Asia’s best diving can be found off the islands in the Southeast Asian region of the continent, where a huge abundance of coral reefs reside as well as the associated wealth of marine biodiversity.
The main reasons that Southeast Asia is so popular with divers is the combination of warm and clear waters, the obvious abundance of marine life, including manta rays and whale sharks, the cheap prices and the availability of dive courses.
Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia have the best diving in this part of the world and Thailand’s excellent facilities and side attractions make it the most popular destination. Koh Tao, the Similan Islands and Koh Phi Phi are Thailand’s foremost dive spots, with the Raja Ampat islands, Bali and Komodo in Indonesia also being extremely popular.
Raja Ampat islands, Indonesia Indonesia’s Ampat islands boast some of the best diving and snorkeling in Asia. The variety of marine life here is incredible, so much so that the Bird’s Head peninsula, one of the top dive spots at Raja Ampat, has the greatest marine biodiversity in the world. Other top dives within these islands include Fak Fak, Triton, and Kri and Misool islands.
Koh Tao, Thailand Koh Tao is a small island to the north of Koh Phangan in the Gulf of Thailand and is also well known for its laid back life style and cheap dives. It is now recognized as one of the best places in the world to learn to scuba dive owing to the very close proximity of the dive sites, which typically lie 10 minutes from the main beach. Chumphon Pinnacle is the main dive here while a shipwreck and whale sharks can also be seen.
Similan islands, Thailand Located 100kms off the northwest coast of the holiday island of Phuket, the Similans feature nine idyllic islands with some of the best diving and snorkeling in Southeast Asia. The visibility and distance from the mainland makes liveaboards very popular while the granite islands themselves are spectacular featuring fine beaches and dense jungle.
Sipadan - Borneo, Malaysia Malaysia’s best diving is the small island of Sipadan which is offshore from Sabah in Borneo in the Celebes Sea. The island rises 600m off the seabed and is best known for its fantastic wall diving. Of the 11 main dive sites of the island are such gems as Drop Off, Barracuda Point, White Tip Avenue and Turtle Patch. You can often enter one site and exit another.
Liberty Shipwreck - Bali, Indonesia Bali’s best and most famous dive site is that of the USAT Liberty wreck known throughout the diving world. The wreck lies submerged off Tulamben beach in the north of the island and features a staggering amount of marine life and colorful coral. The depth is 30m at the bow and six meters at the stern.
Maldives Although a remote archipelago, the Maldives has some spectacular diving and is well worth the effort for those who are already there. Hundreds of dive sites are scattered throughout the island chain with world class house reefs and an abundance of marine creatures. The best diving is arguably at North Male Atoll and Ari Atoll.
Phi Phi, Thailand Thailand’s other major dive location is the Phi Phi island chain in the south of the Andaman. Phi Phi Don is the largest and most heavily visited island with some good diving and snorkeling, while Phi Phi Leh’s Maya Bay is superb.
Nha Trang, Vietnam While diving has not really taken off in Vietnam, Nha Trang is a bit of a diving/snorkeling mecca. There are some good dive sites relatively close to the shoreline (30 minutes from the lively resort town) and the water is calm with good visibility in season. Nearby Phuc Quoc and Whale islands are also worth checking out.
Komodo Island, Indonesia Best known for the fierce looking Komodo dragon, Indonesia’s Komodo Island also has some really good diving and snorkeling. The type of person that is best suited to diving in Komodo Island is someone who prefers fewer people and doesn’t mind traveling out of their way.
Hong Kong Although not really worth the effort specifically for the diving, Hong Kong’s scuba diving is about the best there is in China. There are around 200 islands in all featuring dozens of species of hard and soft corals and hundreds of species of fish. Visibility is not always great, however, and the waters are cooler in the winter than many Southeast Asian dive sites.