Manta fans won’t be disappointed this month. These five great August dive destinations include two of the world’s best places to swim with these gentle giants at this time of year. It’s also whale-shark season in the Galapagos, and there are plenty of playful juvenile sea lions to swim with in Mexico. South Australia has two hidden seasonal gems and Mozambique diving is at its finest. With so much action underwater, the only hard part will be deciding where to go.
Baa Atoll, Maldives
If you’re looking for manta encounters this summer, Baa Atoll is one of your best bets. This UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is tucked away in the northern atolls and offers the chance to snorkel with hundreds of feeding manta rays at Hanifaru Bay.
Numerous mantas congregate in this sheltered spot to feed on plankton from May to November each year and exhibit a unique feeding behavior called cyclone feeding. Watch these enchanting mantas as they feed, swirl, and barrel-roll in front of you.
In addition to the mantas, peaceful Baa Atoll has huge numbers of fish species and dive sites suitable for every experience level. Dive among blue, green and yellow corals at Maavaru Kandu, or dive some of the many thilas (pinnacles) dotted around Baa’s 75 islands. Don’t miss the swim-through and canyon at Dhonfanu Thila; it’s teeming with grey reef sharks, eagle rays, pelagic fish and bushy black corals.
The peak dive season is upon us in the remarkable Galapagos Islands where the cool weather brings rougher conditions and stronger currents. Still the place to go for incredible nature encounters, August is extra-special thanks to the arrival of numerous whale sharks. They’re present at both the famed Wolf and Darwin Islands, only accessible via liveaboard diving on a handful of boats.
Dive there and you’ll be in the company of not only whale sharks, but also scalloped hammerheads, silky and Galapagos sharks.
If you can take your eyes off the sharks, you can also spot turtles, eagle rays and numerous fish. While the sharks are the main draw at this time of year, you can also swim alongside marine iguanas, watch Galapagos penguins in the shallows, and swim with sea lions. Pack thick wetsuit for Punta Vicente Roca. One of the colder dive sites, it’s the best place to spot mola mola.
Sea of Cortez, Mexico
It’s a perfect time of year for sunshine and warm-water diving at Mexico’s gateway to the Sea of Cortez, La Paz. Even better, you can go swimming with playful juvenile sea lions while you’re there. The waters off the tranquil La Paz are a mecca for large pelagics as well, with plenty of shark action in addition to the sea lions.
You can encounter over 200 Californian brown sea lions and their sassy pups at Los Islotes, as well as exploring three underwater pinnacles at El Bajo.
There are also wrecks, underwater caves and many other dives sites to discover. Explore this diverse Mexico scuba diving easiest via liveaboard to reach the more-distant dive sites.
After exploring La Paz, take a road trip to Cabo Pulmo National Park and you can dive the oldest reef on the West Coast of North America, thought to be around 20,000 years old.
For marine life you can’t see anywhere else on earth, visit South Australia this summer for two great seasonal diving gems.
Hundreds of thousands of cuttlefish arrive to breed off South Australia as the water temperature drops in the Australian winter, putting on a must-see spectacle. Visit the upper reaches of the Spencer Gulf at Whyalla near Adelaide and you can experience the action firsthand. Scientists know of nowhere else that these huge cuttlefish gather in such quantities, numbering up to eight males per female.
Competition is incredibly intense among the males as they put on vibrant color displays to attract a mate and offers divers a chance to get quite near these animals as they’re distracted with mating.
For a less-intense experience, August is also a great time to dive with South Australia’s marine emblem, leafy seadragons.
These charming creatures are endemic along Australia’s south and west coasts and remain a highly sought-after sighting. Larger than most seahorses, at 7.8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm) long, they’re perfect photography subjects and easy to spot once you know where to look. Join a guided tour to find them at their known hangouts and enjoy.
It’s the middle of the dry season in Mozambique, making it the best time of year there for an off-the-beaten-path dive adventure. Mozambique isn’t your average dive destination and takes some planning to explore. Be prepared for rough roads and long trips — and pack your sense of adventure. The rewards are well worth it.
Mozambique’s coastline stretches along 1,535 miles (2,470 km) of the Indian Ocean and has a variety of distinct dive destinations, all offering warm water and plenty of marine life.
Visit Ponta do Ouro for pinnacle diving and plenty of shark action or Inhambane and Tofo for some of Mozambique’s best dives. Being off the tourist trail, the reefs are in fantastic condition and Manta Reef is considered of the top places in the world for manta encounters.
The continental shelf is close to shore at Pemba Bay, where you can dive walls plummeting to over 328 feet (100 m) and teeming with life. For truly adventurous diving, try the Quirimbas Archipelago. This group of 32 islands is mostly unexplored and dive sites are continually being discovered.
Divers and writers at LiveAboard.com contributed this article.