Almost every scuba diver has come across that image somewhere – that majestic yet graceful creature gliding across the waters, it might be a Whale Shark, an Oceanic Manta Ray, whatever creature it is, that moment always captures our hearts. It usually piques our imagination and that question, “What if I could swim together with them?”
In the scuba diver’s dictionary, we call them “The Big Stuff”. With the fulfillment of this evergreen wish in mind, we have shortlisted the destinations that will allow you to “Dive Your Choice” with the “Big Stuff”. Bearing in mind, however, sites that allow you to see pelagics are usually more challenging, with more currents and lower visibility due to the amount of plankton in the waters. And for that, we would recommend you to be at least being PADI Advanced Open Water Diver and above.
There is a particular expression I came across about Maldives that cannot be apter than this – “The jewel that accidentally dropped out of God’s pocket”. Maldives has all the elements of a perfect holiday destination. Easy to get to, budget airlines available, and more than reasonable prices for a luxurious liveaboard trip. Also an underwater paradise with surefire encounters with an inexhaustive list that consists of Whale Sharks, Manta Rays, Jacks, Tuna, Reef Sharks etc, it makes an epic diving holiday.
Complete the diving experience on the luxury yachts, M/Y Sachika and M/V Moonima.
2. Raja Ampat
The heart of the coral triangle, Raja Ampat has over six hundred dive sites and a whopping 75% of the world’s marine biodiversity. There is a misconception that often surrounds dive destinations like Raja Ampat, Komodo and places around that region. Because of the resplendent amount of nutrients that are present in the water, visibility is not like what most imagined to be. Depending on the dive sites, it ranges from 10 – 20 metres. Just be ready for a visual feast with the healthiest and most varied corals and all the big stuff gathered in one dive site.
I had a most memorable dive here, with schools of gigantic Napoleon Wrasse, Reef sharks, Wobbegong Sharks, Barracuda, Tuna and Jacks all at the same site. Extreme jam-packed underwater action!
Complete the diving experience with M/V Putiraja, a beautifully refurbished cargo ship turned liveaboard.
The only place in the world where the magnificent Thresher Sharks can be spotted every day. For those of you looking for the dive trip that checks off all items on your list, this is the trip for you. Look for Threshers and Eagle Rays at Monad Shoal, check out the Dona Marilyn Wreck, look for treasures at Chocolate Island for the macro-lovers, you might even get to see Hammerheads at Kimud Shoal. Cave dive at Gato Island with reef sharks. Flights to Malapascua are overnight, meaning you gained another day of diving. So in a 5D4N trip, you can pack 12 dives at this wonderful haven!
Heard of the Mola Mola? Or Sunfish? That gigantic fish with bulging eyes and puffed-up body that grows to 1.8m and found in colder waters. In my opinion, they might not be the most visually pleasing creature, but their elusive nature makes scuba divers pine for a lifetime chance encounter. Mark out the dates on your calendar in August or September. But brace yourself for the cold though, as the temperature drops to 21 Degree Celsius while you wait for it to swim by at Crystal Bay, Bali. We will also dive at Manta Point, Nusa Penida. Even with just a short stay over 4 days 3 nights, you get a chance to see that Manta movie you’ve been dreaming about. Crystal Bay and Nusa Penida, however, has pretty crazy currents. Out of safety concerns, divers usually require a minimum of 25 dives.
5. Similan Islands
November to March are the best months to visit the Similan Islands, even though most operators will operate till Just hop on a direct flight to Phuket where it brings you to one of the top ten best dive destinations in the world. A classic tour usually includes Koh Tachai, Richelieu Rock, Koh Bon with four dives typically each day. The Boon Sung Wreck is also one of the trip highlights if you are into wrecks, whilst Richelieu Rock is THE site to go to for THE Whale shark and Manta Ray encounters.
6. Banda Islands
A largely unknown place in Indonesia and usually travelled upon by liveaboards where it travels across several places across Halmahera. However, if you’d like more intimate diving experience in the Banda Islands, there is ONE dive centre located on Banda Neira. Hammerhead season is in October and November, and the place usually gets booked out during that period. Another common sighting is the Melon-headed Whales, where they appear in schools. Mobula Rays are often sighted, along with occasional sightings of Silvertips, Threshers. Just a heads-up, as the islands are less developed, it is less accessible, with six hours of ferry transfer from Ambon, Indonesia. If you’re an explorer of a diver, you could consider Banda Islands as one of the destinations.
7. Layang Layang
Situated in Malaysia, also known as Swallow Reef, Layang Layang sits on her own in the disputed crowd of islands called The Spratlys. Getting here requires a 60-minute flight from Kota Kinabalu. Hammerhead season is said to be from March to May. But Hammerheads are not the only thing to look forward to. Being the only resort on the island means that the waters are unadulterated and pristine. Visibility can go up to 40 metres in the best seasons. Tuna, Giant Trevally and the likes are around in the water waiting for divers all year round. There are about twenty sites around the island, from macro to big stuff, there’s something to look forward to every dive!