6 paradises for divers

BY Richard Mellor

1st Jan 2015 Travel

6 paradises for divers

A lot of diving attention focuses on Australia's offshore paradise, the Great Barrier Reef—but what are the world’s other great dive sites?



While most of the Caribbean is famed for its luscious beaches, Bonaire is instead legendary in scuba circles.

Talk about convenience: over 80 of Bonaire’s dive sites are accessible from the shore, shelving gently.

Once underwater, expect to encounter a dazzling spectrum of reef fish, huge star-coral structures, giant critters like tarpon and stands of black coral.

The waters are warm nearly all of the year, but avoid June to November—that’s hurricane season.


Aldabra Atoll, Seychelles

barrier reef

While some of the Seychelles routinely house billionaires and A-List honeymooners, other atolls remain uninhabited and wholly isolated.

One such, Aldabra, is also a UNESCO World Heritage site thanks to its truly distinctive fauna. The Aldabra giant tortoise, hammerhead sharks, turtles and giant land crabs all frequent these balmy, nutrient-rich Indian Ocean waters.

To get to Aldabra, the world’s second largest coral atoll, you need permission from the Seychelles Islands Foundation. 

Consequently, it’s easiest to go with an international or local tour operator. Do so between March-April or September-October.


Raja Ampat, Indonesia

fish barrier reef

Conservation International reckons that the marine life around these 1,500 isles and cays—found off Indonesia’s New Guinea island—is the most diverse ever recorded on Earth.

Perfectly visitable year-round, the Raja Ampat (Four Kings) archipelago has just 50,000 humans to go with its estimated 600 species of reef-building corals—three-quarters of the entire world’s quota—and 2,000 fish.

For the best experience, hire a liveaboard boat and just go where you please.


Nosy Be, Madagascar

nosy be

The diving around this small Indian Ocean speck off northwestern Madagascar has several things to recommend it.

First, hardly anyone’s heard of the place, so you won’t be knocking oxygen tanks against a fellow diver.

Next, most of the reefs are deeper than 12m so suffer less from sun-bleaching than elsewhere. Third, damage from fishing is for once limited, as the locals only use lines.

Fourth, there are lots of wrecks to explore. And lastly, it's visited by humpback whales between September and November, particularly in satellite island Nosy Tanikely’s marine park.


Belize Barrier Reef, Belize


Only the Great Barrier Reef can trump this Belizean behemoth for size. Weighing in at 185 miles long it comprises a series of coral reefs paralleling the Central American country’s coastline, plus three clear-watered Caribbean atolls.

Along one of the latter, Lighthouse Reef, is found the 124m-deep Great Blue Hole, a gigantic sink famously visible from space.

All around it are found endless coral varieties—with new ones found each year—and some 300 fish species.

Go in May or June for shoulder-season prices, decent visibility and migrating whale sharks.


Rainbow Reef, Fiji

Rainbow Reef

Taveuni, the third-largest island in Fiji’s chain, is Pantone-happy enough itself, what with a ‘Garden Island’ moniker and some seriously exotic plant-life. Things get even more kaleidoscopic below its northwestern waters, though.

At sites like Fish Factory and the Great White Wall, lucky divers can peek at blue ribbon eels, leopard sharks, sperm whales, turtles galore and just the 1,000 invertebrates.

Visibility is usually 30m. The best time? During the Fiji’s dry season, from May to October.