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Liveaboard Diving: The 10 Best Dive Sites in the World

22nd August 2016   |   Sandro Lonardi

This article is part of our "top 10" series. Click here to see the best dive sites in the world and explore the other articles in the collection.

As the saying goes, there’s no glory without sacrifice. Luckily, in this case, sacrifice means traveling to distant locations on a well-appointed liveaboard diving boat, eating delicious food and finding sought-after marine life. The glory in this story comes in the form of some of the best dive sites known to man. These are the 10 best dive sites in the world frequented by liveaboard dive safaris.

One of the whale sharks you can find at Darwin's Arch

1. Darwin’s Arch - Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Perhaps the most classic liveaboard destinations, the Galapagos Islands serve up endemic species galore. Darwin and Wolf Islands on the far outer reaches of the archipelago are the highlight of any tour. While there are several notable dive sites around these two islands, one is more famous than the rest, namely Darwin’s Arch. Schools of hammerheads, sea turtles, manta rays, dolphins, eagle rays, Galapagos sharks and perhaps a whale shark await divers who make the journey to this complete marine ecosystem.

  • Dive Type: Wall/Drift
  • Recommended Level: Intermediate to Advanced
  • Featured Creatures: Hammerheads, Galapagos Sharks, Manta Rays, Eagle Rays, and Whale Sharks
  • When to Go: June to November for the best marine life. December to May for the best water conditions.

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Schooling Hammerhead sharks in Baja Alcyone

2. Bajo Alcyone - Cocos Island, Costa Rica

The best place in the world for hammerhead shark diving, Bajo Alcyone is a must on any list of the best dive sites accessible by liveaboard. As an underwater seamount, which rises to 82 feet (25 meters) below the surface, this site attracts dozens of hammerhead sharks throughout the year. You’ll also see manta rays, eagle rays, mobulas and the occasional whale shark at this distant island. Simply descend to the top of the mount, find a spot to wedge yourself into and take in the action!

  • Dive Type: Seamount
  • Recommended Level: Advanced
  • Featured Creature: Scalloped Hammerheads
  • When to Go: June to November for the best marine life. December to May for the best water conditions.

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An Oceanic Manta Ray in Roca Partida

3. Roca Partida - Revillagigedo Islands, Mexico

Known as the “little Galapagos” and recently named a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Revillagigedo Islands are a liveaboard-only scuba diving destination. During any liveaboard trip to the three islands, you’re sure to see some amazing things, but one site, in particular, always stands out above the rest. This is Roca Partida, a vertical wall that drops to 120 feet (40 meters) as currents rage past, attracting pelagic species. Manta rays are the most famous visitors, but humpback whales, dolphins, hammerhead sharks, oceanic whitetip sharks, Galapagos sharks and whale sharks also join the party.

  • Dive Type: Pinnacle
  • Recommended Level: Intermediate
  • Featured Creature: Manta Rays, Humpback Whales, Whale Sharks, and Hammerheads
  • When to Go: November to May

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A memetic Pygmy Seahorse in Cape Kri

4. Cape Kri - Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Cape Kri is one of the dive sites that put Raja Ampat on the map. It currently holds the record for the most fish species recorded in a single dive. If that’s not enough to convince you that Cape Kri is one of the best dive sites in the world, we don’t know what is. Diving here is fairly easy. Jump into the warm water and drift along the healthiest coral you’re likely to ever see. Keep your eyes peeled for everything from tiny nudibranchs to Queensland groupers as big as small cars.

  • Dive Type: Sloping Coral Wall
  • Recommended Level: Intermediate
  • Featured Creature: Innumerable Reef Fish, Whitetip Reef Sharks, Napoleon Wrasse, and Giant Groupers
  • When to Go: October to April

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A grey reef shark at St. John's Island

5. Habili Ali Reef - St. John’s Island, Egypt

One of the best dive sites in the Red Sea, Habili Ali is one of St. John's reefs and is often included as a stop on Deep South liveaboard itineraries. Giant gorgonians and black corals populate the reef while grey reef and silvertip sharks glide around the edges. Occasionally, schooling hammerhead sharks make an appearance along the western edge. Complete the dive by searching the overhangs and short tunnels for some smaller critters or enjoy the abundance of colorful fish.

  • Dive Type: Coral Reef
  • Recommended Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Featured Creature: Grey Reef Sharks, Silvertip Reef Sharks and Hammerhead Sharks
  • When to Go: September to November or April to June

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A school of Jackfish at Amos Rock

6. Amos Rock - Tubbataha Reefs, Philippines

Reachable only by liveaboard, Tubbataha Reefs National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to 360 species of coral, 600 fish species, 11 species of sharks and 13 whale and dolphin species. There are so many dive sites scattered around the two atolls that you’ll need a whole week to explore all of them! But, one in particular stands out above the rest. That’s Amos Rock, a gorgonian-covered wall featuring a variety of soft corals and massive schools of fish. Mackerels, groupers and snappers are a common sight, but the area is most famous for its large reef sharks.

  • Dive Type: Reef
  • Recommended Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Featured Creature: Reef Sharks, Groupers and Massive Schools of Reef Fish
  • When to Go: Mid-March to Mid-June

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A lonely Tiger Shark at Tiger Beach

7. Tiger Beach - Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas

If you want to dive with tiger sharks, there’s no better place than Tiger Beach in the Bahamas. Located an hour by boat from Grand Bahama Island, Tiger Beach acts as a cafeteria for these giant sharks. Every day of the year, up to a dozen tiger sharks show up to be fed by divemasters. If this isn’t enough of a rush, you’re also likely to see Caribbean reef, nurse and lemon sharks during a dive at Tiger Beach.

  • Dive Type: Shark
  • Recommended Level: Beginner
  • Featured Creature: Tiger Sharks
  • When to Go: October to January

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One of the many Caribbean Reef Sharks of Pipí

8. Pipín - Jardines de la Reina, Cuba

While Cuba may not come to the top of the mind when considering liveaboard destinations, the Gardens of the Queen (a.k.a. Jardines de la Reina) of Cuba are one of the premier scuba diving destinations in the Caribbean. And they are only accessible by liveaboard. Several dive sites are worth the trip, but at Pipín, scuba divers can see upwards of 30 Caribbean reef sharks and silky sharks in a single dive. These sharks have no fear of humans after decades of governmental protection, and they regularly approach and swim alongside divers.

  • Dive Type: Shark
  • Recommended Level: Beginner
  • Featured Creature: Caribbean Reef Sharks and Silky Sharks
  • When to Go: December to April

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A huge gorgonia fan at North Horn

9. North Horn - Great Barrier Reef, Australia

One of the most sought-after dive sites in the Great Barrier Reef, North Horn is located in the Osprey Reef. Shark feeding is common here, but whether you need it or not is questionable. Grey sharks, silvertip sharks, the rare hammerhead sharks and the occasional tiger shark can be seen in a single dive. When currents allow, drift diving along the western wall reveals superb soft corals and gorgeous gorgonian sea fans.

  • Dive Type: Shark/Drift
  • Recommended Level: Beginner
  • Featured Creature: Grey Sharks, Silvertip Sharks, Hammerhead Sharks, and Tiger Sharks
  • When to Go: June to November

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One of the Whale Sharks of Richelieu Rock

10. Richelieu Rock - Similan Islands, Thailand

Part of Thailand’s Similan Islands, Richelieu Rock is located 120 miles (200 kilometers) west of Phuket. Here you’ll swim amongst gorgeous soft corals, plentiful critters and larger species such as barracuda, manta rays and huge groupers. This might also be the one of the top ten dive sites in the world for spotting whale sharks. This dive site can be found on the itineraries of short liveaboard trips from Khao Lak or longer trips traveling to the Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar.

  • Dive Type: Pinnacle
  • Recommended Level: Intermediate
  • Featured Creature: Manta Rays and Whale Sharks
  • When to Go: October to early May

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Have we inspired you to take your next scuba diving adventure to one of these great destinations? If you’d like more information, don’t hesitate to contact one of our scuba diving experts today.


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