Call us biased, but there are few things more exciting than strapping a tank to your back and rolling into the deep blue. From colourful coral cities with blizzards of life to lone giants circumnavigating the open ocean, diving allows us to explore another dimension. While you can dive just about anywhere where there is water - even the old quarries of Blighty - read on to discover our top ten best diving locations in the world.
Pelagic Paradise: Socorro, Mexico
A full 24-hour voyage south of Los Cabos in Mexico, the Revillagigedo Archipelago (best known as Socorro) is home to the world's friendliest giant oceanic manta rays. Often flanked by playful bottlenose dolphins, these goliath rays will swoop inches above divers to feel the bubbles on their bellies. Depending on the time of year, divers can also see humpback whales, whale sharks, hundreds of schooling hammerheads and ginormous bait balls.
The Deep South of the Maldives
It's no secret that the Maldives has some of the best diving locations in the world, but few venture to the southernmost atolls of Laamu, Huvadhoo and Fuvahmulah, where the real charm lies. Hop aboard the Four Seasons Explorer to mingle with all the big-ticket beasts (think: manta rays, sailfish, grey reef, leopard, tiger and whale sharks) in glorious solitude. Take a glimpse at some of our favourite dive sites scattering these atolls.
Underwater Eden: Raja Ampat, Indonesia
The undisputed crown jewel of the Coral Triangle, Raja Ampat has reached an almost-mythological status for its extraordinary marine biodiversity. Diving here is like stepping back in time, where thriving reefs and blizzards of marine life are the norm. Search for the elusive wobbegong shark at Melissa's Garden, enter the rainbow at Boo Windows and tally the 374 reef fish species residing in Cape Kri. It is paradise.
Bucket List Marine Encounters: French Polynesia
French Polynesia is best known for postcard-perfect villas and turquoise lagoons, but venture further afield for the world's most adrenaline-inducing diving. Highlights include the Fakarava Channel's marbled grouper spawning each July, which attracts a thousand-strong grey reef shark feeding frenzy; humpback whales in Moorea and mantas, bottlenose dolphins and sharks galore in the world-class Tiputa Pass in Rangiroa.
The WWII Museum: Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia
Located 1,220 miles north of Papua New Guinea, Chuuk Lagoon is home to an entire Japanese fleet sunk during the Second World War. Over the past 80 years, this coral-encrusted ghost fleet - comprising over 50 wrecks - has remained largely intact. Divers of all levels can get a glimpse into the past exploring Zero aeroplanes, tanks, trucks, engine rooms and torpedoes. Check out the top five wrecks here.
Encountering Aliens in the Philippines
Another resident of the Coral Triangle, the Philippines ticks all the boxes for world-class diving (think: healthy coral reefs, WWII wrecks and abundant marine life). However, we would like to give a special shout-out to the extraordinary muck diving. Head to Dauin and Dumaguete to search for flamboyant cuttlefish, frogfish, bobtail squid, blue-ringed octopus and more.
The Marine Utopia: The Galapagos Islands
Home to a vast array of endemic species - both above and below water - as well as all the big-ticket marine species, the Galápagos Archipelago is regularly touted to have some of the best diving locations in the world. Set sail to the north of the archipelago to dive with plumes of barracudas, jacks, tunas, hundreds of hammerheads and enormous pregnant whale sharks, to name but a few.
The Secret Sites of Iceland
Most divers will stick to Iceland's best-known site: Silfra. Located between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, this glacial-meltwater-filled fissure is the only place in the world you can dive between two continents. Stick around and you'll discover that Iceland is far from a one-trick pony, with geothermal chimneys, cold water kelp forests and Bjarnagjá - a fresh and saltwater-filled lava fissure - to explore.
Enter the Rainbow: Soft Coral Diving in Fiji
Jacques Cousteau first christened Fiji as the 'Soft Coral Capital' of the diving world, and with good reason. The most colourful sites are found in the Somosomo Strait - home to the aptly named Rainbow Reef - where divers can drift along plunging soft coral walls such as Purple Wall and Great White Wall. Further along the reef, the Zoo's nutrient-rich water attracts huge schools of jacks, barracuda, groupers and whitetip reef sharks.
The Final Frontier: The Aldabra Group, Seychelles
The extraordinary thing about the Aldabra Group is that you never know what you are going to see. Located 700 miles south of Mahé in the Seychelles, the diving here is truly exploratory; we've seen everything from thresher sharks at 14 metres to a pod of 50 melon-headed whales.
Interested in ticking off the best diving locations in the world? Get in touch with our diving experts to start planning your next diving adventure.
Written by Lizzie Shipley