While it is also possible to dive the Mediterranean coast of Egypt, the countries best diving attraction is the Red Sea. This gallery of images was taken in the northern section of the Red Sea, an area with wonderful coral reefs and spectacular shipwrecks. Famous dive sites in this area include The Brothers, Ras Mohamad, Salem Express, Carnatic, Ghiannis D and the legendary World War II shipwreck, the SS Thistlegorm.
Tulamben is a divers town on the northeast coast of Bali, where every resort and shop appears to cater for the hordes of divers that descend on the town everyday. Most come to dive the famous USAT Liberty shipwreck, but with some amazing muck sites most leave raving about the critters. Popular muck dives off Tulamben include Seraya Secrets, Petitsan and the Coral Gardens. At these sites divers will see frogfish, snake eels, octopus, ghostpipefish, nudibranchs and a multitude of other strange critters. Small critters are also found on the Liberty shipwreck, but also common as trevally, barracuda, sweetlips and bumphead parrotfish.
Most divers use Padangbai as a stepping-stone to get to Nusa Penida to encounter manta rays and mola mola. However, Padangbai also has a great variety of dive sites that shouldn't be overlooked. The reefs off Padangbai are a good mix of coral, rubble and muck, meaning lots of interesting critters, like harlequin shrimps, ribbon eels and even weedy scorpionfish. Popular dive sites include Blue Lagoon, The Jetty, Jepun and Bias Tugel. While manta rays and mola mola are the big attractions at Nusa Penida at Crystal Bay and Manta Point, divers will also find pretty coral reefs and a good collection of reef fish at sites like Gamat Bay and Sental.
Famous for its large turtle population, the Gili Islands are also a great place to see muck critters, schooling fish and even the odd shark. Located off the northwest coast of Lombok, the three Gili Islands - Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air - are a popular spot for backpackers and holiday makers escaping the more hectic Bali. Around the islands are numerous coral gardens and a few muck sites, with popular dive sites being Shark Point, Manta Point, Deep Turbo and Turtle Heaven. There is also an underwater sculpture garden at Meno Slope and a few wrecks to explore. The best muck diving is found on the nearby coast of Lombok at sites like Keeinan and Seahorse Bay.
Sekotong is one of those wonderful spots in Indonesia that hasn't been overrun by divers. Located off the Southwest coast of Lombok, and known locally as the Secret Gili Islands, Sekotong has a good mix of reef and muck sites that are overflowing with macro critters. Popular dive sites include Wills Beach, Nudie Slope, Gili Gelong and Kura Kura. Divers will see pygmy seahorses, pipefish, frogfish, mantis shrimps, nudibranchs, wonderpus and many other critters.
The muck diving capital of the world, Lembeh is the place to see all those weird and wonderful critters that underwater photographers dream of photographing. The Lembeh Straight is a picturesque body of water off the northeastern tip of Sulawesi. The straight has calm waters, a gentle tidal flow and black sandy beaches that are a haven for muck critters. There are dozens of amazing dive sites at Lembeh, with some of the more popular spots being Hairball, Retak Larry, Slow Poke, Nudi Retreat and Air Pang. All the prized muck critters are found here - frogfish, snake eels, cuttlefish, octopus, seahorses, pipefish, sea moths, stargazers and many many more.
Manado is the gateway to the incredible Bunaken Marine Park, and established in 1991 it was the first marine park in Indonesia. Located at the northern tip of Sulawesi, the marine park contains five islands that are fringed by beautiful coral reefs that drop into deep water. Popular reef dives include Lekuan 1, Siladen, Batu Kapal and Bualo. In the marine park turtles are very common, but divers will also see reef sharks, schooling fish and great collection of smaller reef fishes. The coast of Manado also has great muck diving at sites like Wori Bay, Tiwoho and Gabet, and also a World War II shipwreck, the Dutch cargo ship Molas.
Komodo has some of the richest waters in Indonesia, as the islands and reefs in this area are constantly washed by currents and upwellings. The currents, and sometimes cool waters, can make diving Komodo a challenge, but the rewards are incredible. A marine park, the reefs, pinnacles, walls and muck sites in the Komodo area offer amazing diving. Some of the most popular dive sites include Castle Rock, Crystal Rock, Batu Belong, Manta Point and Cannibal Rock. Divers will encounter manta rays, turtles, schooling fish, reef sharks and an abundance of smaller fishes and invertebrates.
There was a time when Maumere was one of the most popular dive destinations in Indonesia, but today few divers have even heard of this spot in Flores. This is unfortunate as off Maumere are some colourful reefs and some good muck sites. Popular reef dives are found at the nearby islands of Besar and Pamana Kecil and include Fishsoup, Pamana West, Happy Wall and The Channel. The muck sites are found along the coast east of Maumere and include Old Ankermi Muck, Wairterang Wreck and Wair Blerer.
Raja Ampat is recognised as being at the very heart of the Coral Triangle and has the richest reefs found anywhere in the world. Located of West Papua, Raja Ampat is an archipelago of over 1500 rocky islands, coral cays and coral reefs, and is home to hundreds of amazing dive sites. Some of the most famous dive sites of Raja Ampat include Melissa Garden, Blue Magic, Cape Kri, Arborkek Jetty and Manta Sandy. Beautiful corals, thick schools of fish, manta rays, epaulette sharks, wobbegongs, turtles and a smorgasbord of reef fish are just some of the marine life seen in Raja Ampat.
Located off the eastern tip of Sabah is Malaysia's most popular dive destination - Mabul and Sipadan. These two islands, and Kapalai between them, offer fantastic diving on coral gardens, walls, artificial reefs and muck. Sipadan is best known for its bigger marine life, like turtles, sharks and schooling fish, seen at dive sites like Barracuda Point, Turtle Patch and South Point. While smaller critters like frogfish, nudibranchs and seahorses are seen at Mabul and Kapalai at dive sites like Paradise One, Froggy Lair, Gurnard Ground and Crocodile Avenue.
There are a number dive destinations located on the eastern side of the Malay Peninsula, with Palau Perhentian one of the best. This cluster of rocky islands, close to the border with Thailand, has rocky reefs covered in corals, numerous shipwrecks covered in fish life and muck sites populated by strange critters. Popular wreck dives include the Sugar Wreck, The Barge and the Vietnamese Wreck. While some of the best reef dives include Batu Batu, Sea Bell and Tiger Rock. The best muck sites are Turf Club, Flea Market and Nudi Playground.
Located atop a 960km long submerged mountain range, the Maldives are a series of low-lying atolls that offer exceptional diving. The central atolls are the most popular destination, as close to the capital of Male they are the easiest area to explore. Currents are very common in the Maldives, and are the reason the rich variety of marine life divers will encounter. Sharks, manta rays, dolphins, turtles, moray eels, stingrays and schools of fish are just some of the marine you will see in this area.
More divers are certified in Koh Tao each year than any other place on the planet. And with so many learner divers descending on the rocky reefs of this small Thai island you expect the coral to be badly damaged, but in fact the coral is in quite good shape. Located in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Tao is fringed by rocky reefs, with popular dive sites being White Rock, Shark Island, Japanese Gardens and Hin Wong. There is also a great wreck dive, the former navy vessel HTMS Sattakut. But the areas best dive sites are two pinnacles - Sail Rock and Chumphon Pinnacle. Around Koh Tao divers will see everything from schooling fish to turtles, and even whale sharks at times.
Timor Leste is the newest and poorest country in Asia. The country only became a sovereign state in 2002, and since then it has struggled to find its way, but one of its great hopes is tourism. Diving is one of its main attractions as the nation is blessed with wonderful reefs and some excellent muck sites. Dili, the capital, has amazing dive sites, many of which are accessible from the shore. Popular sites include Tasi Tolu, Dili Rock West, K41 and Bubble Beach. At these sites divers will see everything from frogfish to pygmy seahorses. From Dili day trips are also possible to Atauro Island to explore colourful walls at sites like Big Fish, Manta Cove and Shark Fin.
Stage tuned for more images as Nigel Marsh Photography explores more of the dive sites of the Indian Ocean.