The absolutely unmistakable mola mola is the largest bony fish in the ocean, known to grow over to 10 feet long and 14 feet tall, and it’s truly something amazing to behold on a dive. It’s also fairly common to encounter them on the surface, bobbing around in an ungainly manner, behavior that is often mistaken for the fish being ill or dying. This sideways surface-float is most likely where the name “sunfish” originated, as it looks like they are basking in the sun. In reality, they are often on a cleaning stop so that fish or birds can remove parasites from their bodies. These fish also appear quite frequently on divers’ bucket lists. with that in mind, here are three of the best places to dive with mola mola.
Best Places to Dive with Mola Mola
As these fish spend a large part of their time in oceanic waters, only coming inshore at certain times of year, there are few dive sites that offer reliable sightings, but we’ve put together three places to dive with mola mola where you’ve got a good chance to spot one.
Nusa Penida, Indonesia
Part of a group of islands situated between Bali and Lombok, with deep-water trenches and nutrient-rich waters, this is definitely one of the best places to dive with mola mola. Head to the Crystal Bay dive site for your best chance of an encounter, as the mola often use this shallow coral bay as a cleaning station. The best time of year to spot a mola mola here is from July to October, but sightings are possible year round.
Inner Hebrides, Oban, United Kingdom
Although not widely known outside of U.K. diving circles, this location — in addition to being one of the best places to dive with mola mola — offers stunning natural beauty on the west coast of Scotland and, of course, a great post-dive whiskey. Some of the other highlights here include wreck diving and the chance to see basking sharks, as well as mola mola. The latter can be seen mainly in the summer months, when water temperatures can get up to 64 F (18 C) due to the Gulf Stream.
Alboran Sea, Spain
This is actually the westernmost portion of the Mediterranean Sea, and acts as the gateway to the Atlantic and the Strait of Gibraltar. This also happens to be the spot where this writer saw his only mola mola to date. There are plenty of places along the southern coast here where you can encounter these fish; my favorite is Tarifa, at the exact point where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic. With around 300 days of sunshine a year and water temperatures between 58 and 85 F (14 to 29 C) depending on time of year, this part of the Mediterranean has some great diving even it you don’t get the chance to spot a mola mola or two.