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The very best diving spots in Asia

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Asia offers some of the finest diving experiences in the world. Our pick of the best places to swim with creatures of the sea

all levels / snorkelling for kids

1. Similan & Surin Islands

Thailand

High Season: October to May
With over 50 charted dive sites, all one needs to know is that some of the finest scuba diving locations in Thailand and the world are to be found here. The Similan archipelago is made up of nine granite islands, simply named No.1 to No.9. The underwater visibility is excellent: 18-25 metres usually, going up to 40 metres on a good day. This allows a close look at the coral walls, undersea caves and other submarine wonders of the region.

advanced divers

2. Mergui

Myanmar

High Season: December to April, but diving starts from October and carries on till May
Best diving conditions run from March to October
This small cluster of islands is known internationally for the Komodo dragons. At the 50-odd dive spots here, manta rays, dolphins, sharks, eels, turtles, eagle-rays and the rare blue-ringed octopus are the visual menu on almost every dive. The coral life is prolific, and immensely colourful if extremely fragile. Keep an eye out for the magnificent and delightful pygmy sea- horses floating around.

advanced divers

3. Komodo

Sumatra, Indonesia

High Season: Best diving conditions run from March to October
This small cluster of islands is known internationally for the Komodo dragons. At the 50-odd dive spots here, manta rays, dolphins, sharks, eels, turtles, eagle-rays and the rare blue-ringed octopus are the visual menu on almost every dive. The coral life is prolific, and immensely colourful if extremely fragile. Keep an eye out for the magnificent and delightful pygmy sea- horses floating around.

kids / all levels

4. Banda Islands

Indonesia

These 10 small volcanic islands of the Banda archipelago are blessed with fertile shores and deep waters inhabited by hundreds of species of fish, from hammerhead sharks and snappers to marble rays and tunas. Watch out for the brilliantly-coloured Mandarinfish, and the equally beautiful but deadly Scorpion fish. Just like the Mergui archipelago, the Banda Islands have remained largely untouched by human influence and excessive fishing.

advanced divers

5. Raja Ampat

New Guinea, Indonesia

High Season: Best time is October to December, but the dive season usually goes on until May. June to September: the winds are ferocious
The Raja Ampat (Four Kings) archipelago encompasses more than 1,500 islands. Pundits rate the archipelago among the top five dive destinations in the world. Surveys have revealed that the marine life diversity in this region is the highest recorded on Earth. The official numbers are staggering: 1,309 species of fish, 537 coral species (75% of all the world’s species), and 699 mollusk species. Result: every dive is spectacular.

kids / all levels

6. Pulau Sipadan

Celebes Sea, Malaysia

High Season: The Pulau Sipadan diving season is year round, though conditions are best between April and December, particularly July and August
Seasoned divers rate Sipadan as one of the best dive spots in the world. Almost every dive is a guaranteed encounter with droves of turtles, barracuda schools and other enormous fish. A unique feature of the island is a turtle tomb, an underwater limestone cave that is a veritable graveyard for green sea-turtles that get trapped and drowned. However, this adventure is only for extremely skilled divers.

kids / all levels

7. Wakatobi

Indonesia

High Season: Best for diving between March and December. July and August are optimum months
Another jewel in Indonesia’s diving crown is the Wakatobi archipelago, which takes its name from the first syllable of the four constituent islands: Wangiwangi, Kaledupa, Tomea, Binongko. Located in south-eastern Indonesia, Wakatobi is renowned, for good reason, for its healthy and excellent reef life. The archipelago, located in the biodiversity hotspot known as Wallacea, is also a part of the Wakatobi National Park.

all levels

8. Andaman Islands

India

High Season: October to May
Tourism has been authorised only recently here, leaving the marine life practically undisturbed. The steeply undulating hills of volcanic lava make for some unusual diving topography. Large pelagic fish, including a variety of sharks, abound in these waters. Hammerheads often prowl away from the reefs, while closer inshore you can find grey-tip, white-tip, nurse and leopard sharks.

kids / all levels

9. Tubbataha Reefs National Marine Park

Philippines

High Season: A very short season, from March to June (4 months)
The Tubbataha Reef is a natural marine park in Sulu Sea, Philippines, and comprises of the huge North and South Atolls, and the smaller Jessie Beazley Reef. In 1993, the UNESCO declared the Tubbataha Reef National Park as a World Heritage Site. Divers and marine research teams have revealed that the park contains 600 species of fish, 360 of coral, 11 of shark, 13 of dolphin and whale, and 100 other marine species!