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The January blues can hit us hard after the festive period is over, and many of us are left dreaming of warm sunshine and clear blue waters. Thankfully, locations across the globe have excellent conditions for diving. In this article, we look at the destinations that offer the best diving in January, including water temperatures, expected marine life, travel tips, and more.
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is world-famous, and for good reason. The reef stretches over 2500 kilometers (1553 miles) along the east coast of the country from just north of Bundaberg up to the waters at the southern end of Papua New Guinea.
Incredible marine biodiversity makes the Great Barrier Reef a divers delight and offers some of the best diving in January. There are hundreds of species of coral, thousands of fish species, whales, and multiple sea turtle species. You can also swim with dolphins there.
Water temperatures can range from 21-30 °C (70-85 °F) depending on location, so check with the dive center you are using to see what wetsuit they recommend for the conditions.
Diving is typically conducted in depths of around 20 meters (70 feet) or shallower, although some sites may offer deeper dives if you are experienced enough and appropriately certified. Open Water Diver and Advanced Diver certifications are ideal for Great Barrier Reef diving.
Getting there: Flying into Brisbane or Cairns allows easy access to the Great Barrier Reef, and there are multiple domestic flights available within Australia.
Top attractions: While you are there, check out the incredible history of Australia’s Aboriginal people, who have made this harsh land their home for over 50,000 years. The unique land wildlife of Australia is also a draw for many tourists and the kangaroos, koalas, kookaburras, and crocodiles are fascinating to see and learn about.
This world-renowned chain of islands in the Indian Ocean is a marine lover’s dream, with shallow fringing reefs, steep drop-offs, and many highly sought-after marine species including manta rays, whale sharks, and thresher sharks.
The combination of high-end accommodation or a resort combined with excellent scuba opportunities makes the Maldives ideal for divers and non-divers alike. With dry, sunny days and idyllic beaches, the Maldives not only has some of the best diving in January, but it is an excellent choice for a luxurious getaway.
Open Water Diver or advanced certifications are ideal for diving in the Maldives, but some sites are known for stronger currents - please speak to your dive operator regarding your experience level when you arrive.
Water temperatures are warm year round (26-29 °C / 80-85 °F) so thin wetsuits or rash guards may be all that are required for your trip.
Getting there: All travel into the Maldives starts at Male International Airport, and then depending on where you are staying, it will be a boat or even plane ride to the island or atoll you are staying at. Male is served by multiple international flights a day, so finding options is very easy.
Top attractions: Make sure you soak up the excellent food in the Maldives with influences from Africa, India and Sri Lanka. Tasty dishes are common and sharing these on a relaxing sunset trip aboard a traditional boat is a perfect end to any diving day.
The Red Sea was one of Jacque Cousteau’s favorite places to dive and it is easy to see why. Reefs teeming with life are just meters from the shore, with vibrant corals and a diverse array of aquarium-like fish.
You can swim with dugongs, guitarfish, and many endemic species, making diving in Egypt a top choice for European divers searching for the best diving in January.
There are many options for diving in Egypt, including Marsa Alam, Hurghada, Sharm el Sheikh and Dahab. Simply choose an area with the right budget and vibe for you and enjoy! That said, all divers should visit Sharm el Sheikh to dive the famous Shark & Yolanda Reef at the Ras Mohammed National Park and the incredible wreck of the SS Thistlegorm.
Many liveaboards in Egypt visit the southern Red Sea, which has some of Egypt’s best and most remote dive sites.
January water temperatures here are a little cooler at 21-24 °C (70-75 °F) degrees, so 5mm wetsuits are the best choice for divers. Deep diving and wreck diving certifications are useful to allow you to enjoy all the excellent diving the Red Sea has to offer.
Getting there: Flights are typically into Sharm el Sheikh, but you can also land at other locations.
Top attractions: After enjoying the diving, the incredibly rich history of Egypt and the surrounding countries is well worth exploring. The Cairo Museum holds many of ancient Egypt’s most priceless artefacts. Valley of the Kings near Luxor also has world-recognized structures built by the Egyptian and visiting Petra in Jordan is also very popular.
Tucked away in the Pacific Ocean, Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands are famous for their incredibly diverse and unique wildlife both in and out of the water. Charles Darwin based his Origin of Species hypothesis on the Galapagos finches he studied there on his famous mission aboard the HMS Beagle.
Galapagos scuba diving is world-class and many divers visit to dive with hammerhead sharks, sea lions, marine iguanas, penguins, and to dive with whale sharks.
January is the Galapagos Islands’ warm and rainy season, but although the topside conditions may be a bit choppy and rainy, the visibility can be excellent. Water temperatures ranging from 20-25 °C (68-77 °F) mean that 5-7 mm wetsuits are essential. Hoods are always recommended to stay warm in waters like this.
Getting there: Flying into Quito is relatively easy and transfers to the islands can be done either via boat or short flights. The biosecurity laws in Galapagos are strict, with severe penalties, so please research them to protect this fragile ecosystem and prevent difficulties on arrival.
Top attractions: Take time to visit the Galapagos giant tortoises, which are some of the oldest animals on the planet.
Raja Ampat is well known for being a marine biodiversity hotspot and has the highest numbers of both coral and fish species anywhere on the planet. It is understandably one of the most popular places to go diving in Indonesia and offers some of the best diving in January for manta fans.
Manta ray dives, sharks, huge schools of fish, turtles, dolphins, vibrant corals, and diverse macro life await when you go diving in Raja Ampat. Low human population has resulted in reduced fishing pressure on this region and the abundance and diversity of life is a testament to how the natural world can thrive if it is given a chance.
January is within the rainy season but visibility in the area remains clear, with the majority of diving conducted in shallow waters 23 meters (75 feet) or less. January sees warm water conditions at 25-29 °C (77-85 °F), so only thin 2-3 mm wetsuits are required. As with all tropical locations, there is the possibility of stinging organisms, so rash guards or dive skins are recommended for protection.
Getting there: The most common route to Raja Ampat is flying into Indonesia via Jakarta and then taking a small domestic flight to Sorong. Joining a Raja Ampat liveaboard from Sorong will allow you to witness some of the magic of this incredible location.
Top attractions: Explore some of the hikes on some of the small islands for postcard views of the mind-blowing scenery in the region. Also, be sure to invest in some photographic equipment to capture your adventures.
Located south of Cuba and west of Jamaica, the Cayman Islands are a well-known and much-loved Caribbean diving destination. With crystal-clear blue waters, excellent marine life, and easy access, it is easy to see why.
Shipwrecks, walls, swim-throughs, corals, sponges, and sea fans combined with sharks, turtles and excellent macro life, mean the Cayman Islands not only offer some of the best diving in January - but there is something for all diver preferences as well.
Water visibility is excellent, at 30-40 meters (100-130 feet), and the winter water temperatures hover around 26 °C (80 °F). A 2-3 mm wetsuit will suffice whilst diving. The Cayman Islands have diving for all experience levels, but with many deep dives, it is useful to have advanced certifications to make the most of the incredible diving there.
Getting there: TheCayman Islands are easily accessed from North America, with direct flights from many hubs including Miami, New York, LA, Chicago, and Houston.
Top attractions: This is a very developed destination with some world-class dining opportunities, gorgeous beaches, and excellent additional activities. At the Queen Elizabeth Botanical Gardens, you can see the endemic and critically endangered blue iguana. No trip to the Cayman Islands would be complete without meeting the friendly stingrays of Stingray City.