The South East Asia region is one of the most travelled not only by backpackers, but also by divers! This corner of the world offers amazing locations and cultures with beautiful and colorful underwater landscapes. In the South East Asia we can find a big portion of the world famous Coral Triangle, on one side Philippines, on the other Indonesia, and on the southern side Papua New Guinea, an area where the biodiversity of corals and species of fishes is the biggest in the world.
This area offers diving for all tastes and budgets for all pockets. You can find high end 5* resorts next to backpackers, everything is easily accessible, and new divers will enjoy their diving as much as old timers. Asia is so polifacetic, that for the rest of your surface time, you'll find plenty of things to do! Thailand is practically the number one destination in South East Asia, is conveniently connected, and has plenty of choices in offer. If you are a beginner, Koh Tao's waters are your place. This is the island where traditionally the most number of certifications are made, and offers all kind of courses and superb diving. Koh Phi Phi islands are the ones that compete with Koh Tao's clientele.
Located on the other side of Thailand, they can be quite convenient if you are travelling during monson time. Koh Chang is a big island near Pattaya, typically visited by tourists travelling to Cambodia. But the gem of Thailand is the Similan Islands and the Surin Islands, both are reachable from Phuket on (long) day trips, but are best enjoyed from a liveaboard trip. Also you can stay at any Phuket hotel for a night at an affordable rate. One of the countries recently opened for diving is Myanmar. Its islolation offers pristine and untouched dive sites makes it one of the worlds true frontier diving destinations. The recently accessible Mergui Archipelago offers a rich and diverse marine ecosystem untouched by tourism, and is now rapidly becoming one of the premier places on the planet to go diving.
The long known Burma Banks, also accesible from Thailand via Liveaboard, has sharks, mantas and big pelagics coupled with stunning visibility. But if there is a paradise for divers in the South East Asia, that would have to be Indonesia. This is a country ripped by strong currents, which waters have been blessed with amazing nature, you'll find everything from small creatures unique to the area to big pelagic.
If you are starting your diving, we recommend you to visit the Gili Islands, between Bali and Lombok. You can see the Mola Mola fish from Bali. If you seek mantas and corals, you cannot miss Komodo and Raja Ampat, buth best enjoyed on a liveaboard. If your passion is muck diving, you need to visit Lembeh, in Sulawesi. As once I was told, Lembeh looks as if the whole macro world had gone to a conference! Also in the North of Sulawesi you'll find Bunaken Marine Park, famous for its coral walls and drop off's!
If Indonesia is a paradise, Philippines is a heaven for divers! The diversity of diving in the whole area is just spectacular! From the amazing WWII wrecks in Coron and Subic Bay, to the elusive thresher shark in Malapascua, manta encounters in Pamilacan, whalesharks in Dumaguete, etc. Best macro opportunities are around Negros and Panglao. Tubbataha Reef, accessible from Palawan on liveaboard trips, is considered one of the best areas in the world to see colorful corals and pelagic marine life. There is night diving, technical diving, diving in lakes and so much more, that you just have to keep coming back time after time. And all this set in a tropical bliss area with warm seas, sandy beaches, green palm trees, fantastic food and friendly people.
In this Indo-Pacific sea one can also find the amazing island of Borneo, divided among indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia, it's the malay part the one that offers best diving. Sipadan, a tropical island rising from a 700 meter abyss in the Celebes Sea, and historically a hideout for pirates, offers an inmense amount of barracudas whirling in its seas, while an uncountable population of turtles swims its waters, and white tip sharks have a resting area... This is not a place to miss!!
The nearby Mabul and Kapalai islands offer one the most amazing muck diving areas in the world; while Layang Layang is famed by itspelagic marine life: Schools of scalloped hammerhead sharks, grey reef sharks, leopard sharks and the occasional thresherharkss and silvertip sharks can all be seen.
The peninsular Malaysia is less eccentric, but still beautiful and enjoyable. A prime area for getting into diving is Perhentian Islands, a typically backpacker island with some few resorts offering beautiful coral formations, two wrecks, and even one underwater piano! The nearby pulau Redang caters the resort tourism and offers some interesting diving possibilities. Tioman Island in the south-east side of the peninsula, is a protected marine park, offering sheltered bays, volcanic rocky outcrops, pinnacles and several wrecks!
Travelling towards the East, Cambodia, also has some pleasant diving in offer in the well developed Sihanoukville and the less known Koh Kong. There you will find a number of offshore islands that are easily accessible, and where virgin dive sites are still being discovered. And if your destination is Vientam, do not miss Nha Trang! The island Hon Mun is protected as a marine park, and besides the typical coral landscape, it also offers the best macro life of the china sea area. Wherever you travel in South East Asia you are covered! Don't forget to pack your mask and fins and enjoy the warm and clear waters of this small but unique are of the world!