Scuba Diver in Raja Ampat, Indonesia Copyright National Geographic
5 Amazing Places to Scuba Dive in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asian waters contain the Coral Triangle, an area that comprises Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and East Timor.
The Coral Triangle has the largest amount of marine biodiversity in the world, including around 500 species of coral, according to the WWF foundation.
Scuba diving in the Coral Triangle is world-class. More than 3000 species of fish live there in a range of habitats that support almost 25% of marine life on Earth.
This is a list of 5 fantastic places to scuba dive in Southeast Asia:
1. Raja Ampat, Indonesia
“Raja Ampat” means “Four Kings” in Indonesian, and refers to the four islands that surround the reef and surrounding ocean.
Raja Ampat is number one on this list because it has the some of the world’s healthiest reefs. You can see a high density of hard and soft coral all around the four islands. Marine surveys by Conservation International has shown that the marine diversity here is the highest recorded in Southeast Asia.
Raja Ampat, located in a strategic position between the Indian and the Pacific oceans, is remote and undisturbed by human interaction. It is a top priority region for conservation due to its function as a fish larval dispersal area.
2. Sipadan, Malaysia
Sipadan Island is the place to see large pelagic fish such as barracuda, jackfish, and groupers. The island sits on the remnants of an extinct underwater volcano. The nutrients from the ashes of the volcanic eruption has given life to a large coral reef which covers the underwater wall next to the island.
More than 3000 species of marine life have been classified in Sipadan. Unfortunately, Sipadan has been affected by coral bleaching in the past, and the remnants of this damage remains.
Recent conservation efforts by the Malaysian Government has stopped development of resorts on the island.
3. Republic of Palau
The coral reefs in the tiny nation of Republic of Palau are unique. They are located in an area where 3 major currents in southeast Asia meet. The dive sites here are home to more than one thousand identified species of fish, and over five hundred species of coral and anemone. Because of the high current, scuba diving here can be rough, but the visibility can extend 20-30 meters.
Palau is also the home of Jellyfish Lake, a marine lagoon connected to the ocean through an underwater reef system. The jellyfish in the lake have been isolated for 12,000 years, and have evolved to lose their stingers. Only snorkeling is allowed in the Jellyfish Lake. The bubbles from the oxygen tanks of scuba divers harm the jellyfish.
4. Similan Islands, Thailand
The Similan Islands Marine National Park, located west of Thailand, are made of granite boulders formed by the eruption of an ancient volcano around 65 million years ago. The sea slopes down, dropping around 70 meters, and are covered by coral. The scuba diving hilight here is the cavernous underwater topography. The currents at the Similans can be strong.
The Similans also have a turtle hatching program, as several marine turtle species lay eggs on the islands. Several Thai marine biologists have blamed excessive tourist activity for the damage to coral reefs around the popular Tachai island. As a result, a few islands are now closed to the public.
5. Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India
Located in the ocean between India and Myanmar, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are in a remote location far from human activity. The Andaman Islands are a chain of over 500 mostly uninhabited islands and are an extension of the mountain range of Myanmar.
Due to the isolation of Andaman and Nicobar islands, the marine and terrestrial life have evolved over thousands of years in a unique way. Ten percent or more of the life here is endemic.
Thus, the scuba diving here is pristine and untouched. Some of the dive sites here have a clear visibility of up to 30 meters. Andaman offers hard black coral that are rare in other Southeast Asian waters.
Biography: Jane Cui is the owner of Down Under Scuba. Follow her on twitter @janecui11 for information on scuba diving in Southeast Asia.