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Diving in Asia

Explore diving in Asia

Asia offers countless diving opportunities and many of the most exciting diving destinations can be found here.

Some of the largest marine ecosystems can be found here and offer incredible underwater scenery.

At the heart of all this diving greatness lies the Coral Triangle, a triangular-shaped region around the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste.

It is recognized as the global center of marine biodiversity and diving here is amazing through and through. Let's look at everything Asia has to offers for ocean lovers, divers, snorkelers, and travelers.

The best diving in Asia

Asia is the largest of the world’s continents, covering more than 30% of the planet’s land mass and home to more than 3 billion people.

Trying to cover traveling to and diving in Asia in one guide is a hopeless endeavor as there is simply too much to explore.

Let’s focus instead on how to approach exploring this amazing place on Earth and what you should absolutely visit.

It all depends on how you look at it. Most people, especially divers, think of the Pacific and Indian Ocean and tropical waters when talking about Asia.

Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Thailand and China come to mind.

However, you should not neglect Russia and its vastness in the North, the tips of the Mediterranean territory in the fast west, as well as numerous middle Eastern countries.

Asia is so large that it spans nearly a dozen time zones, 51 sovereign counties, as well as nearly all types of physical regions and environments.

In general, it can be divided into these five major physical regions:

  • Mountain systems like the Himalayas
  • Plateaus such as those in Mongolia
  • Plains, steppes, and deserts such as in China or Egypt
  • Freshwater environments anywhere in Asia
  • Saltwater environments, especially all around the Coral Triangle

Their distribution may vary and some areas are better than others, especially for ocean lovers and divers.

This also means that you’ll encounter nearly any marine species you could imagine in Asia.

There is a reason the Coral Triangle is called the center of marine biodiversity in the world and there are countless species to be encountered here.

Above all, Raja Ampat in Indonesia is the green heart of the world with more than 2,000 native species of corals and fish native to this region.

Diving in Asia is a diver’s dream come true so let’s check out the best places to dive here!

Unlike other lists where we pick the 10 best of each, we chose to include the 12 best diving destinations in Asia as otherwise, we would have to leave out too many worthy contenders.

The 12 best diving destinations in Asia

Indonesia

Indonesia is one of the most popular travel and diving destinations in the world and for good reasons.

What makes this country stand out is the fact that it doesn’t just have one hotspot for diving but several. We picked out Raja Ampat as the most famous one, however, Komodo, Lembeh Straight, Sulawesi, and others are equally as cool!

Raja Ampat is often considered the best reef diving destination in the world due to the amount of fish and corals you find here.

It is home to thousands of different marine life species and sometimes called the “green heart” of the world.

Diving here is a year-round activity and you’ll find manta rays, sharks, whale sharks, and giant schools of fish here.

Diving SeasonYear-round
Best time to diveMay – September as it is the driest season.
What to seeWhat’s not to see? Some highlights: Large schools of fish, manta rays, reef sharks, wobbegong sharks, walking sharks, turtles, Spanish mackerel, tuna, barracudas, pygmy sea horses
Water Temperature27-30°C (80-86°F)
Budget$ – $$$
Best forReef diving, underwater photography
DifficultyMostly easy diving
Diving facts Indonesia.

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Phillippines

The Phillippines are another diving hotspot in Asia and also among the cheapest diving destinations you’ll find.

Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park is probably the most popular and well-known area, but with such a large ocean-based country, there are numerous other options.

Warm water diving, beautiful coral reefs, and so many liveaboard cruises!

Diving SeasonMarch – June
Best time to diveYear-round but some natural parks are only open from March – June
What to seeCountless dive sites, whale sharks, manta rays, even whales in the winter
Water Temperature27-28°C (81-84°F) in the winter, 28-30°C (83-86°F) in the summer
Budget$-$$
Best forBeautiful underwater world
DifficultyAny level of diving available
Diving facts the Philippines.

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Myanmar

The Andaman Sea has a lot of beautiful diving destinations to offer and the Mergui Archipelago is one of them. This collection of hundreds of small islands is part of Myanmar and offers superb opportunities to see manta rays, whale sharks, and mobulas up close.

This is one of the few places in this region which are still very much unexplored. This means you can feel a sense of exploration here when diving the near untouched reefs.

Both Macro and pelagics lovers will find something they love about this place and the islands’ waters are home to frogfish, lobsters, shrimp, as well as whales and nurse sharks.

Burma Banks is the place to go for those who crave for those pelagic sightings.

While getting here is not exactly easy, it’s worth the trip. There are a few flights to take to this remote place but most people take a liveaboard from Thailand here.

The best season to dive in Myanmar (similar to meany South-East Asian countries) is the dry season between October and March.

Thailand

Thailand is another hotspot of budget diving and travel and more people get scuba certified here than anywhere else in the world.

Koh Tao is the heart of the diving industry here, but Koh Samui, as well as Pukhet are others.

The best diving can generally be found in the Similan national park by liveaboard. Reef diving, warm water, and the chance to spot manta rays and whale sharks are just a few of the perks of diving here.

It’s best to plan in a few weeks to also explore the rest of the country, from its famous capital Bangkok further North to see temples and so much more.

Diving SeasonNovember – April
Best time to diveDecember – March
What to seeManta rays, whale sharks, an abundance of macro life
Water Temperature28-30°C (82-87°F)
Budget$
Best forWarm water, plenty of fish, super cheap
DifficultyAll levels of diving available. Some negative descents and currents.
Diving facts Thailand.

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Malaysia

Malaysia is a backpacking hotspot and probably no country is more synonymous with Southeast Asia than this one.

Diving in Malaysia is generally done by speedboat but shore diving opportunities exist. Liveaboard diving is fun but depends on where you go.

The country is an attractive destination for beginners and freshly certified divers with calm waters and protected reefs.

East Malaysia is home to the Miri-Sibuti Coral Reefs National Park, while Sabah is the first choice for diving at the islands of Sipadan, Layang-Layang and Mabul.

Sipadan in Borneo is often names as one of the best diving destinations in Asia, and one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world.

Second to only the likes of Raja Ampat you can explore 3,000 fish species and hundreds of coral ones. It also happens to be Myanmar’s only oceanic island.

Layan-Layand, on the other hand, offers some really deep dives of 40m/130ft+.

Palau

Palau is an island country in Micronesia and a scuba diving heaven. History buffs will also enjoy exploring the WWII history of these islands.

Just look at the pictures and that’s all you need to see to understand why.

Turquoise waters, sandy beaches, and excellent reef diving await. Diving here is usually easy with some tricky dive spots in between. Sharks, plenty of fish, and exotic reefs await.

The most famous diving site in Palau is actually not even a scuba diving site: The world-famous jellyfish lake can only be dived in as a snorkeler, freediver, or skindiver.

Diving SeasonYear-round
Best time to diveDry season from October- May
What to seeSharks, schools of fish, rays, turtles, whale sharks.
Water Temperature27-30°C (81-86°F)
Budget$$-$$$
Best forReef diving and liveaboard diving
DifficultyMostly easy to intermediate diving.
Diving facts Palau, Micronesia.

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India

India is the second largest country in the world in terms of population and also boasts an incredible 8,000km/5,000mi long coastline.

Diving in India has only started to grow in recent years with the boom of the travel industry and the overall income levels rising steadily. Now there are many dive centers opening up every year and whatever kind of diving you’re looking for, you will find it in India.

The Indian Ocean is rich in nutrition and also home to a plethora of marine life. The smallest state Goa in the West also borders on the Arabian Sea, offering yet another great diving region.

Wreck diving is the big attraction here for obvious reasons, with beautiful coral gardens all over. Pondicherry in the East greets visitors with untouched reefs and plenty of big fish to spot.

The biggest diving hotspot in India is yet again the Andaman Sea which it shares with other diving destinations like Thailand and Malaysia. The Bay of Begal is the place to go here and you’ll surely spot a manta ray while diving here.

Passage Island, Barren Island, and Narcondam Island are a few names to keep in mind when looking for a suitable tour.

Out of all the diving destinations in Asia, India is arguably the one that feels most like its own entity and the sheer size of the country supports this.

Cave diving, Russia

Japan

Japan is still a place of mystery for many and caught somewhere between futuristic and traditional.

It’s a big country surrounded by the ocean and offers plenty of scuba diving opportunities. Coral reefs, king crabs, volcanic islands, and kelp forests are all ecosystems you can explore here.

History buffs will love the plethora of sunken WWII wrecks near Okinawa, while reef divers will enjoy blue lagoons and sandy beaches.

November until May is hammerhead shark season, while June – October sees large populations of manta rays in the Japanese waters.

The best diving in Japan is generally considered to be found in Okinawa, as well as around the Kerama Islands.

The country also gets surprisingly cold in winter and becomes one of the prime destinations for drift ice diving! It’s a bit surreal diving over green reefs underneath thick ice plates but definitely an incredible experience.

Japan is much more expensive as a travel destination than the likes of other countries in Asia, but it’s more than worth it.

Maldives

Arguably the most famous diving destination in the world, the Maldives are a place on every diver’s bucket list.

Sandy beaches, warm water, and drinks at the bar…the Maldives are a honeymoon dream destination for good reasons.

The reefs in the Maldives have experienced multiple coral bleachings, unfortunately, and the shallow reefs in the central atolls near the capitol Male are mostly gone. However, below 10m/30ft you can still find great diving, as well as plenty of pelagics.

The far North and South are excellent liveaboard diving destinations and manta rays, whale sharks, and sharks are near guaranteed.

Diving SeasonYear-round
Best time to diveAugust – November
What to seeSharks, whale sharks, manta rays, tropical fish
Water Temperature26-30°C (80-86°F)
Budget$$-$$$
Best forPelagics and tropical fish
DifficultyCan be a bit more advanced due to strong currents
Diving facts for beginners Maldives.

How to get there

What to see when diving in Asia

Common marine life sightings in Asia

Where to dive in Asia