Best Scuba Diving in May

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

Around the world, the season is beginning to change and with it, new diving adventures below the surface beckon those with itchy fins. The sunnier days in southern Europe start to entice those who live nearby, with dreamy diving in Gozo, although the waters still may be a little chilly. Further afield, there are some great diving destinations that are just coming into season, such as Papua New Guinea which enjoys a prime position in the Coral Triangle and offers world-class muck diving. May is also a great time to dive the Great Barrier Reef (which is better for diving during the Aussie winter when the sea is calm and warm, and dwarf minke whales start to arrive). Also in Australia, but on the other side, in Ningaloo Reef, where whale sharks make an appearance – reason enough to travel to the other side of the world we think. Fiji is also marvellous in May, boasting stunning soft coral reefs and thrilling bull shark diving, and you can’t go wrong with Komodo National Park in Indonesia, which is virtually inaccessible for the rest of the year. In the west, May is the start of bait ball season in Socorro, Mexico, meaning more of everything – think mantas, sharks, whale sharks, tuna and more. Closer to shore, the Sea of Cortez welcomes the mass migration of mobula rays, while over in the Galapagos, pregnant whale sharks are starting to arrive. Have we tempted you? Read on for the best scuba diving in May.

close up image of a micro yellow crab on bright pink and orange coral

Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is magnificent in May, with sunny skies and superb diving - it's in the Coral Triangle, after all. In the southeast, Milne Bay offers it all, from muck diving at Observation Point and Dinah's Beach to exploring one of the world's iconic coral formations at Deacon's Reef. With everything from drift diving (one of our favourites is the eight-knot drift dive known as 'The Washing Machine'), to wreck diving (such as the P38 Lightning), the waters here are truly world-class.

For those who love the big stuff, head to Samari Island to check out cleaning stations frequented by manta rays and aptly named 'Giants at Home'. On the flip side, for the muck lovers, diving at Observation Point promises sightings of rare rhinopias scorpion fish, cuttlefish, eels, pygmy seahorses, star gazers, and so much more, all within three metres of water. Look out for juvenile catfish and anemones filled with clownfish, and if you're lucky, you may see the mating ritual of mandarin fish.

The waters of New Britain, just east of the mainland, are full of colourful reefs where you can see schools of barracudas, tunas and jacks close to shore, while sharks glide on the outer reefs. In the north of PNG, Kimbe Bay awaits. These waters are wonderfully photogenic and rich in diversity (we're talking 413 species of hard coral and 900 fish species).

Finally, for the shark lovers, New Ireland beckons. Since finning practices have come to a halt, shark numbers are on the rise, and it's not uncommon to swim with 20 reef sharks (grey, black and white) on a single dive.

All of this combined with water temperatures that hover between 27°C to 30°C and visibility exceeding 30m; you can see why we kicked off our list of best diving in May here.

Recommended by Emily Chappell.

close up image of a sealion diving under water

The Galapagos

Ever seen a pregnant whale shark? Head to the Galapagos in May and dive with whale sharks the size of buses as they arrive in Wolf and Darwin. Scientists speculate that they may give birth here, although it has yet to be witnessed.

The Galapagos Archipelago is made up of 19 islands sitting in the Pacific Ocean at the crossroads of several major ocean currents. The result is a unique ecology and diversity of marine life (of which 20% is found nowhere else in the world), which inspired Charles Darwin's work. From schools of hammerheads and fur seals to marine iguanas and spotted eagle rays, a dive in May promises a bucket-list-ticking experience.

Due to the currents here, some divers may find the conditions slightly challenging, but if you've got a few dives under your (weight) belt, you shouldn't have a problem. May is also the end of the wet season, meaning that the water visibility won't be at its best, but will still reach up to 18m and you'll benefit from quieter dive sites before the crowds form. Another benefit of diving in May is that the slightly warmer temperatures (hovering around 27°C) attract larger species including groups of manta rays, dolphins and the gentle giants of the ocean - whale sharks.

When it comes to must-visit spots? Gordon Rocks, near Santa Cruz Island, is one of our personal favourites, offering encounters with hammerheads, rays and sea turtles among volcanic formations. And while you're on land, keep an eye out for the blue-footed booby bird. If you're really lucky, you may get to watch them perform their mating dance.

Recommended by Rachel Gaw

Above the water photo of five manta rays swimming on the surface of blue water

Komodo, Indonesia

Grab your fins and mask - May marks the beginning of diving season in Komodo National Park, where marvellous macro life, massive manta rays and colourful coral are all but guaranteed. Located in the Lesser Sunda Islands, east of Bali, Komodo National Park is surrounded by nutrient-rich currents. The meeting of hot and cold water creates the perfect environment for all manner of marine life from flora to fauna. Expect dives with groups of rays, pods of dolphins and schools of fish.

For those who love a rough and tumble dive, Komodo is the place for you. With the stronger currents and whirlpools, you need to dive right, but don't worry, there's plenty for the novice divers as well. Our favourite for every level of drift diver? Manta Point in the southeast of Komodo. Here, the steady current draws divers along the site while giant manta rays glide, clean, feed and flirt with one another. For those who are up for something a little rougher, head to The Cauldron site for the 'Komodo shotgun experience'. Located in the northern area of the marine park, this challenging dive ends with divers being thrown along the reef. While you enjoy the ride, keep an eye out for sharks and giant trevallies hunting.

Komodo is best enjoyed by liveaboard or yacht, which allow you to experience as many sites as possible. Above the surface, the scenery is breathtaking, with shaggy hills of lush vegetation and the infamous Komodo dragon waiting. Within the turquoise waters you can expect temperatures between 25°C to 28°C and visibility reaching up to 30m. All in all, you'll be hard-pressed to find a more ideal location for a diving holiday in May.

Recommended by Rachel Gaw

photo of a white tip shark swimming close to the seafloor at night

Fiji

Embrace island life as you maroon yourself on Fiji's white sand beaches and dive beneath the waves to see for yourself why it's been crowned the 'soft coral capital of the world'.

One of Fiji's most famous dive sites is the Somosomo Strait, which is best accessed from Taveuni Island, located in the northern part of Fiji. The nutrient-rich currents that travel through these waters feed the kaleidoscopic hard and soft corals that adorn the walls here. And then suddenly, divers are greeted by The Great White Wall - a glowing expanse of what appears to be ice (but is actually soft white coral). If you can tear your eyes away from this natural wonder, you'll also see sharks, eels and nudibranchs.

For the shark lovers, Beqa Lagoon (located in the south of Viti Levu island) beckons. Divers flock here for the 'Shark Encounter' that brings divers together with eight shark species alongside other marine wonders like giant groupers, eagle rays and 400 species of tropical reef fish. Are you ready for the long list of sharks that you could encounter? We're talking blacktip reef sharks, whitetip reef sharks, grey reef sharks, silvertip sharks, tawny nurse sharks, sicklefin lemon sharks, bull sharks and the occasional tiger shark. Phew! If you like shark diving, it doesn't get much better that this, with waters hovering between 25°C to 28°C and visibility reaching up to 30m.

Meanwhile, Bligh Water welcomes drift divers with its vast expanse and diverse dive sites, such as Namena Marine Reserve, Koro Island and Wakaya, each offering crystal-clear waters and stunning reef formations.

Recommended by Emily Chappell

yellow fin tuna swimming in clear water

Mexico

Over on the other side of the world, Mexico welcomes hundreds of mobula rays alongside orcas, sharks and resident sea lions in the Sea of Cortez. Located between the Baja California Peninsula and Mexico's mainland, the aquatic abundance in these waters has aptly earned the area the title 'Aquarium of the World'.

Head 370 miles west of Mexico's mainland and you'll find the tiny island of Isla Socorro, only accessible by liveaboard. May is the end of the liveaboard season, and for those who can stomach the 24-hour boat journey to reach this volcanic island are rewarded with schools of hammerheads, tuna and silky sharks. But the star of the show for many people? The friendly giant Pacific mantas (whose wings can span up to seven metres) dance with divers alongside bottlenose dolphins. May also marks the beginning of bait ball season. Who doesn't want to dive in a shimmering ball of thousands of fish in pristine, secluded waters?

Water temperatures are a comfortable 25°C, and with visibility exceeding 30m, you'll have clear views of the underwater topography and the life that they hold.

Recommended by Rachel Gaw

close up of a whale shark swimming with an open mouth close to the waters surface

Australia

Last but certainly not least, Australia - a destination that features on many divers' bucket lists. If you're looking to go far afield for world-class diving, then diving the Great Barrier Reef in May could be just the ticket. The seas are calm, the water's still warm and the sun is a delightful temperature.

Located on the east coast of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef extends 1,430 miles and is world famous for good reason (over two million tourists come each year). The Great Barrier Reef is set against the backdrop of 900 small islands and 2,800 individual reefs which are home to over 1,500 various fish and hundreds of coral species. May is a special time to visit, as this is when dwarf minke whales start showing up and the Great Barrier Reef is the only place in the world where you can swim these beauties. Hop into the warm waters (around 26°C) to snorkel over coral reefs buzzing with life and colour. The Great Barrier Reef is well trodden but don't worry, we know the best places to stay and dive it will feel like you have it all to yourself.

On the opposite side of Australia, Ningaloo Reef (roughly 800 miles north of Perth) is the world's largest fringing reef and a pelagic paradise. Western Australia is a migration highway for the large stuff with annual appearances from whale sharks, humpback whales and manta rays. Visiting in May means swimming with manta rays and whale sharks, watching an array of reef sharks slink by (think blacktip, whitetip, zebra and tawny nurse sharks) and spotting turtles in among boulder, cabbage and staghorn corals.

Recommended by Charlotte Dunn

Ready to book your May scuba diving holiday? Reach out to our dedicated dive specialist to plan your next escape.

Original Highlight
Image of Jacqui Brooks

May is the beginning of the diving season in Komodo National Park and one of the best times to dive with calm waters, great visibility and incredible marine life, all without the crowds.

Jacqui, Original Diver

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Emily C, Eleanor, Jacqui and Charlotte are our 'Best Scuba Diving in May' experts and as seasoned travellers they have the inside track on the most memorable adventures.

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