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Best Places to Dive in January

Start your year off perfectly by diving with whales, mantas, whale sharks and more


It’s the start of a new year soon and scuba diving in January is off the charts. The Maldives is the place to go for manta rays and picture-perfect atolls, whilst Mexico scuba diving in January is all about huge megafauna. The small African nation of Djibouti is also at its best, offering the chance to snorkel with numerous whale sharks.

Maldives manta
Maldives manta

Manta Madness in the Maldives

January is a great time of year to visit the Maldives, as the dry season brings long sunny days, just perfect for relaxed Maldives liveaboard diving. There are also plenty of manta rays to see wherever you choose to dive:

Rasdhoo Atoll

This atoll may be tiny, consisting of just 4 islands and 3 sandbanks, but Rasdhoo Atoll scuba diving has a big reputation for large pelagics. Madifaru has almost every type of Maldives marine life on offer; including mantas, grey reef sharks, scalloped hammerheads, schools of eagle rays, mobula rays, stingrays, turtles and more. Manta Block is a great dive site for manta sightings at cleaning stations.

When you’ve had your fill of manta encounters, don’t miss out on diving Hammerhead Point for the chance to swim with hammerhead sharks.

Ari Atoll

Go scuba diving in January at Ari Atoll and you’ll be enjoying dry days and calm seas as you cruise among over 100 stunning islands. There are also numerous mantas and whale sharks to dive with.

Kudarah Thila and Rangali Madivaru in the south host cleaning stations with numerous mantas. There are also great manta dive sites in other parts of Ari Atoll, including the premier Ukulhas Thila cleaning station in the north and Donkalo Thila in the west. The sheer variety of cleaning stations throughout this atoll make it ideal for manta ray encounters.

The Blue Voyager cruises the far north atolls, the deep south, and the best sites at Rasdhoo, Ari and Male atolls. Their Pelagic Encounters safaris are always a popular choice at this time of year.

Mexico humpback whale
Mexico humpback whale

Best Time for Whale Watching in Mexico

Only accessible by Socorro Islands liveaboard diving, these remote and wild islands are one to add to your wish list. Humpback whales arrive in their thousands during January, giving you the chance to see and hear them underwater.

This archipelago also attracts huge amounts of other big pelagics, including at least ten species of sharks and friendly Giant Pacific manta rays. It is understandably known as the ‘Galapagos of Mexico’.

There is a handful of Socorro Islands liveaboards to choose from and the Quino el Guardian is a great choice for less experienced divers, as there is no minimum logged dives requirement.

Mexico mobulas
Mexico mobulas

Another gentle giant can be found if you go Sea of Cortez liveaboard diving at this time of year. A large whale shark population frequents the Bay of La Paz from early winter to late spring. Scuba diving is not allowed, but free diving and snorkelling are a great way to immerse yourself in the experience, without the weight of tanks and gear. Winter is also the best time to spot grey whales, mobula whales and humpback whales in the area.

The El Duque liveaboard offers 2-night getaways to the Sea of Cortez, whilst the Valentina has 6-night Sea of Cortez safaris for those who want to spend longer there.

Whale shark dive
Whale shark dive

Dive with Whale Sharks in Djibouti

Djibouti liveaboard diving might not be on your radar yet but it soon will be. This relatively new dive destination has pristine coral reefs with large schools of Red Sea and Indian Ocean fish. It is tucked away from the crowds of Egypt and gives you the chance to enjoy peaceful dive sites.

Sailing Djibouti with the Deli liveaboard
Sailing Djibouti with the Deli liveaboard

The star attraction when scuba diving in January is the numerous whale sharks that gather in Djibouti’s waters from November onwards. You can swim in the company of juvenile whale sharks and may also see manta rays, grey reef sharks and nurse sharks.

There are also striking underwater landscapes to explore, including a dive site that allows you to descend between three tectonic plates; aptly named ‘The Crack’. It won’t be long before word gets out about this top new dive destination.

The beautiful MSY ELegante and Deli liveaboards offer whale shark safaris and the chance to sail the turquoise waters of Djibouti from November to January each year.

More Top January Dive Destinations

Read our guide to the Best Places to Dive in January to find out more about other top places to go diving in January.

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