The beauty of Southeast Asia continues well past its vibrant cities and ancient ruins to the wonderful natural beauty of its oceans. As the buffer between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, Southeast Asia is known for having some of the best dive spots in the world. Learning to dive here is very popular thanks to low prices but intermediate and advanced divers will also appreciate the variety of dive sites through the region. Below are a few of the best spots in Southeast Asia for your next dive vacation.
Pulau Sipadan, Malaysia
Known as not just one of Southeast Asia’s top dive spots but one of the world’s top dives, Pulau Sipadan is a highly sought out dive destination. Due to environmental damage, all resorts on the island of Sipadan were closed in the early 2000s and dives are restricted to just over a hundred people per day. The restrictions have ensured the coral reefs here remain in pristine condition, though officials in the area have had to deal with coral thieves, damaging the reefs to collect prized coral.
One of the most unique features here are the underwater limestone caves. Many contain tight tunnels and chambers which have a habit of confusing and trapping unfortunate sea turtles, giving the caves the nickname Turtle Tomb.
Raja Ampat Islands, Indonesia
This archipelago of islands in Indonesia are home to the most diverse seas on the planet, with a higher number of unique fish and coral species than anywhere else. You can swim among a reported 500+ coral species and 1000+ fish species. It is not a surprise to learn that the Raja Ampat Islands are also home to Indonesia’s largest marine national park.
A popular option here is to do a liveaboard dive experience to get the most out of your dive holiday and to see a larger variety of different dive spots throughout the islands. Sites range from those filled with soft coral and sea fans to hard coral and seagrass beds.
Similan Islands, Thailand
Made up of 9 granite islands, most of which are uninhabited, the Similan Islands are a great escape from the crowds of beginner divers you get elsewhere in Thailand. The diving here is some of the best in the country with a variety of conditions, ranging from peaceful shallow waters on the eastern side to more advanced dives in the stronger currents of the western side.
Divers can spot fish big and small, from tiny clown fish to giant whale sharks. While the large creatures – whale sharks, leopard sharks, and cow tail rays – aren’t always spotted, the region is well known for its large clown fish populations, making it a great dive spot for younger “Nemo-fan” divers.
Mergui Archipelago, Myanmar
Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been closed off from outsider visitors for many years. As they slowly open their borders to international tourism though, some of Southeast Asia’s top dive sites are finally once again easily accessible. The Mergui Archipelago, consisting of around 800 islands, is one of the best kept secrets in the region.
Largely forgotten and incredible underdeveloped, the Mergui islands and the excellent dive spots they hold remain almost untouched by the hand of man. There is some damage from local destructive fishing methods but the dive sites overall remain relatively free of bleaching and dive damage.