The Best Diving in Southeast Asia

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Sarah and James have spent the past year travelling around Southeast Asia seeking out great dive destinations. After much deliberation, they’ve whittled it down and come up with a list of their favourite spots for diving in Southeast Asia.

 

The Best Diving in Southeast Asia

 

 

 

Southeast Asia has fantastic dive sites, and we have had some incredible experiences during our travels. As always the conditions and random encounters really determine which sites become your favourites, so don’t get too hung up on visiting the ‘top’ Southeast Asia dive sites you read about…if you visit any of these dive locations you will enjoy some of the best diving in Southeast Asia. Enjoy!

 

Two divers surrounded by fish

 

Komodo

Where: Indonesia, Flores 
Good for: Mantas & thrilling currents
Time of year: March to December

How to Get To Komodo

Labuan Bajo is the main hub for Komodo National Park with an airport connecting to Bali (1hr).

Dive Sites in Komodo

Manta Point

We were in Komodo in December which brings lower visibility, BUT so many manta rays! This dive site sees mantas….everywhere! In some parts, it’s shallow enough for some great snorkelling too (if current allows).

 

A diver swimming underneath a huge manta ray

 

The Cauldron

Buckle in because this dive site isn’t for the faint-hearted, especially around the full moon when the current is at its strongest. You will be catapulted through the water like superman – for thrill-seekers, it’s a unique bucket list dive (if the conditions are in your favour).

 

A manta ray from below
 

Who To Dive With In Komodo

Environmentally conscious Wicked Diving has a humble and affordable liveaboard. These guys have a no plastic policy onboard and use all eco-friendly products, small but important steps to preserve our oceans.

 

Views of the water and islands from a liveaboard

 

Check out the full Komodo Article for more information.

 

Ambon

Location: Indonesia, Maluku 
Good for: Muck diving/macro 
Time of year: September to May 

How to Get To Ambon

Fly into Jakarta or Bali for a direct connection to Ambon.

Dive Sites in Ambon

Laha 1 & 2 are insanely good. These two sites stand out due to the sheer diversity of species (day and night!). Keep your eyes peeled and stay close to your guide – their skills are invaluable in spotting the most camouflaged and unusual of critters. Ambon is less known for muck diving compared to the more famous Lembeh (also amazing and in Indonesia!), however, the sheer diversity in a few dive sites makes this one of our top dive sites for muck diving in Asia.

 

A brightly coloured purple Weedy Scorpionfish

Weedy Scorpionfish

A striped orange and white octopus

The gorgeous Wunderpus

 

Who To Dive With In Ambon

Dive sites Laha 1 & 2 are directly in front of the Critter Junkies dive shop. They have a great ‘safety first’ approach, but a relaxed one too, allowing long shallow dives, so more time with the weird and wonderful creatures below.

 

A tiny white and red fish

Baby warty frogfish

 

Check out the full Ambon Article for more information.

 

Raja Ampat

Location: West Papua, Indonesia
Good for: Diversity of fish, stunning coral and pretty much everything  
Time of year: Any

 

How to Get To Raja Ampat

Fly from Jakarta or Makassar to Sorong. From Sorong, you need to travel to Waisai. The cheapest and most popular way to get to Waisai is the 2-hour ferry, which departs twice per day (9am and 2pm). More information about travel options and ferry times. Waisai is the main hub where most (if not all) liveaboards/ boats to the islands depart. We recommend buying any supplies you need from Sorong (or Jakarta) before reaching Waisai. You can only really find snacks and basic medical supplies from Waisai if needed.

 

Sarah looking out of the islands and turquoise waters at Piaynemo viewpoint

Piaynemo viewpoint

 

Dive Sites in Raja Ampat

Manta ridge/Manta Sandy/Blue Magic

These are the dive sites renowned for spotting manta rays. If you’re lucky you may even encounter the much larger oceanic rays, which can reach a whopping 7m from tip to tip. Their presence is particularly special and you really feel a connection with these majestic creatures as long as you respect their space.

 

Three manta rays from below

Oceanic Manta Rays, Raja Ampat

 

Melissa’s Garden/Citrus Ridge

We love both of these sites for the sheer variety and scale of coral that surrounds you. If you’re lucky you may even spot an oceanic manta fly by while you’re trying to process everything before you. These sites are great examples of healthy coral reefs before human impacts are observed.

 

Colourful corals and small fish

 

Cape Kri

A fantastic area for diving hosting a mixture of everything. The volume of water passing through the Dampier Strait creates some fantastic currents, perfect conditions for large schools of fish and subsequent predators. Kri Island is one of the closest islands to Waisai so if you’re short on time and budget, the location is perfect. A good option is to stay at one of the many homestays on Kri and dive with one of the shops on the island.

 

A diver with a school of fish and colourful corals

 

The thing about Raja is every dive site is special…you never know what you may see when you’re in a part of the world so rich with marine life.

 

Who To Dive With In Raja Ampat

If you have spent the time (and money) coming to Raja Ampat we recommend spending that bit extra and diving from a liveaboard so you can experience the most of this fantastic region of Indonesia. We recommend Scuba Republic who have two liveaboard boats, Epica and Jaya. If you’re on a tighter budget we’d highly recommend the boat ‘Epica’. The team know their stuff and really put their diver’s safety and experience first.

They also offer Dive safaris that combine diving or snorkelling and staying in small island homestays, which could be the perfect combination, all arranged for you.

Check out the full Raja Ampat Article for more details.

 

Sipadan

Location: Borneo, Malaysia
Good for: Huge schooling groups of fish 
Time of year: Any

How to Get To Sipadan

A trip to Sipadan is usually combined with a trip to the Kinabatangan River to see the Borneo ‘Big 5’. Fly into Kota Kinabalu or Tawau. You’ll need a night in the town of Semporna, which is where pretty much all boats depart from to the islands.

 

A school of Moorish Idols swim past

 

Dive Sites in Sipadan

Sipadan Island

Expect to see the big stuff! Schooling jack’s, Barracuda, sharks, turtles you name it. If you’re lucky you may find a vortex of schooling barracuda.

 

Sarah walking across a white sand beach towards crystal clear blue water

 

Mabul/Kapalai

Quirky frogfish, sunken wrecks and cuttlefish make these sites great muck diving spots!

 

 

Who To Dive With In Sipadan

Billabong Scuba based on Mabul Island is a budget to medium ranged stay with quaint bungalows over the ocean. A package will include accommodation, all food and diving with Mabul and Sipadan permits.

 

Sarah standing in front of a beach bungalow with a turquoise door

 

Check out the full Borneo Article for more details.

 

Banda Islands

Location: Indonesia, Maluku
Good for: Hammerhead sharks, big schools of fish, impressive corals
Time of year: September – November (hammerheads) or March to November

How to Get To the Banda Islands

It takes some determination, but it’s worth it. Fly to Ambon and take a fast ferry (6 hours) to the islands. Banda is sometimes done alongside a trip to Raja Ampat as there is a direct flight from Ambon to Sorong.

 

People travelling on a boat between lush Indonesian islands

 

Dive Sites in the Banda Islands

Run/Hatta island

Good for the big stuff!  Here we encountered our first hammerhead shark. In peak season you may be lucky enough to see schooling hammerheads (Sept – early Nov). Given the depth of the water around these volcanic islands, the abundance of life is incredible, we even followed a blue whale on the way back from a dive!

 

Two divers is clear water with a variety of corals

 

Lava Flow

The coral at this dive site grew 3x as fast after the volcanic eruption in 1988. This is the most amount of hard coral we have ever seen in one place – it goes on for as far as the eye can see (with perfect visibility).

 

The Indonesian flag waving in front of a volcanic island

 

Who To Dive With In Banda Islands

Dive Blue Motion located in hotel Baba Lagoon are by far the best choice. Safety conscious, flexible and relaxed, we highly recommend diving with the team here who are a fantastic group of local and international instructors and guides. Right out front of their dive store you can snorkel or dive with the beautiful Mandarin Fish who perform a mating dance at dusk in only 3m of water.

 

A colourful underwater mural in Banda

 

Check out the full Banda Article for more details.

 

Surin/Similan Islands

Location: Andaman Sea, Thailand
Good for: Interesting topography  
Time of year: Any 

How to Get To the Surin/Similan Islands

Khao Lak is the town most dive operators leave from to reach the Similan Islands which is an easy connection from Phuket or Bangkok. You can take day trips from Khao Lak to the islands or you can go with a liveaboard operator which gives you more time to explore the islands and various dive sites (and helps avoid the day trip crowds).

 

Tree like corals in the Similan Islands

 

Dive Sites in the Surin/Similan Islands

Richelieu Rock

Jumping in we couldn’t believe the number of fish here! It was unbelievable. Richelieu Rock is probably the most famous dive site in Thailand and for good reason. You can find schooling trevally and emperors hunting together in huge high-speed groups! On extra special occasions, whale sharks can be found passing by.

 

Colourful fish and corals in the Similan Islands

 

Who To Dive With In the Surin/Similan Islands

Taking a liveaboard is the best way to experience this area and get to the top dive sites before the day trips sites. Wicked Diving Thailand is our top pick with 5% of their profits being used to train local divemasters and crew.

Check out the full Andaman Sea Article for more details.

 

A turtle swimming through the water in Sipadan

 

Where are your favourite dive sites in Southeast Asia? We would love to hear them – please comment below!

 

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