There are some amazing dive sites around Singapore, with unusual fish, coral reefs, wrecks and more to check out around Indonesia, Maldives, Phillippines, Malaysia, Oman, and more
Always wanted to scuba dive around Singapore and finally sorted your own PADI? Good move! Now, if you’re wondering where to make the most of Asia’s fantastic underwater world and see spectacular marine life during amazing scuba dives, we have just the thing for you. Besides doing a stellar job at creating tailor-made holidays, our friends Lightfoot Travel are also avid divers and have tested a lot of the waters in the region – from colourful coral reefs to amazing places to see sharks, turtles and more. Here, they curate a list of stunning dive sites to break into your new scuba gear. Get ready to jump in!
Sipadan in Malaysia have appeared on various website’s “top 10 diving” lists, which is hardly surprising considering it offers a wonderful, colourful, turtle-ful, shark-ful, fish-ful experience. For newer divers, you’ll get magnificent schools of bumphead parrot fishes at 1.5m and shallow reefs with great visibility. Experienced divers have many walls, caves, turtle tombs to explore. One of the most talked about dive site is Turtle Cavern (aka Turtle Tomb) which is an extensive cave system where turtles come to die in peace. But don’t worry, there are also a lot of live ones swimming by! Note that diving in Sipadan requires a permit and only 120 are given out per day, so we recommend you stay at least 6 nights to up your chances of getting one.
To better experience the beauty of Sipadan’s waters, stay at either Mabul Water Villas or Kapalai Dive Resort, both of which sit on stilts on shallow sandbanks and offer balconies overlooking the horizon.
You’ve probably seen pictures of Jellyfish Lake, with snorkelers enjoying a sting-free swim through jellyfish-filled waters. However, in order to avoid poisoning the jellyfish with hydrogen sulphide, scuba diving is now prohibited in Jellyfish Lake. Don’t fret though; Palau has a plethora of other amazing dive spots that you should not miss. Among them is Ngemelis Wall, the country’s most famous and exciting wall dive and possibly the best in the world. The variety of coral is simply mind-blowing. If you want to see big fish such as sharks, tuna and Napoleon fish, diving at Blue Corner is the best way to go… just beware of the current. Experiences divers, enjoy the challenge of Chandelier Cave, where you can swim through underwater tunnels and go from ‘room to room’.
Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Chances are, you’ve already come across images of Raja Ampat and its plethora of deserted, hilly, verdant islands. Not only is the landscape incredible, the seascape is also amongst the most spectacular in Asia. Because the island is pretty hard to reach, it isn’t overly crowded and the waters are teeming with wildlife. Our region boasts the most biodiversity in the world, so you can be sure you will see a wide variety of species under the sea. Don’t dive? Snorkelers can also enjoy the beautiful views. And if you are very experienced (and adventurous), there are many unexplored and unmarked dives sites to uncover.
The best way to experience Raja Ampat is on a liveaboard that takes you across the Indonesia waters where you will wake up to a new island every day. Our favourites: Alila Purnama for its traditional Phinisi charm; Damai Cruise for its highly-qualified dive team; and Alexa for the most intimate and romantic sea adventure.
Mergui Archipelago, Myanmar
Diving may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Myanmar, but it does not disappoint. The Mergui Archipelago, one of the Andaman Sea’s secret jewels, is widely considered as one of the top diving destinations in Asia. Opened to tourists only in 1997, the sites are still rather unexplored and therefore pristine. Visibility is great and the seascape is varied: go wall diving, explore caverns, tunnels & drop offs… Keep your eyes open for whale sharks and manta rays. The government has banned dynamite fishing and thrives to keep the waters as untouched as possible.
Just like in Raja Ampat, the best way to experience the vastness of the Mergui Archipelago and its numerous dive sites is on a liveboard. Nothing beats the classical charm with modern touches of Raja Laut.
Palawan needs no introduction. For wreck dive aficionados, Coron Island is most certainly one of the top places in the world for this sort of underwater excursion. During World War II, 24 Japanese ships were sunk by an American air raid and to this day only 12 have been discovered and they are well preserved in shallow waters, making it ideal for recreational diving. The corals in Palawan are colourful and remarkable, and the abundance of fish species will amaze divers. It truly is the best place to dive in the Philippines.
At Lightfoot Travel, we are big fans of Ariara Island, which you can book out entirely for 18 of your friends and family for a modern-day Robinson Crusoe experience – in luxury and style of course!
If you think that Oman offers nothing more than fabulous desert experiences, think again. The country’s coastline is dramatic and what lies underneath the deep blue is nothing short of incredible. The Daymaniyat Islands off the coast of Muscat are highly-rated and offer superb opportunities for multi-level diving. The landscapes are different from what you would see in Southeast Asia, as are the corals and fish, which seem larger. Lightfoot Travel Designer and avid diver, Melissa, saw the largest rays she has ever seen in that area.
For a chic boutique hotel option, opt for The Chedi Muscat and its beachfront location. The hotel mixes traditional Omani design with minimalistic style which creates a zen-like ambiance.
There is no such thing as a bad dive spot in the Maldives, but the country’s has to be at the Baa Atoll, the only UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the country. For a good reason, too: you can admire one of the largest group of corals reefs in the Indian Ocean here, as well as a significantly biodiverse ecosystem. South Ari Atoll also boasts great diving and is a Marine Protected Area with year-round whale shark and manta rays sightings.
There is a multitude of fantastic accommodation in the Maldives so getting to these dive spots is a cinch. On the Baa Atoll, we love Soneva Fushi for the ultimate splurge, and Amilla Fushi for a modern and minimalistic design. On the South Ari Atoll, head straight for the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island for its vastness (on two islands!) and underwater restaurant.
Papua New Guinea
For a truly off-the-beaten-track destination, Papua New Guinea is the place to be. Here, you will be diving head first into exotic and unexplored waters, dubbed the ‘underwater photographer’s paradise’. Kimbe Bay is like no other place underwater and is a haven for the most avid of divers. Here, you can dive over a Japanese Zero fighter wreck, an extinct submerged volcano, The Fathers (remains of an impressive extinct volcanic caldera) and much more. You’ll not want for marine life as the waters around PNG are said to have up to five times as many marine species as the Caribbean!
This article was brought to you by Lightfoot Travel, a Singapore-based luxury tour operator offering expert travel advice and inspiration, tailor-made itineraries and full booking services.