Big is beautiful! For many there is no greater underwater thrill than encountering the largest and most impressive creatures. We all know that feeling when you are pottering around on a dive when suddenly... something big comes into view.
It might be the unmistakable shape of a shark or the flapping wingtips of a mighty manta ray. Have you ever been diving when something passes overhead so big that it blocks out the sunlight? Your heart skips a beat as you realise you are in the presence of some magnificent megafauna!
In some destinations it can feel like a marine safari where, instead of lions, elephants and rhino, you are likely to be sharing the water with a huge shark or an enormous whale. These are the awesome, indescribable moments that are the reason why many people scuba dive.
So how to make sure that we have more of these amazing experiences? Well, that's where we come in!. If you know what big stuff you want to dive with then check out where we recommend as being among the best places on earth to encounter these 'A' listers of the ocean.
Whale sharks: Everyone wants to come eye to eye with the biggest fish in the ocean, the mighty whale shark. Our top tips for encounters with these gentle giants are: Cenderawasih Bay in Indonesia, Cebu, Bicol and Tubbataha in the Philippines, Socorro Island in Mexico, Honduras, Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, the Maldives, Cocos Island in Costa Rica, , Djibouti, and Richelieu Rock and Koh Tao in Thailand.
Hammerhead sharks: There is no more distinctive movement underwater than the weaving, side-to-side motion of a hammerhead shark. Watching as one of these strangely shaped heads comes ever closer to you underwater is a hugely exciting experience. Encountering a big school of hammerheads on a dive is a moment that will make your eyes widen and your jaw slacken with wonder. If you want to dive with these sharks then you should be making plans for these destinations: Layang Layang in Malaysia, Cocos Island, Galapagos Islands, Socorro, The Bahamas, and Daedalus Reef in Egypt. Reasonable probabilities include , the Forgotten Islands of Indonesia, the Maldives, Apo Reef, Bohol, Malapascua and Tubbataha in the Philippines, Saba, the Solomon Islands, Turks and Caicos.
Great white sharks: Of all the sharks, the one that needs no introduction is the big boy himself, the great white shark! The cages that house excited shark lovers these days are much more sturdy than Hooper's was. In fact you can forget all about the inaccuracies of the movie Jaws and just marvel at these beautiful fish. Tick this one off your bucket list in these places: Guadalupe Island in Mexico, cage diving at Neptune Island in South Australia.
A variety of sharks: In a world where shark populations are under threat, sadly there are some places that are no longer worth visiting. However, there remain some dive destinations with healthy shark populations and a variety of species. These may include local reef sharks as well as pelagic visitors. So where might be worth diving and what type of sharks might you see there (we hear you ask)? Well:
Socorro Island in Mexico - Hammerheads, silky sharks, oceanic whitetip sharks, silvertip sharks, Galapagos sharks, tiger sharks and whale sharks.
Sipadan Island in Malaysia - large numbers of whitetip reef sharks, grey reef sharks, occasional hammerheads, whale sharks and even thresher sharks.
Galapagos Islands - Galapagos sharks, hammerheads, whitetips, whale sharks and horn sharks.
Palau - Grey reef sharks, whitetips, blacktip reef sharks, occasional hammerheads, oceanic whitetips and whale sharks.
Cocos Island, Costa Rica - Hammerheads, Galapagos sharks, whale sharks, silkies, tigers, blacktips, silvertips and guitar sharks
Pacific Harbour, Fiji - Bull sharks, tawny nurse sharks, whitetips, blacktips, grey reef sharks, sicklefin lemon sharks, silvertips and tiger sharks.
The Maldives - Whale sharks, tawny nurse sharks, whitetips, grey reef sharks, hammerheads, threshers, tiger sharks, guitar sharks.
Raja Ampat in Indonesia - Wobbegong sharks, epaulette sharks, grey reef sharks, whitetips and hammerheads.
The Red Sea - Hammerheads, grey reef sharks, whitetips, oceanic whitetip sharks, threshers and whale sharks.
Bahamas - Hammerheads, Caribbean reef sharks, blacktips, tiger sharks, nurse sharks, bull sharks and lemon sharks.
Philippines - Whale sharks, hammerheads, blacktip reef, whitetip reef and grey reef sharks, thresher sharks, bamboo sharks, guitar sharks, tawny nurse sharks.
Saba - Caribbean reef sharks, blacktips, nurse sharks, occasional hammerheads, bull sharks, tiger sharks and whale sharks.
Solomon Islands - Hammerheads, grey reef sharks, silvertips, blacktip and whitetip reef sharks.
Turks and Caicos - nurse sharks, hammerheads, Caribbean reef sharks, bull sharks, lemon sharks, and tiger sharks, occasional whale sharks.
Cuba - Silkies, Caribbean reef sharks, nurse sharks, and occassionally lemon sharks, great hammerheads, bull and whale sharks.
There is little more uplifting to the spirit of a diver than witnessing the arresting sight of a graceful manta ray swooping majestically by. Those who never dive cannot understand the feeling of sharing the water with one or more of these beautiful creatures. So what destinations should you look to for encountering manta rays? These ones: The Maldives, Komodo, Raja Ampat and Sangalaki in Indonesia, Koh Bon in Thailand, , Socorro Island, Kadavu Island in Fiji, Myanmar, Galapagos Islands, Cocos Island, Apo Reef, Visayas and Tubbataha in the Philippines, and the Solomon Islands.
Creatures in the ocean don't come much larger than whales. They can be among the largest animals ever to have existed! While diving with blue whales is not likely to feature in any recreational scuba diver's vacation plans, there are certain whales that you can plan to dive with, in these destinations: Socorro Island, the Sea of Cortez, and Magdalena Bay, Mexico - grey, fin and pilot whales, orcas (killer whales), sperm and humpback whales; Dominican Republic snorkelling safaris with humpback whales; Great Barrier Reef, Australia - dwarf minke whales; Saba - humpback whales; the Solomon Islands - pilot whales; Turks and Caicos - humpback whales.
...and another dream underwater encounter that scuba divers long for is the chance to dive with dolphins. Among the most intelligent sea creatures, they are often shy and wary of bubble-blowers and stay away. However, you have a greater chance of running into them for prolonged encounters in these great spots: Galapagos Islands, Cocos Island, Socorro Island, Turneffe Atoll in Belize, Hurghada in Egypt, as well as The Bahamas, and the Turks & Caicos Islands.
Another extraordinary big marine creature that people long to encounter is the enigmatic sunfish, also known as mola mola. There is nothing like coming face to face with this odd looking flat disc lolling near the surface staring at you with large, dopey eyes. There are not many dive destinations with a high chance of encountering these creatures but among the best of them are: Lembongan Island (near Bali) and Komodo in Indonesia, , and at some Galapagos dive sites like Punta Vincente Roca.
Don't see your preferred creatures in the list above? Maybe you want to dive with dugongs, turtles, sea lions, or simply big schools of fish. Whatever your dreams of diving with the big stuff, let us know and we will recommend you the best places. Remember the staff at Dive The World are experienced divers and know what they are talking about.
We also know about the various seasonal factors that affect sightings. We cannot possibly list here all the best times of the year in all of the above destinations. That information appears on each destination page of our website. If you want some guidance on timing, simply let us know and our destination experts will do the rest.
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