"Bali, Indonesia" by Thomas Depenbusch via Flickr Creative Commons

Southeast Asia is exotic in every dimension, even below the surface. From the islands of Thailand to the spits of land spread out over thousands of miles that make up Indonesia, there is no lack of places to snorkel or dive, there’s only a lack of people. It’s hard to ride a ferry without ending up on some pristine isolated island with a perfectly empty beach. You’ll find luxury like nowhere else in the world, as well as budget options like nowhere else either.

  1. Hin Daeng and Hin Mouang, Thailand These two sites are way out there in the Andaman Sea, but worth the trip. There are huge schools of fish, good chances of seeing pelagics, walls, plateaus, and caves. Anemone carpets, whale sharks, rare bryazoan, and manta rays are all here waiting.
  2. East Timor Political unrest has kept the crowds away, but now that the situation has stabilized people are finding some of the most unspoiled diving anywhere. Many come away saying they have seen more fish than anywhere else in the world.
  3. Similian Islands, Thailand Brilliant turquoise waters with up to an incredible 590 feet of visibility. Corals, sea fans, an astounding fish population, and the occasional whale shark make these lonely islands unforgettable.
  4. Ko Tao, Thailand The cheapest place in the world to get certified is in a boat ride of dozens of excellent dive sites like the Japanese Gardens, Chumphon Pinnacle, and Red Rock.
  5. Bali, Indonesia Away from the crowds of Kuta Beach on the northeastern and southeastern side of the island there is great visibility, interesting wrecks, and a wide array of sea life.
  6. Brunei This tiny oil rich nation is rarely visited, but if you want to dive, and have your own equipment, you’re in luck. The Cement wreck is your best bet.
  7. Papua New Guinea Major ship wrecks, WWII bombers, reef sharks, tiger sharks, clownfish, barracuda, and sea turtles all call Papua New Guinea home. Friendly people and a total lack of crowds add to the mystique.
  8. Palawan, Phillipines Palawan’s Tubbataha reefs, a UNESCO world heritage sight, can only be reached by live aboard vessels, but you’ll encounter wrecks, wall dives, mantas, sharks, and many other marine critters.
  9. Ko Samui, Thailand This is package deal central, but still a great choice for those who want comfort and affordability.
  10. Burma Many oppose travel while the oppressive government regime is in control, but when it falls a range of new dive sites near the Thai border will open up.