The whole dive community seems to have the same places on its bucket list — and for good reason — diving in Komodo or Cocos Island is everything it’s cracked up to be. But divers are, by nature, explorers, and it can sometimes feel like everywhere has already been discovered. There are still up-and-coming dive destinations, though — they may take a little work to get to, but they’re well worth the effort. It may be time to expand that bucket list to include these top five up-and-coming dive destinations.
Directly east of Italy and across the Adriatic Sea is Croatia. With a vibrant Balkan culture that mixes elements from Italy and Greece, excellent weather and rich history, Croatia is quickly becoming a tourist favorite. The rocky Croatian coastline is extremely popular with boat tourists, but what lies beneath the surface is equally fascinating. The rocky landscape extends underwater, which makes for plenty of coves and lagoons, each filled with nooks and crannies hiding all manner of marine life. Summer is the best time to dive here, but it’s also the busiest time of year for tourism. Even in peak month July, however, prices are still generally lower than many of the traditional European tourist hotspots. You’ll find dive centers in most large coastal cities, as well as some smaller villages.
Signature Dive Site: Margarina Reef at Susak. Starts shallow at 15 feet (5 m), but opens up through a canyon to deeper waters, even including the remains of a wreck.
Sublime Red Sea diving has created a huge scuba-diving tourism industry in Egypt, but that’s not the only country with Red Sea coastline. Further south and on the eastern side of the sea is Oman, an oil-rich country with an equally rich history. The diving here is similar to Egypt’s, but where Egypt has supported dive tourism for decades now, Oman’s is still in its infancy. If you visit, expect things to be a bit more complicated, as transit between cities isn’t as well-developed as in Egypt, and there aren’t quite as many dive centers. The reward, however, is pristine reefs that, in many cases, have never seen divers before. The best time to visit is from September to November when the searing temperatures are manageable and the water is still warm. Plan ahead: prices here are significantly higher than in Egypt.
Signature Dive Site: Daymaniyat Islands, Oman’s first marine reserve.
North of Oman, right across from Egypt and also on the Red Sea, is Jordan. One of the most politically stable countries in the region, Jordan is particularly famous for the ancient city of Petra, carved into the rock in a canyon in the desert and featured, as many movie-lovers will know, in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. A visit to this country without a stop at Petra would be incomplete, but divers can expect their own wonders under the waves. The coastline offers excellent, and often pristine, diving, including wreck diving. Jordan and Oman pretty much share climates, so the best season to visit is the same. Having been a major cargo- and passenger-ship destination for many years, Jordanian waters boast many wrecks for divers who are so inclined, including the wreck of a tank.
Signature Dive Site: The Seven Sisters, a beautiful dive site with abundant marine life and coral, and the aforementioned tank.
This group of nine islands in the Atlantic, a former Portuguese colony, are the peaks of a range of massive submerged mountains, making the waters around them extremely deep. This means that the chance of spotting large pelagic marine life, such as whales, sharks and manta rays, is very high here. There are plenty of beginner sites, but the Azores definitely caters well to the advanced diver, and even offers blue-water diving, wherein you can see neither bottom, reef, nor surface and are suspended in the big blue, tethered to the dive boat on a shot line. These dives offer some of the best chances to see the big stuff, but can be daunting if you’re not used to them. Waters can be somewhat cool, compared to tropical destinations, but well-worth it. The best season to go is from May to September.
Signature Dive Site: Princess Alice Bank, an offshore reef with abundant marine life, including dolphins, barracudas and hammerhead sharks.
Mozambique is not exactly unknown in the diving community, but a somewhat turbulent political climate has kept it off-the-radar for many travelers. The scuba diving here is stellar, though, arguably some of Africa’s best, and Mozambique boasts some of the world’s finest beaches. Just northeast of South Africa on the southern part of the Indian Ocean, Mozambique offers whale sharks, manta rays and many other marine animals. And with increased stability and prosperity in recent years, the tourism industry is on the rise, and scuba diving with it. The best spot for an introduction to Mozambique is undoubtedly Tofo, where divers can find not only great diving, but a glorious beach, tasty restaurants and accommodation ranging from thatched-roof beach huts to considerably swankier guest houses. The best season to visit is May through November, during Mozambican winter, which offers the coolest temperatures and the lowest chance of rain.
Signature Dive Site: Ponta do Ouro, which has a range of reefs where dolphins, sharks and other large marine animals are often seen.