The Best Dive Centres in the World
With the nominations for the 2018 DIVE Travel Awards well underway, here's a reminder of the Top 10 dive centres and resorts of 2017 as voted for by DIVE's readers.
Siladen Resort and Spa (Bunaken, Indonesia)
2017's clear winner was Siladen Resort and Spa, with over 26 per cent of the vote, double that of the closest runner-up. Built in 2001, the resort is located on the small island of Siladen in the Bunaken National Marine Park, a hot spot in the Coral Triangle for marine biodiversity. A total of 20 villas of varying sizes form the resort, with a restaurant, spa and beach bar, where guests can enjoy the amazing sunsets overlooking the Manado Tua volcano from the white sand beach. There are some 50 dive sites available to visitors, from the spectacular wall dives of the neighbouring islands to the black sand of North Sulawesi's shores.
OBLU by Atmosphere at Helengeli (Maldives)
OBLU by Atmosphere at Helengeli was the leading entrant from the Maldives, and - surprisingly - the only resort from the Maldives to make it into the Top 10. Helengeli is part of the North Malé Atoll, often regarded as one of the best places to dive in the Maldives, a 50-minute ride by speedboat from Malé International airport. Re-launched in November 2015, the resort boasts 116 luxury villas spread across the island, which is situated in the middle of a channel between two larger islands forming the gateway to the atoll's interior. The nutrient-rich water means that large pelagic sightings are a regular occurrence, even on OBLU's own house reefs.
Wakatobi (SE Sulawesi, Indonesia)
Wakatobi is a small island separated by a shallow channel from the mainland of southeast Sulawesi, one of the least explored regions in the Indonesian archipelago - which is why the founders chose the location to build their eco-resort in 1995. The resort has steadily grown through the years using traditional Indonesian building methods and materials but remains small and intimate. The diving is world-class and the reefs are spectacular, easily accessible by a short boat ride, and an excellent example of ocean conservation through a partnership with the local community, which the resort supports. Once a remote and distant location, Wakatobi is now accessible through a private airstrip, just a short flight from Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport. Wakatobi's liveaboard, Pelagian, placed second overall in the 2017 liveaboard category, knocked off the top spot by only a single vote.
Lembeh Resort (Sulawesi, Indonesia)
The Lembeh Strait, situated off the eastern tip of North Sulawesi, is famously known as the muck-diving capital of the world. The black volcanic sand provides a perfect photographic backdrop for some of the weirdest and most wonderful critters found anywhere in the world's oceans, many of which - from the pygmy seahorse to the giant frogfish, wunderpus and flambuoyant cuttlefish - can be encountered in a single dive, free from all but the slightest of currents. Further afield, coral reefs, beautiful walls and a number of wrecks are within reach of divers. The resort is located in a secluded cove with 14 deluxe ocean-view cottages and six garden-view rooms, and boasts a dedicated photographic suite with on-site photo pro and marine biologist.
Atmosphere Dauin (Philippines)
The luxurious Atmosphere Resort & Spa opened in 2008 on Negros Island in Dauin, not far from Dumaguete and opposite the famous Apo Island Marine Sanctuary. The family-friendly resort has a range of options for accommodation, including family suites, garden apartments and penthouses scattered throughout the grounds for privacy, with a range of clubs and activities to keep children busy. The local diving ranges from spectacular walls and coral reefs to the weird and wonderful critters of muck diving, large schools of fish and passing pelagics, most of it accessible with a short boat ride to the dive site.
Misool (Raja Ampat, Indonesia)
Misool is a private island eco-resort in Raja Ampat, Indonesia, a part of the world often regarded as the pinnacle of coral reef diving. Opened in 2007, Misool founded its own marine reserve in 2011 which now extends over 300,000 acres and, in partnership with the Misool Foundation, employs a dedicated team of rangers to protect the area's coral reefs. Their success has seen an amazing increase in the region's biomass, everything from coral and critters to sharks. The resort caters to a maximum of 40 guests and offers eight water cottages built on stilts around the small lagoon, seven beach cottages on the pristine white sands on the south of the island, and four luxury villas on the north shore. There are 60 dive sites within a one-hour boat ride from the resort, and the house reef is a world-class dive site in its own right.
Papua Paradise (Raja Ampat, Indonesia)
Papua Paradise Eco Resort is located on the north-eastern peninsula of Birie Island, just behind the island of Batanta, one of the four 'Rajas' of Raja Ampat - the Four Kings - around two hours from the West Paupa port of Sorong. The resort features 26 waterfront bungalows, built on stilts at the water's edge and a spa and restaurant, also situated directly over the long house reef, easily accessible from the shore. Along with the spectacular diving of Raja Ampat and its range of critters, the island is also home to a variety of rare avians.
Dune Atlantis Diving Centre (Bali, Indonesia)
Dune Atlantis Bali is a dive centre located in Sanur a district of Denpasar city situated on the southern coast of Bali, approximately 20km from Ngurah Rai International Airport. The location affords divers easy access to a range of top diving destinations, including Nusa Penida to dive with the molas at Crystal Bay or the mantas at Manta point; Padang Bai, Amed, Menjangan and Tulamben, home to the USAT Liberty, one of Indonesia's best and most popular wreck dives. Sanur is a popular tourist town, with plenty of accommodation options from low-budget rooms to luxury hotels and plenty of bars and bistros to suit a range of ages and tastes. Daily dive trips via speedboat and short, land-based safaris are on offer, without being confined to one single area.
Blue Corner Dive (Lembongan, Indonesia)
Blue Corner Dive is the largest dive operation located on Nusa Lembongan, with centres in Jungut Batu and Mushroom Bay, another located on Nusa Penida and a fourth on Pemuteran, West Bali. The main resort in Jungut Batu offers air-conditioned accommodation with hot water showers, a great beach bar and a restaurant serving a range of local and international dishes. Diving from Lembongan and Penida comes with the added advantage of being able to get to the manta dive spots, Crystal Bay and the delightful reefs of Penida's north shore before they get busy in high season plus there are some spectacular treks on offer around the islands.
Aiyanar (Anilao, Philippines)
Aiyanar Beach and Dive Resort is located in the district of Anilao, around 2.5 hours drive south from Manila on the main Philippine island of Luzon. The resort consists of 16 rooms with ocean views, designed to blend in with the natural landscape, a mountainous region along the peninsula's western shore, complemented by a bar and restaurant.The dive centre has a dedicated room for photographers, as Anliao is especially popular with macro photographers. Divers can enjoy a good mix of reefs, sandy slopes and caves, and Puerto Galera and Verde Islands are just a boat ride away, offering visitors the opportunity to explore further afield.