For a dive trip with a difference, you cannot beat exploring the world’s lesser-known dive destinations. Between them, they offer vibrant cultures, world-class dive sites with few crowds, and jaw-dropping landscapes above and below water. Read on to find out more in our round-up of the 10 best alternative dive destinations.
Discover the world’s best alternative dive destinations.
1. South Africa
With 2,798 km of coastline bordering the South Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean, South Africa offers a variety of dive destinations. The Western Cape offers some of the world’s best shark diving, along with whale watching and snorkeling with sea lions.
You can dive with:
Ancient broadnose sevengill sharks.
Blue sharks and makos.
Great white sharks.
South Africa’s endemic shark species.
Add world-famous wine estates, the vibrant city of Cape Town and a variety of national parks, and you can see why diving the Western Cape is such a fantastic experience.
Diving in South Africa is not just about sharks though. The coastal city of Port Elizabeth is a popular spot for reef and wreck diving and has an excellent selection of nearshore and offshore diving sites.
Durban is renowned for its yearly sardine run; an awe-inspiring spectacle that attracts big pelagics and is not to be missed.
Make sure you leave time to dive Aliwal Shoal as well. This popular Marine Protected Area is busy with chunky oceanic blacktip sharks, colorful reef fish, sea turtles and more.
Japan, a land of traditional eastern arts, snow-capped landscapes, pop culture and huge cities, offers something for every traveler. Scuba diving in Japan is equally as diverse and rewarding.
Top Japan dive experiences:
Ice diving and exploring Japan’s clearest lake at Hokkaido.
Tropical diving in Okinawa.
Visit Kyusho to dive a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Shakotan Peninsula is a must-dive if you go diving in Hokkaido. There you will find pentagonal and hexagonal stone pillars formed by cooling magma.
Kyusho has colorful reefs busy with tropical fish, whilst diving in Honshu offers a mixture of macro dives, marine mammals and sharks.
As the second-largest country in the world, Canada has a dazzling variety of landscapes and dive destinations that suit every need. It is ideal for adventure seekers who want to explore vast wilderness areas and cosmopolitan cities in between going scuba diving.
British Columbia, one of Canada’s most beautiful provinces, is a nature lover’s paradise and offer amazing Pacific Ocean diving in the shadow of forests and snow-capped mountains.
The cold nutrient-rich waters typical of diving in British Columbia attract diverse marine mammals and host giant pacific octopi, giant squid and jellyfish.
More Canada dive experiences:
Take a trip to Ontario and go diving near the Arctic Circle.
Head south to dive the Great Lakes.
Dive the historical rivers of Quebec.
The world-famous Great Lakes have spectacular visibility and an unrivalled array of shipwrecks. There are historical rivers and thousands of freshwater lakes to explore in charming Quebec, plus dramatic underwater cliffs and saltwater dive sites rich in marine life.
Wherever you go diving in Canada, just remember to pack your drysuit and enjoy!
Few people give diving in India the attention it deserves. If you want to immerse yourself in a culturally rich country with excellent scuba diving and few dive crowds, this is the place for you.
Sitting in the Indian Ocean, the southern parts of mainland India and its islands offer some of the best dive destinations in the world. The mangrove-lined shores of the Andaman Islands are a tropical paradise, with isolated coral reefs and thriving marine life.
Top India diving experiences:
Search for prized critters, dugongs and mantas at the Andaman Islands.
Explore Goa’s striking pinnacles, coral gardens and wrecks.
Dive little-known sites at Pondicherry and Visakhapatnam.
Goa may be small, but it is an unmissable part of diving in India. Beyond Goa’s soft white sand beaches lie pretty coral gardens and around 100 wrecks. Having been an important Indian trading port for hundreds of years, the shipping history of this area is fascinating.
Take a trip to Murdeshwar and go diving at Netrani Island to experience what the locals describe as ‘the heart of India’s diving’. With few currents, this island is ideal for every dive experience level.
Namibia, home to a 55 million-year-old desert and the world’s largest underwater lake, is not where many people think to go scuba diving. But for adventurous and experienced scuba divers, it offers unique diving.
Diving in Namibia is mostly conducted inland at Namibia’s numerous caves. Oshikoto has large sinkhole lakes and caves, reaching down to depths of 130 meters in places, and is perfect for technical divers.
Diving in Namibia is all about:
Crystal-clear cave waters with exceptional hidden wonders.
Exploring dramatic rock formations.
Lake and cave dives with colorful cichlids and freshwater fish.
Spectacular Buddhist temples await at Angkor Wat – a UNESCO World Heritage Centre and the largest temple complex in the world. Going to Angkor Wat is reason enough to visit Cambodia, but the friendly locals, excellent food and crowd-free diving are equally as attractive.
Why dive Cambodia:
Cambodia’s peaceful islands are dotted with untouched reefs.
Shallow reefs abound, with huge purple sponges, healthy corals and critters.
Idyllic Sihanoukville is a popular spot for diving in Cambodia and offers access to island dives just off the coast. Sitting in the Andaman Sea, the waters there are calm, clear and beautifully warm.
All of which makes it easy to explore the picturesque underwater landscapes and thriving reefs typical of Cambodia’s dive destinations.
World-famous for its epic carnivals, huge waterfalls and sun-kissed shores, Brazil is one of the most vibrant dive destinations. There you will find a culture that celebrates life, dancing, fun and adventure.
Whether you explore the lush Amazon rainforest or go scuba diving in Brazil, you will be surrounded by wildlife.
Top Brazil dive experiences:
Dive volcanic islands and caves with diverse marine life.
Explore dozens of historic shipwrecks.
Dive a pristine UNESCO-listed archipelago.
Meet numerous mantas and sea turtles among ripping currents.
Recife, the Venice of Brazil, is known for its numerous reefs and historic shipwrecks sitting in clear, warm waters. Nearby Olinda is a must-see UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with beautiful colonial houses and churches.
Head 400 km offshore from Recife to explore another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Fernando de Noronha archipelago. These islands offer countless pristine dive sites, plus picture-perfect beaches, surfing, rowing and other adventure activities.
The Laje de Santos Marine Park in São Paulo is a popular place to go diving in Brazil. Known for having numerous mantas and sea turtles, this diverse marine park also has wreck dives, shallow and deep dives, thrilling currents and plenty of pelagic action.
Kenya’s coral reefs are one of the best-kept secrets in Africa. Whilst this country is famous for its vast savanna grasslands and wildlife watching opportunities, few people are aware of diving in Kenya.
Malindi’s offshore reefs form three bays that are bursting with life, whilst Mida Creek’s mangroves have 6 km long corals and dramatic currents. Much of this unique habitat is protected by the Watamu Marine National Park & Reserve and offers outstanding diving.
Why we love Kenya diving:
Dive among enormous corals and mangroves at Mida Creek.
Try reef, wreck and night diving, plus cave diving at Vuma Caves.
Take your pick of thriving National Marine Reserves.
The bustling city of Mombasa is one of Kenya’s most popular dive destinations and has plenty of dive centers. With three National Marine Reserves to choose from, there is an array of dive excursions for all experience levels.
From easy-going shallow dive sites to deep current dives and wrecks, you can experience it all and more at this diver’s hidden gem.
9. New Zealand
The land of the long white cloud, New Zealand is famous for its breathtaking vistas and adventure activities that attract millions of tourists every year. Underwater, there is a world of thriving kelp forests, subtropical island diving, chilly fiords and countless marine mammals.
New Zealand’s top dive experiences include:
Diving one of the world’s top 10 dive destinations; The Poor Knights Islands.
Shore diving at Wellington’s marine reserves.
Swimming with playful sea lions and whale watching.
Go in search of black corals in dramatic Fiordland.
Jacques Cousteau was not wrong when he named the Poor Knights Islands one of the top 10 dive destinations in the world. These subtropical islands in sunny Northland host a staggering array of fish life, plus huge stingrays, orcas and ridiculously colorful nudibranchs.
With 40 or so marine reserves to choose from, you can enjoy excellent diving in New Zealand anywhere you choose. Explore beyond the shoreline of its small but lively capital city Wellington, descend next to snow-capped volcanic coastlines, or go diving in the shadow of dramatic fiords.
Wherever you go, the marine life is second to none, the locals are friendly, and the coffee culture is unparalleled.
Home to 19 national parks and surrounded by the Indian Ocean and three of Africa’s Great Lakes, diving in Tanzania is truly diverse.
Diving in Tanzania includes:
The Spice Islands’ remote reefs with exceptional biodiversity.
Diving the longest freshwater lake in the world.
Heading into the big blue for game fish action.
Pemba Island in the Zanzibar Archipelago offers some of the best diving in the world, with pristine coral gardens and plunging walls. The rich waters of this special island attract everything from colorful reef fish to hammerhead sharks, turtles, mobula rays and whales.
Lesser-known Mafia Island was considered so special for its ecology that, in 1995, the Mafia Island Marine Park was created to protect its reefs. Since then, it has become popular for diving in Tanzania and is renowned for its range of reef and pelagic life, plus whales sharks.
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