In the last few decades, scuba diving has become more and more popular.
In search of the best diving in the world, we’ve gone to the ends of the earth searching, just so that you can have the best diving holiday possible!
Whether you fancy wide open reefs, rollercoaster drift dives, or eerie wrecks, we’ve got you covered.
So without any further ado…
Where are the best diving locations in 2020?
The name Raja Ampat is synonymous with one of the best diving destinations in the world. This wild and untouched archipelago lies at the epicenter of the Coral Triangle and it is thought to be one of the most biodiverse marine habitats in the world, earning it the nickname of “The Last Paradise”.
Raja Ampat lies in the West Papua region of northern Indonesia and comprises over 1,500 small islets and cays with four main islands – Misool, Waigeo, Batanta, and Salawanti – which are known as “The Four Kings”.
One of the reasons that Raja Ampat is on so many “Best Places to Dive” lists is the diversity of life.
It’s located at the juncture between the Indian and Pacific Oceans and currents pull in nutrients from the deep ocean. These nutrients nourish the reefs, seagrass meadows, and mangroves which in turn support thousands of other species.
Divers are often astounded by the sheer volume and variety of fish in Raja Ampat, swirling over the vibrant coral reefs. Photographers will adore the myriad macro critters and big pelagics which include reef sharks, schools of tuna and barracuda and majestic manta ray encounters.
Even after one dive, it’s easy to see why so many regard this as one of the best dive sites in the world.
One of the most popular ways of diving in Raja Ampat is on a liveaboard. Jumping on one of these, often traditional Indonesian, vessels means that you can explore deep into the archipelago.
It’s easy to pretend that you’re the only people left on earth on one of the best liveaboards in Indonesia!
The Mexican Socorro Islands, also known as the Revillagigedo Archipelago, are one of the top dive locations in the world for big pelagics.
Found deep in the Pacific Ocean, 400km from the tip of Baja California, the Socorros are a hotspot for ocean giants.
This world-class diving destination has earned itself a reputation as the pelagic-lovers diving capital of the world – for good reason.
A big draw is the giant oceanic manta rays which can only be spotted in a handful of locations and can have wingspans of up to 8m.
Over seven species of sharks, including whale sharks, are common visitors, along with densely packed schools and bait balls of jacks, tuna and wahoo.
Another famous shark encounter is the hammerheads, which school in massive numbers.
To round it all out, keep an eye out for the dolphins and turtles – oh! And the humpback whales which migrate through these waters annually. Photographers will want to bring a wide-angle lens to fully capture the action!
The diving in the Socorro Islands is not for the faint-hearted. The dive sites are often deep and the currents, which bring the pelagic-attracting nutrients, can be fierce.
It’s also only accessible via liveaboards due to its remote location. A Socorro liveaboard is a once in a lifetime trip and we wholeheartedly recommend it!
Wolf and Darwin Islands are the two most northerly islands in the Ecuadorian archipelago of the Galapagos.
To be clear, the entirety of the Galapagos Islands constitutes some of the best diving locations in the world, but Wolf and Darwin are famed as the creme de la creme of scuba diving.
This island chain, nestled in the Pacific Ocean was made famous by Charles Darwin, who famously developed his Theory of Evolution based on the species found on the Galapagos.
Now, over 150 years later, it is still one of the most unique locations on the planet, with a number of species found nowhere else.
Wolf and Darwin Islands are found at the northernmost tip of the archipelago and they have some of the most spectacular dive sites in the world.
Amidst swirling currents (these sites are definitely best suited to advanced divers), you can encounter dense schools of fish, dolphins, turtles, marine iguanas, up to 10 species of shark (including whale sharks), mobula, eagle and manta rays, mola-mola, blue-footed boobies, and even the odd penguin.
Perhaps the most iconic image of diving in the Galapagos is the sight of hundreds of schooling hammerheads, silhouetted against the blue sky.
Another treat is the chance to dive with the resident Galapagos sea lions – referred to as the puppies of the sea – which are often very friendly and inquisitive towards divers. Be prepared for potentially whiskery kisses!
There are a number of dive centers around the main inhabited islands of the Galapagos but you can only access Wolf and Darwin Islands on some liveaboards.
Because of the nature of the dives, some will require a minimum qualification level or number of dives in order to book – so be sure to check ahead of time.
In the heart of the Pacific Ocean is a small country called Micronesia. It is expensive and difficult to get to… But the diving makes it oh so worth it!
One of the best diving destinations is Truk Lagoon – if you love wreck diving, this is the place to be. The history found beneath the waters of Truk Lagoon is fascinating.
In 1944, Operation Hailstone sank a large Japanese fleet that was anchored in the lagoon. The result is over 60 wrecks available to explore sitting on the floor of the lagoon.
Truk Lagoon is one of the best wreck diving destinations in the world because of the excellent diving conditions of the lagoon, as well as the wrecks themselves.
In the stillness of the water, you can penetrate many of the wrecks and witness cargo still in the holds, engine rooms, bullets, bombs, gas masks, artillery shells, and even tanks.
You will find submarines, ships and even aircraft to explore. Sadly, some locations also have evidence of the Japanese sailors who lost their lives here and some wrecks have prohibited access as a result.
There are a number of dive centers and dive resorts found around the lagoon. It is also a popular spot on Micronesia liveaboard cruises which explore the wider area too.
Other great areas to explore in Micronesia include Blue Corner in Palau. This site is a wall suitable for experienced divers.
Strong currents make it a shark diving hotspot, though you can also find thick coral teeming with life and schooling fish out in the blue.
Diving in the Red Sea is universally acknowledged by divers to be an all-round excellent idea.
Its location on the northern coast of Africa has the combined benefit of having great weather all year round, as well as conveniently short flights from Europe.
The Red Sea is one of the best places to dive in 2020 and, to be honest, it will be on the best dive lists for many years to come.
It has a unique offering of almost equally numerous dive centers, dive resorts, and liveaboards, so you can find whatever kind of trip your heart desires.
Liveaboards in Egypt are so numerous that the prices are very reasonable and you can find cruises from the penny-pinching to the luxurious.
Amidst the radiant reefs and abundant fish life of the Red Sea, there are a few diving gems to highlight.
One is Shark and Yolanda Reef. This reef is actually three dives in one and offers a dramatic drop-off, a shipwreck of the Yolanda and an anemone and shark rich reef.
Another highlight, that often appears on scuba diving bucket lists, is the wreck of the Thistlegorm, found 40km from Sharm el-Sheik. It’s widely regarded as the best diving wreck in the world.
It sank in 1941 after being bombed by German aircraft and its wartime cargo of rifles, tanks, motorbikes, train carriages and trucks are still mostly intact. Lying at 29m, it is perfect for divers to explore over the course of several dives – her 125m hull is too large to fully appreciate on a single dive.
Though we have highlighted only two locations, the Red Sea boasts hundreds of world-class dive sites; Ras Mohamed Marine Park, the Straits of Tiran, St Johns, Daedalus, Elphinstone, Brother and Dahab’s Blue Hole are just a few.
Whether you love macro life, vibrant reefs or pelagic encounters with hammerhead, oceanic whitetip, and whale sharks, you will find something to delight you in the Red Sea.
This national marine park in the heart of the Philippines is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has some of the best diving locations in the Philippines.
Located far from the mainland, it’s only accessible through a liveaboard and even then, the park is only open to visitors for 4 months of the year, lending it an exclusive feel.
As one of the biggest reefs in the world, and situated in the heart of the Coral Triangle, it’s no wonder that Tubbataha Reef boasts so many species.
Over 650 species of fish, 350 species of coral, 11 species of shark and 13 species of dolphins and whales grace these waters.
The reef itself offers multi-level diving, from easy reef dives to sheer coral coated walls which plunge into the deep blue. Keep one eye on the open ocean to witness huge schools of fish, turtles, manta rays and even hammerhead sharks.
The small fishing village of Tulamben on the northeast coast of Bali. This unimposing location features some of the best diving locations in Bali.
Carrying on our theme of excellent wreck dive sites, this time: USS Liberty. This wreck sits just 40m (yes, literally 40m) from the coastline and is suitable for all levels of diver, as it ranges in depth from 9 – 30m of water with minimal currents. Some compartments can be penetrated, though much of the wreckage has now broken up.
The WWII wreck has formed a thriving artificial reef that is teeming with life. It is now enrobed in bright corals and is surrounded by clouds of fish. It is also home to a number of rare hawksbill turtles.
This huge wreck, and the surrounding Tulamben, is famous for its abundant macro life and underwater photographers flock from all over the world to capture the tiny critters found here which include hundreds of types of nudibranch, ornate ghost pipefish and rhinopias.
Are you interested in getting started in underwater photography? Take a look at our selection of the best dive cameras here.
Another great aspect of diving in Tulamben is the proximity to so many other great diving destinations. A short boat ride will yield big pelagic sightings in Nusa Penida, whilst only an hour further on, you will reach the idyllic Gili Islands and Lombok.
The iconic image of the perfectly round, deep blue hole in the heart of the ocean is instantly recognizable to most divers. In the warm, tropical waters of Belize, explore this deep, coral-fringed sinkhole down to 143m.
With bathtub warm water and over 30m of visibility, tropical diving doesn’t get much better than this…
As you descend down this submerged tunnel, you can appreciate just how full of life it is.
Brightly colored corals carpet the steep walls and are inhabited by lots of macro and fish life. You can also find a variety of sharks such as the lightning-quick mako and pelagic fish like tuna.
At around 15m, observe the iridescent shimmer in the water as it transitions from salt to fresh water. This is known as a halocline and is similar in appearance to the familiar thermoclines. Descending down to 40m will reveal caves and caverns filled with stalagmites and stalactites.
Diving in the Blue Hole is very popular and many dive centers and resorts from the surrounding area visit daily. It is also a popular liveaboard location as you can also visit the other beautiful reef dives of Belize.
The South Pacific is a hotspot for marine life and French Polynesia is no exception. One of the most famous diving locations is Fakarava Atoll.
This rectangular atoll is a protected UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and has two channels which connect the internal lagoon to the surrounding ocean.
The northern Garuae Pass has exhilarating drift dives that are famous for their shark encounters.
Black-tip, white-tip, grey reef, hammerhead and silky sharks can be seen on a single dive, along with dolphins, rays, turtles, tuna and an aquarium of tropical fish. The southern pass, Tumakohua, is narrower but no less impressive.
It is a bit of a unicorn location, featuring several unusual animal encounters. In June and July, you can see huge groups of marbled grouper gathering to mate.
July and September, meanwhile, offer the chance to experience the sight of humpback whales and their calves as they migrate here to give birth.
The most popular way to dive in French Polynesia is on liveaboards. The various islands are found far apart and a liveaboard offers the chance to see more of these beautiful, paradise islands. However, there are dive resorts and dive centers on the larger islands too.
The third and final of the Indonesian diving destinations is Komodo National Park. Komodo is undoubtedly one of the best places to scuba dive in the world.
Accessible through the slightly frontier-like town of Labuan Bajo on the Island of Flores, sail into these islands and go back in time…
Well, not really, but it’ll feel like that. The islands are rugged and wild and it’s easy to imagine that you have traveled back to Jurassic times when dinosaurs still roamed the earth.
In fact, if you visit Rinca or Komodo Island, you can see them too – Komodo dragons anyway.
Diving in Komodo has a bit of a daredevil reputation, as a result of the currents which can rip through these islands.
This certainly applies to some locations – try out sites like Cauldron and Castle Rock around the full moon if you like rollercoasters – but don’t forget your reef hook! However, many dive sites are perfectly suitable for beginners.
Komodo has a great mixture of macro and pelagic life. Foraging in the reefs will often yield teeny, tiny colorful critters, whilst many dive sites are known for their displays of dozens of manta rays during mating season.
Some sites, like Batu Bolong, are also famous for their friendly dolphins!
Diving in Komodo is big business and many trips go out each day into the park. It is a great spot for liveaboards too as you can see more of the remote dive sites in the very heart of the park. Check out our list of the best Komodo liveaboards here!
Whether you’re a beginner diver or a seasoned pro, we hope you found a few new destinations on this article to add to your scuba diving bucket list.
The best places to dive in 2020 are a diverse bunch and whether you love wrecks, vivid reefs or hair-raising drifts – there’s a dive site out there for you.
Have you got a favorite diving location? Let us know in the comments!