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Travel bucket list ideas:

Last updated: 24 July, 2023

Passionate scuba diver, journalist, author and diving expert Tim Ecott recommends the world’s best scuba dives, from spellbinding wrecks to dazzling reefs, whale sharks to wobbegongs.

Table of Contents
Sunken ship stern gun with diver at Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia
Experience

Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia

Micronesia

Some 275 aeroplanes and 60 ships were lost at Truk Lagoon in 1944, including the Fujikawa Maru freighter, Fumizuki destroyer and numerous Zero fighters. As a result, Truk is the world’s top wreck-dive destination – a ghostly underwater museum with everything from vehicles to kitchen china colonised by sea life.

Best for ages: 18+ | Varies

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Aerial view of a small dive boat by Dean's Blue Hole in Long Island, Bahamas
Experience

Dean’s Blue Hole, The Bahamas

Long Island, Bahamas

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Bucket List Experience

Long Island in the Bahamas has the world’s deepest blue hole – created by limestone erosion, it plunges 202m into the inky darkness. It’s an eerie descent along a sloping overhang as you lose sight of the surface above. Spooky silver tarpon occasionally flash by, along with the odd shark.

Best for ages: 18+ | £200

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Deep Dive Dubai

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

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Bucket List Experience

If there’s indoor. skiing in Dubai, why not scuba diving? And being Dubai, it is, of course, at 60m deep, the world’s deepest diving pool.

But this is no ordinary pool. Themed like a post-apocalyptic sunken city, divers can explore a fully-furnished abandoned apartment, play arcade games, sit on a sofa, and shoot some pool, all underwater. It’s a divers’ underwater theme park, unlike any other diving facility anywhere in the world

Best for ages: 6+ | £90 | 2+ hours

Dive with Great White Sharks, Guadalupe Island, Baja California, Mexico

San Diego, California, United States of America (USA)

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Bucket List Experience

This tiny island, a few days boat ride from Baja California, teems with Great White Sharks – more than 75 different individuals identified – who come to feed on fur seals. Sightings are virtually guaranteed, the water is a pleasant 18°C-20°C, and visibility up to 40m. See our round-up of other locations.

Best for ages: 18+ | £3,500 | 5+ days

Whale shark underwater
Experience

Dive with whale sharks, Tofo Beach, Mozambique

Tofo, Inhambane Province, Mozambique

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Bucket List Experience

Unspoilt Tofo Beach is the place to go for the largest population of whale sharks in Africa, with dependable sightings between June and January. Snorkel or dive, you’ll share the water with manta rays, turtles, dolphins, and, in season, humpback whales. See our round-up of other great places to dive with whale sharks – but note the ones that only allow snorkelling.

Best for ages: 8+ | £35 | 2 hours

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Dos Ojos, Mayan Riviera

Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

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Bucket List Experience

Set in dense forest beneath Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsular is an extraordinary network of caves, accessible through sinkholes known as ‘cenotes’. Drifting through the crystal-clear water, with giant stalactites and stalagmites above and below, is a wholly surreal experience. Visibility is so good that it feels more like flying than diving.

Best for ages: 8+ | £12

Bright red starfish under the ice at Antarctica
Experience

Ice diving, Antarctica

Argentina

The uninhabited vastness of Antarctica is a final frontier. Cold but rich, the ocean offers a unique chance to dive with penguins, leopard seals and an incredible variety of algae and giant isopods. Bright starfish, huge crabs and massive kelp forests are some of the treats for intrepid divers.

Best for ages: 18+ | Varies

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A tiger grouper hanging out in the mouth of a giant barrel sponge with smaller reef fish dotted around. The shot was taken on the reef in Grand Cayman
Experience

Jackson’s Reef, Cayman Islands

Little Cayman, Cayman Islands, United Kingdom (UK)

This sheer reef wall gives divers the sensation of freefalling into the deep blue. Cayman waters are the clearest in the world and shelter the healthiest reefs in the Caribbean. This protected marine park is home to friendly groupers, inquisitive sharks, turtles, seahorses, eagle rays and giant barrel sponges.

Best for ages: 18+ | Varies

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Coconut Octopus hiding in shells on sandy bottom. Underwater image taken scuba diving in Indonesia.
Experience

Lembeh Strait, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Sulawesi, Indonesia

This is the home of ‘muck diving’. Weird hairy frogfish, ghost pipefish, snake eels, pygmy cuttlefish and dragonets all lurk in the black volcanic sand. Lembeh is a dive photographer’s dream, with mimic octopus, vivid yellow jawfish and rare Ambon scorpionfish all living here in disguise.

Best for ages: 18+ | Varies

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Coral grouper next to gorgonian
Experience

Namena, Fiji

Namena Island, Vanua Levu, Fiji

South of Vanua Levu, this reef surrounds Namena Island and extends for around 50km. Deep water drop-offs attract grey, white-tip and hammerhead sharks, as well as large groupers and schools of ocean fish such as tuna and trevally. Walls thick with soft corals produce a riot of underwater colour.

Best for ages: 18+ | Varies

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A diver explores a coral reef highlighted by reef-building corals off Grand Cayman in the Caribbean Sea.
Experience

Neptune’s Arm, Vamizi, Mozambique

Vamizi Island, Mozambique

Eight miles from the isolated island of Vamizi is a submarine plateau surrounded by deep, dark water. Kingfish, grey reef sharks, giant grouper and thousands of anthias swarm along the reef edge, which is swept by strong currents. Only a handful of divers visit this remarkable untouched reef.

Best for ages: 18+ | Varies

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Manta ray over divers in Kona, Hawaii
Experience

Night diving with manta rays, Hawaii, USA

Kona, Hawaii, United States of America (USA)

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Bucket List Experience

The manta rays gather to feed on plankton attracted by underwater spotlights on Hawaii’s Kona coast. These peaceful filter feeders perform barrel rolls and balletic arcs within arm’s length of divers, and the surrounding darkness is a surreal experience. You can see mantas all year round, but they aren’t tame. Also see our round-up of other places to dive with manta rays.

Best for ages: 5+ | £92 | 3 hours

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Hammerhead shark swimming
Experience

Rangiroa, French Polynesia

French Polynesia

Rangiroa is an impossibly romantic giant atoll filled by the vast Pacific through a series of narrow channels. Manta rays and dolphins are common, and hammerhead, grey reef and big silvertip sharks haunt the ocean passes in their hundreds, feeding on the plentiful fish life around the healthy reefs.

Best for ages: 18+ | £300

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Giant guitarfish swimming along the bottom of the ocean
Experience

Rocktail Bay, South Africa

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

On a secluded stretch of wild African coastline, Rocktail Bay is on the migratory route of humpback whales. Giant leatherback and loggerhead turtles come here to breed, dolphins come close to shore and the reefs are unspoilt. Sharks, guitarfish, giant potato groupers, colourful sea snails and big schools of reef fish are guaranteed.

Best for ages: 18+ | £30 | Varies

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Silfra Rift, Iceland

Iceland

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Bucket List Experience

This is the only place in the world where you can dive between two tectonic plates – the rift between Eurasia and America. The water is never warmer than 4°C (you’ll need to wear a drysuit) and the glacial meltwater is so clear that it makes some divers feel dizzy.

Best for ages: 6+ | £80 | 4-8 hours

Boxfish close-up
Experience

Sipadan Island, Malaysia

Borneo, Malaysia

Uninhabited Sipadan Island is a tiny gem in the Celebes Sea, home to a huge number of resident turtles, barracuda and sharks. Deep reef walls, strong currents and healthy coral have made it a world-famous dive site. It’s close to the Mabul and Kapalai reefs which offer great macro diving.

Best for ages: 18+ | £150

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diver swimming through Wrecks of The Red Sea Thistlegorm
Experience

SS President Coolidge, Vanuatu

Vanuatu

This luxury liner sank in 1942 while carrying troops. Dives can be shallow or as deep as 60m to the stern. Float above the swimming pool or peer into the hold – there are guns, crockery, helmets, ambulances and military equipment all over the wreck. The fish life is prolific.

Best for ages: 18+ | Varies

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Silhouettes of scuba divers exploring the bow of the SS Thistlegorm shipwreck. SS Thistlegorm, Straights of Gubal, Red Sea, Egypt.
Experience

SS Thistlegorm, Red Sea, Egypt

Sharm el-Sehik, Sinai Peninsular, Egypt

First spotted by Jacques Cousteau, this wreck was sunk in 1941. Her cargo holds are easily visible with BSA motorbikes, deck guns, Lee Enfield rifles, army boots and unexploded shells. The wreck is part of diving history and one of the most visited, with a maximum depth of 34m.

Best for ages: 18+ | Varies

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Female scuba diver swims with hawksbill turtle above coral reef
Experience

SS Yongala, Great Barrier Reef

Townsville, Queensland, Australia

SS Yongala sank during a hurricane in 1911. Now totally colonised by coral, it’s home to turtles, wobbegongs, bull sharks, sea snakes, trevally and goliath grouper, along with thousands of fusiliers and bright rainbow runners. If it lives on the Great Barrier Reef, you can see it on the Yongala.

Best for ages: 18+ | Varies

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The Maldives
Experience

The Maldives

Maldives

With 1,100 islands across more than 700km of Indian Ocean, this is one giant dive site for humbling megafauna encounters: whale sharks, manta rays, frogfish, eagle rays and schools of tuna are commonly sighted. Bright, hard corals decorate the reefs, and the reliably warm, clear water makes diving easy.

Best for ages: 18+ | £150 | Varies

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Diver swimming trhough corridor of USS Oriskany wreck, Pensacola
Experience

USS Oriskany, Florida

Pensacola, Florida, United States of America (USA)

This aircraft carrier, which saw active service in Korea, is now the world’s biggest artificial reef at 271m long. The enormous flight deck lies at a depth of 45m and most divers want to say they’ve touched it. Big schools of amberjack congregate around the control tower.

Best for ages: 18+ | Varies

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Red mantis shrimp on the tropical coral reef. Underwater animal in the exotic sea. Detail of aquatic wildlife.
Experience

Wakatobi, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Wakatobi, Indonesia

More than 3,000 fish species are found here and Wakatobi is close to shallow reefs, deep walls, turtle grass beds and fields of soft coral. Around 40 reefs are within easy reach of the Wakatobi Dive Resort – all part of a fiercely protected conservation zone in collaboration with local islanders.

Best for ages: 18+ | Varies

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Walindi, Papua New Guinea
Experience

Walindi, Papua New Guinea

Walindi, Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea offers astounding biodiversity, and at Walindi on Kimbe Bay you’re virtually guaranteed to see marine wildlife you’ve never seen before. Thousands of fish, sharks, rays and turtles are common, and the remote setting makes every dive seem like an adventure. This is one of the world’s healthiest reefs.

Best for ages: 18+ | Varies

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