Explore the underwater world while sailing:
Must visit scuba diving locations

Written by Natasha Posnett

Sailing and scuba diving make the perfect duo. So, why not use your next voyage to enjoy the wonderful underwater world and appreciate your travels from a new perspective. There is a vast ocean ready to be explored- from the cold waters of Cape Town, to tropical islands in the Caribbean- wherever your sailing takes you, there will be a dive spot close by. Majestic Whale sharks, inquisitive seals and colourful fish are waiting to capture your hearts and make you fall in love with the mysterious world beneath the waves. Of course, there are many amazing scuba diving locations all around the world, but here are a few exciting ones to help get you started.
Ningaloo Reef, Australia

Ningaloo Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to some of the healthiest coral structures in the world. It is a massive 260km long and is Australia’s only fringing reef. Whale sharks, Manta rays and Humpback whales are just some of the magnificent giants you can dive with in this stunning location. But it is not just the ‘big three’ that divers come here to see, the clear waters are filled with an array of life.

What makes it special?

What makes it special?
The ‘big three’ and unspoiled coral.

When to visit?

Autumn is the best time to visit Ningaloo Reef. March through to August is Whale shark season when hundreds of these incredible creatures congregate in their quest for food. This is a ‘bucket list’ experience and one that you would not want to miss.

Other dive sites nearby?

Australia has no shortage of great diving! If your sailing takes you up the East coast make sure to stop off at the Yongala wreck, the Whitsunday Islands, and possibly the most famous diving location of all- The Great Barrier Reef.
False Bay, Cape Town
False Bay, Cape Town, is famous for its kelp forest dives. This fascinating habitat is a beautiful place to explore, filled with weird and wonderful creatures. You might be lucky enough to encounter some playful Cape Fur seals or even the ancient Seven Gill shark. More commonly seen are Pyjama sharks, Gully sharks and octopi. You may have watched the recent documentary, ‘My Octopus Teacher’, which has inspired people to dive amongst the kelp and learn more about the waters and species around Cape Town.

What makes it special?

Kelp forests, Cape Fur seals and Seven Gill sharks.

When to visit?

You can dive the kelp forests of False Bay at any time of year, but the water will be warmer during the summer months, from November to March. Good water visibility also makes for a much more enjoyable dive, but it can change very quickly around the Cape Town coast. Keep an eye on what it is doing or ask at a local dive shop for what current conditions are like.

Other dive sites nearby?

Other dive sites nearby? If you are looking for more dive locations around Southern Africa to incorporate into your travels, why not have a look at Sodwana Bay, Zanzibar, Mombasa or even the Seychelles.
Cayman Islands, Caribbean

The Cayman Islands are a fun and relaxing place to scuba dive. These laid-back islands have everything from impressive walls and exciting swim throughs, to old wrecks and vibrant corals. There is a huge amount of diversity for divers to experience in these warm, clear waters.

What makes it special?

Diversity of marine life, warm waters.

When to visit?

The best time to visit the Cayman Islands is December to April, outside of the hurricane season. On the whole, the sea is warm, and the weather is good all year round.

Other dive sites nearby?

If you wish to spend longer sailing around the Caribbean, your diving adventures definitely don’t need to end there. The Caribbean has a wonderful range of diving locations and sailing allows you to move between them with ease. Visit the Bahamas for some great shark dives or Guadeloupe for some quiet, less visited sites.

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Almost mythical in reputation, the Galapagos Islands should be on every diver’s wish list. This remote archipelago, which is also a World Heritage Site, is home to some amazing marine life and its waters have excellent visibility. Go there to discover Hammerheads, Sunfish, sealions and penguins, but make sure you don’t forget about all of the smaller species too! It is not just the animals that will mesmerise you- the underwater volcanoes, caves and mangrove forests are just as exciting to see.

What makes it special?

Sealions, penguins, sharks and unique geologic formations.

When to visit?

If you wish to see the larger animals, the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands is between June and December, when the sea temperature is cooler. If you don’t mind not finding sharks to swim with, the Galapagos Islands are a perfect location to dive all year round!

Other dive sites nearby?

The Galapagos Islands are very isolated, so there are not many other diving locations close by! However, if your sailing takes you north from there you could explore some of Central America, perhaps Baja California or Costa Rica. If you wish to tick of a few more Pacific Islands, you could venture to Easter Island and Robinson Crusoe Island in Chile, or Mochima National Park in Venezuela has over 30 islands just offshore which are great for diving.
Mabul Island, Malaysia

Mabul is one of the best places in the world for muck diving! This may not sound very glamorous but is in fact great fun and makes a fun change from diving to find the big species. Mabul is most well-known for its rare species of nudibranch, Giant frogfish and Flamboyant cuttlefish. In addition to these smaller species, there is a great diversity of marine life, stunning coral and great drift dives.

What makes it special?

Muck diving and drift diving.

When to visit?

Mabul is a year-round diving destination. The best conditions, with the most settled weather, can be found in July and August.

Other dive sites nearby?

Sipadan, just half an hour away from Mabul, is another famous spot in Borneo which should definitely be added to your travels if you enjoy diving with the big pelagic species. If you are planning to spend longer sailing around this area, Indonesia has a lot of dive locations to explore; Komodo, Raja Ampat and the Gili Islands are a few you may wish to incorporate into your route.

Abhi Moothedath

@a.bee.in.the.sea

Orkney Islands, UK
Divers normally focus on warm water locations, but it is also important to not forget about cold water dive sites because they have a lot to offer. The Orkney Islands have some wonderful seascapes for divers to enjoy and is often termed as one of the gems of UK diving. But, at 59 degrees north, it is definitely not a tropical location! The Orkney Islands are most well-known for their beautifully preserved wrecks at Scapa Flow. It is a haven for wildlife and dolphins, seals and orcas are frequently seen by divers.

What makes it special?

  • Wrecks
  • cold water corals 
  • & Orcas

When to visit?

The summer months, April to September, are the best time to dive in the Orkney Islands. The water is warmer, and the visibility is better.

Other dive sites nearby?

The Eddystone reef, Scilly Islands and Cornwall are other must visit locations if you are sailing around the UK.

Portofino, Italy


The Portofino National Park delivers diverse fish life, fascinating rocky structures and impressive walls. However, it might be most famous for its huge underwater statue- Christ of the Abyss.

What makes it special?

Christ of the Abyss and geologic formations.

When to visit?

You should visit Portofino during the summer months, May to September, for the warmest waters and best visibility.

Other dive sites nearby?

The Mediterranean is a popular sailing destination, but it also has plenty of diving locations if you know where to look. Greece, Malta and Croatia all have wonderful dive sites and are worth exploring with scuba gear if you are in the area

With hundreds of dive locations around the world, each with a special charm, sailing and scuba exploration really do go hand in hand. Whether you enjoy hot or cold waters, big or small animals, deep or shallow dives, you will be able to find scuba diving locations to incorporate into your next sailing adventure.

To find out more about some of the best diving locations around the world, check out these online dive guides and books:

https://www.padi.com/exploration
https://www.scubatravel.co.uk/topdiveslong.html


Dive Atlas of the World: An Illustrated Reference to the Best Sites- by Jack Jackson
100 Dives of a Lifetime: The World’s Ultimate Underwater Destinations- by Carrie Miller and Brian Skerry