Where Is the World’s Best Scuba Diving and Snorkelling?

With water covering most of our planet, there is no shortage of great dive and snorkel sites. Travel writer and photographer Michael DeFreitas shares his favourite places to experience the underwater realm. So where’s your favourite site?

Dec 13, 2010
previousnext
1 of 10
Molokini's crescent shape protects divers from powerful currents.
Molokini's crescent shape protects divers from powerful currents.
Colourful tropical fish are just some of the things you'll discover while scuba diving.
Colourful tropical fish are just some of the things you'll discover while scuba diving.
Photography Adam Broadbent/© Scubazoo Images
Often seen in the Pacific, the crown-of-thorns starfish is the second-largest sea star in the world.
Often seen in the Pacific, the crown-of-thorns starfish is the second-largest sea star in the world.
Photography Thinkstock
The emerald waters of Bora Bora are some of the most beautiful in the world.
The emerald waters of Bora Bora are some of the most beautiful in the world.
Photography courtesy Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts
Bora Bora's lagoon near Toopua Point is an excellent place to spot a sea turtle.
Bora Bora's lagoon near Toopua Point is an excellent place to spot a sea turtle.
Photography John Sinal
Seychelles' Baie Ternay Marine National Park is a top diving destination.
Seychelles' Baie Ternay Marine National Park is a top diving destination.
Photography Quentin Berryman
Swimming with a whale shark is an unforgettable experience.
Swimming with a whale shark is an unforgettable experience.
Photography Thinkstock
April through June is the best time to see manta rays in the Maldives.
April through June is the best time to see manta rays in the Maldives.
Photography Guy Stevens
Explore the coral reefs near Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru.
Explore the coral reefs near Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru.
Photography courtesy Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts
Cushion stars may be slimy, but their colourful details are intriguing.
Cushion stars may be slimy, but their colourful details are intriguing.
Photography courtesy Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

The great undersea explorer, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, probably summed it up best when he said, “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” Today, the world’s oceans cast a fairly large net when it comes to spellbinding dive and snorkel sites. Here are four of the best to whet your appetite.

Molokini, Hawaii

Located approximately 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) off Maui’s south coast, this partially submerged crescent-shaped volcanic crater is one of the world’s most famous natural aquariums. Washed by the Alalakeiki Channel current, it offers some of the Pacific’s clearest waters for snorkelling and diving. The western arm of the crater extends underwater in a series of steps to a depth of 107 metres (350 feet). The antler coral gardens blanketing the shallower sections of reef, offer snorkellers a galaxy of brightly coloured tropical fish, including raccoon butterflyfish, Moorish idols and blue-striped snappers. Near the end of the submerged arm is Reef’s End, a favourite with divers seeking encounters with manta rays, spinner dolphins and the odd humpback (during the December-to-April whale season).

Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Recognised by many as one of the most beautiful spots on earth, this lagoon island boasts 500 species of fish and a plethora of dive and snorkelling sites. Locals affectionately call the shallow protected emerald waters inside the lagoon near Toopua Point “lagoonarium.” Here, snorkellers can view a palette of vividly coloured soft and hard corals, schools of exotic tropical fish, sea turtles and small reef sharks. Outside the fringing reef in the deeper waters around Teavanui Pass near Motu Tapu, divers encounter blacktip and lemon sharks, six-foot Napoleon wrasse, lionfish and moray eels. From August to November divers see giant Pacific mantas perform underwater courtship ballets in the many channels through the reef.

Baie Ternay Marine National Park, Seychelles

Nestled at the northwest tip of Mahe, this park’s nutrient-rich waters provide some of the best “critter” snorkelling and diving in the world. Critters such as mantis shrimp, nudibranchs, octopus, lobster, eels, seahorses and clown anemone fish hang out between the soft corals along the shallower reefs and are especially easy to spot on night dives or snorkels. In deeper water, divers encounter hawksbill and green turtles, six varieties of sharks, humphead parrotfish, eagle rays and groupers. But the real show runs from August to December, when the whale sharks arrive in the bay to feed on the plankton blooms. Swimming with the largest and one of the most gentle fish in the sea is a memorable experience.

Baa Atoll, Maldives

Located just northwest of Male, this atoll’s marine life is so abundant and diverse that UNESCO has designated it a World Biosphere Reserve. At the atoll’s top dive site Maavaru Kandu, clouds of neon-coloured fusiliers, wrasse and basslets hover above a rainbow of soft corals and sponges that carpet its overhangs. The marine shelves that start at 7 metres (25 feet) and drop to 27 metres (90 feet) are ideal for snorkellers and divers alike. Pelagic action peaks during the April-to-June manta ray and whale shark season. Based at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru, the Maldivian Manta Ray Project is a non-profit research and manta ray conservation program that works with guests and other visitors to foster a greater awareness and understanding of these gentle creatures.

Cousteau also said, “The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish.” So to all you fish out there, where’s your favourite dive or snorkel spot?

Editor’s Note

There’s a plethora of world-class diving spots in other Four Seasons destinations as well. Be sure to visit the Big Island and Lana‘i in Hawaii. Other locations in the Americas include Costa Rica, Palm Beach and Nevis. Premier dive sites in Asia include Langkawi, Bali and Koh Samui. In the Middle East and Africa, explore the waters of Mauritius, Doha and Sharm El Sheikh. Visit the Four Seasons Sailing, scuba and other water sports web page for more information.


Tags:


20 Comments about Where Is the World’s Best Scuba Diving and Snorkelling?

  1. Jane Young says:

    Maldives is my favorite and it’s not Baa Atoll, but all diving spots in the place. Diving there gives you an experience like no other and that is an understatement. Totally a diver’s paradise.

    • Kelly Neubeiser says:

      Hi Jane,

      Thanks for the recommendation! We agree—the Maldives are great for underwater adventure.

      Best wishes,
      Kelly

  2. It’s truly a nice and helpful piece of information. I’m glad that you simply shared this helpful info with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

  3. V Grant says:

    The Poor Knights Marine Reserve, Northland, NZ. A dive site called Tie Dye Arch in particular is just incredible.
    Sorry, no Four Seasons properties there though!

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Hands down, the Philippines. Specifically Bohol, Cebu, Philippines

  5. Susan Tabor says:

    Boracay Islands in the Philippines. Best night time aquatic life ever! Clean beaches, clear blue water and helpful folks with outriggers (and safe O2 supply) to get you to the most remote dive sites.

  6. Gregg Winter says:

    Palau – for me, diving from a live-aboard in Palau even blew away the Maldive Islands. Hey Four Seasons – time to add a live-aboard in Palau.

  7. John Dinlet says:

    Palau must be in the top two with the Sea of Cortez and the Seychelles especially in the Whale shark season.

  8. Patti Mickelsen says:

    The Blue Hole, Belize…we were discouraged from going, but found it an amazing experience – like outer space! And the shallow rim is great for snorkeling or looking around after diving so deep. Great diving in Bali as well…and Hawaii is always fun and easy.

  9. Bob Boesel says:

    Roatan, Honduras If you stay at West End the wall reef is only 500′ from your beach bungalow and you can snorkle out through the lagoon before breakfast and diving. Boat rides to fabulous sites are mere minutes. I’ve logged over 60 dives here with my family and found more prolific marine life here than anywhere else in the Caribbean. We see turtles up close on almost every dive, sometimes 6 or more. And, Roatan is remarkably reasonably priced.

  10. RHS says:

    Tough choices: Seychelles certainly in top 3. Then frontier diving in the Tuamotus near Tetamanu. Exquisite. And then for the mix of soft and hard corals, as well as abundant sea life, either the Yellow or the White Wall in Fiji is simply breathtaking.

  11. Kim Mallin says:

    Saba-awesome deep dives on the pinnacles. Bonaire for eas of diving. Haven’t been to Bali yet-going to Wakatobi this summer

  12. KC says:

    Heron Island, Australia. Great Barrier Reef, national park, untouched, huge fish. Both Molokini and Bora Bora were disappointments. Clear water, but not much life.

  13. Stricks says:

    The Barrier Reef for snorkeling. SCUBA there just means bigger fish. In six feet of water your toes can “tickle” the lips of a six foot clam! Beautiful Fish by the hundreds are all around you. For cold water diving, Monterey is hard to beat. I’ve been a Certified Diver since ’67 and those are my two top spots.

  14. Charlene Anderson says:

    Hands down, Palau. Maldives are beautiful, Bora Bora is exotic, Seychelles fascinating, but for sheer spectacular diving and a beautiful location, Palau wins.

  15. Ariyani Tedja Susanto says:

    It is Tulamben, Bali. The dive sites are around USS Liberty wreck in quite shallow water near the beach of Tulamben. The variety of fish and corals are also plenty. The beach of Tulamben, is also great for snorkling for the sea life under the water is wonderful. Plus, the town of Tulamben is only 90 minutes by car from Jimbaran, making it an easy day trip for divers staying the FS Jimbaran.

  16. Charles Pelham says:

    My favourite snorkelling has been in the Philippines, due to the intense blue of the waters around Palawan.

  17. Leslie E. Allen says:

    The world’s best best scuba diving and snorkeling is just across from The Four Seasons in Maui. That is just the start of the wonders. Maui is the best resort in the pacific, and you have your choice of 4 Four Seasons in Hawaii, three in Maui County alone. So come and relax in the ultimate of luxury, at one the Four Seasons of Hawaii. Or for good measure, stay at them all. Everything is possible in Maui, Hawaii.

  18. Gill Passman says:

    Sharm El Sheikh was by far the most amazing dive centre, we completed our PADI with the four seasons Dive Centre there and it was just fantastic, there are no other words.

  19. K Curnow says:

    No question – Bikini Atoll – fly by seaplane out of Majuro in the Marshall Islands – the floor of the lagoon is covered in wrecks from atom bomb testing – swim inside an aircraft acrrier – fully loaded with planes – anythingelse after Bikini is a huge let down.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Today's Top 5

Four Seasons Magazine

British period architecture illustration

The best of luxury travel, style and culture from thought leaders and tastemakers

Issue 4 2014