Seeing the "big stuff" on a dive is always exciting. Let's be honest, that's the goal for most people! When planning dive travel, the question we get asked most often is "Where do I go to make sure I see big animals while diving?"
While there is a chance to see the large exciting animals in a lot of different places, seeing them is unfortunately never guaranteed. If you only have a few days of a vacation to dive, we recommend choosing locations where you can increase your chances for incredible encounters. When time is limited, we want to maximize your experience. Below is our top 5 list for dive destinations. These places not only boost your opportunity for encountering marine megafauna, they are also great places to travel with family, and offer other great vacation activities.
My oh my the remote islands of the Galapagos are exciting! Experience over 27 species of sharks. Dive with penguins and lizards at the same time! See seals and whale sharks too! You can choose from either liveaboard diving or land based diving. Liveaboard diving (you literally live aboard the boat over a period of days as you cruise to various dive spots) provides you better encounters as you can go to more distant and remote islands. You can also pair this with land based tours to explore the islands. Also consider pairing it with an extension to Ecuador or Peru and see the grand sights of Machu Picchu!
2. Southern & Eastern Africa
Southern and Eastern Africa have incredible marine wildlife and a wide range of great diving locations. From migrating whales, to schools of ragged tooth sharks, to mantas and whale sharks, opportunities for viewing large animals abound! In Cape Town, South Africa you can cage dive with great white shark. As you travel up the East coast of South Africa from Cape Town, you can see migrating whales from June - November. These same whales can then be see further up the coast in Mozambique from July-December. Experience the Sardine Run off the eastern coast of Africa in June/July as well as the ragged tooth sharks that make their appearance in Sodwana Bay later in the year. If you want to see whale sharks and Manta Rays, then head north out of South Africa into Mozambique during the summer months (winter there) you can have encounters with these PLUS whales all on the same dive! And let's not forget the beautiful islands of Zanzibar, Mauritius and Seychelles, which are all just a quick flight from Johannesburg and have a ton of great marine life to experience. And since you've made the long flight out already, consider adding a few days for an African safari post dive and experience the amazing wildlife Africa has to offer both above and below the water's surface!
If you have ever seen a picture of clear emerald waters, beautiful beaches that stretch as far as the eye can see, combined with luxurious overwater bungalows, then chances are it was a picture of the Maldives. The Maldives is a collection of thousands of islands in the Indian Ocean in South Asia. It has become one of the best global diving locations because of its warm, clear waters, beautiful coral reefs, white sand beaches and rich marine life. The presence of whale sharks, mantas, hammerheads, eagle rays and multiple shark species is very common, and chances are very high you'll have the unforgettable animal encounters you're after. It is a bucket list trip for many people. But don't be afraid of price - it is possible to visit the Maldives on a budget!
If you know anything about Hawaii, its presence on our top 5 list shouldn't come as a surprise. Even if you have never been, you have probably seen idyllic images of all the wonders of Hawaii, large animal encounters included! Whale watching is a year-round option with 18 different species of whales occupying the warm Hawaiian waters. Plan for winter whale watching to increase your chances as many whales move south from Alaska to the warmer waters that time of year. Also enjoy amazing encounters with manta rays off Kona Island in late spring, summer and fall.
You may have heard of the "Big 5" as it relates to safari animals, but the Bahamas is home to their own "Big 5." It is the only country to declare their entire marine habitat a shark sanctuary. The Bahamas are home to 40 species of sharks including the five big predators: bull sharks, tiger sharks, hammerheads, Caribbean reef sharks, and silky sharks. You will have to island hop in order to see them all, but if you love sharks, then the Bahamas should top your list.
Have more questions? Send us a note and we can talk through your goals, vacation preferences and budget to find your best dive destination!