As the Northern Hemisphere heads into the depths of winter, several scuba diving seasons are just beginning around the Equator. In particular, the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador and the Similan Islands in Thailand are November dive destinations heading into their prime time for scuba diving. Additionally, several noteworthy marine life spectacles usually occur during the eleventh month of the year — including humpback whale mating rituals and parrotfish spawning.
Raring to go? Then, let’s dive into the top scuba diving destinations in November.
1. Similan Islands, Thailand
Thanks to a limited season, the Similan Islands offer some of the best liveaboard dive sites in the world. The best (and only) time to access these Thai islands is from November until April, when the water is calm and the weather is generally clear.
Two advantages of diving this time of year are the frequent plankton blooms and the abundant presence of cleaner wrasse. These attract manta rays and whale sharks as well as black and white-tipped reef sharks to sites like Koh Bon and Richelieu Rock. Despite the blooms, visibility remains high at an average of 82-92 ft. (25-30m).
In addition, the islands and rocky outcroppings in these waters are home to some of the most fascinating marine life in Thailand, including anemone fish, boxfish and parrotfish.
If you’re ready to explore Thailand by liveaboard, head to the Andaman Sea in November before the area becomes overly busy and season-opening deals are still available – there are great savings to be made! In fact, you’ll find the most budget-friendly liveaboards in the world here.
Editor’s Recommended Liveaboard: MV Bavaria
2. Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Located in the heart of the Coral Triangle, Raja Ampat has the highest recorded marine biodiversity in the world, making it one of the best areas to explore underwater. In addition to huge schools of fish, the region is well known for its colorful corals and macro critters. Here you might spot any number of rare species, such as wobbegong sharks, epaulette sharks, manta rays, bobtail squid, pygmy seahorses and whale sharks.
As you might guess, one of the best months to travel to Raja Ampat is November, but the diving season lasts from October to April. During these months, divers will face fewer rain showers and relatively smooth seas, making for a comfortable holiday. This time of year is also the best time for seeing manta rays in this part of Indonesia.
While it’s possible to dive from land, you will see far more of Raja Ampat’s 200 dive sites from a liveaboard as you are not limited to one region. For this reason, Indonesia is considered one of the best liveaboard destinations in the world.
Editor’s Recommended Liveaboard: KLM Manta Mae
3. Galapagos, Ecuador
Definitely a bucket list destination, November is a great month to dive in the Galapagos Islands. During this month, you might see whale sharks or find mola mola in these diverse waters. Other marine life, such as penguins and sea lions, is also more active due to colder sea temperatures.
June to December brings the dry season to Ecuador. With that comes colder temperatures above and below the surface. In the water, you’ll experience temperatures of 66 to 73°F (19 to 23°C) with some thermoclines. It might sound cold, but these are perfect conditions for almost all the best dive sites in the Galapagos.
If you’re ready to take the liveaboard holiday of your dreams in the Galapagos, November is a great month to consider for your trip.
Editor’s Recommended Liveaboard: Galapagos Master
A great all-around diving destination, Palau offers shark diving, wrecks and beautiful soft coral reefs. Heavy currents work to sweep in pelagic species, such as manta rays, reef sharks and sea turtles. Coral beds create habitat for large schools of fish and a plethora of macro species.
While you can dive Palau year round, November is a great time of year. This month falls within the peak season (October to April), and, most importantly, you can see parrotfish spawning for a few weeks of the month. Liveaboards generally feature special itineraries focused around the biological occurrence, so that divers can observe the dozens of parrotfish mating.
Visibility is fantastic, and water temperatures are extremely comfortable at around 81 to 86°F (27 to 30°C). Surface conditions might be slightly rough, but this won’t affect diving once under the surface.
To make the most of your liveaboard trip in Palau during November, a liveaboard is highly recommended. That way you can see all the best sites in one trip and enjoy the “eat, sleep, dive” vacation of your dreams.
Editor’s Recommended Liveaboard: Ocean Hunter III
5. Hawaii, USA
Hawaii is a fantastic diving destination which is accessible all year round. Whether you want to experience warmer temperatures during a cold winter or take advantage of great airfares during the summer months, you’ll always find something interesting beneath the surface near this archipelago. It is, after all, one of the best diving destinations in the world.
While we would recommend visiting the paradise of Hawaii during any month, this state is especially enchanting in November when the humpback whales begin to arrive. You cannot swim with the whales due to the protected status of their waters, but you will surely see these gentle giants splashing around in order to impress potential mates. The humpbacks are in the area from November until March.
In addition to humpbacks, a liveaboard journey in Kona will result in some epic, off-the-beaten-path dives. Plankton-rich water attracts loads of large marine life, including whale sharks, sea turtles, sharks and stingrays. Plus, the manta ray night dive is one of the most magnificent manta ray experiences to be found in the world.
Editor’s Recommended Dive Center: Jack’s Diving Locker
6. Cocos Island, Costa Rica
Cocos Island is about 550 kilometers (375 miles) off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. During the month of November, Cocos Island is known for having unbelievable encounters with marine life. The regular presence of hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, manta rays, eagle rays, mobulas, dolphins, and sea turtles will make dives here unforgettable. The visibility is great around this time of year, and water temperatures range from 75 to 84°F (24 to 29°C). There aren’t many colorful reefs or white sandy beaches. Instead, Cocos Island is a small volcanic island emerging from the ocean. It’s recommended for advanced divers only due to the unpredictability of the environment and depths of the dive sites.
Four dive sites worth checking out if you go include:
- Manuelita Island
- Bajo Alcyone
- Dirty Rock
- Dos Amigos
The only way to dive in Cocos Island is by booking a liveaboard. If you’re ready for an adventure of a lifetime, be sure to check out all bookable liveaboards on PADI Travel.
Editor’s Recommended Liveaboard: Sea Hunter
7. St. John’s, Egyptian Red Sea
St. John’s is a large reef system at the end of the Red Sea. This location is recommended by many divers, especially during the month of November. The reef system is absolutely breathtaking and loaded with marine life. Divers should expect to see sharks, mantas, dolphins, and plenty of colorful fish. November is a great time to see grey reef sharks during their mating season. St. John’s is also known for having brilliant swim throughs along the reef and wall dives, perfect for divers of all levels. Water temperatures range from 66-82°F (19 to 28°C). Occasionally, there are spots that are below 18 meters (60 feet), so to get the full experience, we recommend completing your PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course.
A liveaboard is truly the best way to see St. John’s. You can also explore different dive sites located in the southern Red Sea on a single itinerary, making for an unforgettable trip.
Editor’s Recommended Liveaboard: Red Sea Aggressor II
8. Tromsø, Norway
Yes, it may be winter time, and you may encounter freezing temperatures, but November is when the orca season in Tromsø really gets into full swing. A voyage aboard a liveaboard on Scandinavian waters will see you searching out and attempting to snorkel with pods of orcas that patrol the coastline at this time of year.
In addition to orcas, it’s possible to observe humpback whales during the winter months. Both of these marine mammals follow the large schools of herring migrating through the fjord. And whether you’re on a liveaboard or based on land, any trip to the northern regions of Norway during the winter months also offers a great chance of seeing the Northern Lights (also known as the Aurora Borealis).
Furthermore, if you do want to dive Norwegian waters, a liveaboard may offer experienced dry-suit divers the chance to dive in the evenings when the boat is in harbor. This, and their unbeatable mobility, is why these orca trips in Norway are best completed by liveaboard.
Editor’s Recommended Liveaboard: M/S Sula
9. Timor-Leste (East Timor)
If you’re looking for an outstanding dive destination that’s off the tourist trail, East Timor (or Timor-Leste) may be exactly what you’re searching for. Sitting northwest of Darwin, Australia and within the borders of the Coral Triangle, Asia’s newest country is a tropical paradise offering noteworthy biodiversity and pristine coral reefs.
East Timor’s prime diving season runs from May to November. Diving here generally involves comfortable water temperatures, great visibility and immaculate dive sites filled with colorful marine life and both hard and soft corals. Commonly encountered reef inhabitants include turtles, seahorses, nudibranchs and a wide range of reef fish.
However, what really sells November (and October) as the time to visit Timor-Leste is the chance to combine great diving with the best chance of spotting whales and dolphins. You might see sperm whales, pilot whales, dolphins, whale sharks, orcas and even dugongs. And if sharing the water with the largest animal to ever exist is on your bucket list, then East Timor could be your dream destination, as it’s one of the best (and only) places to swim with blue whales.
Editor’s Recommended Dive Center: Compass Diving
Explore the best scuba diving in November
If one of our top November dive destinations caught your attention, then the next step is to book your dive trip online or get in touch with the scuba diving experts at PADI Travel for more information.