The brilliantly turquoise waters here hold over two thousand species of fish, including serpent-like moray eels, bulbous napoleon wrasse and huge, elegant manta rays. With visibility of up to 40m, diving in this remote archipelago, 700km southwest of Sri Lanka, is understandably big business, and established dive centres at most resorts offer reef and drift diving, as well as the opportunity to dive at night.
Famous for its large resident population of green and hawksbill turtles as well as healthy numbers of reef sharks and magnificent coral, Sipadan is Malaysia’s only oceanic island. Sitting in the Sulu Sea off the northeastern coast of Borneo, it’s also a great base for exploring the nearby shoals of Kapalai and the island of Mabul.
Pacific Harbour, Fiji
Just off the south coast of Viti Levu is a stretch of water that offers the world’s ultimate shark diving experience – the chance to encounter up to eight species of the ocean’s top predators with no cage or chainmail to protect you. It’s a great way to learn about these much-maligned creatures.
White Sea, Karelia, Russia
Russia’s far north is a landscape of wonder and wandering once the colder months settle in and the unforgiving landscape freezes over, and ice diving in the White Sea is probably the most memorable time you’ll ever spend under water. Connected to the world above via a single safety rope, use your underwater torch to follow your guide down past ice hummocks, rifts, cavities and caves, minnowing under tall arches and vertical rocks overgrown with sea anemones and sponges.
Poor Knights Island, New Zealand
Jacques Cousteau championed the Poor Knights Islands as one of the top ten dive sites in the world. Dive boats spread themselves over fifty recognized dive sites that jointly cover New Zealand’s most diverse range of sea life, including subtropical species such as Lord Howe coralfish and toadstool grouper. Near-vertical rock faces drop 100m through a labyrinth of caves, fissures and rock arches teeming with rainbow-coloured fish, crabs, soft corals, kelp forests and shellfish.