Shark, scuba diving

Top Diving Destinations for Big Fish Encounters

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Written by
Emily Opie, Byron Thomas, Rachel O'Leary, Katie Holmes & Jobi Chan

Published on: October 3rd, 2017

Last modified: March 21st, 2024

Turtles, barracudas, manta rays, sharks – looking for the big boys of the ocean?

Hit up these top diving destinations for your next underwater trip.

Liveaboard Experience
The Revillagigedo Islands
Wildlife Paradise
The Galapagos Islands
Incredible underwater visibility
The Seychelles

1) Mexico

The ever popular Riviera Maya is well known among scuba enthusiasts. From November through March, you can dive with bull sharks in shallow waters. On the other hand, if you’d like an encounter with the fastest fish in the ocean, sign up for a sailfish snorkelling session in the winter season (January through March).

Sailfish, Riviera Maya, Mexico

Up for a liveaboard experience instead? Explore the Revillagigedo Islands, and be sure not to miss Socorro Island’s Roca Partida dive site – an underwater pinnacle that often sees visitors like hammerheads, marlin, Pacific manta rays, and many more.

Backlit Manta

2) The Galapagos

Whether you’re topside or underwater, the legendary Galapagos promises to be a lifelong highlight for any globetrotting adventure seeker. The area itself is a marine reserve, so animals like sea lions, Galapagos sharks, penguins and whale sharks are well-protected in these waters.


The top attraction here is a huge school of scalloped hammerhead sharks that flock to the islands around June each year. Around the same time, you’re likely to get close to oceanic or reef mantas too.

Aerial of Cape Point, Cape Town, South Africa

3) South Africa

Avid scuba divers should all have South Africa‘s sardine run on their bucket list. This natural phenomenon occurs annually from May through July and sees millions of silvery sardines travelling north from the waters off Cape Point to the coastline of KwaZulu-Natal.

The Sardine Run, Cape Point/KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

Essentially, what you get to witness is a spectacular feeding frenzy, as sharks, seals, whales, dolphins, and even birds go all out to enjoy the spread at this all-you-can-eat buffet.

Cape fur seals in the water of the shore of Seal Island in False Bay of South Africa.

4) Mozambique

Mozambique’s underwater realm is mainly known for two things: manta rays and whale sharks, and the small town of Tofo is inarguably the best place to set off from, if you want to dive with the gentle giants.

Split view, Mozambique, under and over water

Its sheltered waters and easy-to-access diving make Tofo a popular choice among visitors, who come from all over the world to see manta rays in action at cleaning stations, and whale sharks cruising by from October through March.

Scuba diver with whale shark
Split view under and over water, the Seychelles

5) The Seychelles

The island nation of the Seychelles is a picture-perfect holiday destination, with its white sandy beaches, striking azure waters and luxurious hotel offerings. But aside from its topside beauty, The Seychelles are known for the incredible visibility underwater – 30 metres and more on most days in season – and is home to a variety of large pelagics.

Napoleon wrasse, the Seychelles

You could encounter all sorts of marine creatures, from barracudas and sharks to manta rays, and the endangered Napoleon wrasse that can grow up to six feet in length. The best time to visit? March through May, which is also the hottest time of the year.

Seychelles Marine Park
Indonesia Snorkelling Freediving

6) Bali

Bali is excellent for diving due to its offering of a good mix of macro critters and big marine life. For action-packed dives, make a trip out to Nusa Penida, an island situated southeast of Bali. At the dive site Crystal Bay, you can spot the gigantic flat fish, mola mola (ocean sunfish), from July through October.

Manta Ray, Nusa Penida, Bali

Over at the nearby Manta Point, you can stay in the shallows and swim with a group of curious manta rays who are almost always there. Warning: it can get very cold so don’t forget that thermal rashguard, or better yet, opt for a 7mm wetsuit.

Minke whale on Antarctica cruise

7) Antarctica

If you’ve been trained to work a drysuit, don’t pass up the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get some ice diving done in Antarctica. The depths of this remote region are beautiful and almost other-worldly.

Scuba diving, Antarctica

Those willing to put up with the unforgiving climate are rewarded with encounters with fur seals, leopard seals, penguins, and giant isopods.

Penguin underwater, Antarctica
Aerial view on tropical islands of maldives

8) The Maldives

The abundant coral reefs and balmy waters of this stunning nation (made up of more than a thousand islands) make for some truly stunning diving with swim-throughs, caverns and overhangs thronging this vibrant marine region.

Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa turtle

Here you can get up close to manta rays, reef sharks and yellow-fin tuna, as well as stingrays, barracuda, eagle rays and innumerable other large marine species.

Maldives, underwater
Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia

9) Australia

One of the top travel destinations in the world,  the Great Barrier Reef holds a worthy place at the top of any self-respecting diver’s bucket list. Its mindblowing variety of marine life includes six different species of turtle who go there to breed, dolphins, whales, porpoises, humpback whales, minke whales and Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins.


And if you ever manage to tear yourself away from the GBR, there’s no shortage of other great places to dive across the country, including the Rowley Shoals in Western Australia and the chance to cage dive with great white sharks in South Australia.

chromis damsels coral reef
Hibiscus floating off tropical Fiji island

10) Fiji

Fiji’s reefs thrive on the strong presence of currents in the area, bringing nutrients to corals and fish and thus kick-starting the foodchain. It’s not hard to see why this is known as the “Soft Coral Capital World” when the current sweeps in and the corals burst into a riotous bloom of colour.


Don’t miss the top quality scuba diving at Rakiraki, where pristine reefs and an enormous amount of fish make this a true hidden gem nestled amongst the heavenly environs of Fiji.

Gili Lawa Darat in Komodo National Park

11) The Komodo Islands

The diving and snorkelling in this region are considered some of the best in the world, and with good reason. Its pristine coral reefs welcome white tip and blacktip reef sharks, and even bigger sharks such as the grey shark and hammerheads too.

A couple of mantas in Komodo Island, Indonesia

We would recommend hopping on board a luxury cruise vessel to tour the Komodo Islands, giving you the perfect wealth of opportunities to explore life both on land and underwater, all from the comfort of your first class cabin.

Man snorkeling in crystal blue waters, Komodo Islands, Indonesia

Feeling inspired? Talk to one of our experts today to start creating your once-in-a-lifetime diving adventure.