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As we head into February, there are underwater highlights to enjoy all over the world, especially for marine megafauna fans. It is a great month to dive some of the world’s manta, shark, and whale hotspots, or escape to classic winter sunshine destinations. Looking for a dive trip with a difference? Chile, India and New Zealand offer world-class diving well off the beaten path. Read on to find out more and start planning your next dive trip.
Chile might be less well-known than other dive destinations but it has a great array of dive opportunities along its extensive coastline and further offshore. From now until March is a perfect time to explore this fascinating country.
Visiting the Polynesian island of Rapa Nui, or Easter Island, is one of the top highlights of diving in Chile. This bucket-list destination is so isolated from humans that the water visibility reaches up to 60 meters.
Unlike other Pacific dive destinations, fish life is not that abundant at Rapa Nui, but there are numerous healthy corals that make up for it. Look closely and you can also spot scorpionfish, eels, puffer and boxfish hiding in the shadows.
Adventurous divers will find endless opportunities to dive along Chile’s Pacific coastline, and you can go freshwater high-altitude diving along the Andes Mountains.
Take a trip to Chile’s most southern region, Punta Arenas, to go diving with pods of whales, dolphins, sea lions and penguins. There are also around 140 well-preserved wrecks to dive there.
For easy-going dives, plenty of sunshine, and calm seas, it is hard to beat Thailand at this time of year. The surface conditions in February are ideal for diving and it is the start of the whale shark season at the Similan Islands.
The Andaman Sea is dotted with islands and is best explored by liveaboard, so you can visit each island group and avoid any day-boat crowds.
Start with the Surin Islands. They offer peaceful diving among shallow coral gardens and sandy slopes, with passing sea turtles and plenty of reef fish.
At the Similan Islands, you will find colourful coral reefs teeming with fish and critters, plus diverse underwater landscapes swathed in corals. But the best diving is to be found at Richelieu Rock.
This isolated underwater pinnacle is covered in vibrant soft corals and jewel anemones and surrounded by swirling schools of fish at almost every depth.
There are hundreds of species of fish and critters, including huge scorpionfish, and visiting whale sharks. It is no wonder divers from around the world rate Richelieu Rock as one of Thailand’s top dives.
READ MORE: DIVING IN THAILAND – 15 UNMISSABLE DIVES.
To experience Indonesia diving at its finest, take a trip to the Komodo National Park. Whilst it is still the rainy season, now is the time to visit for encounters with numerous manta rays.
One of the most famous dive destinations in the world, the Komodo National Park is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It offers a blend of striking landscapes and turquoise waters teeming with life, plus Komodo dragons and a rare pink sand beach.
With numerous liveaboards to choose from, you can explore this idyllic destination for 3 to 10+ days. However long you spend there, your days will be filled with world-class diving among pristine reefs busy with schooling fish and critters. Sea turtles, mantas and dolphins are all commonly seen there.
With its white-sand beaches and tropical islands, India is a picture-perfect dive destination that few people know about. There are isolated coral reefs, shipwrecks, pinnacles, and remote atolls that host a vast array of Indian Ocean marine life.
The Andaman Islands are India’s best-known diving hotspot. Sitting in the Bay of Bengal, these gorgeous islands have untouched coral reefs that are perfect for reef and macro diving. The islands are surrounded by bright blue waters and host fascinating marine life and birdlife.
Lakshadweep has 36 atolls with reefs and calm lagoons full of life, including numerous sea turtles. Bangaram Atoll is surrounded by coral reefs and hosts Princess Royal, a famous 200-year-old shipwreck you can dive.
If you are a new diver, Netrani Island could be the right dive destination for you. With almost zero currents at Netrani’s dive sites, it is a peaceful destination to get your dive license or practice your dive skills among thriving coral reefs.
DISCOVER MORE FEATURED PLACES TO GO DIVING IN INDIA.
The Ningaloo Coast is recognised as one of the most important sea turtle nesting habitats in the world for green and loggerhead turtles. From November to March, this dive destination hosts breeding sea turtles and their tiny hatchlings.
As well as sea turtles, Ningaloo Reef supports over 500 fish species, plus hundreds of coral and critter species. Manta rays can be seen there all year and hundreds of whale sharks congregate at Ningaloo Reef from March to June each year.
The only tricky part is deciding when to visit to make the most of all these epic marine life possibilities.
If you are a new diver who loves sharks, visit Tiger Beach in the Bahamas. This easy dive spot has calm conditions and shallow shark dives with curious tiger sharks, Caribbean reef sharks, lemon sharks and more.
You simply kneel on the sandy bottom at around 8m depth and watch the sharks pass by. Now is the time to visit for peak shark season.
READ MORE: 9 IDYLLIC DIVE DESTINATIONS FOR NEW DIVERS.
Migratory whales started to arrive in Baja California in December and remain there through to April. If you want to get up close to these amazing animals, go Baja California diving.
You can meet Baja’s famously-friendly grey whales, encounter blue whales, sperm whales, and humpback whales.
As well as whales, Baja has a wide range of dive destinations to choose from year-round. With La Paz, Cabo San Lucas, the Socorro Islands and Guadalupe on the doorstep, you will be spoilt for choice diving in Mexicoat any time of year.
READ MORE: MEXICO’S BEST DIVING PART 1 – THE SOCORRO ISLANDS.
Sitting off the coast of Northland, New Zealand, the Poor Knights Islands are well-known for being one of the world’s top 10 dives. These unique islands are washed by warm-water currents that have created a subtropical ecosystem bursting with diverse life.
The sheer rocky islands above water give no hint of what lies below. Dive in and you will enter a world of technicolor nudibranchs and vibrant jewel anemones – they cover every surface.
There are diverse rocky landscapes to explore, with encrusting sponges and gorgonian fans, and surrounded by huge schools of fish.
Dotted with sunlit kelp forests as well, it’s a great dive spot for underwater photography. In summer, these amazing islands also host numerous mating stingrays.
As New Zealand begins to open its doors to international tourists in 2022, it is time to plan a trip there. Whatever time of year you visit, diving in New Zealand is incredible.