Southeast Asia Liveaboard Diving
Southeast Asia offers some of the best diving destinations in the world for marine biodiversity, thanks to its waters surrounding much of the Coral Triangle or ‘Amazon of the seas’. Southeast Asia liveaboards can take you to explore UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the famous Komodo National Park and remote Tubbataha National Park, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Come face to face with Komodo dragons and dive in to experience manta rays, whale sharks, turtles and exceptional macro diving. Southeast Asia is paradise for megafauna and macro diving.
There is something for all experience levels in Southeast Asia, from easy dives to remote adventurous diving at Myanmar’s Burma Banks and Thailand’s Similan Islands. Don’t miss Richelieu Rock, the pelagic capital of Thailand, and thresher shark diving at Malapascua.
Padar Island, Komodo, Indonesia
Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago, is a premier scuba diving destination with more than 2000 species of fish and 500 species of coral; providing something for every diver to enjoy. Komodo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers encounters with the legendary Komodo dragon, plus dugongs, mantas, sharks, whales, turtles and numerous macro critters. Raja Ampat has arguably the world’s most biodiverse dive sites, with reefs teeming with life below jungle-clad islands. There are numerous sharks at Raja Ampat, including whitetip and blacktip reef sharks, the famous ‘Walking Sharks’ of Raja Ampat, and wobbegong sharks. Macro lovers will be mesmerised by numerous critters and small reef fish at Misool Island, whilst Cenderawasih Bay offers close encounters with whale sharks.
May to September is the best time to dive Indonesia, though the dive season runs all year. Most Raja Ampat liveaboards run from October to April, whereas Komodo is popular during May to October. Water temperatures range from 20 to 28 °C (68 to 82 °F).
Indonesia liveaboards have something for all dive experience levels, with some areas such as Komodo requiring advanced dive skills. Most Komodo and Raja Ampat dive safaris last from 8 to 12 days. There are a variety of Indonesia liveaboard vessels to choose from, including traditional Indonesian phinisi boats with rich wood interiors and cosy rooms. Budgets for Komodo and Raja Ampat liveaboards range from around 200 to 500 euros per day.
Thailand is another jewel in the crown of South East Asia’s dive destinations and offers numerous popular dive sites suitable for new divers, plus two unmissable Thailand liveaboard dive destinations; the Similan Islands and Richelieu Rock. The Similan Islands are ranked as one of the best dive destinations in the world and offer adventurous dives in the Andaman Sea. You can explore enormous boulders, caves, reefs and passages with over 500 coral species. Head to the east coast to enjoy exceptional visibility and easier dives or go west to experience the thrill of strong current diving. Either way, you’ll be greeted by abundant marine life from zebra sharks, guitar rays and reef sharks through to scorpionfish, ghost pipefish and numerous other macro critters. Richelieu Rock is the pelagic capital of Thailand and this remote limestone pinnacle hosts whale sharks, mantas, and barracuda, as well as Richelieu’s famous purple soft corals and sea fans.
Thailand can be dived all year, with the Gulf of Thailand peak season running from May to September and the Andaman Sea season running from October to April/May. Richelieu Rock can only be dived during October to May and the Similan Islands can only be dived from November to May. The water temperature ranges from 28 to 30 °C (82 to 86 °F).
Thailand is one of the safest diving locations, with plenty of dive sites for inexperienced divers. Richelieu Rock and the Similan Islands are more suited to experienced divers. Thailand liveaboard safaris run from 3 to 8 days and boats are usually M/V or S/V diving yachts. Budgets range from 150 to over 400 euros per night.
Myanmar liveaboards provide the chance to explore untouched dive sites and cruise a region that few other people have visited. The Mergui Archipelago has over 800 uninhabited islands and white-sand beaches waiting to be discovered. Dive highlights include wall and drift diving, flat-topped sea-mounts, and species-rich coral reefs with colourful anemone beds and numerous reef sharks. This archipelago is also visited by mantas and whale sharks. Burma Banks is visited less frequently and has unique underwater landscapes, including sea-mounts plunging into the depths with table corals, black corals, reef fish, octopi and many species of sharks.
The Myanmar liveaboard season runs from October to May, with the best conditions in the Mergui Archipelago from December to April. Water temperatures vary from 26 to 30 °C (79 to 86 °F).
Some of Myanmar’s dive sites are deep and remote, with strong currents, so scuba divers need to be relatively experienced to dive there. Myanmar liveaboard safaris run from 5 to 8 days and vessels include M/V diving yachts and phinisi boats. Budgets range from 120 euros per night upwards.
Philippines liveaboards visit a variety of world-class dive sites among some of the Philippines 7000 islands. Malapascua in the Visayas is all about diving with thresher sharks at Monad Shoal, whilst Kimud Shoal is not to be missed for diving with schools of up to 200 hammerhead sharks. The Visayas also offer diving with huge schools of sardines at Moalboal, diverse muck diving critters at Dauin and more. The Tubbataha National Park, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, lives up to its titles and offers truly remote diving with few boats and plenty of marine life. It is perfect for shark fans and macro divers alike.
Malapascua is best dived from October to March but can be dived all year. The Visayas can also be dived all year, whilst Tubbataha’s dive reason runs from March to June only. Water temperatures vary from 23 to 30 °C (73 to 86 °F).
Philippines liveaboards offer diving suitable for all experience levels, with operators typically requiring Open Water certification and zero to 40 logged dives. Some dive sites are for experienced divers only. Philippines liveaboard safaris run from 6 to 11+ nights and vessels include M/V yachts and refurbished merchant-vessels. Budgets range from around 250 to over 500 euros per night.
More Liveaboard Trips in Southeast Asia
- Experience Thailand’s highest coral diversity in the Surin Islands
- Drift along ridges and canyons as you discover Lembeh Strait’s wacky critters
- Travel back in time to the Forgotten Islands, for unexplored and pristine Indonesian dives
- Dive at the famously colourful Liberty shipwreck
- Marvel at the Philippines’ conservation success and incredible fish life of Apo Island
- Explore the numerous World War II wrecks and shallow seas of Coron Bay
Tips for Travellers
There are Southeast Asia liveaboard safaris all year, making it a great destination to visit at your convenience. English is not the main language of Southeast Asian countries but is spoken widely at some destinations and within the tourism industry.
Official currencies in Southeast Asia vary between countries. The US dollar is accepted but it can cost more to use US dollars than to pay with the local currency. ATMs are available, especially in major cities. It's worth bringing some US dollars with you, preferably in smaller notes, as they can be useful if you're stranded without access to an ATM.
Please check your chosen destination for additional Southeast Asia liveaboard fees, such as Marine Park Fees and dive gear rental.
It is advised to contact your doctor 8 weeks before your dive trip to see if you will need any vaccinations or medications. We strongly advise that you arrange comprehensive travel and diver insurance.
Electricity and sockets vary with Southeast Asia destinations and it is best to bring your own plug adapter kits to suit a variety of sockets. The main type of socket used in Indonesia is Type C, with a voltage of 220V/50Hz. Thailand uses Types A, B and C with a 220V/50Hz voltage. The Philippines also uses Types A, B and C but with a 220V/60Hz voltage. Myanmar uses Types C, D, F and G with a voltage of 230V/50Hz.
Ports of Departure and How to Get There
Indonesia liveaboards often depart from Bali for liveaboard diving Komodo, at Benoa on the south of the island. International flights depart regularly to Bali. The port of Sorong, in the province of West Papua, is a major departure point for Raja Ampat liveaboards and Ambon liveaboards. Domestic flights to Sorong depart from Jakarta, Manado, Makassar and Ambon.
Thailand liveaboards often depart from Khao Lak or Phuket. It is easy to reach Phuket with a short 1-hour flight from Bangkok or by direct international flight. Khao Lak can be reached easily by car or bus from Phuket.
Myanmar liveaboard trips usually begin in Thailand, departing from Ranong. Bangkok Airways offers direct flights from Bangkok to Ranong. You can take a taxi from Ranong Airport to the port of departure.
Philippines liveaboards to the Visayas usually depart from Cebu City, which is easily reached with a 1.5-hour flight from Manila. Cebu City International Airport receives direct flights from Southeast Asian hubs. Puerto Princesa is the departure point for most Tubbataha liveaboards, and flights arrive there regularly from Manila and Cebu City.