World’s Best Destinations for Diving with Macro Critters

Why do the Top 100 Readers Choice Awards, now in their 23rd year, still matter to divers? Because these are your picks, based on thousands of votes from the most experienced dive travelers on the planet. Why do they matter to us? Because every month you hear from our editors on what we think matters in the world of dive travel. For the January/February issue of Scuba Diving we get to listen to you, and we’re taking notes.

Here, we proudly present the No. 1 ranking destinations in the Best Macro Diving category of the awards. The full list of winning destinations is below.

Sharpnose pufferfish underwater photo Bonaire Macro Diving

Terrence Ross/Tom Stack & Associates


Best Macro Diving in the Caribbean and Atlantic

Think you have to book a flight to Indo to see exotic nudis, seahorses and frogfish by the handful? That ticket might be considerably less expensive than you think, for North American divers, if you aim for the island of Bonaire instead. Decades of institutionalized protection and loving management of its pristine reefs have helped to preserve an environment where nearly 400 species have been documented, most of it the small stuff beloved by underwater photographers. Looking to capture a particular subject in a specific situation? Bonaire also offers the ultimate freedom to plan your own dives 24/7, instead of waiting for the dive boat or competing with other photographers looking for the same stuff you are. Many of its resorts’ house reefs are literally alive with critters, so you don’t even have to crank up your rental truck — just fall off the dock and start shooting. — Mary Frances Emmons

Best Overall Diving in the Caribbean and Atlantic

1. Bonaire

2. Cayman Islands

3. Bay Islands

4. Mexico

5. Curacao

Macro Underwater Photography Teardrop Crab Bonaire

Terrence Ross/Tom Stack and Associates


Macro finds include teardrop craps in this Caribbean Island.

Squat Shrimp Underwater Macro Photography Bonaire

Jennifer Penner


Tiny squat shrimp are often found by sharp-eyed divers in Bonaire.

Underwater Photo Spotted Eel Bonaire Macro Diving

Wayne MacWilliams


Macro photographers love Bonaire’s critters like this spotted eel.

Bearded Fireworm Underwater Macro Photography Bonaire Blue Light

Barry Brown


These crazy critters are not glow sticks, but bearded fireworms shot under blue light at night.

Blenny Tube Sponge Underwater Photo Macro Bonaire



Gobies find shelter in colorful tube sponges.

Mantis Shrimp Underwater Photo Indonesia Macro Diving

Eric Madeja


Best Macro Diving in the Indian and Pacific Oceans

Sure, Lembeh Strait is the world’s epicenter of macro div- ing, with enough crazy critters — hirsute frogfish, microscopic seahorses, kaleidoscopic nudibranchs and more — to fill a logbook, but don’t overlook the enchanted islands of Komodo, Bali and Wakatobi. With their eagle-eyed guides, you might not need a magnifying glass to find it all, but you will need more logbooks. — David Espinosa

Best Macro Diving in the Pacific and Indian Oceans

1. Indonesia

2. Philippines

3. Palau

4. Fiji

5. Red Sea

Wolf Eel Underwater Photo Macro Diving British Columbia

Jeff Rotman/NPL/Minden Pictures

British Columbia

Best Macro Diving in North America

Decorated warbonnets, grunt sculpins and candystripe shrimp are just a few highlights to spotlight while shooting in Canada’s westernmost province. Browning Passage, a legendary site near Port Hardy, hides so many macro treasures the challenge is not finding cool subjects but deciding which ones to skip and save for the next tank. So many pictures to make, not enough bottom time. — Brandon Cole

Best Macro Diving in North America

1. British Columbia

2. Washington

3. California

4. Florida

5. North Carolina

Nudibranch Photo Underwater Macro British Columbia Diving

David Hall

British Columbia

Nudibranchs are a favorite of macro photographers; this Hermissenda is praying on stinging hydroids.

How We Got the Numbers Thousands of Scuba Diving subscribers and online users rated their experiences at dive destinations in a variety of categories on a scale from one to five. Final scores are an average of the numerical scores awarded. A minimum number of responses was required for a destination to be included in these ratings.

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