Imagine a boat that combines the best of both worlds - the stability of a hard-hulled vessel and the buoyancy of an inflatable one. That's what you get with RIB diving. RIBs - also known as RHIBs (rigid-hull inflatable boats) - are designed to glide through the water with unmatched agility and speed. Unlike traditional boat dives, RIBs allow you to reach remote and pristine dive sites that larger vessels simply cannot access. This means you'll often find yourself exploring untouched underwaters, away from the crowds, and in the company of passionate divers who share your thirst for adventure. If the sound of RIB diving floats your boat, read on to discover the destinations boasting the world's best RIB diving.

Rib on the Red Sea

1. The Red Sea, Egypt

Our first stop is the iconic SS Thistlegorm shipwreck, which rests in the Strait of Gubal in the northern Red Sea. Located a three-hour boat ride from mainland Egypt, this 120-metre-long British cargo ship met its watery grave in World War II during a German air attack. Today, the coral-encrusted wreck has transformed into a renowned underwater museum of history. If venturing from land, many dive operators use RIBs to access the SS Thistlegorm wreck, as these small, nimble boats are the fastest mode of transport, taking around two hours from Sharm El Sheikh and three to four hours (depending on conditions) from Hurghada.

Diving the SS Thistlegorm early in the morning offers a two-fold benefit: avoiding the crowds, as it is Egypt's most famous site, and witnessing the wreck illuminated by the morning light. Descending into the crystal-clear waters to a maximum depth of 30 metres, you'll find yourself surrounded by the eerie sunken remains of a wartime transport vessel. Here, you can explore the haunting remnants of motorcycles, trucks and rifles, all of which have become intertwined with vibrant corals and teeming marine life. The SS Thistlegorm is a prime example of how RIBs grant divers access to historical relics and unique underwater experiences that would otherwise remain concealed beneath the waves.


2. Coron, Palawan, Philippines

The Coron Bay shipwrecks, located in Palawan in the Philippines, are another exclusive RIB diving destination and some of the best-preserved wrecks in South-East Asia. Another casualty of World War II, this Japanese supply fleet fell victim to a ruthless attack by a squadron of 24 Helldiver bombers. Today, this underwater graveyard houses 12 wartime wrecks, including gunboats, supply ships, aircraft carriers and planes in a relatively compact area.

RIBs take divers directly to these maritime time capsules, making it possible to investigate the remains of ships like the Akitsushima, a seaplane tender, and the Kogyo Maru, a freighter. As the wrecks rest in a relatively compact area, meaning divers who stick around for a few days can tick off several (if not all) of these vessels. Keep an eye out for giant moray eels, lobsters, mandarin fish, nudibranchs, cuttlefish and barracuda (to name a few residents) hiding among the coral-encrusted vessels.

Nusa Penida

3. Nusa Penida, Indonesia

Nusa Penida, an island just south-east of Bali, Indonesia, has gained a cult-like following among divers across the world. Located in the Coral Triangle, the world's most biodiverse marine region, this island is world-renowned for its vibrant coral reefs and thriving marine life. The island is primarily accessible by RIBs, owing to its often-challenging currents, large swells and remote dive sites.

RIBs grant divers the means to explore the island's vast array of underwater landscapes, including the famous Manta Point, where graceful manta rays gather at cleaning stations. Nusa Penida also boasts remarkable drift dives along steep drop-offs, offering encounters with diverse species of fish, colourful coral formations and the enigmatic ocean sunfish, or mola mola.

The Azores

4. The Azores, Portugal

The Azores, otherwise known as the 'Hawaii of the Atlantic,' is a volcanic archipelago in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. Made up of nine islands, the Azores offers some of the world's most thrilling and remote dive sites, and RIBs are the ideal means to reach them. Catering to both beginners and advanced divers alike, each island boasts excellent local sites characterized by a dramatic underwater topography - caves, caverns and swim-throughs - and rich marine life, with moray eels, lobsters, crabs and nudibranchs, to name a few.

However, the best sites, like Princess Alice Bank, are found offshore. Located 50 miles south of Pico Island, or a two-and-a-half-hour RIB ride, Princess Alice Bank is a submerged seamount that serves as a magnet for large pelagic species, including hammerhead sharks, manta rays, and blue sharks. RIBs grant divers access to these dive sites and a glimpse of the magnificent creatures, amid the backdrop of underwater cliffs, caves and vibrant coral gardens.