Scuba Diving in Asia
Southeast Asia boasts exquisite coral reefs, diverse marine life, whales, sharks and wrecks for divers to discover! There’s something here for every diver!
The Similan Islands are best-known for their whale shark encounters off Oslob’s coast, yet also offer year-round sightings of manta rays and black-tip reef sharks – making this an excellent option for advanced divers!
Philippines are a tropical country known for their warm waters and diverse marine life, making diving year-round possible here. To maximize diving conditions during this whale shark season (November through May), however, the optimal time to visit is from November through May when amihan monsoon brings dry weather and calmer seas – it makes diving even easier in these conditions!
Puerto Princesa on Palawan island serves as the primary starting point for scuba diving in the Philippines, offering access to some of the best diving sites across the nation – Coron Bay being among them – featuring almost intact World War II shipwrecks now covered with corals, gorgonians and purple sea fans – which make for spectacular dives.
Tubbataha Reef Natural Park, only accessible via liveaboard and widely considered one of Asia’s premier dive sites, should not be missed. This isolated, 100,000 hectare UNESCO World Heritage site hosts an abundance of marine species such as manta rays and whale sharks; photography enthusiasts will also love photographing here as it boasts numerous schools of fish; it’s also great for seeing large pelagic fish such as barracuda or jacks!
Other top diving spots in the Philippines include Maya Port on Dumaguete Island, which is famous for muck diving and macro photography. Here you can spot nudibranchs, pipefish, dragonets, blue-ring octopus as well as an abundance of corals. Additionally, its steep walls may prove challenging.
Diving in the Philippines is safe, and there are plenty of quality dive shops. As with most destinations in Southeast Asia, it is wise to do your research and select a reputable company who takes all necessary safety measures into consideration when operating their dive shop. Ideally only dive with those accredited by The Philippine Commmission on Sport Diving as this will give you additional peace of mind that they have your safety covered.
Indonesia, situated between Malaysia and Papua New Guinea, stands as an epicenter for marine biodiversity on our planet. From Lembeh Strait’s strange inhabitants to Komodo National Park’s graceful manta rays and magnificent coral gardens – Indonesia offers something spectacular for divers of all stripes.
Raja Ampat offers some of Indonesia’s best diving sites, which you’ll find scattered throughout its archipelago. In its 40,000 hectares of protected wilderness lies an underwater museum where divers can feel like pioneers discovering an extraordinary environment.
Manado in Sulawesi is another excellent muck diving location where divers can explore an impressive list of unusual and rare marine life, such as mimic octopus, flamboyant cuttlefish, decorative crabs, spectacular nudibranchs and frogfish. Furthermore, this area lies along a migration route for various forms of water mammals – you might spot Pilot whales, False killer whales or Humpbacks here.
Indonesia boasts an incredibly varied underwater world that makes diving accessible for almost every experience level. Scuba diving season in Indonesia runs year-round; the ideal time for visiting northern and central islands is between March to October or November-February respectively, while for Raja Ampat it ideally occurs November to February.
When diving in Asia, it’s essential to follow good safety practices and listen to your body. Avoid diving if you feel unwell or fatigued; inspect equipment prior to each dive to make sure everything works as it should; do not dive with an air tank that is empty or near empty; call the DAN Emergency Hotline if something arises while diving; this membership provides invaluable help and protection should any emergencies arise while underwater.
Notable activities in Indonesia outside of diving include land-based tours to see Komodo dragons, nature trips that showcase incredible birdlife, and visiting Aboi hill tribe village on Alor. Non-diving/snorkelling passengers are generally welcome on most liveaboard cruises; however their prices may be slightly higher since their cabin could otherwise have been filled by paying divers.
Malaysia is home to some of Asia’s premier diving regions. The warm tropical waters here boast flourishing coral reefs and breathtaking marine life that make Malaysian diving trips so captivating.
Scuba diving in Malaysia can be both safe and enjoyable if you follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs) established by a professional dive centre. Such SOPs include inspecting gear prior to each dive, attending safety briefings before diving underwater and taking measures to prevent decompression sickness.
Be responsible when diving and avoid touching or collecting marine life to ensure its preservation for future generations to enjoy. Scuba diving in Malaysia can be both safe and enjoyable activity provided you take proper care in protecting its ecosystem.
The Perhentian Islands offer an ideal place to learn or advance your scuba diving qualifications, with stunning beaches backed by palm trees providing a relaxing tropical atmosphere ideal for relaxing after dives. Famous reef and wreck dives await visitors between March and September.
Liveaboard boats offer an exclusive and luxurious scuba diving experience by providing multi-day cruises to Sipadan, Layang Layang, Mabul Island and Kapalai – providing access to some of Malaysia’s more remote dive sites.
Sipadan, located in Sabah on Malaysian Borneo, is one of the premier dive spots in Malaysia, boasting an abundance of marine life. Any diver must make time for this must-visit dive site!
Tenggol Island in Malaysia offers divers a fantastic dive spot – made up of massive boulders that create numerous swim throughs filled with incredible marine life, it provides a more peaceful dive experience compared to Sipadan. It’s ideal for divers who prefer quieter dive trips.
Scuba diving in Malaysia is generally safe for all ages as long as you’re a certified diver who follows standard operating procedures established by your dive center. To maximize safety, allow 24 hours for any nitrogen to dissipate before flying if you plan to do both activities within 24 hours of each other.
Timor-Leste (commonly referred to as East Timor) may not immediately come to mind when you consider diving destinations, yet every diving enthusiast should put it on their bucket list. One of the newest countries and still relatively off the tourist radar, Timor-Leste offers stunning beaches, unspoilt rainforest and some of the best diving experiences available anywhere on Earth.
At the southwest tip of the Coral Triangle lies an oasis of warm waters free from commercial fishing or heavy industry that draws some of the best dive operators worldwide. Nutrient-rich waters from Banda Sea (deep basins draining through Indonesian Throughflow to Timor coast), create currents along its northern coastline that support healthy marine life while offering some stunning dive sites.
Each year, the Ombai and Wetar Straits that connect Atauro with Dili serve as an annual whale migration route between the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Divers can watch these majestic mammals pass by their site while photographers capture some incredible underwater photos!
Dili’s sloped reefs and muck sites boast an array of tiny creatures like nudibranchs, frogfish and seahorses – perfect for beginner divers as well as home to an amicable dugong who frequents its seagrass beds for food!
Timor-Leste is a developing country and as such there may be restrictions to what divers can expect. For this reason, it is wise to secure medical expenses coverage while ensuring their trip includes a registered local dive operator. Furthermore, US dollars and travellers cheques should also be carried for convenience when making this trip.
Keep in mind that although the political situation in Timor-Leste has improved significantly since gaining independence in 2002, there may still be security concerns. Before booking your travel plans to Timor-Leste it would be prudent to contact the Foreign Office.