Who is not dreaming about diving in Maldives? Or what about a liveaboard in Raja Ampat or diving in Sipadan, Malysia. These are just some of the most amazing scuba diving destinations in the world that I have been to. However I haven't been diving since 2014 now. Why not? Long lasting ear problems are keeping me out of the water, despite an eardrum surgery.
So why writing this blog about scuba diving when you can’t dive anymore you must think. When I finally got my desired eardrum surgery in Paris to get me back into the water I was super excited and to keep my dreams alive I thought a good therapy was to write about scuba diving. Unfortunately the surgery failed and I still haven't been back underwater.
Positive thinking is the key to positive things, right? I am sure some day I will be scuba diving again!
1. Sipadan, Malaysia
Always mentioned in a list of best places to scuba dive in the world is Sipadan in Malaysian Borneo is a guarantee for world class diving. Funny enough I would have actually been diving here, would I have gotten a permit. Sipadan is a remote island off the east coat in Sabah and only about 100 dive permits per day are granted to those who either pay a lot of money or book months ahead. While on the waiting list for 6 days for a Sipadan permit I dove on the islands around and still had a blast. As Sipadan is a protected Marine Reserve the reef is healthy and there is an abundance of fish. From the shore it drops deep down to a couple hundred meters and therefore Sipadan is known for being one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world to see big schools of big fish. At nearby Siamil Island I saw a school of 50 Eagle Rays gliding gently through the water.
2. Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Two years ago I was among the lucky ones to go sailing in Raja Ampat, one of the most remote places of Indonesia. Here in West Papua the only way to discover this region is on a liveaboard. Although I was not able to dive I still could snorkel and could easily see with my own eyes why this place is rated as one of the best diving spots in the world. Because of its remote location and countless karst mountain islands the waters of Raja Ampat are basically still untouched. Manta ray’s, whale sharks, dolphins, whales, everything can be seen here in a single dive.
Raja Ampat is a holy grail for scuba divers and although I feel really lucky I was able to experience this amazing part of the world above the water I will be back some day to discover it underwater as well. Click on the link above to see more of my sailing trip.
Imagine you visit one of the worlds best places to go diving, snorkeling and all kind of other water sports and you can’t go in the water. This happened to me now already several times while visiting Maldives. Although I was not able to scuba dive in Maldives, I could easily imagine how it would be underwater. Sitting on the balcony of my overwater bungalow I have seen multiple huge stingrays passing by. While snorkeling I saw many different species of reef sharks, sea turtles and whale sharks. Everything is simply bigger and better while diving in Maldives.
Curious where I saw whale sharks while snorkeling? Just outisde the house reef of my favorite resort in Maldives: Lux South Ari Atoll.
4. Cocos Island, Costa Rica
The first time I ever heard of the term liveaboard I was traveling in Costa Rica and came across an advertisement for Cocos Island. When I saw the price I was put off, but the picture that lured me in was unbelievable. A massive school of hammerhead sharks crossing just above a scuba diver. Cocos Island is one of the most remote islands in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Costa Rica and one of the top dive sites in the world. Staying on Cocos Island is not allowed as it is a National Park. The only way to enjoy scuba diving here is on a liveaboard. Be prepared to spend some money because diving trips to Cocos Island are pretty expensive. In return you get one of the best scuba diving in the world.
5. Galapagos, Ecuador
Although I would probably freeze to dead in the cold waters of Galapagos I cant wait to go diving there. When diving in Bermuda (22 degrees) I was still shivering while wearing all the wetsuits available on the boat. Regardless of the temperatures I would do anything to swim with big schools of manta rays, hammerheads, seals and even iguanas. Galapagos has such a diverse and unique array of marine life because of its remote location. Plus its strong currents make it one of the worlds most challenging places to go diving.
6. Sardine Run, South Africa
Probably one of the most spectacular underwater events to witness is the Sardine Run in South Africa. Temperatures will even be colder than diving in Galapagos, but what you will see underwater is unrivalled. Predators from all sizes come to feed on the massive schools of sardines that can be seen from space! Fishes as tiny as your finger that form a school so big that they can be seen from space? That sounds crazy already right? Then add all the predators like sharks, whales, dolphins and even diving birds to this frenzy and you surely will understand why this event is one of the best diving locations in the world. The sardine run is every year between May and July off the coast of South Africa.
So far I have been to almost 100 countries, but I won’t go to Palau before I can go scuba diving again. Who even ever heard of Palau? This very remote island/country is one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world. Just like many remote islands the marine life is abundance and fairly untouched. Palau is popular for shark diving. Currents are strong and diving can be challenging. Add some cool WW2 wrecks to this picture and you understand why Palau is among ht ebest places to go scuba diving. But it is not only the marine life that attracts scuba divers, Palau also became popular because of the famous Jellyfish Lake where you could swim with millions of of stingless jelly fishes. Unfortunately because of the disappearing jellies swimming and snorkeling is not permitted anymore.
8. Cenotes Tulum, Mexico
Although one of the best places to scuba dive in the world you will hardly see any fish here. The underground rivers and caves in Tulum, Mexico form a unique underground system which you are possible to navigate underwater. Cave diving is already spectacular but diving through these narrow systems is super excited. Crystal clear fresh water makes the visibility unreal and if you are thirsty during your dive you can take a sip of fresh water.
Check out my list of the best cenotes around Valladolid.
9. French Polynesia
Another dream destinations for scuba divers and marine life lovers is French Polynesia. Everything here just seems bigger. Diving in French Polynesia would be a dream, but already being able to swim around in the crystal clear and remote waters around these green islands would be fascinating. This archipelago in the South Pacific is not only a honeymoon destination but also home to big fish and predators. Shark dives are guaranteed and manta rays, whale sharks, dolpins and colorful coral can be found all around the more than 100 islands.
10. Diving with whales, Tonga
The last world class scuba diving spot in the world in this list also comes from the South Pacific. In August and September humpback whales migrate from the cold waters of Antartica to Tonga to give birth. Imagine snorkeling or diving with these massive animals and their newborn babies. How small would you feel next to a 15 meter long creature?
11. Blue Hole, Belize
I was only at 25 dives so far when I traveled to Belize. It was one of the first stops on my first trip around the world in 2008 and one of those top dives sites in the world that I wanted to experience. The boat ride from Caye Caulker to the dive site was about 4 hours and literally the only thing I did was throw up, but it was all worth it. Diving deep down to 40 meters swimming on my back looking up and seeing the massive stalactites is a vision I will never forget. Add the big bull sharks circling around and you will understand that till today this was one of the best diving spots in the world for me.
My friend Ami did her PADI Scuba Course in the Havelock Islands in India, a pretty interesting read as well.
12. Bonaire, Netherlands (Caribbean)
Another destination that is often listed as one of the best places to scuba dive in the world is Bonaire in the Caribbean. Already on my 10th dive or so I was able to experience this paradise and what an adventure that was. Totally inexperienced I rocked up at the dive center and they asked me how many dives I wanted to make in the next three days. Me and my friend were like: ‘9, if that is possible sir. OK, so that is your pick-up truck, right? He answered. Yes sir, why? I can easily fit 20 tanks in there and here is a dive map. Holy cow! Were we going to dive with just the two of us? Apart from the world class diving, this was probably the best scuba diving destination in the world for me so far, simply because I had all the freedom to dive when and where and how much I wanted. Just rent a pick up truck and drive to the dive school. Most dives in Bonaire are shore dives as the island is already a Marine Conservation Park since the 70's.
13. Providencia, Colombia
I am pretty sure you have never heard of this place. From Bogota, the capital of Colombia I flew 2,5 hours North into the Caribbean Sea and landed in San Andres. There I took a 4 hour boat to a tiny island in the middle of the ocean: Providencia. Only a handful tourists make it here every week and I was one of them. This surely is one of the best places to go diving in the world. On top of that we took spear guns with us to shoot Lion Fish. Lion fish is not an endemic specie in the Caribbean and is threatening the eco system. As soon as we would spear a lion fish a shark frenzy started until the last bit was eaten. Then about 20-30 sharks would patiently follow us until we would spear the next lion fish. Incredible!
14. Koh Tao, Thailand
Although Koh Tao is obviously not the best scuba diving location in the world I still want to name it in this list. This little island in Thailand is where I did most of my dives and also were I messed up my ear. The photo below is from the same dive I ruptured my ear drum, yes in the pool!
Although diving in Koh Tao is not world class it is among the best places to scuba dive in the world for beginners. On top of that you can be just as lucky as me and see whale sharks during your dives.
Ruptured eardrum while scuba diving
It all started during my Divemaster training in Koh Tao. One ear infection after the other until it all ended with a ruptured eardrum while diving. It sounds crazy but it happened in the pool, may be 1 meter deep. After I stayed out of the water for a week because of an ear infection I signed up for a full face mask session in the pool. Trying on a full face mask was a cool experience, but equalizing was not standard practice as you cant reach your nose. By planting your hand palm on your forehead and pushing the mask into your face it is possible to clear a full face mask. I tried a couple times and it worked, but not always. I thought I was doing something wrong and pushed harder. But it was not me, it was because of my recent ear infection that I wasn't able to equalize.
Finally it resulted in me pushing so hard that I burst my eardrum under water. That sounds awful and painful, but trust me it was not. All I heard was the sound of a balloon slowly leaking air: PEEEEEEEEEP! Ever since I tried to go scuba diving one time and the first 20 minutes everything was fine until again my eardrum ruptured! But hopes are up I will be diving again and that day I will be back underwater you can find me at one of the following 14 best scuba diving destinations in the world!
This scuba diving destinations blog post is a wanderlust fuelling article to make you travel the world. Looking for the best destinations to backpack in the world? I got them for you as well in the link. With countries like Guatemala, Georgia, China, Bolivia, Bangladesh and many more
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