23 BIG Fish You Must Dive With In Your Lifetime

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The types of dives you can do as an certified diver are diverse and exciting in many different ways. Diving with nature’s giants however can bring forth an adrenalin not found on your average run-of-the-mill dive and brings a whole new set of adventure combined with unique challenges.

Diving with large fish and other underwater creatures is generally limited to either certain parts of the world or further out in the ocean. You certainly wont be swimming with a killer whale in sunny Brisbane for instance. For these dives you’ll often have to look abroad and make it a key aspect of your next holiday, if not the main purpose.

For those of us who would like to dive with large fish atleast once in their lifetime I’ve given you a start to your bucket list below. I’ve chosen 23 that are high on my list to dive with over the next couple of years, although there are many other large and unique creatures out there to swim with.

**And yes, I’m using the word fish liberally here**

 

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The view from above the water is peaceful and calm, but dip your head below and prepare to get your adrenalin pumping.

Here are 23 giant creatures to dive with…

 

 1. The Whale Shark

Scub diving blog

Bigstockphoto.com – (left) BlueOrange, (right) macsim

 

There are a few places in the world that give you the specific opportunity to snorkel or dive with these giant creatures. Many of these tours will not allow you to dive (offering only snorkelling tours) with them however there are some areas where you may have a good chance of encountering whale sharks when diving such as Ningaloo Reef in Australia, Utila in Honduras, Isla Holbox in Mexico (snorkelling), Tofo Beach in Mozambique, as well as a few spots in Thailand, the Philippines and the Maldives.

Despite being undeniably large, whale sharks are peaceful and feed off small ocean plankton (aka: they won’t eat you). The most important thing to remember however is not to touch these creatures as you can do a lot of unexpected harm to them.

Where can you dive with Whalesharks?:

  • Ningaloo Reef – Australia,
  • Darwins arch – Galapagos,
  • Oslob – Philippines,
  • Mafia Island – Tanzania,
  • Placencia – Belize,
  • Sun Island – the Maldives,
  • Tofo Beach – Mozambique

 

 

 2. Great White Shark

bigstockphoto.com/ SURZ

 

How would you feel about dipping into the water with one of the most feared creatures in the ocean?

There are many locations around the world that allow you to lock your self into a cage plunged into the ocean while you’re circled by the proclaimed predators of the sea. If cage diving with great white sharks is high on your list you’ll want to visit Australia, Mexico or South Africa.

Where can you dive with Great White sharks?:

  • Port Lincoln – South Australia
  • Cape Town – South Africa
  • Isla de Guadalupe, Mexico
  • Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, USA
  • Stewart Island, New Zealand

 

 

 3. Hammerhead Sharks

nicolasvoisin44 / bigstockphoto.com

Bigstockphoto.com / hakbak

 

While hammer heads may not be the biggest thing you’ll spot in the deep one of their appeals is that they are often spotted in groups. Imagine looking up and seeing 10,20 or even more hammerheads swim by effortlessly above your head.

Popular spots for diving with hammerheads include the Galapagas Islands, the Cocos Island in Costa Rica and Palau in Micronesia.

Where can you dive with hammerhead sharks?:

  • Cocos Island, Costa Rica
  • San Salvador, Bahamas
  • Yonaguni, Japan
  • Zavora, Mozambique
  • Protea Banks, South Africa
  • Rangiroa, Tahiti
  • Layang Layang, Malaysia

 

 

 4. Killer Whales

EhayDy / bigstockphoto.com

bigstockphoto.com: (left) Aliaksei Skreidzeleu, (right) Sandigail

 

For some diving or snorkeling with killer whales may incite more fear than diving with great white sharks, I mean they do have the word “killer” as part of their name. Luckily for us killer whales are not named after their human killing abilities.

There are very few places in the world where you can dive with killer whales but your best bet is in Norway. Some companies take divers, others just allow snorkeling or free diving.

Where can you dive with killer whales?:

  • A few places in Norway run specialty Orca snorkeling and diving tours
  • Tutukaka, New Zealand – possibility of sightings.

 

 

 5. Giant Manta Rays

 desant7474 / bigstockphoto.com

bigstockphoto.com / (left) desant7474, (right) divedog

 

I don’t know about you but anything with the word Ray in the name is a no go for me. I could put it down to their spiky tail or to the fact that Steve Irwin was killed by one (I’m Australian, he’s like our national mascot) but if a ray comes in my direction I’m swimming the other way.

However some of you may be interested in swimming with these fascinating creatures. While rays are some of the more common underwater creatures you see on dives a giant one would be a massive treat (for you, not me).

You have a better chance of spotting giant manta rays in certain parts of the world so set your compasses and follow the wind to the Maldives, Galapagos or test your luck in seeing a giant at common manta ray dive spots around the world.

Where can you dive with manta rays?:

  • Lady Elliot Island, Australia
  • Kona, Hawaii
  • Yap, Micronesia
  • the Galapagos
  • Socorro Island, Mexico
  • Similian Islands, Thailand

 

 

 6. Crocodiles

Nataly Reinch / bigstockphoto.com

 

Why cage dive with crocodiles?

Well it just may make you appreciate your life a little more.

What do you think, could you jump into a see through cage and not pee yourself while a menacing looking reptile circles you like you’re his lunch order?

The best place to cage dive with a crocodile would have to be Australia however you can apparently dive sans cage in Mexico with smaller (American) crocs.

Where can you do a crocodile cage dive?

  • Darwin, Australia

 

 

 7. Sunfish

bigstockphoto.com/ Manuelteles

bigstockphoto.com/ (left) DJMattaar, (right) Manuelteles

 

Also known as Mola Mola, Sunfish are peculiar looking things and are most popularly known as the heaviest bony fish in the ocean. These enchanting weirdos often weigh up to 1000 kilograms (and you thought you got fat after christmas) and feast on copious amounts of jellyfish to retain their figures.

Some places to dive with sunfish include Palau Sardinia in Italy, Bali in Indonesia, and Oban in the United Kingdom.

Where can you dive with sunfish?

  • Nusa Penida, Indonesia
  • Galapagos Islands
  • Alboran Sea, Spain
  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Inner Hebrides, UK

 

 

 8. Whales

bigstockphoto.com/Melissaf84

bigphotostock.com: (left) Rich Carey / (right) jacojvr

 

While not all places offer scuba diving with whales, there are a few places in the world where you’re allowed to do so. Tonga is one of the more well known places where you can swim with whales on their annual migration, with specific tours made just for (hopefully) seeing whales.

There are a few other places where you have the possibility of seeing whales but they’re occurrences aren’t overly common. Certain dive sites in the Bahamas, South Africa and Australia also have possibilities of sightings.

If these places are way out of your budget don’t stress, there are plenty of places that let you snorkel with whales too.

Where can you dive with whales?:

**Most of these places will only let you swim with whales, and those that dive can’t make guarentees you’ll see whales**

  • Mooloolaba & Hervey Bay, Austalia
  • Tonga
  • Algoa Bay, South Africa
  • Alor Island, Indonesia
  • Cat Island, Bahamas
  • Eleuthera, Bahamas
  • the Galapagos Islands

 

 

 9. Dolphins

bigstockphoto.com/ Willyam Bradberry

bigstockphoto.com: (left) neirfy / (right) Sergey Furtaev

 

There are a number of places in the world where you can dive with dolphins, however much like with whales, you’re never guaranteed a sighting. Dolphins are fast moving and frequent many different parts of the world.

Diving with dolphins would be a highlight for a dive trip as they are playful, peaceful creatures who don’t mind being around humans. Unlike smaller fish they can traveler greater distances faster so you could get anywhere between a couple of seconds to almost an hour with them, depending on how they feel.

Where can you dive with dolphins?: 

  • Ari Atoll, Maldives
  • Hurghada, Egypt
  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  • Koh Samui, Thailand

 

 

 10. Manatees

bigstockphoto.com / wrangel

bigstockphoto.com: (left) bashta, (right) Phojo-Frog

 

Manatees are one of my favorite creatures to share the ocean with. While I’m yet to dive with them, I have been lucky enough to briefly snorkel with them in the past.

I always find it hard to describe manatees – think of a peaceful creature that kind of looks like a grey potato. They’re also often referred to as sea cows, and are aquatically related to elephants.

Despite their large appearance manatees are not known to hurt humans and are slow, gentle moving creatures.

Where can you dive with manatees?:

  • Okinawa, Japan
  • West Palm Beach, USA
  • Tulum, Mexico
  • Sapodilla Caye, Belize
  • Crystal River USA

 

 

 11. Potato Cod

bigstockphoto.com / StrangerView

 

Also known as the Potato Grouper, this massive fish resides in my home state Queensland and frequents one of Queensland most famous dive spots, Cod Hole. While their size may be intimidating, and the fact that they’ll often come straight up to you, these a peaceful friendly fish hoping you’ll spare them some fish food.

Where can you dive with potato cod?:

  • Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  • Lizard Island, Australia

 

 

12. Sea Lions & Seals

bigstockphoto.com /  NaniP

bigstockphoto.com: (left) Divepics / (right) pxhidalgo

 

Is there anything cuter than a sea lion pup with its big eyes staring up at you?

There are certain places in the world where you can dive with sea lions, seals, and even both of them at the same time. There are also plenty of places that will let your snorkel with them too so it would be a good holiday to bring your non-diving friends and family too.

While seals and sea lions are not known to attack divers, a few rare incidents have happened in the past. As with all wild animals, never approach them in an intimidating way and try to keep a safe distance.

Where can you dive with sea lions & seals?: 

  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • Galapagos Islands
  • Guadalupe, Mexico
  • Farne Islands & Northumberland, UK
  • Perth, Australia
  • British Columbia
  • Port Lincoln, Australia
  • Marlborough Sound, New Zealand

 

 

13. Beluga Whales

bigstockphoto.com / DejaVuDesigns

bigstockphoto.com: (left) MilesAwayPhotography, (right) Wollwerth Imagery

 

Have you ever seen a happier looking creature than the Beluga Whale?

With their unique white color, Beluga whales easily stand out from their other whale counterparts. Their white skin serves as a camouflage as the whales are often spotted in artic waters, this is to help them avoid becoming prey to killer whales which are one of their natural predators.

Beluga whales are most prolific and accessible in Canadian waters hence Churchill, Canada is your best best to spot one when going on a dive. They can travel in pods of up to a hundred so if you see one there is likely a couple of others around the corner.

Where can you dive with beluga whales?:

  • Churchill, Canada

 

14. Turtles

bigstockphoto.com / Davdeka

bigstockphoto.com: (left) Longjourneys, (right) IAM_photography

 

Turtles are often spotted by divers in quite a few diver spots, however there are some places where they congregate more than others. These graceful creatures range in size, and I personally have been able to dive with a few in my time.

The biggest one I’ve ever seen was in Pigeon Island in Sri Lanka, however that was while snorkeling and only 4 of us in the group stumbled upon it. So you have to keep your eyes open and be in the right place at the right time.

While its always great to spot something unexpected, if you want the best chance of a sighting there are a few places that are well known for turtles such as Sipadan (Malaysia) and Apo Reef (Philippines).

Where can you dive with turtles?:

  • Pigeon Island, Sri Lanka
  • Hurhada, Egypt
  • Koh Samui, Thailand
  • Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  • Perhentian Islands, Malaysia
  • Sipadan Island, Malaysia
  • Apo Reef, Philippines
  • The list could go on, and on..

 

 

15. Sting Rays

bigstockphoto.com: (left) Sergey Novikov / (right) BlueOrange Studio

 

Sting rays are carnivores which can live up to 25 years in the wild. They’re also a nice transition into the bigger rays which hang out in the open ocean. You’ll find stingrays on the ocean floor, sometimes hidden in the sandy bottom.

The cool thing about Stingrays is that they actually have no bones in their bodies, instead they have a type of cartilage. They also prefer to travel alone but will come together with other stingrays during mating season.

Where can you dive with sting rays?

  • Stingray city, Grand Cayman
  • Gisbourne, New Zealand
  • Lady Elliot Island, Australia
  • They are a common spot on dives elsewhere as well

 

 

 

16. Bill Fish: Sailfish, Swordfish and Marlins

bigstockphoto.com / holbox

 

Bill Fish is a term that encompasses Sailfish, Swordfish and Marlins. Theyare often identified by their long spines on their faces. These fish are predominantly known to sport fisherman however you can also dive with these giant fish.

Fairly obvious side note, try to avoid diving with them if they’re being fished in the same area. There have been a few cases of them attacking divers if they’re hooked as they lash out at the thing closest to them.

Where to dive with billfish?

  • Isla Mujeres, Mexico (Sailfish)

 

 

 17. Sardine Run

bigstockphoto.com / (left) Dudarev Mikhail, (right) Dan Exton

 

While not a big fish in themselves, I’ve included them as when they get together to swarm the effect is the same as being surrounded by a big fish. There are a number of fish that do this including jack fish, barracuda and sardines.

The fish swarm in such large numbers to protect themselves from predators and look like a much bigger entity.

Where to dive with shoals of fish?:

  • Sardine run, South Africa
  • Moalboal, Philippines

 

 

 18. Sawfish

Adwo / bigstockphoto.com

 

I’ve been fascinated with Sawfish ever since I accidentally saw them on a documentary. Looking at it in the picture above, it seems like a creature you’d tell nightmares about to scare young children. However Sawfish are indeed out and about in the oceans, despite their numbers reducing over the years.

Fun fact: I read that their saw-like nose doesn’t rip their mother to sheds on exit as it’s covered in a film-like substance, hence protecting the mother’s insides.

Where to dive with sawfish?:

  • Florida Keys, USA

 

 

 19. Eagle Rays

Longjourneys / bigstockphoto.com

bigstock photo: (left) Rich Carey / (right)  Joanne Weston

 

Eagle Rays make up the ray family alongside Sting Rays, Manta Rays and a few other miscellaneous rays. Unlike Sting Rays, and much like Manta Rays, they enjoy the open ocean for swimming.

Scenitsts haven’t got a concrete reason for it but they’ve speculated that when Eagle Rays jump out of the water (they’re known for jumping occasionally), it may be females trying to avoid male attention or trying to rid themselves of parasites.

Where to dive with eagle rays?:

  • French Polynesia
  • Cozumel, Mexico
  • Utila, Honduras
  • Hurghada, Egypt
  • Taveuni, Fiji

 

 

 20. Guitar fish

bigstockphoto.com /  Rich Carey

 

While this fish looks like a cross between a shark and a ray, the Guitar Fish is in fact only part of the ray family. They find food by foraging on the ocean floor but are unfortunately endangered with number dwindling worldwide.

Guitar fish prefer tropical, shallow waters and can range in size up to around two meters.

Where to dive with guitar fish?:

  • Maldives
  • Zanzibar
  • La Jolla, USA
  • Gold Coast Seaway, Australia

 

 

 21. Maori Wrasse

bigstockphoto.com / SharonCobo

bigstockphoto.com: (left) colorspace, (right) Fiona Ayerst

 

Another fish common to my home Queensland, the Maori Wrasse is a friendly reef fish much like the Potato Cod we introduced earlier. The fish is often found in pairings of two, one male and one female, and is often colorful, or at the very least tinged yellow. There are many different sizes to the wrasse but you’ll have the best chance of seeing the larger ones in Moore Reef at the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland.

The fish was recently made protected and their numbers have started to increase after dwardling for the past few years.

Where can you dive with maori wrasse?

  • Cod Hole, Great Barrier Reef & Yongala, Australia

 

 

 22. Thresher Sharks

bigstockphoto.com / ftlaudgirl

 

To be honest I hadn’t heard of thresher sharks until a few weeks prior to my trip to the Philippines. In doing dive spot research I heard there was a small island called Malapascua that almost guaranteed sightings of thresher sharks.

The experience was so amazing I did it twice despite having to get up at 4am and trudge through an unlit village full of chickens and confusing dirt paths to get there. Of course I could have avoided that if I stayed at one of the dive resorts but its all part of the adventure when you’re low on cash.

There are a few other places where you can dive with thresher sharks, but if you want a pretty-much-guaranteed sighting I’d recommend Malapascua. It’s a relatively easy boat ride from Cebu Island but you’ll need atleast one overnight on the island.

Where can you dive with thresher sharks?

  • Malapascua Island, Philippines (daily sightings)

 

 

 23. Nurse Sharks

bigstockphoto.com / Hakbak

With the biggest growing up to 5 metres and 150 kilograms, the peaceful grey nurse shark can look intimidating at first. They have a different look to your typical shark and spend most of their times on the sandy bottoms in shallow waters.

Where can you dive with nurse sharks?

  •  Various spots in Australia such as Fish Rock Cave
  • Cat Island, Bahamas

 

 

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Written by Lexi
Lexi is the scuba diver who created this scuba diving blog. She writes about travel guides for scuba divers, scuba diving tips, and liveaboard + gear reviews.