One of the most thrilling moments in any diver’s life underwater is that first shark encounter. Nothing else quite moves like a shark, with its graceful swaying motion as it effortlessly cuts through the currents. If you are looking for ideas of where to go for more shark dives, read on as we have a look at some of the best shark dives in Asia. We’re going to have a look at the best shark dives in Indonesia, the Maldives, the Philippines, and Malaysia to help you find your next shark diving destination.
Southern Atolls, Maldives
The island nation of the Maldives features heavily on divers’ bucket lists, regardless of whether they have a fascination with sharks or not. This Indian Ocean archipelago is famed for its small, idyllic atolls, luxury hotels, and world-class diving. But, if shark diving is a high priority for you, then you should check out the big fish action on offer from Fuvahmulah Atoll.
As one of the southernmost atolls in the Maldives, Fuvahmulah is around 1,000 kilometers from the nearest major landfall, and it’s one of Asia’s best shark diving locations.
While silvertips, scalloped hammerheads, and whale sharks are all regularly sighted, the big draw for diving in Fuvahmulah is the tiger sharks. It’s said that the tigers are attracted by the oily fish blood from the daily fish market, and your chances of seeing one underwater are higher at Fuvahmulah than most any other place on the planet. Add in the fact that you can see a number of other shark species – threshers, grey reefs, hammerheads, silkys, and more – in the clear waters around the atoll, and you have one of the world’s best shark diving locations.
If the Maldives are already on your bucket list, make sure your destination is Fuvahmulah if sharks are on your dive agenda!
They say “no current, no shark”, but thankfully, neither currents nor sharks are in short supply in Komodo National Park, Indonesia. As a prime location in the midst of the Coral Triangle, Komodo is famed for its strong currents and healthy reefs. And one indicator of a healthy reef is the presence of apex predators, such as sharks.
Komodo is arguably Indonesia’s best shark diving location, and you can spot a few different species playing in the swirling currents, with white-tipped reef sharks, black-tipped reef sharks, bamboo sharks, and grey reef sharks all commonly encountered. And there have even been rare megamouth shark sightings in these rich waters.
As an excellent dive destination, with whale shark and manta ray sightings too, Komodo rarely disappoints. The surrounding reefs are healthy and there’s plenty to see besides the sharks and large rays. Komodo is also a great location for macro photographers to tick off bucket list critters, but if it’s the sharks you’re after, make sure you fit the correct lens to your camera before jumping in!
Related Post: Scuba Diving in Malapascua, Philippines
This small, idyllic island lies off the northern coast of Cebu, in the Visayas region of the Philippines. The local dive sites close to the island are a muck diver’s paradise, with countless frogfish and nudibranchs, but the most famous visitor to its dive sites is the thresher shark. Malapascua is the only place in the world where you can pretty much guarantee a thresher shark sighting, and you can also be rewarded by schools of hammerheads and white-tipped reef sharks.
But, it’s kind of all about the threshers; at least until you have that first sighting tucked away under your weight belt. The thresher shark dives from Malapascua take place at a dive site known as Monad Shoal – an underwater island around five miles offshore. This is definitely a dive for the early-risers! The threshers are deep-water sharks, and they have large eyes to compensate for the reduced light at depth.
They visit Monad Shoal early in the morning to take advantage of the cleaning stations to take care of their morning ablutions. But once the sun gets high in the sky, and it starts to get too bright for the sharks, they head back to the darkness of the depths.
So, you need to drag yourself out of bed very early in the morning, but the rewards are absolutely worth it. You may be asked to meet at the dive center as early as 4 am, and you reach the dive site as the sun is dawning over the horizon. But it is so worth it! The long tail swaying behind the thresher shark is an iconic sight, and you will forget all about the early start as soon as you see one circling the cleaning stations.
Spring is an excellent time to visit Malapascua, as this is also the best time for hammerheads in the region. Another early start sees you head out a little farther than Monad Shoal to another sunken island – Kimud Shoal. Much of this dive is spent floating in the blue away from the shoal’s walls, but when the school of hammers show up, it’s a dive you will not forget!
Often touted as the jewel of Asian dive locations, Sipadan is a special place. Located off the eastern coast of Borneo, the island, and some of its neighbors, have been attracting divers for a long time. A flight into Tawau airport and a short transfer by road will bring you to the port town of Semporna. Years ago, it was possible to stay on Sipadan Island, but to protect the marine life, this is no longer an option. You now have the choice of staying in Semporna or on the islands of Mabul or Kapalai.
If you are heading here with the idea of diving Sipadan, be aware that there are a limited number of dive permits available each day, so booking ahead is very important to avoid disappointment.
The small island of Sipadan is fringed with healthy corals and vibrant reefs, before the steep drop of the vertical walls drops to the ocean’s floor—around 600 meters below. If it’s sharks you are after, then Sipadan’s best known dive site should be able to deliver – Barracuda Point. The dive site features an 18m-deep sandy channel which catches the currents. The channel is a favorite resting place for white-tipped reef sharks, and a number of bigger, fatter grey reef sharks commonly patrol the reef’s edge and the walls. Sipadan is also a turtle hot spot, and they often get in your way when you are trying to admire the grey reefs along the edge of the walls.
While the white-tipped reef sharks and the grey reef are commonly encountered, you may also be lucky enough to get a surprise fly-by by a squadron of scalloped hammerheads! While there are regular sightings of the hammerheads, you still need luck on your side to be in the right place at the exact right moment. But you can give luck a hand by visiting at the best times for hammerhead sightings – November through February.
Layang Layang, Malaysia
The little-known island of Layang Layang sits 300 km north of Kota Kinabalu. This hard-to-reach destination is famed for its schooling hammerheads. April and May are considered to be the mating season for the hammerheads, and this is when you will have the highest chances of seeing them.
Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Are there any divers who have never heard of Raja Ampat? Sitting in the north-western corner of Papua, Raja Ampat has risen to become one of the most in-demand dive destinations on the planet. Its location, at the heart of the Coral Triangle, ensures its waters are very rich and its reefs extremely healthy. Add in a few sharks, and it’s no wonder it’s so popular. While the black- and white-tipped reef sharks are commonly spotted, it’s the walking Raja Epaulette shark that steals the headlines.
Banda Sea, Indonesia
The volcanic islands of the Banda Sea can be challenging to reach and challenging to dive. Best left to the more experienced divers, a trip across the Banda Sea by liveaboard offers the chance to glimpse large schools of hammerheads. As the seasons change, the liveaboards switch from Raja Ampat to Komodo, and these crossing trips are your best bet for encountering large numbers of hammerheads.
Our Final Thoughts
Sharks are some of the most graceful animals in the ocean, so they are much sought-out by divers. If you are planning your next dive trip and are keen to get into the water with these beautiful creatures, please remember that there are never any guarantees of a sighting. We still need some luck, but booking for the right time of year for the species and/or location can help turn the odds in your favor. Make sure your buoyancy control is good, your camera is fully charged, and you pay attention to the dive briefings. Remember that the sharks have been around a lot longer than us, and we’re just there to observe and take photos.
If you haven’t encountered a shark underwater, check our post with some of the most common questions when it comes to shark dives.
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