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Asia's best dive sites


Posted on Tue, Mar 26 2013

Camera, mask and BCD at the ready, here are Asias best dive spots. Picknmix Proximity: Similan Islands, Thailand Named after sembilan, the Malay word for nine (the number of granite islands in the archipelago), the Similan Islands lie 84km north-west of Phuket. Accessible only by boat (usually by liveaboard though some companies offer day trips via fast speedboat), the islands are virtually uninhabited and the sea life is fantastic. During the dive season from November to May, there are frequent sightings of manta rays and also the occasional whale shark. Add to this turtles, leopard sharks, barracuda and the usual tropical-reef suspects, and youre in for a treat. If you are on a liveaboard dive boat, go north up to Richelieu Rock, the best dive in the area. On the way, stop at Koh Bon and Koh Tachai for a possible manta experience. What to see: Manta rays, leopard sharks, barracuda and tropical reef life Depth: 6m 30m The bubble from: Jane Marsden, avid SE Asia Diver Beginner Wreck Diving: Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia Not dived a wreck before? Check out Liberty, an American Arm Transport Ship that was torpedo by a Japanese sub in the second World War. A simple shore entry (as long as the sea is fairly calm) and giant barracuda will greet you at the rudder signalling great things to come. Cruise down the coral-encrusted bow of the wreck with keen eyes or the right guide, to spot rare pygmy sea horses or ghost pipefish. On full-moon days there are often mola mola (sunfish) sightings at the wreck, adding another dimension to one of Balis most popular dive sites. Whale sharks have also been spotted at the drop-off at the opposite end of the bay. What to see: US WWII Transport Ship and mola mola Depth: 6m 28m The bubble From: Jane Marsden, avid SE Asia Diver Robust Shark Seekers: Candidasa, Gili, Indonesia

Conditions can vary at Candidasa; with strong currents, its for advanced divers only but theyll be rewarded with sightings of some of the bigger marine life like the mola mola. Two popular sites are Mimpang and Tepekong islands. Mimpang (Shark Point) is comprised of a series of underwater and out-of-the-water pinnacles. As the name suggests, there are often sharks found lying on the sandy bottom or taking advantage of the current washing over. According to local legend, Tepekong Island was once inhabited by gods who took the form of goats. Luckily these goats stayed munching on dry land and left the islands waters to thrive. Underwater, the rock formations are dramatic and include a fantastic swim-through that starts at around 26m and goes up to around 18m. What to see: Reef sharks, mola mola and tropical reef life Depth: 18m 26m The bubble From: Amanda Whiting at Crystal Dive A Bit of Everything: Shark Island, Koh Tao, Thailand Named after its resemblance to a dorsal fin, Shark Island offers beautiful corals and abundant fish life. As well as the occasional leopard shark, youll find blue spotted rays, starry pufferfish and titan triggerfish as well as shoals lingering near fish junction on the northern end of the site. The best way to see all sites in and around Koh Tao is to book a place on a liveaboard so you can visit the sites day-trippers dont dive. What to see: Leopard shark, blue spotted ray and tropical reef life Depth: 5m 20m The bubble From: Gary Savins at GS Diving Something Spectacular: Sipadan, Malaysia Youll need some patience and a bit of luck to dive the famous Sipadan. The islands officials only allow 120 divers to visit each day so its worth booking a five-day trip so your chances of being granted a permit are higher. The bounty will be worth the wait though, as school baraccuda, mating hawksbill and greenback turtles, manta rays, big-eye trevally and hammerhead sharks are waiting. Its best between April and December when visibility can reach up to 50 meters. What to see: Turtles, barracuda, rays, sharks and an abundance of tropical reef life Depth: 12m 40m Wreck Heaven: Palawan, The Phillipines Divers go to Coron for three reasons: wrecks, wrecks and more wrecks. On 24 September in 1944, American bombers sank 24 Japanese vessels; 12 are diveable today. The wrecks are intact so diving them feels like visiting an underwater war museum with hard and soft corals benefiting from the carnage. What to see: Japanese war ship, oil tanker, provision ship and freighters Depth: 6m 30m

Bragging Rights Considered the apex of diving in the Philippines, Tubbataha Reef Natural Park is a 100,000 hectare marine sanctuary and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Divers can expect to see an unspoiled array of corals, from humongous seas fans and barrel sponges, to massive fields of hard coral. When it comes to fish life, think big. Big schools of jacks and barracudas, turtles and sharks are quite common with Hammerheads, Leopard and Guitar sharks making an occasional. Being out of the way, Tubbatha diving is done exclusively from liveaboards during the dry months from March to early June and can offer visibility of up to 50 meters. What to see: A vast expanse of unspoilt tropical marine life and hammerhead and leopard sharks Depth: 15m 70m The bubble from: Yvette Lee at Discover Fleet and M/Y Vasco Ray Rubbernecking: Malapascua, The Philippines Monad Shoal is one of the only places in the world you are almost guaranteed to spot the long-tailed thresher shark. Home to many cleaning stations, the underwater island on the edge of a 200m drop-off is regularly visited by manta, devil and eagle rays. What to see: Thresher sharks and manta, devil and eagle rays Depth: 26m 200m+ Doing it like they do on the Discovery Channel Gato Island regulars say, You come to Malapascua to see the thresher sharks, but you leave remembering Gato. The place is teaming with banded sea snakes, cuttlefish (often mating), larger and pygmy seahorses, nudibranchs, frogfish, scorpion fish, porcupine fish, harlequin shrimp and smashing mantis shrimp. Away from the reef you can see schools of squid and big-mouthed mackerel attracted by the baitballs. What to see: Mating cuttlefish, nudibranch and scorpion fish Depth: 12m 30m The bubble from: Andrea Agarwal owner of Thresher Shark Divers Coral Gardening: Sulawesi, Indonesia

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