The World’s Best Diving Spots to Hit for Beginners in 2024

scuba gear gas tank sitting on ledge next to water

Imagine being immersed between two continents while watching predators feed off schools of fish as large as your head – this is what’s possible at Silfra Fissure in Iceland, an extraordinary dive site and part of a geological marvel.

Galapagos Islands are an unmissable wildlife destination, featuring marine iguanas and hammerhead sharks as highlights. World-class diving spots Darwin and Wolf Islands can be reached year-round for exceptional underwater experiences.

couple on moped underwater with scuba gear

1. Richelieu Rock

Richelieu Rock (Hin Plo Naam), one of Thailand’s premier dive sites, features an eye-catching horseshoe-shaped pinnacle near its border with Myanmar. Rising only slightly above water surface level, Richelieu Rock draws both snorkelers and divers alike to its breathtaking underwater mountain.

This rocky pinnacle is covered with purple soft corals that provide shelter to a vast diversity of marine life, from small creatures such as porcelain crabs, yellow tiger tail seahorses and harlequin shrimp to moray eels, stone fish and nudibranchs – even bigger pelagic species like schooling mackerel, barracuda and tuna can often be seen circling around it!

Whale sharks and manta rays can often be found here in the Andaman Sea, while manta rays may occasionally make appearances. Planktonic blooms in these deep waters draw larger visitors closer to shore. Shifting tide currents create upwellings here which bring essential nutrients that feed coral reefs further enhancing their beauty.

Richelieu Rock is an ideal location for photographers and scuba divers with an eye for detail. Bring a macro lens for some closeup shots of small creatures such as frogfish, ghost pipe fish, harlequin shrimps, tomato clownfish and other rare specimens such as tomato clownfish. Divers with wider angle lenses have an increased chance of seeing whale sharks or manta rays passing by at close range – so multiple dives to Richelieu Rock won’t do. Plus this spectacular spot has become a firm favourite among whale shark liveaboard safari operatorss offering different itineraries that allow divers to capture its diverse marine life!

2. Darwin Island

Locate north of the Egyptian Red Sea, this diving spot is among the world’s premier. Here, the reefs are pristine and water temperatures remain nearly constant; rich nutrient-rich waters host various marine life, such as hammerhead sharks, manta rays, moray eels and moray eels. Massive heads of stony coral — some rising as high as houses — rise from the sea floor while their limestone skeletons support an abundance of sea whips and fans.

Wolf and Darwin Islands in the Northern Galapagos Islands offer some of the world’s premier diving spots, and Wolf and Darwin Island is no exception. Here you will be treated to sightings of Scalloped Hammerhead sharks, Whale sharks, Manta Rays, Dolphins, as well as an abundant selection of tropical fish species like Scalloped Hammerhead sharks.

At this stunning dive site with its steep drop-off and distinct marine life, divers can experience an unforgettable dive experience. The rocky wall boasts coral arches, chimneys, and sand chutes while giant barrel sponges taller than humans cling to its walls; Nassau groupers, barracuda, and sea turtles patrol below in search of sustenance.

The SS Thistlegorm wreck dive draws many divers to this area, while there are also many top dive spots like Secret Bay that cater to macro-marine life enthusiasts. Here, Ambon scorpionfish, rare nudibranchs and all manner of gobies can be found among its vibrant reef.

3. Belize’s Great Blue Hole

The Great Blue Hole of Belize is unquestionably one of its premier attractions, and for good reason. But this marine-rich destination isn’t alone; Lighthouse Reef atoll, of which the Hole forms part, also boasts impressive coral formations and vibrant marine life. According to Coastal Living magazine, diving experience at and around the hole goes well beyond simply seeing fish and coral – it’s also about enjoying this unique space with all of its ancient stalactites and stalagmites!

As an entire region is so impressive, we could list all its highlights here as some of the world’s best diving spots. But let’s focus on some particular spots.

Seychelles archipelago in the Indian Ocean boasts some of the world’s most breathtaking coral reefs, along with tropical fish and sharks that offer plenty of color. Furthermore, new divers looking to earn their stripes may find its shallow reef plateau perfect.

Notable locations include the Poor Knights Islands off of North Island in New Zealand, which were recognized by Jacques Cousteau as some of the world’s premier dive sites. Here you’ll find lush kelp forests and an abundance of marine life such as Lord Howe coral fish, mosaic eels, and red-banded shrimp.

The Great Barrier Reef of Australia is an outstanding natural wonder stretching over 1,500 miles, home to every coral species known to science as well as an astounding variety of wildlife such as sea turtles and manta rays. But perhaps its greatest asset lies in its stunningly clear waters which offer up breathtaking underwater scenes featuring whales, dugongs, and other aquatic wonders that inhabit this marine reserve.

4. Richelieu Rock

Richelieu Rock was a firm favorite of Jacques Cousteau’s, as its horseshoe shaped pinnacle is exposed at low tide but submerged at higher tide. Richelieu Rock offers divers an incredible underwater environment filled with an abundance of marine life as well as diverse topographies including shelves, ledges, caves, crevices and canyons – scuba divers will love Richelieu Rock!

At this site, shifting tidal currents create upwellings of plankton that draw in all sorts of small to medium sized pelagic fish species, from swirling blue masses of jacks, barracuda, fusiliers and swirlers to big schools of trevally, dogtooth tuna and swell runners – as well as whale sharks which may appear between February and April.

The reef itself is covered with soft corals, sea fans and an array of invertebrates – from soft corals and sea fans to pipefish (pipefish without ghost pipefish), mantis shrimps (harlequin shrimps), mantis crabs (crustaceans), porcelain crabs, tiger tail seahorses (tigertail seahorses), porcelain crabs, porcelain crabs with tiger tail seahorses), ghost pipefish (pipefish without ghost pipefish), pipefish ghost pipefishes), mantis shrimps (mantis shrimps), mantis shrimps (mantis shrimps), frogfish species and numerous nudibranchs (nudibranch species).

Richelieu Rock is an internationally acclaimed diving spot, and as with any protected marine ecosystem it must be respected and preserved. Although novice divers can dive this site safely with Open Water Diver certification it is recommended that at least Advanced certification be held for full enjoyment and safety.

Richelieu Rock can be reached from Phuket and Khao Lak via liveaboard trips operating out of Surin Islands Marine Park. On average, divers should expect two dives here during an average trip, although many itineraries include more dives here to increase your chances of seeing whale sharks or other large pelagics. It is also an excellent site for seeing macro photography!

5. Darwin Island

Darwin Island Marine Park in Western Papua offers some of the world’s premier diving experiences, especially at night. This protected area is famed for its vibrant coral reefs as well as large schools of fish and some truly spectacular sharks such as whale sharks that visit from June through November; additionally hammerhead, Galapagos and silky sharks can often be seen there too! Additionally, this island’s waters support healthy populations of green turtles and manta rays.

Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula could easily fill this list, but for now let’s focus on one cenote – Cenote Angelita. This underwater cave is truly magnificent, yet what brings this site into our top five best diving spots worldwide is its marine life. A layer of hydrogen sulfide separates clear freshwater above from saltwater below creating an extraordinary, otherworldly diving experience that is both beautiful and captivating.

The Poor Knights Islands in New Zealand are so gorgeous that Jacques Cousteau listed them among his top ten dive sites worldwide. These volcanic remnants from the Pacific Ring of Fire are bathed by warm currents which bring with them an abundance of marine life in this marine reserve – you’ll find kelp forests, Lord Howe coral fish, and an assortment of tropical fish not often seen elsewhere – no wonder it is so popular for liveaboard cruises!