South East Asia
Thailand is called the Land of smiles, it is generally in reference to the fact that the Thai people are always friendly and welcoming with a smile. A huge smile is also the reaction to scuba divers as they dive these outstanding waters. Part of Thailand is more or less a peninsula with the Andaman Sea on the west side and the Gulf of Thailand on the east. Between them there is over 1200 miles /1931 kilometers of coastline. Plus many outlying islands. Warm weather year round and water temperatures of 82-86° F (28-30° C) as well. Many divers come here not only for the diving but for the party atmosphere as well. For this group then Phuket an island in the Andaman Sea (connects to mainland by bridge) and Pattaya two hours from Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand are the prime choices. Both places provide outstanding diving with a range of wall dives, wrecks, coral reefs and open water dives. Phuket has hundreds of dive sites that can be chosen and there are numerous Liveaboards in the nearby waters. During the dry season the Andaman sea can be as smooth as glass. Also some Liveaboards going to the Similan islands depart from Phuket, while others depart from nearby Krabi. Pattaya diving is in two groups the inner islands and outer islands. These locations about 20 and 40 minutes away from Pattaya provide wonderful coral gardens and a wide variety of marine life. Many of the sites are also known for pelagic species. Pattaya also has some artificial reefs, ships donated by the Thai Navy. While the diving is not as extensive as in Phuket, the diving is available year round. The coast line protects the diving in Pattaya during the monsoon season, while conditions can be very rough in Phuket at that time. Koh Chang near the Cambodian border and Koh Samui on the gulf side of the isthmus.
Borneo (Sabah) Malaysia
Borneo is the third largest island in the world. Often associated with orangutans, head hunters and the oldest rain forest in the world, the island is sparely populated and provides long coast lines with crystal clear waters, abundant marine life and perfect diving conditions. While it is often associated with Malaysia, in fact three countries occupy the island. Brunei and Malaysia are in the northern section of the island, and Indonesia in the southern portion. Sarawak and Sabah are the two Malaysia States. Sabah used to be called Northern Borneo. While Sarawak has outstanding diving and a small growing dive industry. It is Sabah, however, that has the world renown diving. The entire coast line of Sabah has outstanding reefs and as it is sits at the edge of the marine bio-diversity coral triangle the area is rich with one of the most diverse waters in the world. The east coast of Sabah is on the Celebes Sea. Semporna and Sipadan Islands are two of the areas that are premier diving. In 1989, Jacques Cousteau said, "I have seen other places like Sipadan, 45 years ago, but now no more. Now we have found an untouched piece of art.". Today the area is protected and the conditions are still pristine. Sipadan Island can only accept 120 divers a day. Kota Kinabalu is the capital of Sabah, and is a diving center. Located just off shore of the city is Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. Water temperature is 81 - 84° F (27 - 29° C) all year round and the diving is great all the time.
The Coral Triangle is an area that is considered the most diverse marine life in the world. Over 605 different coral species and 2,228 species of different fish, including 235 found only in the triangle plus 6 of the 7 species of marine turtles are found in the Coral triangle. In the middle of the Coral Triangle is Indonesia. The thousands of potential dive sites will vary from sites good for training to deep drift dives suitable only for the most advance diver. The diving is great year round with water temp of 71-85° F (20-28° C/) but is best from May to September, December to June represents the Monsoon season that brings possible extended poor weather. Many consider the best time to dive in Indonesia to be in July to October. This is due to the migration of the Ocean Sunfish also called Mola or Mola Mola. This may be the winner of the strangest looking fish award. From the side the fish is almost circular and appears to have no tail fin. They are also huge, often higher than 14 feet (4.2 meters) and over 10 feet (3 meters) long. The heaviest of all the bony fish, 5,000 pound (2,300 KG) specimens are not uncommon. Bali is a common area for divers and also the port of many Liveaboards. However there are many places divers can choice to start from. Raja Ampat is one remote area that has a very health dive community. Many Scientists have proclaimed that Raja Ampat has the healthiest coral and marine life on earth.
Often overlooked by international guests, the Philippines is a great place for tourists and divers alike. A island nation with over 7,100 islands and the edge of the Coral Triangle, there is always a place to dive. The diving is varied with different areas offering a different array of locations. Diving is available year round with water temperatures in the 73-86°F (23-30°C), the rainy season can bring typhoons which will make diving unavailable. Verify local forecast and season is best, the Philippines covers 1,850 kilometer north to south and 1,000 Kilometers east to west. With such a larges distance weather can be much different in other areas. The diving industry in the Philippines differs somewhat from other Asian locations. While highly professional, the diving industry is more relaxed and laid back then most areas. While on the other hand, Tec diving is widely available. Most of the dive shop owners and instructors are expats. Depending on locations, $50 for a two tank boat dive is common. Many of the diving in Philippines make the “best” lists:
Malapascua is known as one of the few places in the world were you can reliably see Thresher sharks.
Puerto Galera, the name is Spanish meaning Port of Galleons. It was safe harbor for the Spanish Galleons of old. Has secluded calm bays to fast drifts with strong currents offering divers sites to suit their skill level. Asian Diver's Magazine ranks it as the best diving in Asia.
Subic Bay, known for its wreck diving and calm waters. Located within a large protected bay that was the former home of the US Navy, the bay is home to over a dozen shipwrecks at recreational level and all a short boat ride from a dive center. Normally loses less than 30 days a year of diving due to poor weather.
APO reef, A marine protected area that has a very healthy reef. A example of the Coral Triangle at its best.
Cebu, Great wall dives and coral reefs.
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea sits on a portion of the worlds second largest island, New Guinea. Located about 100 miles (160 km) north of Australia it is also the third point of the Coral Some of the sheltered bays have some of the largest coral specimens recorded. The area found significant action in WWII, resulting in a large number of ships, submarines and aircraft being destroyed. New items are still occasional found both underwater and on land. While the area is known for large pelagic species, many divers recommend purchasing a small non-breakable magnifying glass to have in your BCD pocket. There are thousands of varieties of marine life that will need a closer look. Diving in PNG can be divided into four areas.
Port Moresby: located on the south east coast, the capital city and has been called the most divable capital city in the world.
Madang: located on the north coast almost directly north of Port Moresby. Madang have one of the most picturesque harbors in the world. Diving with in the harbor is excellent with some wrecks and great reefs of coral.
Milne Bay is the largest coastal area of PNG and has over 600 islands and few people. No commercial fishing, No over fishing or destructive practices. Alotau The regional capital and port has a population of 10,000. Tourism is not a major industry about the only visitors are divers. Most diving is by Liveaboards in pristine conditions. The full range of tropical diving.
New Britian: Many of the bays are sheltered providing the perfect conditions for coral growth. Barrel and elephant corals are some of the biggest in the world. Kimbe Bay is said to be the perfect place for a relax dive. The only stress here, is deciding where to dive as the bay has over 190 reefs.
New Ireland: A string of reefs and islands with a wide range of sites.