When it comes to diving discourse, one of the age-old debates is: boat vs shore diving? Most of us learned to dive from shore and as we gain confidence and experience, we seek adventures in the deeper end - by jumping off a boat into the big blue to discover new dive sites. That being said, there are experienced divers who prefer shore diving and newbies who prefer to boat out to their dive sites. So basically there isn't a clear answer. But let's have a little debate...

Sardine baitball run from Moalboal - Philippines.

Marine Life

To kick off this boat vs shore diving discussion, let's look at the animals you'll encounter. Boat diving allows you to kit up and jump in, getting into the action of a dive site almost instantly (once you've travelled by boat to get there, of course). You'll typically be diving in deeper waters, which means you'll be closer to some of the bigger marine species and a cast of creatures you won't usually see near the shoreline. In the Cocos Islands of Costa Rica, for instance, it's only while boat diving that you can swim with shimmering bait balls that attract sailfish, dolphins and hammerhead sharks.

On the other fin, shore diving doesn't mean no big animals. Places such as the Maldives provide the opportunity to walk from the beach and dive with turtles and rays. Shore diving can also offer the opportunity for some wonderful macro encounters. The black sandy shores around Indonesia create the perfect environment for the weird and wonderful to thrive and Mafia Island is teaming with over 100 species of nudibranchs, all accessible from the shore. Likewise, the sardine bait ball in Moalboal, the Philippines, is a year-round phenomenon and it's only a few fins from shore.

Underwater wreck from World War II compressor located inside the engine room of the Fujikawa Maru shipwreck in Chuuk Lagoon.

Wreck diving

If history and old ruins is your thing, then boat diving offers a wonderful opportunity to explore some sunken treasures. Typically, wrecks are further away from shore at deeper depths making boat diving more appropriate to save on air consumption and bottom time. Take Chuuk Lagoon in Micronesia, a spectacular diving destination which has over 60 WWII wrecks to discover.

Meanwhile, in locations such as Bali, you can go wreck diving straight from the shore. The USAT Liberty, for example, is just 40m from the shore. With depths of 5m-30m along this 150m cargo ship, there's no need for a boat to explore this sunken relic.

A manta ray swimming over soft coral in Raja Ampat

Diverse environments

An obvious benefit of boat diving is the ability to access more remote sites and see a few different sites in a single day. Some locations, such a Raja Ampat, the Galapagos and French Polynesia, are best enjoyed via boat diving as the areas are large and the best dive sites aren't necessarily accessible from shore. Boats can also respond to information being given to them by other captains. Let's say you're in Raja Ampat, about to head to shore for the day when the captain gets a radio call about a group of manta rays close by.... now you can motor there, slip into the water with your snorkel and enjoy this magical moment.

However, shore diving is much more accessible as you can enter the water whenever and wherever you like. There's no reason why you can't venture sightly off the beaten track (if you know where you're going and have told someone on land where you'll be) to explore a remote beach entry point solo. This is where our expert teams come in. We've explored the areas around each shoreline so there's no reason why your shore diving can't be remote and adventurous. Locations such as the Turks and Caicos islands are a great example of remote shore diving possibilities and Bonaire, fringed by pristine reefs, is constantly at the top of Scuba Diver Magazine's annual poll for the best shore diving.

Scuba tanks resting on a white sand beach close to the blue water


Another consideration in the boat vs shore diving debate is the flexibility of time schedules. When boat diving, you're bound by the times of the boat and the other people on board. There may be a range of diving abilities on the boats which can also pose a restriction on the type of dives that you may do.

In contrast, shore diving offers a sense of freedom and independence as you can get in and get out when you want to. As shore dives are often shallower, they allow for a longer bottom time which, as you know, prolongs the fun and also caters to a wider range of diving experience and confidence. Of course, you can always charter your own boat, and request times that work for you. Then it's simply a case of loading up the boat with tanks so that, even if one dive is a little short, you can plunge again multiple times.

A male and female diver jumping into the water from a boat

Building a community

Typically, on a boat dive there will be other people joining you, providing the opportunity to grow your diving community as you share stories and laughs. But shore diving still provides opportunities to meet new people. There will be a local cafe or food truck nearby, potentially other cars parked up or even a dive shop for you to meet other potential diving buddies. Either way, if you want to build a diving community, it's possible. Divers love to meet other divers and share stories and tips on how to make the most of the blue playground.

So, there we have it. There's no clear frontrunner in the boat vs shore dive debate. Ultimately you'll end up choosing a site and entry point based on your personal preferences, budget (boat diving does include an extra cost) and the experience that you're looking for. Either way, we're here to help you plan your perfect diving holiday.