Where to Dive in January

Emily C, Eleanor, Rachel and Jacqui are here to help give you the inside track.

In January, the promise of winter sun is an undeniable draw to escape abroad. But it's not just the weather that can be great in January; there are some exciting things happening underwater, too, if you know where to look. From witnessing the magic of turtle hatching in Oman and Mozambique to swimming with the ocean's largest fish, the whale shark, in Tanzania, there's a whole heap of underwater marvels to uncover. Want to dive with sharks? The Bahamas is a shark diving mecca in January, with great hammerheads in Bimini and tiger sharks in Grand Bahama alongside resident Caribbean reef sharks, nurse sharks, lemon sharks (the list goes on…). While we're on the Caribbean, set the bar high for your New Year's resolutions by learning to dive in the brochure-blue waters of Grenada, with wrecks, underwater sculptures and marine life aplenty. Further south in Belize, witness the rare spectacle of a grouper spawning and dive the world's second-largest barrier reef. If you're planning a liveaboard trip in January, set sail on a liveaboard to Socorro (otherwise known as the Galapagos of Mexico) when humpback whales are passing through with their calves, not to mention manta rays, dolphins and several species of shark – including schools of juvenile hammerheads. Speaking of hammerheads, head to Rangiroa in French Polynesia and witness these odd-shaped sharks frequent the thrilling Tiputa Pass channel. Over in the Pacific, January is also a great time to go diving in Palau and the Philippines. From the Pacific to the Atlantic and Indian Ocean, discover the best places to go scuba diving in January…

underwater image of a tuna fish in deep blue water


Dive into Socorro in January to experience the serenading songs of humpback whales as they pass through. Located 370 miles off Mexico's western coast, in the Revillagigedo Archipelago, Socorro is a pelagic paradise with manta rays, silky sharks, Galapagos sharks, white tips and silvertips. Only accessible via liveaboard during the calm winter months (November to May), Socorro offers sunny weather with occasional showers, and water temperatures between 21ºC and 24ºC.

And if this wasn't enough to encourage you to make the trek to this remote and delightfully diver-free area, you'll encounter bottlenose dolphins, whale sharks and thousands of humpbacks that come here to breed and calve between January and March. While the plankton blooms that occur during the first month may reduce visibility, we think that the breathtaking marine encounters make it worth the trade-off.

Once you've had your marine marvel thrill and you're seeking something a little different, head to Mexico's west coast to explore its freshwater-filled cenotes on the Yucatan Peninsulas. While they may be marine life free, these natural sinkhole caves offer surreal scenery with stalagmites and crystal-clear waters. Our favourite? Cenote Angelita. Here, turquoise waters dissolve into an eerie green as you descend, and at 30m, a jagged island of trees emerges out of a thick halocline cloud. Below the halocline, it's pitch black - switch on your flashlight to reveal stunning stalagmites and swim-throughs.

Recommended by Rachel Gaw.

Aerial view of sharks at the Bahamas with a dive boat

The Bahamas:

Since we're on this side of the world, how about beginning the year by ticking off some bucket-list shark species in the Bahamas? While this North American nation offers superb shark diving year-round, January is the time to go for the ultimate shark experience with great hammerheads in Bimini (located in the westernmost chain of the Bahamas) and tiger sharks in Grand Bahama (in the north of the Bahamas).

Dive with hammerheads in only eight meters of water and throw in a bull or nurse shark, and you've got yourself a spectacular way to break in the new year. And you may as well swim with 20 or more lemon sharks alongside tiger sharks in Grand Bahamas before laying back beneath a palm and sipping on a Piña Colada.

Water temperatures in January range from 23°C to 26°C, meaning you'll only need your 3mm wetsuit, and visibility is excellent, often reaching 30m - perfect for those underwater photographers. Besides sharks, you can also see spotted eagle rays and, occasionally, humpback whales migrating through the region. With less crowded dive sites during the off-peak tourist season, you'll be able to enjoy these big boys all to yourself.

Recommended by Charlotte Dunn

underwater image of a green sea turtle diving from the water surface in clear waters.

Turks and Caicos:

If you're after picturesque islands and true luxury in the Caribbean, then head over to the Turks and Caicos. With water temperatures between 25°C and 27°C and visibility often exceeding 30m January is a great time for diving. This month also coincides with the humpback whale migration season so you might hear their songs and possibly catch a glimpse.

Other species to keep an eye out for include spotted eagle rays, which are commonly seen gliding through the waters; reef and nurse sharks; and green and hawksbill turtles. The calm seas and light winds create excellent conditions for both boat and shore diving, and again, it's away from the tourist season so you'll never be passing crowds of divers when exploring the gin-clear waters.

Recommended by Rachel Gaw

Underwater photo of a group of reef sharks swimming in blue water

French Polynesia:

Fair warning: if you begin your year in French Polynesia, you'll never want to leave. This postcard-perfect collection of islands in the South Pacific Ocean offers world-class diving beneath the waves and laid-back, nature-engulfed tranquillity above. Although the peak season for humpback whales is July to November, you might still spot some completing their migration back to Antarctica in January. And if you head to Rangiroa in January, you'll see hammerhead sharks whiz past in the Tiputa Channel as they hunt stingrays.

If manta rays are your thing, then you're in luck. January is a great time to encounter manta rays gathering for feeding and cleaning in the waters of Moʻorea and Bora Bora. But there's more. The warm waters attract various shark species, including reef sharks, hammerhead sharks, and occasionally tiger sharks. Dancing dolphins, both bottlenose and spinner, are commonly seen around the islands and the coral reefs team life in all the colours of the rainbow. Water temperatures range from 26°C to 29°C (shortie or just dive in your rash vest if you want, we would), and visibility reaches up to 30m. See, we told you that you won't want to leave.

Recommended by Emily Chappell.

Photo of a red star fish in shallow clear waters resting on sand


If you're up for an African adventure, then head to Tanzania for some Indian Ocean diving delights. Begin your year swimming with the world's biggest fish, the whale shark, and enjoy surface intervals on deserted white sandbanks.

Get off the well-finned path for a rustic retreat on Mafia Island, Tanzania's first marine park and a true diver's paradise with pristine waters, impressive biodiversity and a number of dreamy dive sites at depths of less than 30m. Glide over 50 genera of corals (we're talking giant table corals alongside delicate sea fans) and play diving bingo with the 460 species of fish.

In January, water temperatures in Tanzania range from 27°C to 29°C, with good visibility between 15-30m. This is the best time to see whale sharks around Mafia Island, as they feed on the plankton-rich waters. You might also spot green and hawksbill turtles nesting and, with a bit of luck, witness hatchlings.

Recommended by Emily Chappell.

Close image of a Midnight Snapper Macolor's face under water showing the blue and yellow pattern


Last, but not least, the perfect destination to dive, eat, sleep, repeat - Palau. Located in the Western Pacific Ocean, Palau is a diver's paradise with 1,500 species of fish and 700 species of coral. Head to Ngemelis Island for schools of large pelagics, including sharks, tuna and mantas, alongside turtles, colourful reef fish, and abundant macro life. Dive the famous Blue Corner and Dexter's Wall before enjoying a stunning sunset.

For wreck heads, Palau offers an underwater museum of WWII wrecks, from Japanese Zero planes to cargo ships adorned with corals. Inside these sunken relics, you'll find gun platforms and bullets, while schools of jacks and snapper swim by and, if you're lucky, perhaps you'll spy an elusive leopard shark.

The best way to explore Palau is via liveaboard, hitting the most remote and abundant sites. January falls within the peak diving season (October-May) and offers spectacular visibility and balmy temperatures around 28°C. The currents bring in pelagic species like manta rays, sea turtles and reef sharks, while coral beds house macro species and schools of tropical fish. If your trip falls during the new moon, you'll witness the hump head parrotfish spawning. Or, if you visit during the full moon, you can marvel at thousands of red snappers changing colours before spawning-a rare and spectacular experience.

Recommended by Rachel Gaw

Ready to book your January diving holiday? Reach out to our dedicated dive specialist to plan your tailor-made scuba diving holiday.

Original Highlight
Image of Jacqui Brooks

Suffer from the serious January Blues? Head to the ocean and experience the blues of an altogether different kind.

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Emily C, Eleanor, Rachel and Jacqui are our 'Where to Dive in January' experts and as seasoned travellers they have the inside track on the most memorable adventures.

Rachel Gaw
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