More than 70% of the Earth is underwater, and what better way to explore wet and wild than diving? The ocean is home to kaleidoscopic reefs, cloud fish, schools of sharks and rays, turtles, eerie shipwrecks and a boatload of the big stuff. The ocean is as tempting as it teems with all manner of life and adventure.
For those wanting to take the plunge for the first time, choosing the best place to learn to dive can seem daunting. Ideally, fresh-faced divers need calm water, good visibility and shallow dive sites to make their divers pop. Don’t worry, this list of some of the best destinations for beginner divers below might inspire you to book that trip you’ve been dreaming of.
9 The Visayas, Philippines
The Philippines is one of the best places in the world for those who want a piece of everything on vacation. Beautiful beaches, historic towns, vibrant nightlife, lush jungles, breathtaking mountains and one of the richest underwater worlds in the world make this archipelago of 7,640 islands irresistible. The idyllic spot in the Coral Triangle means divers are in for something. Think shipwrecks, caverns and caverns, walls, heart-pounding drift locations and stunning macro-critter action, and you’ve barely scratched the surface.
Of course, some of these types of sites are more suitable for experienced divers, so what’s there for beginners? It would be more accurate to ask “what? is not there for beginners?” Easy shore and boat diving, thriving reefs, endless fish species, turtles and no shortage of sharks, rays and other great pelagic action. Newbies will especially love Negros Island and Malapascua Island – both are great jumping-off points for those who are new to diving.
With warm water temperatures and sunny weather year round, Thailand is a top choice for divers – especially for those just starting out. Many dive hotspots have calm currents and shallow reefs, which are ideal conditions for novices. Plus, diving in Thailand is one of the most affordable in the world, so it’s no surprise that it’s a popular choice for backpackers and those on a budget.
Koh Tao is full of shallow spots and opportunities to spot a whale shark in the right season! There’s plenty to do above the surface too – think tasty restaurants and lively beach bars next to powder-white beaches, hiking through lush jungles and sightseeing.
Another fantastic diving destination is Koh Phi Phi, which also offers calm conditions, shallow locations, beautiful reefs and topography, along with turtles and sharks. And, like Koh Tao, there is a plethora of activities and attractions at the top for adventure seekers and lazy beach lovers alike.
7 Red Sea, Egypt
Sharm El-Sheikh is a world famous diving destination, and for good reason: diverse dive sites, a large number of underwater species, excellent visibility and an abundance of affordable and reputable dive operators. However, Dahab is just as amazing – plus it’s much less crowded and home to mesmerizing coral reefs teeming with fish just a stone’s throw from the shore. Tranquil conditions, shallow locations and clear visibility all year round are perfect for beginners here, and the opportunity to enjoy some of the world’s best shore diving makes this an all-round top spot to take the plunge for the first time.
6 Roatan, Honduras
As a diving mecca, Honduras is one of the best diving spots for beginners – not only in terms of marine life, warm waters and minimal currents, but also in terms of affordability. The tiny island of Roatan off the northeast coast of Honduras is one of the cheapest places in the world to dive, which is surprising considering it’s part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef system – the second largest in the world – and home to everything from colorful corals and vibrant tropical fish to turtles, large pelagics, rays and sharks – including the whale shark.
Also, the Roatan Marine Park strictly regulates all aquatic activities, ensuring that the reefs in this magical underwater sanctuary remain pristine and protected. Roatan’s busier and livelier neighbor, Utila, is also an epic place to learn to dive. It is more popular though, so expect busier dive sites and more people per dive course.
5 The Bahamas
It’s not just idyllic beaches, calm seas and breathtaking ocean life that make the Bahamas attractive to divers – it’s the superior visibility that makes for a happy diving day. Clear vision can be difficult to obtain and unreliable even during the best seasons. But the Bahamas can safely provide good visibility for most of the year. Combine this with its shallow dive sites and rich tropical fishing action, and the Bahamas more than earned their place on this list.
4 The British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands in the warm Caribbean are an idyllic destination for novice divers and beach lovers. It’s not just the reefs that make this place stand out though – it’s the beginner-friendly shipwrecks, of which the RMS Rhone is one of the most popular and accessible to newcomers. Novice divers who want their “James Bond” on and explore wrecks will love these beautiful waters. In addition, on the south coast of Tortola you will find picturesque islands with beautiful reefs and protected areas that provide calm conditions.
3 Little Bonaire
This tiny island on the west side of Bonaire is gaining popularity thanks to the ideal conditions for beginners. The protected waters full of pristine reefs are calm with minimal currents and are often easily accessible from shore. With such beautiful dive sites right on your doorstep, this paradise-like Caribbean gem is an excellent choice for aspiring divers.
2 Cozumel, Mexico
Mexico is a diver’s paradise, and beginners and experts alike will have a blast on Cozumel Island. Located right on the doorstep of the Caribbean, near the coast of Playa del Carmen, the island is part of a huge marine protected area that is a playground for beginners. The reefs here are healthy and abundant, and a diverse wealth of fascinating marine life call them home, including turtles, rays, a few shark species and even the occasional whale shark.
1 the Maldives
The vast atolls of the Maldives are among the world’s best diving destinations thanks to their impeccable marine life, healthy reefs and an incredible variety of dive sites that will amaze even the most experienced divers who think they’ve seen it all. Plus, picture-postcard beaches and dreamy resorts ranging from rustic to six-star luxury attract travelers of all kinds. But choosing where to dive here can be a mountainous task, especially since each atoll has its own unique undersea attractions. Most resorts and dive operators can tell you if they have suitable dive sites for beginners, so it’s a good idea to check with them before booking.
Overall, Ari Atoll is a fantastic choice as it offers the most reliable sightings of large pelagic species, including whale sharks, manta rays, hammerhead sharks, eagle rays, and more. On the other hand, North Male Atoll is home to some of the oldest and most popular dive sites in the Maldives, and visitors enjoy easy access from the country’s capital, Malé. The underwater topography of the atoll is breathtaking, with underwater mountains, caves, steep walls and steep slopes. The marine life is just as exciting, with coral reefs, sharks, mantas, turtles and countless other tropical species living on the bustling reefs.
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