Southeast Asia lies another world entirely strange and beautiful.
For the beginner or the expert, the year-round warm, crystal clear waters of Southeast Asia are home to exquisite corals teeming with aquatic life – an experience not to be missed – and once experienced – never forgotten! Here’s where you will find the best dive spots in Asia!
If you’re on a backpacker budget, the tiny island of Koh Tao, in the Gulf of Thailand, has long been considered THE place to learn to dive. With over 50 dive schools on the island, offering PADI and SSI courses at cheap prices, thousands of backpackers over the years have gained their underwater licenses here. From the impressive Chumphon Pinnacle to the Trident Wreck, there are many interesting underwater dive sites to keep beginner or advanced divers occupied.
The island is named Koh ‘Tao’, meaning turtle island in Thai, after it’s previously plentiful local population of hawksbill and green sea turtles. Despite their numbers having significantly diminished, turtles can still be spotted whilst diving many of the island’s famous 20+ sites. Mostly visited in the days following Full Moon antics on the nearby island of Koh Phangan, it’s reputation as a not only a diving hotspot but an island with a lively backpacker vibe has rocketed in recent years.
Best Seasons to Scuba Dive in Koh Tao: Koh Tao’s ‘off-season’ is barely worth mentioning, though the best times to avoid are November and December when the visibility is lower and the swell can be a bit stomach-churning. March, April and May are divers paradise, with calm clear seas and the best chance of spotting a Whaleshark!
The Similan & Surin Islands, Thailand
Found 100 kilometres from the popular holiday island of Phuket, these nine granite islands provide another popular dive site in Thailand and are often regarded as the most diverse and unique place to dive in the country. Having gained National Marine Park status in 1982, the Similan Islands often make it onto the top ten dive sites, not only in Southeast Asia, but in the world!
For any budding underwater photographers, or those keen to learn, the weak currents and highly populated coral reefs are just waiting to be snapped! This may very well be the best diving Southeast Asia has to offer!
Nha Trang is undoubtedly the country’s capital of diving and the place where many travellers choose to get their first diving qualification with a 3-day Open Water Course. The shallow, calm reefs of beautiful Hon Mun Island are the perfect place for beginners, so the whole of the three-day diving course is done out in the sea from the dive boat.
Look out for: A variety of colourful tropical fish from pufferfish to moray eels, parrot fish and butterfly fish.
Best Seasons to Scuba Dive in Nha Trang: The main dive season in Nha Trang is from January – October, with April – August offering the best conditions and visibility for divers.
The Perhentian Islands
The beautiful coral-fringed Perhentian Islands lie just 10 miles from the Northeastern coast of Malaysia and are home to a number of species of turtle and shark (the non-man eating types, unless you look particularly tasty!). It is made up of two main islands, Perhentian Besar and Perhentian Kecil, and a number of smaller uninhabited ones.
Besar is slightly more family-friendly, while Kecil is the most popular with backpackers due to its abundance of cheap accommodation. However, both of the islands are gorgeous and are both protected with Marine Park status.
Diving in Indonesia
Bali & Nusa Penida
The popular holiday island of Bali may be famous for its surf and nightlife and a lot of Bali Indonesia 5-star hotels provided by Ayana, but under the ocean, there’s a whole new world to explore! The most famous dive site in Bali is Tulamben Bay, home to the USAT Liberty Shipwreck. This awesome 130-metre shipwreck lies just 20 metres offshore at a depth of 5-30 metres and provides an unforgettable dive site for either beginners or more advanced divers.
Another very popular dive site off Bali is Manta Point, Nusa Penida, famous for, yep you guessed it, Manta Rays! At this unique spot, the different currents of the two oceans, the Pacific and the Indian meet and there’s an abundance of phytoplankton, a manta ray’s favourite delicacy! You won’t be disappointed if you choose to dive here.
If you’re planning a trip to Southeast Asia, be sure to stop by and share your amazing photos with us!