DIVE Readers' Favourite 26 Dive Centres and Resorts
An incredible 461 individual dive centres and resorts from across the globe were nominated by our readers for the DIVE Travel Awards 2018. We ended up with the Top 26 going through to the vote as two dive centres tied for 25th place. Here's a short preview of each dive centre or resort that made it through...
Aiyanar Beach and Dive Resort Philippines
Aiyanar Beach & Dive Resort is situated on the side of a mountain, where guests can enjoy a panoramic view over the ocean. The rooms are furnished with all the amenities typical of a modern luxury resort, which also contains a clubhouse and restaurant, pool and sports courts. Water-based activities such as jet-skiing and wakeboarding are also available for those who prefer activities above the waterline. Anilao has been a protected area since the 1970s and the rich marine biodiversity is actively protected by local communities. The region is home to a wide range of critters from sharks and rays to macro species that rival the likes of Lembeh and Dauin. Whale sharks pass by from time-to-time and rhinopias have also been spotted along Anilao's shores. Aiyanar Beach & Dive Resort caters especially to underwater photographers, with four custom-built boats designed to accommodate large cameras. Four fast boats are also available to bring the dive sites of Verde Island and Puerto Galera within reach. Located within Mabini, Batangas, Aiyanar is a 2-3 hour drive from Metro Manila.
MUST SEE: Secret Bay, only recently discovered, compares well to the classic Anilao dive site of Basura, offering critter diving that equals the shores of Dauin, and even Lembeh in Indonesia. Giant, clown and hairy frogfish are often spotted along with wonderpus, flamboyant cuttlefish and the pinnacle of critter diving - rhinopias.
Atmosphere Dauin Philippines
Opened in 2008 as an owner-operated luxury dive resort in Dauin, Atmosphere Resort & Spa is located opposite the famous Apo Island Marine Sanctuary, with its walls, stunning coral and schooling fish just a short boat ride away. Photographers are able to capture some of the world's rarest critters along the Dauin coastline, near Dumaguete in the Philippines, where Atmosphere is situated. The accommodation is a mixture of rooms and villas, discreetly located among the resort's tropical gardens and caters to everybody from solo visitors to large family suites. Fifteen PADI divemasters and instructors are available to guide and teach, with a full range of courses available in nine languages, and Instructor Development Courses six times per year. A dedicated camera room is available with two in-house photography instructors, and resident marine biologists are on hand to dive with guests and make evening presentations. Nitrox is complimentary, up to five dives are available each day, with a maximum guest-to-guide ratio of 4:1.
MUST SEE: Apo Island is a protected marine reserve which offers divers the chance to spot everything, from small to large. Look out for huge schools of jacks and big-eye trevallies, turtles and whitetip sharks among the array of hard and soft coral. For a fairly unique experience, divers might enjoy Boluarte, an easy dive site where the volcanic nature of the island causes bubbles to stream continuously from the sand.
Buddy Dive Resort Bonaire
Buddy Dive Resort is a full-service dive resort and 5 Star PADI Career Development Center based in the southern Caribbean island of Bonaire. A choice of spacious studios, one, two and three bedroom apartments is available to accommodate single travellers or couples through to dive groups. All apartments have air-conditioned bedrooms, a kitchen and living area, and every bedroom has its own bathroom, plus either a porch or balcony with views of the ocean or tropical gardens. The dive shop houses a full retail and equipment rental centre. Buddy Dive have a full range of courses from novice to instructor level available, in multiple languages, and a full-service technical diving facility. The dive boats depart three times a day to explore the dive sites not accessible from shore. For those that want to explore the shore dive sites of Bonaire by themselves, the two-lane Drive-Thru air and nitrox filling station offers divers the convenience of picking up dive tanks daily. Buddy Dive is completed by two restaurants, two swimming pools, two raised sand beaches, an activity centre and its own car rental fleet. Dive & Drive packages are available and include accommodation, daily breakfast buffet, airport transfers, shore diving with unlimited air and nitrox (plus optional boat dives) and a rental vehicle.
MUST SEE: 1000 Steps is among the top sites listed by visitors each year. Named for the steps that are cut into the limestone cliffs - of which there are only actually 67 - the dive site is a white sand bottom interspersed with blocks of hard and soft coral, especially large swathes of staghorn and fans. Look out for plenty of varicoloured parrotfish and marauding groups of blue tang. Turtles are frequent visitors to the reef.
Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort & Spa Indonesia
Bunaken Oasis is built on a steep hillside overlooking the mangroves on Liang Beach, a luxury resort that prides itself on offering a 5-star service while keeping its ecological footprint to a minimum. The Bunaken Marine National Park is a protected environment, and Bunaken Oasis uses its own desalination facility to produce drinkable fresh water and avoid the need for plastic bottles. Waste water is processed through a water treatment plant. The resort offers 12 large, traditionally-built villas, including one family villa with two bedrooms, and one villa near the Long House for those who may have difficulty walking. A major focal point of the resort is a free-form infinity pool, with sun-loungers and easy access to the chill-out cocktail bar, for those who want to spend time above, rather than below, the water. The full-service restaurant serves Indonesian and international cuisine, and guest amenities also include an air-conditioned library, a fully-equipped classroom in the dive centre with 4k flat-screen TV, especially useful for photographic groups, and a spacious camera room with an abundance of charging points. The Spa's fully trained therapists give divers the opportunity to wind down with a massage from an extensive range of treatments.
MUST SEE: Mike’s Point is one of the most popular dive sites around Bunaken with steep walls covered with huge gorgonian fans and bushes of black coral. The walls form a natural amphitheatre and the current can be strong, so it is usually dived as a drift. Eagle rays and whitetip reef sharks are commonly spotted, along with turtles and the occasional silvertip.
Camel Dive Club Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt
Operating since 1986, Camel Dive Club is one of Sharm-El-Sheikh's oldest and best-known dive centres, a PADI 5-Star Instructor Development Centre and resort. Located a short walk from the jetty in downtown Na'ama Bay, Camel Dive Club is comprised of the dive centre, Camel Hotel and the legendary Camel Bar. A second centre is also located at the Grand Rotana Resort & Spa located in Nabq, 8km north of Na'ama Bay. Daily diving excursions are available to the world famous Strait of Tiran, Ras Mohamed and the wrecks of the Dunraven and Thistlegorm. Most of the daily diving and snorkelling is by boat from the nearby Na'ama Bay jetty, with wreck adventures departing from Travco marina. In addition, fast boat trips from the Grand Rotana are available, with the Tiran reefs just a 20-minute journey from the private jetty, with several daily excursions available. Camel Dive Club has its own dedicated pool for dive training, which progresses into Na'ama Bay, with its flat sandy bottom, coral pinnacles, seagrass and a host of critters. Unwind at the end of the day at the Camel Bar rooftop bar and restaurant, overlooking the main street of Sharm-El Sheikh's central area.
MUST SEE: Jackson Reef, with its lush coral gardens at either end and a vertical wall in between, is one of the highlights of any dive trip to Sharm. Turtles, stonefish and a host of blue-spotted rays make their homes here, and there's always a chance of something bigger passing by. On a calm day, heading around the back of the reef gives divers an opportunity to meet the scalloped hammerheads that often school there.
Ceningan Divers Indonesia
Ceningan Divers is an award-winning eco-oriented PADI 5 Star Dive Resort based on Nusa Ceningan, the smallest island of the trio that contains Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida, just off the south-eastern coast of Bali. The diver resort is located 'off the beaten track' some 500m away from the iconic yellow bridge that joins Ceningan to Lembongan, just on the edge of the mangrove forest that lies between the two islands. The world-class dive sites of Blue Corner, Mangrove and Toyapakeh are just a short distance away, with easy access to Penida's north shore. The famous Crystal Bay, home of the molas, and the resident population of manta rays that inhabit Penida's southern coastline are within easy reach. A Green Fins Operator and member of the International Ecotourism Society, diving in the area is conducted in small groups, and PADI courses are available in Bahasa Indonesia, English, French, German, Italian, Romansch, and Spanish.
MUST SEE: Manta Point is a cleaning station on the south side of neighbouring Nusa Penida, and the location of a cleaning station for the islands' resident population of manta rays. Sightings are very common, sometimes just a solitary animal, sometimes over 20 circling the cleaning station while waiting their turn.
Dive Into Lembeh Indonesia
The Lembeh Strait has long been established as one of the best macro diving hotspots on the planet. Famous for 'muck diving' along the black volcanic slopes of the channel, the area also boasts some excellent coral dive sites - including the house reef at Dive Into Lembeh's resort. Each stand-alone bungalow has been located so that each has a great view of the water, with bean bags and drying racks on the balconies. All the material and labour used in the construction of the resort was locally sourced. The bungalows are equipped with satellite TV, air conditioning, ceiling fan, minibar, safe and ensuite western style bathroom with walk-in shower. Each bungalow has its own Japanese-style hot-tub on the balcony, a great place to relax after the diving day. A swimming pool, sun-deck, bar and restaurant complete the resort, along with the dive centre. No plastic bottles or straws are used; each guest is given their own personal refillable water bottle at check-in. Three dives and a night dive are available per day. Complimentary access to the house reef is available for divers who book package deals. A spacious camera room and dedicated rinse tanks are available for the most popular of Lembeh diving's activities - macro photography.
MUST SEE: Dive Into Lembeh's House Reef is the biggest coral reef inside the Lembeh Strait, with frogfish, seahorses, scorpionfish, octopus, shrimp, eels, nudibranchs, and plenty more to be found diving directly from the beach. Other coral sites such as Angels Window and California Dreaming are a short boat ride away from the resort.
Dive Munda Solomon Islands
Dive Munda is a multi-award winning SSI Instructor Training Centre in the Western province of the Solomon Island, one of the most uncharted dive locations on the planet. A dive centre committed to sustainable eco-tourism, Dive Munda is located in the premises of the Agnes Gateway Hotel, on the southern coast of New Georgia Island. A small airstrip provides daily connections to the island. The area is renowned for its remote beauty and friendly people, as well as the incredible marine diversity. Dive Munda operates together with the local community, with 12 locally trained dive guides and local crew piloting the dive boats where divers can explore a number of historical wrecks from the Second World War, hard and soft coral dive sites, cuts, caverns and reefs that are home to large pelagic life and plenty of shark action. All levels of diver and dive training can be catered for at Dive Munda, which stocks a range of rental equipment and provides nitrox to certified customers. The two 7m fibreglass boats are fitted out for diving and carry all-important safety equipment such as oxygen and first aid kits.
MUST SEE: Shark Point is a 20-minute boat ride from Dive Munda and a favourite among visitors. The site is at the end of a reef which extends a mile out to sea before dropping off sharply. In the shallow water, divers can expect to find pristine hard corals and gorgonian forests, and large schools of fish, including reef sharks. Deeper down, grey reef and blacktip reef sharks are frequently spotted, with great hammerheads and silvertips often putting in an appearance.
Elite Diving Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt
Elite Diving (with Divers United) is a small, family run business owned and operated by Alun and Moyra Evans, who founded Elite Diving in 2005 and took ownership of Divers United in 2008. Based in Hadaba, the hill-top town above Na'ama Bay, Elite Diving is a 5-Star PADI Resort Centre offering a 'personal touch' to dive holidays in the Egyptian resort. Daily boat-diving trips to Tiran, Ras Mohamed and the local dive sites around Sharm are available, as are journeys to the wrecks of the Dunraven and legendary Thistlegorm. A broad range of PADI and BSAC training programs is available, where confined water training dives are conducted in the shallow but vibrant waters of Shark's Bay, rather than a swimming pool. Elite offers a number of options for accommodation through a selection of four- and five-star hotels to meet the needs and budget of the travelling diver. Package deals are available. Elite's motto is: 'No problem, it’s your dive holiday, just relax and enjoy'.
MUST SEE: Shark and Yolanda Reef is situated in the national park of Ras Mohamed at the tip of the Sinai peninsula. Upwellings against the pinnacles drive nutrient-rich waters to the surface, giving rise to some of the most vibrant coral gardens in Sharm, and the 800m sheer column of Shark reef is teeming with life, and huge schools of barracuda and snappers later in the year. The famous toilets dropped by the Yolanda, which wrecked there in 1980 are a great photo opportunity but never sit on them - lionfish and morays lurk in the U-bends!
Gangga Island Resort & Spa Indonesia
The small island of Gangga is located just of the coast of Manado in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, approximately 70 minutes by road and 20 minutes by boat from Sam Ratulangi airport. Gangga Island Resort & Spa contains 30 furnished and air-conditioned bungalows with high ceilings and spacious verandas overlooking the beach, all set at the base of a jungle-covered hill with a white sand beach. Gangga Island's location allows divers to visit Bangka Island, Bunaken National Marine Park and Lembeh Strait, allowing for a diverse range of dive sites from sheer walls and coral reefs to black-sand muck diving. Two restaurants, the 'Coconut Bar', a large salt-water pool, traditional spa and personal service complete the experience. Five fully equipped wooden dive boats, kitted out especially for photographers, ferry the divers between sites.
MUST SEE: Mandarinfish are among the most favourite of diver sightings, and Lihaga Island is particularly well known for its large resident population. In the early evening, the males pop out of their holes to woo the females with their spectacular dances, after which the swim up together to mate. Gangga Island's own house reef is also very well regarded, especially for night dives.
Lembeh Resort Indonesia
Lembeh Resort is set in a secluded location on the Island of Lembeh, accessible only by boat from the mainland. First opened in 2002 with three guest cottages, today the resort is home to one cliff-side villa, 13 luxury cottages and six garden rooms. A swimming pool, spa, ocean deck and cocktail bar provide opportunities to relax at the end of a busy day of critter-diving. The accommodation is offered on a full-board basis and the central restaurant offers a wide range of foreign and domestic cuisine.
The dive centre, Critters@Lembeh, is located directly on the seafront and lays claim to be home to Lembeh's first and only dedicated full-time photography centre, with a full-time photo-professional on site. Five purpose-built dive boats staffed by experienced local guides with a maximum guest-to-guide ratio of 4:1. Full-time marine biologists are in residence to help with the post-dive critter identification.
MUST SEE: Hairball with its Ambon scorpionfish, Nudi Falls with pygmy seahorses (and nudibranchs, obviously) and the ever-popular California Dreaming – there's little that's not worth a 'must see' in the Lembeh Straits. For those divers feeling a bit overloaded by critters, there's always the Mawali, a 75m-long Japanese Second World War wreck, now overgrown with coral and... critters!
Lissenung Island Resort and Spa Papua New Guinea
To the east of Indonesia and just north of Australia lies the Independent State of Papua New Guinea (PNG). Lissenung Island Resort is a 20-minute boat-ride from Kavieng, the capital of PNG's New Ireland province, two degrees south of the equator and bordered by the South Pacific to the north and the Bismarck Sea to the south. The resort opened in 1996 and accommodates a maximum of 16 guests with eight ocean-front rooms in four traditionally-built bungalows spread out over the tiny island, which can be circumnavigated at a leisurely pace in less than 15 minutes. There is a minimum of 12 years of age for visitors. Strong but unpredictable currents attract large pelagic visitors to the waters around the island, but if the big sharks don't put in an appearance, PNG is still part of the Coral Triangle and therefore home to some of the largest, and most biodiverse reefs in the world. Lissenung's fully equipped dive boats offer three daily trips per day to the outer reefs, drop-offs and wrecks, and shore dives both day and night are available on the house reef, home to at least 350 different species of fish. Lissenung Island Resort has a very photographer-friendly setup with a dedicated rinse tank and large camera workspaces in each of the rooms with extra power points and a 24h electricity supply.
MUST SEE: Albatross Passage: At an incoming tide, this narrow passage is like fish soup. Eagle Rays, white tip, black tip and grey reef sharks, big tuna, jacks, barracudas and even sometimes mobula rays can be seen here. And if you’ve had enough of all the big stuff, just turned towards the wall, beautifully over-grown with fan coral, black coral, sponges as well as little creatures such as nudibranchs, leaf scorpionfish and pygmy seahorse. In the right conditions, Albatross Passage is the best dive in the Kavieng area and a must for every visiting diver. Depth: 12 – 30m/40 – 99ft.
Manta Dive Gili Trawangan Indonesia
Manta Dive is located directly opposite the boat terminal on the beachfront of Gili Trawangan, a 2-3 hour fast boat ride from Bali. It is the only Diamond rated Dive Center and Instructor Training Facility in the region with instructors qualified to teach both PADI and SSI dive courses. Manta Dive also caters to the technical diving community, with a range of TDI programs available on an island that is almost perfectly suited to technical diving. The dive centre comprises a pool and air-conditioned classrooms for training, a spacious area for preparation and relaxing, and three traditional outrigger dive boats to ferry divers to the nearby dive sites. The on-site Manta Café provides plenty of options for food between dives and the beach-front Chappie's bar is a great late-afternoon and evening hangout. Behind the dive centre is a small resort with a pool, 12 well-appointed double rooms and eight traditional wooden 'Lumbung' bungalows. A selection of nearby alternative accommodation options is also available through the dive centre.
MUST SEE: Gili T's diving sometimes gets a bad reputation, but Simon's Reef is sure to dispel all of those myths. Simon's is a deep water site dropping to around 30m, with large seamounts with a sandy bottom in between and offers a variety of corals not seen on some of the other sites. There is plenty of fish life in and among the overhangs and outcrops, whitetip and blacktip reefs sharks are often seen patrolling, along with turtles and blue spotted rays. The dive ends in a pinnacle covered with fish life. Deep Turbo offers a similar experience.
Manta Ray Bay & Yap Divers Micronesia
Yap is a cluster of islands located in the southwestern corner of Micronesia between Guam and Palau, approximately 600 miles east of the Philippines. Bordered by the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Philippine Sea on the other, it has a land mass of just 39 square miles, ringed by a mangrove shoreline, protected lagoons, secluded beaches and a coral barrier reef. It is also home to one of the world's largest concentrations of manta rays in the world, and they are easily accessible to divers. Lots of sharks, schools of bigeye jacks and blackfin barracuda are also easily found amongst a tremendous variety of pristine hard and soft corals, barely touched by the most recent El Niño event. Macro photographers will equally be happy with the smaller critters, from fire gobies and ghost pipefish to mandarinfish and dragon wrasse. Located a ten-minute ride from the airport in Yap's main town of Colonia, Manta Ray Bay and Yap Divers is a PADI 5-Star and SSI Platinum Dive Center, Yap Divers offers a full range of courses, including a manta ray awareness program. A year-round water temperature of 28°C and visibility of up to 50m is more than enough to see the mantas approaching. Up to four dives per day and a night dive are available aboard 7 custom-built dive boats with a maximum of eight divers aboard, although larger groups can be accommodated as necessary. Six custom-built 'camera hotels' provide security, charging and work areas for photographers. Manta Ray Bay Hotel is a 3 story modern building with 28 rooms in a variety of configurations.
MUST SEE: The largest concentration of Manta Rays is found at The Valley of the Rays, with three cleaning stations, Merry-go-Round (the largest), Carwash and Manta Rock all located in the valley. When the current is running the manta hang motionless over the cleaning station, and begin circling when the current slackens. Whitetip reef sharks and octopuses are also commonly found throughout the dive site.
Misool Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Located in remote Raja Ampat, Indonesia, Misool's private island resort and associated conservation centre are situated just south of the equator amongst a group of otherwise uninhabited islands, 165km/105mi from the closest port, and the nearest village 20km away by boat. The island is fringed with white beaches with a tropical interior, and home to some of the most pristine reefs in Indonesia. Misool caters to a maximum 40 guests with a staff-to-guest ratio of 4 to 1 and has explored over 60 dive-sites within a 1-hour radius of the resort, 25 of which are less than 15 minutes by boat, including Fiabacet, Boo, Yilliet, Wobbegong City, and Magic Mountain. The sites are surrounded by Misool's own 300,000 acre/1220 sq km Misool Marine Reserve, established in 2005 and which is also within the boundaries of the Raja Ampat Shark and Manta Sanctuary, spearheaded by Misool in 2010. The resort supports a range of conservation projects, including the funding of local marine park rangers through its sister charity, the Misool Foundation. There is a huge amount of marine life to be found in the area, certain to please both macro and wide-angle photographers. Blacktip reef sharks can often be found circling throughout the small lagoon around which the resort is situated. Three boat trips are scheduled every day, with night and dusk dives on the house reef available where divers often find a wonderful array of critters including the blue-ringed octopus.
MUST SEE: Magic Mountain: This seamount is located about 20 minutes from the resort, and is a busy Manta ray cleaning station. The submerged pinnacle reaches up to about 7m, and there is a good chance of seeing both the giant oceanic manta as well as the smaller reef manta. Magic Mountain is also a nursery for whitetip reef sharks and a love nest for Napoleon Wrasse. Exposed to oceanic currents, divers can expect to see large schools of pelagics in the blue.
Murex Dive Bangka Indonesia
Situated on a palm-fringed white sand beach, Murex Bangka advertises its resort as offering a 'Robinson Crusoe' style experience. Bankga Island is located approximately 60 minutes by road and 20 minutes by boat from Manado International Airport. Accommodation is a choice of traditional timber style oceanfront bungalows, or larger duplex rooms with adjoining doors, suitable for families. Murex Bangka is the only resort on the island to offer both hot water and air conditioning. A restaurant, beach-front loungers, hammocks and massage service are all part of the resort's facilities. Murex Bangkahas seven dive boats catering to guests, with two and three-dive days available plus night dives. Flexible arrangements can be made for particular itineraries and private group bookings. Diving-wise, the island is home to resident dugongs, dolphins and pilot whales, several species of pygmy seahorse, harlequin and tiger shrimps, blue ring, mimic, reef and wonderpus octopus, ghost pipefish, Ambon scorpionfish, frogfishes, turtles, reef sharks, eagle rays, tuna, great barracuda, schooling fish including snappers, fusiliers, cardinals and mackerel. The House Reef is a sloping reef descending down to a white sand bottom. Along the slope there are diverse corals and beautiful bommies which are shrouded in schools of glassfish and hiding frogfish. The House Reef is home to numerous unique critters including pygmy seahorses, blue ribbon eels, mantis shrimps, cuttlefish, reef octopus, a variety of nudibranch species and look out for passing eagle rays.
MUST SEE: Batu Goso is a series of steep pinnacles just off the shores of Bangka Island. The spectacular topography of the reef, encrusted with coral, particularly the vibrant yellow, green and red soft corals, ensures that there is something to see throughout the depth range. Sheltered coves in the reef allow divers to keep clear of the current and watch the marine life pass by. Regularly spotted are whitetip and blacktip reefs sharks, turtles and groupers.
NAD Lembeh Indonesia
NAD-Lembeh Resort is a small, owner-operated, photography-oriented dive resort situated in a private bay in the Lembeh Strait. Ten beachfront rooms, a pool and jacuzzi are located close to the restaurant in the centre of the resort, and five sea view bungalows are located in a more private setting in a secluded portion of the resort. A newly renovated camera room offers one workspace for every guest, with individual benches and plenty of power points. NAD Lembeh guarantees a 2 to 1 guest-to-guide ratio, ensuring that photographers are able to make the most of their time underwater, and all 15 of the guides are proficient photographers themselves. NAD Lembeh's newly built camera room has dedicated workstations for up to 30 divers. Every station comes with led lights, rubber mat, camera towel and four international and eight European power sockets including USB ports.
MUST SEE: There's not a lot of marine life in the Lembeh Straits that a diver wouldn't want to see, although wanting to see it and actually being able to see it are two different things. Lembeh's black sand muck diving is a macro photographer's paradise, but there's plenty to see for divers who don't have cameras.
OBLU by Atmosphere at Helengeli Maldives
Helengeli Island is part of North Male' Atoll, a 50-minute speedboat ride from Male International airport. OBLU By Atmosphere opened in 2015, with the resort comprising a total of 116 villas in four categories: beach villas, deluxe beach villas, lagoon villas and beach suites, all designed in a traditional, colourful Maldivian style. All rooms are equipped with modern conveniences with spacious open-air bathrooms. The restaurant offers a range of high-quality local and international cuisine and beach-bar grills, based on an all-inclusive dining plan. A well-equipped gym and spa complete the ensemble. OBLU by Atmosphere at Helengeli is a PADI certified operator conducting a wide range of recreational programs. At least 30 world-class dive sites are within a short distance of the resort, and two channels run either side of the island. Sheer walls and lush coral gardens are to be found within the nutrient-rich waters around Helengeli, perfect for finding larger fish such as whale sharks and manta rays when the timing is right. A group of resident turtles make their homes in the house reef and whitetip, blacktip, and grey reef sharks patrol the area. There are plenty of macro critters to keep the photographers happy, up to 60 per cent of all the species of Maldivian nudibranchs can be found around Helengeli's reef, including divers' favourite, the 'Shaun the Sheep' nudi.
MUST SEE: Channel Dives. Either side of the island of Helengeli are deep water channels through which nutrient-rich water flows with the tides. This is the place to find passing whale sharks, manta rays, eagle rays, and other large pelagic species. The current can run at quite a lick, making for some exciting drifts while you wait to see what turns up next.
Papua Paradise Eco Resort Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Papua Paradise Resort lies along the pristine shoreline of the uninhabited island of Birie, Raja Ampat. The island is teeming with exotic bird life, lush jungle foliage, and a spectacular array of fauna, while the reefs in the surrounding area offer world-class diving. Featuring simple, but comfortable bungalows built in a traditional Indonesian style, the remote resort is a long way from the nearest civilisation. Papua Paradise also features the only luxury spa in Raja Ampat - Spa in Paradise - for relaxing after a busy day of diving. The resort is tailor-made for divers and rich in Indonesia's wide diversity of coral and critters. Dugongs frequent the area along with manta rays, various different species of sharks and schooling pelagic fish. Above water, hiking through the rainforest offers visitors a chance to find Papua's colourful birds of paradise.
MUST SEE: Birie Island, the location of Papua Paradise, is surrounded by large fields of seagrass, and one of the best places in Indonesia for spotting the solitary Dugong. Anywhere in Raja Ampat is great for diving, and although sightings of these wonderful creatures can never be guaranteed, there's no better place to start than Papus Paradise's very own house reef.
Raja Ampat Dive Lodge Indonesia
Located in Dampier Strait of Raja Ampat, Raja Ampat Dive Lodge is a small resort on the island on Mansuar, fronted by the white sand of Yenpapir Beach and backed by Papuan rainforest. The 20 bungalows are built along the beachfront and offer fans or air-conditioned rooms, hot water, seating area, wardrobe and desk. The resort is a two-hour speedboat ride from Usaha Mina Port, a 20-minute drive from Dominik Edward Osok Airport in Sorong. The Dampier strait is known as a major manta ray aggregation site, accessible just a short ride from the Lodge.
MUST SEE: Out in the middle of the ocean, Blue Magic is a submerged reef prone to very strong currents, but if you're prepared to hang on, there's a huge amount of life to be found here. Huge schools of fish gather around the pristine corals, with predators such as the giant trevally, barracuda, dogtooth tuna and huge clouds of jacks always on the lookout for something to eat. blacktip and grey reef sharks frequently pass by, and giant oceanic manta rays are known to visit.
Siladen Resort & Spa Indonesia
Siladen Resort & Spa is a boutique dive resort located on Pulau Siladen, a lush tropical island in the heart of the Bunaken National Marine Park, North Sulawesi. Situated just above the Equator on the lush tropical island of Pulau Siladen, the resort opened in 2003 as an eco- friendly, socially responsible dive resort, with an emphasis on protecting the Marine Park and the local environment. The secluded accommodations offer all amenities, with open-air showers and sunbeds overlooking the calm seas. Siladen Resort & Spa is a 5 Star PADI Resort with over 50 dive and snorkel sites within easy reach. The Bunaken National Park covers a total area of over 890 square Kilometers, hosts 390 different species of corals, is a centre of marine global biodiversity and ranks among the top diving destinations worldwide. The Park is known for its rich macro life and is mostly characterized by wall dives rich in hard and soft corals. Away from the park, Siladen also organizes muck/critter diving in Manado Bay or soft coral dives in the slopes of Bangka Island. A wreck is also available for diving close by. The traditional style wooden boats are spacious and have all the necessary safety facilities, particularly for photographers.
MUST SEE: Located inside the crescent of Bunaken Island, Lekuan is described as the 'signature' dive of Bunaken Marine Park. Stretching for several kilometres, Lekuan is made up of four different dive sites, Lekuan I, II and III, and Pygmy. Encounters with green and hawksbill turtles are almost guaranteed, often more than ten in a single dive. Tuna, napoleon wrasse, eagle rays and reef sharks often spotted cruising along the coral and sponge encrusted wall, and plenty of macro species can be found in the nooks. Currents can be strong, but there is usually a place to shelter if necessary.
Sub Tropic Adventures St Helena
The remote island of St Helena is located in the South Atlantic, some 1200 miles distant from the coast of Africa. Previously accessible only through a five-day voyage from Cape Town, the development of St Helena's airport saw a scheduled, weekly air service begin on October 2017. The historical island is rich in history and also scuba diving, although very few divers have visited St Helena's pristine waters. Sub-Tropic Adventures, founded in 2000 by Anthony Thomas, is a PADI dive centre offering a range of courses and tailor-made dive excursions. Experienced divers will enjoy caves, archways, some fantastic wrecks - especially at night - and seamounts surrounded by schools of fish. Novices will enjoy the mostly calm conditions of sheltered bays which nevertheless hold a rich array of marine life. Chilean devil rays, hawksbill and green turtles are commonly sighted, as are pelagic species such as wahoo, yellowfin tuna and dorado. Much of St Helena's marine life is endemic and exists nowhere else in the world. St Helena butterflyfish gather in huge numbers, and the flameback angelfish can be found lurking in crevices along the rocky volcanic coastline. Wrecks include the Atlantic Rose, Frontier and the Second World War tanker HMS Darkdale.
MUST SEE: Between December and April each year, fully-grown male and female whale sharks gather in numbers, the only location in the world where such an aggregation is known to occur. Snorkelling with these huge creatures is an unforgettable experience, and although diving is forbidden with the whale sharks, there's nothing to say they can't dive with you...
The Dive Bus Curacao
The Dive Bus is located directly opposite Pierbaai Beach in Marie Pampoen, Curaçao. Owner-operators Mark and Suzy Pinnell set up their first 'dive hut' right on the beach in 2005, and have never looked back. They don't take themselves too seriously (as evidenced by the video), but they take their diving very seriously indeed. Now located in a larger establishment across the road from the beach, the 100% Project Aware dive centre is at the forefront of Curaçao's scuba diving community. Divers are picked up from their hotel in the morning with the Dive Buses (they have two now), which is loaded with gear and packed with snacks before driving through Curaçao's spectacular scenery. There are a number of hotels close to the Dive Bus dive centre and the island capital of Willemstad is a short ride away. The team has recently introduced a 'drive and dive' package, where divers who prefer their own company can dive independently, with the Dive Bus providing vehicle rental and daily tanks as required. where to find us.
MUST SEE: Not so much a case of 'must see' as it is 'will see', Pierbaai house reef and the Car Pile are the reasons why the Dive Bus is located where it is. A gently-sloping sandy bottomed reef leads to a steep drop-off filled with coral and a fantastic array of marine life. A little way to the east is a small plateau with another drop-off at 30m, where somebody dropped a barge load of vintage automobiles but missed the open sea. Look out into the blue for huge tarpon and the occasional eagle ray. Other great sites include Tugboat, Directors' Bay and one of the Caribbean's top wrecks, the Superior Producer.
Uepi Island Resort Solomon Islands
Uepi Island Resort is located on a small tropical island perched on the edge of the longest lagoon in the world. Six bungalows, two units and two guest rooms offer clean and comfortable accommodation with a twenty-six bed maximum capacity. all the rooms are spaced throughout the resort's tropical gardens for privacy. Most of the dive sites are only a few minutes away from the dive centre, dived either from the shore or just a short boat ride away. The Solomon Islands remains one of the last scuba diving wildernesses, with incredible biodiversity in terms of both the reefs and the critters that inhabit them. The topography varies from the shallow and sheltered coral gardens of the lagoon to vertical drop-offs in an area known as The Slot, stretching 2000m to the sea floor and where passing pelagic species can be spotted. Uepi island resort is an SSI dive centre and offers the full range of training programs up to divemaster level.
MUST SEE: Uepi Point and its near vertical reef corner is coated profusely with corals - especially gorgonian fans and colourful spiky soft corals. At 30m a coral peninsula juts out into the deep blue, providing the stage for a spectacular procession of pelagics which turn to hunting and feeding at certain points during the tide, creating a lot of exciting underwater action. Giant trevally, mackerel, wahoo, rainbow runner, big-eye jacks, dogtooth & smaller tuna, sharks, barracuda and others cruise relentlessly back and forth waiting for inattentive smaller fish to become their next meal. The explosive sounds and sights of a large number of fish all taking evasive action at the same time fill the water. Families of garden eels, arrays of colourful gobies and a diverse collection of invertebrate life inhabit the sand patches of the shallows.
Wakatobi Resort is located off the southeastern shore of Southeast Sulawesi, a remote and isolated resort, yet easily accessible via Wakatobi's private airstrip after a two-hour flight from Bali's Ngurah Rai International airport, and a short boat ride to the island. 15 beach-front bungalows, nine palm bungalows set back from the beach, and four private villas are available, all interconnected by well-tended pathways that meander through the tropical jungle. A central long-house contains a meeting area, classrooms, shop and the dive centre, and the nearby gourmet restaurant serves a fine array of international and local cuisine. A small bar situated at the end of Wakatobi's long jetty provides an excellent place to unwind and watch the sunset and stars. Three boat dives are scheduled each day, with a weekly night dive also available. Sea and surface temperatures vary little throughout the year and there has been very little in the way of coral bleaching around Wakatobi's reefs. Photographers are well catered for with a dedicated, constant-temperature dry camera room with benches and charging points, and there is much to see amongst the coral. Wakatobi is a resort dedicated to conservation through eco-tourism, and dedicates much of its resources to training and educating the local villagers, many of whom work at the resort.
MUST SEE: It's difficult to pick one reef in Wakatobi that's better than another, but Lorenzo's Delight is one place that every diver will enjoy. The dive site is named for Wakatobi's founder, Lorenz Mäder, who chose to build his resort after diving at this particular reef. Current is usually fairly mild although it can pick up from time to time, but the walls are filled with a wide variety of vibrant coral species, and there is plenty of stuff hiding in the many nooks and crannies of the reef.
Walindi Plantation Resort Papua New Guinea
Walindi Plantation Resort, established in 1983, is an intimate dive resort situated on the shores of Kimbe Bay on the island of New Britain, Papua New Guinea. Accommodation is available in twelve secluded bungalows constructed with local materials in a 'bure' style with thatched roofs, spread along the beach side of the resort and surrounded by rainforest gardens. Alternatively, eight smaller Plantation House rooms are available built into two blocks with four rooms each. Fringing dormant volcanoes create a dramatic backdrop to the waters of Kimbe Bay. Submerged reefs and seamounts play host to over 900 species of fish and 400 species of pristine coral, which has grown over the years to some spectacular sizes. Dive sites in Kimbe Bay are a five - to 45-minute ride from the resort on three covered, specially designed day boats. Resident pods of dolphins are often spotted during the boat ride, and less frequently, passing orcas and migrating pilot whales. Two or three dives are scheduled each day and a full range of courses up to instructor level is available.
MUST SEE: Inglis Shoal is a seamount rising from the depths to around 11m, and is rich in marine life. Pelagic fish species are common and include dogtooth Tuna, barracuda and bigeye trevallies. Scalloped hammerheads and grey reef sharks also sometimes put in an appearance. Hundreds of species haunt the top of the reef; clown and redtooth triggerfish are extremely abundant and there are plenty of smaller fish on the reef, with dense schools of pinjalo lewisi - a type of snapper - forming dense clouds at the edge of the reef.