10 Magical Dive Destinations in the World

The vast ocean is the world’s last frontier. Despite the fact that it covers two-thirds of our planet, it has never been fully explored. Its secrets and mysteries are still waiting down in the deep to be discovered.

I have been diving for over 20 years and there are still a lot of places where I have not tried diving.

The only way you can truly appreciate the wonders of the ocean is to dive down the deep blue yourself.  No picture nor video can give you the same sense of oneness with the ocean as when you are down there yourself.  Visiting a local aquarium or watching nature programs for hours doesn’t really cut it.

Our planet has thousands of diving spots worth exploring. While it may not be possible for you to visit them all in your lifetime, you can start with the best of them. Check out this list of ten magical dive destinations that are sure to fascinate you and leave you more in awe of our planet’s oceans.

#1 – Aliwal Shoal, South Africa

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Honeycomb moray eel seen at Aliwal

Located five kilometers from the coast of Umkomaas is Aliwal Shoal, a fossilized sand dune thought to have sunk around two million years ago. Aliwal Shoal is not a true reef in the strictest sense, in which new corals grow on the remains of older ones. Nonetheless, the shoal is the farthest south of the equator where divers found soft tropical coral. It’s also home to many species of rare hard coral.

Aliwal Shoal is famous among divers as the mating ground for grey nurse sharks, known in South Africa as ragged-tooth sharks or raggies. The raggies flock to the shoal between August and November, which is late winter and early spring in the Southern Hemisphere. There they mate and then spend a few months in semi-hibernation in shark-sized holes that divers often call “raggy caves.”

Other sharks call Aliwal Shoal home, namely: tiger sharks, blacktip reef sharks, and bull sharks. You’ll also find an abundance of tropical fish, manta rays, potato groupers, octopus, green turtles, sea anemones, and crustaceans like shrimp and lobster there.

Aliwal Shoal gets its name from the ship Aliwal, which nearly sunk after crashing against it in 1849. Two other shipwrecks are located nearby – MV Produce and SS Nebo.

How to get to Aliwal Shoal

To get to Aliwal Shoal, you can fly to King Shaka International Airport in Durban, which handles flights from major African cities as well as London, Dubai, Istanbul, and Doha. From Durban, the town of Umkomaas is only a 30-minute drive away. Umkomaas has plenty of dive centers with guides that can take you to the shoal.

#2 – Edge of Reason, Medjumbe Island, Mozambique

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For in-between dives, rent your own dhow while enjoying the ocean breeze.

The Edge of Reason is not for inexperienced divers nor the fainthearted. This dive site is located off the coast of Mozambique’s Medjumbe Island almost near Madagascar. What gives this dive site its name is the fact that you have to drop some 82 meters off the edge of a continental shelf to the deep blue beyond. While you’re on your way down, weightless and so far away from dry land, you may feel that you have gone off your rocker for going on this dive.

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This grouper cannot say cheese

But once you’re down there and you’ve overcome whatever apprehensions you may have, you’ll find the dive down the Edge of Reason more than rewarding. The Edge of Reason is popular for its deep caverns and its large schools of snappers, humphead wrasse, and unicorn fish. You can dive through these caverns and swim with the big fishes without them fearing you. You may also find a reef shark or two hovering about.

How to get to the Edge of Reason

The closest islands to the Edge of Reason are the Quirimbas Islands, which in turn are off the coast of Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province. You’ll have to fly to Pemba, Cabo Delgado’s capital; Pemba Airport serves flights direct from Beira, Dar es Salaam, Dzaoudzi, Johannesburg, Maputo, Nairobi, and Nampula. From Pemba, you can ride a chappa minibus to Quissinga, where you can take a ferry going to Ibo, one of Quirimbas’ islands. Or you can hire a private plane to fly you to Ibo or one of its neighboring private island resorts, like Medjumbe or Vamizi. From Quirimbas, you can hire a boat to take you to the Edge of Reason.

#3 – Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

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Beautiful sunset at Galapagos Islands

In 1835, a young geologist named Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands and was fascinated by the richness of its animal life. He later observed that the birds found only on the islands differ in characteristics from island to island though they’re related to each other. This observation led Darwin to come up with his theory of natural selection and evolution.

Thanks to laws protecting biodiversity on the Galapagos Islands, animal life there is as rich today as it was in Darwin’s time. Even more fascinating is the life you’ll see underneath its waters. The waters around Galapagos Islands are teeming with around 28 different species of sharks, including blacktip sharks, hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, and whale sharks. These waters are also home to different kinds of rays, such as mobula rays and eagle rays. Other marine species that call Galapagos home are red-lipped batfishes, Pacific seahorses, rock mover wrasses, barracudas, yellowfin tunas, groupers, and rainbow basslets.

As magical the Galapagos Islands are underwater, you’ll have to be an experienced diver to jump in. These waters are known for their fast, strong, and deep currents, and they can easily sweep you away if you’re not careful. On some days, underwater visibility in the area can also be a challenge.

How to get to Galapagos Island

To get to the Galapagos Islands, you’ll have to book a flight first to Ecuador, either to Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Quito or to Jose Joaquin de Olmedo International Airport in Guayaquil. From these two airports, you can fly to one of the two airports on the Galapagos Islands, namely Baltra Island and San Cristobal. At Galapagos, you can book a berth on one of the liveaboard boats that sail around the islands for eight days. Staying on a liveaboard boat is necessary because the Galapagos provincial government allows divers to be in the water for only two to four hours. Limiting diving time like so is designed to minimize the effect diving has on the islands’ marine ecosystem.

#4 – Gran Cenote, Riviera Maya, Mexico

Gran Cenote, Mexico, travelblogger
The waters at Gran Cenote is clear. Come here early before lots of tourists arrive for day tours.

The word “cenote” comes from an ancient Mayan word that means “sacred well.” There are many of these natural limestone sinkholes in Mexico’s Riviera Maya area, and many of them are popular destinations for swimming and snorkeling. But if you want to go diving in one of these sacred wells, the one place you’ll want to go is the Gran Cenote near Tulum.

The Gran Cenote is just what its name implies – a large and deep natural pool. But there’s certainly more to the Gran Cenote than meets the eye. It’s actually a sprawling underwater cavern system filled with stalactites, stalagmites, and other formations you can expect to see inside a cave. Also, the waters of this cenote are so clear that even in the deeper parts of the pool, you can see the fish swimming underneath.

The Gran Cenote is a great diving spot you can enjoy even if you’re only a beginner. You only need an open water diving certificate to jump in.

How to get to the Gran Cenote

Gran Cenote is near the town of Tulum in the Mexican province of Quintana Roo. To get there, you can fly to Cancun, and then ride a bus bound for Playa del Carmen. At Playa del Carmen, you can transfer to another bus going to Tulum. At Tulum, you’ll need to hire a taxi to take you to Gran Cenote. An alternative is to rent a car at Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or at Tulum. Gran Cenote is located right on the highway leading to Coba.

#5 – Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Great Barrier Reef, diving, travelblogger
Great Barrier Reef

No list of the world’s best dives would be complete without mentioning the Great Barrier Reef. This coral reef system is the largest in the world and the only structure made by animals that can be seen from space. The Great Barrier Reef plays a vital role in our planet’s marine ecosystem, and that’s why it’s protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Great Barrier Reef coral system shelters thousands of marine species and supports countless more on land. Diving the waters of this reef will allow you to view different kinds of colorful corals, around 1,500 species of fish, and other marine creatures like turtles, sea snakes, and mollusks. The reef also attracts various species of dolphins, sharks, porpoises, whales, and stingrays, which use the reefs as breeding ground. Hundreds of birds, amphibians, and reptiles also live on the islands and shorelines within and surrounding the reef.

The Great Barrier Reef is so vast that it’s possible for you to dive there regardless of your diving experience. There are even diving centers in the area that offer dive training at the reef.

How to get to the Great Barrier Reef

The city of Cairns in Queensland is considered the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. If you’re coming from Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Singapore, Osaka, or Tokyo you can catch a direct flight to Cairns. But if you’re coming from elsewhere in the world, you’ll have to fly to a major Australian city, like Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane and then catch a connecting flight to Cairns. From Cairns, you can hire a boat for your daytrip to the reef. Alternately, you can book a berth on a liveaboard boat and spend a few days at sea exploring the reef. Another way you can get to the Great Barrier Reef is by flying to Hamilton Island, one of the islands around the reef, from Cairns, Brisbane, Sydney, or Melbourne.

#6 – Komodo Island, Indonesia

Komodo, Indonesia, diving, travelblogger
Komodo Islands is know also for its komodo dragon.

Komodo Island, a dry island in Indonesia’s Lesser Sunda Island chain, is not particularly renowned for its land diversity. Though it’s famous for its Komodo dragons, considered to be the largest lizards and among the largest reptiles on the planet, there are not a lot of terrestrial species endemic to the island.

But while life on land on Komodo seems poor, its marine life is far from that. Underneath the waters surrounding the island, life is plentiful. On a dive there, you’ll be able to encounter whale sharks and other shark species, manta rays and eagle rays, dolphins, sperm whales, and even the occasional blue whale. There are also rare species of octopuses and fish hiding in its coral reefs.

How to get to Komodo Island

The town nearest Komodo Island is Labuan Bajo, a fishing town with its own airport, Komodo Airport. Komodo Airport handles daily flights from Bali and Jakarta, so you can fly to those cities and then get a connecting flight to Labuan Bajo. At Labuan Bajo, you’ll have to book your diving trip with an official guide, as Komodo Island is part of the protected Komodo National Park area. Once you’re there, though, you can opt to stay on a liveaboard boat or go on daytrips with Labuan Bajo as your base.

#7 – Lofoten Islands, Norway

Lofoten, diving, travelblogger
Stay at one of these fisherman’s cottages when visiting Lofoten.

If you’re adventurous enough to dive the cold waters of the Arctic, then you may want to head out to Norway’s Lofoten Islands on your next diving trip. Lofoten is an archipelago that faces the open sea and famous for its dramatic mountain scenery. It’s also the home of Røst Reef, the largest deep-water coral reef in the world.

What can you expect on a dive at Lofoten? Underneath the waters, you’ll find colorful corals that shelter numerous species of starfish, mollusks, crustaceans, and schools of small fish. The sea grass hides schools of cod, flatfish, wolf-fish, and many others. There are also a few shipwrecks you can easily explore nearby. The area is also populated by various seabirds, including cormorants, sea eagles, and puffins. In late winter, orcas visit the area as well.

You can dive at the Lofoten Islands even as a beginner diver. You only need an open-water certification to be able to dive there.

How to get to Lofoten Islands

You have two main options for getting to Lofoten Islands, namely to fly or to ride the ferry. If you choose flying, you can book a flight to Oslo and then a connecting flight from Oslo to Bodø. From Bodø, you can fly either to Leknes or Svolvær, the biggest towns on the islands and ones that have their own airports. If you prefer to travel by ferry, you can ride one bound for either Moskenes or Svolvær at Bodø. Once you’re at the islands, you can easily find a dive center to guide you through diving in Lofoten.

#8 – Santa Barbara Island, California, USA

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Enjoy beautiful sunsets in between dives at Santa Barbara in California

As the smallest of the Channel Islands off the coast of California, Santa Barbara Island may not seem much at first. The island is tiny, treeless, and made of volcanic rock. Look more closely, however, and you’ll find it teeming with colonies of sea lions, seals, and seabirds, many of which are belong to threatened species and endemic only to the Channel Islands.

Underwater, Santa Barbara Island is even more fascinating. The lush kelp forests are feeding grounds for friendly sea lions and seals. Its rocks provide perches and hidey-holes for rockfish, octopus, and many-armed sea-stars. Different types of dolphins and rays often come swimming by in their hunt for food. And if you visit in January, you may be treated to sightings of whales – humpback, gray, and blue.

Santa Barbara Island is considered an intermediate-level dive. Though visibility is excellent most of the time, the island’s isolated location can mean that currents and water conditions can change rapidly.

How to get to Santa Barbara Island

To get to Santa Barbara Island, you can fly to San Diego, Ventura, Long Beach, or Santa Barbara in California and hire a boat to take you to the island. Sailing to the island can take six hours on good weather, so most boats embark at night and arrive at the island at dawn. Another option you can take is to book a multiday trip around the Channel Islands so you can explore Santa Barbara Island fully. A multiday trip will allow you to visit the neighboring islands as well.

#9 – Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

loggerhead turtle, Tenerife, Canary Islands, diving, travelblogger
A migrating loggerhead turtle seen at Tenerife.

Tenerife is a tropical paradise. This largest of the Canary Islands, lying just off the coast of Morocco, is blessed with beautiful beaches, lush forests, and year-round warm weather. The marine life in the waters surrounding this island is even richer and more beautiful.

The volcanic nature of the island has led to the creation of interesting rock formations. These rock formations are home to numerous species of crustaceans, including crabs, shrimp, and lobster; mollusks and octopi, turtles, and schools of different species of colorful fish. The waters surrounding the Canary Islands also teem with dolphins, whales, hammerhead sharks, stingrays, devil rays, and barracudas.

You can dive the waters of Tenerife regardless of your diving experience. But to make the most of your Tenerife adventure, it’s recommended that you get a deep-diving certification.

How to get to Tenerife

You can fly to Tenerife’s Reina Sofia Airport from Morocco or any major European city. In Tenerife, you’ll find plenty of dive centers to help and guide you through your adventure or give you the training you need.

#10 – Tubbataha Reef Marine Park, Philippines

Tubbataha, Palawan, diving, travelblogger
Tubbataha is without a doubt one of the most beautiful dive sites in the world.

The Asia-Pacific Coral Triangle is dubbed “the Amazon of the Seas” for its extremely high level of biodiversity and its role in sustaining ocean life all over the world. Protecting this region is a priority for marine conservationists across the globe.

In the center of the Coral Triangle is the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park. Tubbataha is a 97,030-hectare expanse of reefs, uninhabited islands, and open water in the middle of the Philippines’ Sulu Sea. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tubbataha is home to no less than 360 coral species, which in turn sustain life for 600 species of fish, as well as dolphins, whales, sharks, rays, some 100 types of birds, and many other marine species. It’s also a breeding ground for green and hawksbill sea turtles.

Diving at the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park requires advanced diving experience. It’s also isolated, located in the middle of Sulu Sea, around 150 kilometers from Puerto Princesa in Palawan. The Philippine government also discourages daytrips to the park, so you’ll have to get on a liveaboard boat to dive there.

How to get to Tubbataha Reef Marine Park

There are two ways to get to Tubbataha Reef. One is to get to Anilao, Batangas from Manila and get on a liveaboard boat bound for the reef. Anilao is a four-hour bus ride from Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport and is a popular diving destination in its own right. The other way is to get on a connecting flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa. From Puerto Princesa, you can book your berth to a Tubbataha-bound liveaboard boat.

The ocean is our world’s final frontier, and what a magical place it is. If it comes your way, don’t miss any opportunity you can to dive and explore this final frontier, especially these ten places listed here.

The ocean is our world’s final frontier, and what a magical place it is. If it comes your way, don’t miss any opportunity you can to dive and explore this final frontier, especially these ten places listed here.

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10 Magical Dive Destinations in the World
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10 Magical Dive Destinations in the World
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I have been diving for more than twenty years now and will probably not get tired of it. There are some places where the sites down under are just so magical that I recommend you to try diving here.
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