The Best Scuba Diving Destinations, Liveaboards, and Dive Centres or Resorts of 2020
108 different destinations, 329 liveaboards and almost 1,100 different dive centres and resorts; more than 11,000 nominations and 30,000 votes cast over six months - so without further ado, the winners of the 2020 DIVE Travel Awards
It's been a tough year for the dive industry. It's been a tough year for the world in general. We wondered if we should even run a travel awards, but in the end, we decided we wanted to celebrate the best of the best, keep the conversation going, and do our little bit to keep people enthusiastic about travel and scuba diving. Thank you everybody who participated; we could never have done it without you, and we're keeping our fingers crossed that we'll all be wearing proper masks as soon as possible!
Indonesia takes top spot for the fourth consecutive year, once again earning more votes than most of the other destinations put together. It's a big country, there are many fantastic islands to visit from the super-chilled vibes of the Gili Islands to the manta mayhem of Nusa Penida, the black sand macro of Lembeh and the pelagics of Komodo, the most beautifully diverse reefs of Raja Ampat and the isolated luxury of Wakatobi - and plenty more besides. People might say it's a bit unfair that such a large and varied nation always commands the most votes in our travel awards - but then again, it really is the best place in the world to scuba dive.
Egypt retains the second place it earned in 2019, once again commanding a large proportion of the vote, with a lot of enthusiasm for a nation that has seen its beleaguered tourist industry suffer a number of setbacks over the last decade. With its crystal clear blue waters, year-round sunlit, cloudless skies, vibrant coral and a good range of big to little critters to delight over, the Egyptian Red Sea is not just one of the world's best diving destinations, but the birthplace of a great many love affairs with the underwater world. Regular visitors will no doubt be pleased to see two Egyptian centres making the Top 10 for the first time in 2020.
Malaysia has featured prominently in this year's travel awards, starting in the Top 10 from the first month of voting and climbing the ladder ever since, a definite improvement over its 2019 placing which fell some distance outside the Top 10. Undoubtedly, the nomination of one of Malaysia's most well-known dive centres helped promote the country's place on the leaderboard, but Malaysia has grown in popularity among scuba divers over the last few years. Sipadan and Mabul islands are the most famous dive spots, but destinations such as Tioman, where divers can hang out in backpacker style lodgings or treat themselves to luxury resorts, are growing in popularity, together with Perhentian Island, a great place for dive training with calm waters, shallow reefs and mixture of big fish, little fish and plenty of turtles.
The Very Best of the Rest
Papua New Guinea
While several of the Emperor Divers fleet have received nominations in the past, they have not transpired into placings on the Top 10. This year, however, the Emperor Elite placed highly on the list of Top 25 nominations and has ranked close to the top of the leaderboard since the first month of voting, never leaving the Top 3 for the last six weeks. A huge round of congratulations must go to Emperor Divers for being the first Red Sea liveaboard to win the DIVE Travel Awards.
Wunderpus first set sail in 2014 built to accommodate just a small number of people with spacious, comfortable accommodation. Traditionally-built from ironwood and Indonesian teak, the 25m-long, 4.8m wide vessel plies her trade throughout Komodo National Park. This is the first time that Wunderpus has been nominated for an award, her sister ship Mimic was also highly placed this year.
2018 winner, Dewi Nusantara ranks highly yet again, sharing third place in 2020 after placing second in 2019. Named after the goddess of the Indonesian archipelago, Dewi Nusantara is a 58m, three-masted schooner sailing through the heart of the Coral Triangle, with itineraries including Raja Ampat, Ambon, Banda Sea, The Forgotten Islands, Halmahera, Ternate, Triton Bay, Cendrawasih Bay, North Sulawesi and beyond.
Nai'a is a name that many divers will recognise, having run her first charter in 1993, one of the first liveaboards to operate around the islands of Fiji. The luxurious 38m steel ship has been nominated in the Top 25 for the past four years in the DIVE Travel Awards, but this is the first time she has been voted into the Top 10, but shares a well-deserved Top 3 placing for 2020, thanks in large part to enthusiastic campaigning by the Fijian Tourist Authority.
The Very Best of the Rest
Scuba Junkie is a name that many will know, from its beginnings in Sipadan, Malaysia, and now with dive centres in Komodo, Nusa Penida and Sangalaki in Indonesia, and Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia. Scuba Junkie Sipadan, Komodo and Nusa Penida all received Top 25 nominations, and - in this very difficult year for the dive industry - we took the decision to combine them into one outfit to ensure that no one brand name dominated the awards. And dominate, they did! Even had we not combined the centres, it's almost certain that one of the Scuba Junkies would have won, thanks to tireless campaigning on social media.
We appreciate that each dive centre operating under the Scuba Junkie brand is run by its own unique set of divers, and therefore we must congratulate the staff of each individual dive centre for a job well done, and being crowned Best Scuba Diving Dive Centre or Resort in the World for 2020
Blue Corner placed in the Top 10 of the DIVE Travel Awards in 2017 and, while they received plenty of nominations in 2018 and 2019, didn't quite make it into the vote during those years. Blue Corner opened its first dive centre on the island of Nusa Lembongan, just off the coast of Bali, in 2011 and now has operations on neighbouring Nusa Penida and also Menjangan, on Bali's north coast. The dive centres are a favourite of visitors from all walks of life, from backpackers to professionals, and since 2014, Blue Corner Lembongan has been a PADI IDC centre, receiving high praise for instructor training. Congratulations to all the staff members of each of Blue Corner's operations, and a special mention must be given to Lord Chuckles Huggleton III, for his ceaseless canine campaigning.
Rather like Nai'a liveaboard, Volivoli Beach Resort and Ra Divers have received regular nominations for the DIVE Travel Awards but have never quite made it into the final vote. This year, thanks to another excellent campaign on social media, the Fijian operator has won Third Place in the race to be nominated 'Best Dive Centre or Resort in the World'. Fiji has long been regarded as one of the best places in the world to scuba dive, but remains relatively unexplored by comparison with other nearby destinations. While the country has done quite well in previous years, this is the first time that two of its individual operators have placed in the Top 10 - and, indeed, the Top 3, so congratulations must be offered all around.
The Very Best of the Rest
Komodo Resort and Diving Club
Papua Explorers Dive Resort
Dressel Divers Cozumel
Thank you to everybody who nominated, voted and campaigned on social media for this year's DIVE Travel Awards! Let's make sure that we continue to support ALL of the scuba diving destinations, liveaboards, dive centres and resorts that we can as soon as travel restrictions are lifted.
Don't forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter; register for our weekly newsletter for news and updates - and SUBSCRIBE to our quarterly print magazine, delivered anywhere in the world with a postal service; available in digital format for just £9.99