Are you interested in swimming with sharks and manta rays, or are you simply looking for calm and comfortable diving conditions? If you’re planning a liveaboard trip in January, you’re spoiled for choice. This is summertime in the southern hemisphere and many dive sites that lie on or below the Equator are suitable for diving. In this article, we’ll help you narrow down the best liveaboard destinations to go in January.

Warm waters in the South Pacific bring in large marine life, while Southeast Asia during this time is dry and diving conditions are fair, if a little windy. Visibility is generally quite decent in the Pacific Ocean in January. Over in the Red Sea, cooler temperatures attract divers who are keen to avoid the sizzling hot summers.

 

1. GALÁPAGOS

 

Made famous after Charles Darwin’s trip here in the 1830s, the Galápagos continue to be a source of inspiration to nature lovers today. The sheer biodiversity above and below the water is staggering. A Galápagos liveaboard will take lucky divers into an underwater world with almost 3000 marine species, roughly 20 percent of which are endemic.

January is a great time of year to see schooling hammerheads and silky sharks as well as manta rays. This is the warm season in the Galápagos and it can get a little wet. However, divers will enjoy calm waters and good visibility. It’s a great time of year to visit unless you are bent on seeing whale sharks.

 

WHERE TO GO FROM: Puerto Baquerizo Moreno or Santa Cruz, Ecuador

PRICE RANGE: $3,500 – $6,000

DIFFICULTY: Intermediate – Advanced

LENGTH OF THE TRIP: 7 to 8 days

WATER TEMPERATURES: 70 to 80° F (21 to 26° C)

BEST BOATS: Best Galápagos liveaboard boats compared

HIGHLIGHTS: Schooling hammerhead and silky sharks along with 3000 marine species

 

 

2. PALAU

 

The site of the world’s first shark sanctuary, Palau is an idyllic archipelago surrounded by pristine coral reefs. The jumble of wrecks, caves and blue holes is home to everything from colorful reef fish to huge pelagics. With a Palau liveaboard, any level of diver will have access to remote and unspoiled dive sites.

Since there is little variation in the critters you’ll see at different times of the year, Palau’s dry season is a pleasant time to dive. A 3mm wetsuit will keep you nice and comfortable in the balmy water, which hovers between 81 to 86°F (27 to 30°C). Whatever time of year you visit, you’ll be impressed by the visibility which can stretch up to 200ft (60m) in some places.

 

WHERE TO GO FROM: Malakal or Koror, Palau

PRICE RANGE: $3,000 – $5,000

DIFFICULTY: Beginner – Advanced

LENGTH OF THE TRIP: 8 to 11 days

WATER TEMPERATURES: 81 to 86° F (27 to 30° C)

BEST BOATS: Best Palau liveaboard boats compared

HIGHLIGHTS: Incredible visibility and diving for all levels, including drift diving

 

 

3. PAPUA NEW GUINEA

 

If you’re in search of exclusivity, you can’t do much better than Papua New Guinea. Many of the dive sites in this region of the Coral Triangle are still unexplored.

A Papua New Guinea liveaboard will take you to secluded dive sites with thriving marine life including mantas, sharks and macro life. Don’t forget to brush up on your photography skills before you go!

The sites that lay in the South Pacific and the Coral Sea are best dived in January. Conditions are perfect, with warm water and decent visibility. It rains all year in Papua New Guinea but on the bright side, January falls right in the middle of the warm season.

 

WHERE TO GO FROM: Alotau or Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea

PRICE RANGE: $3,000 – $4,500

DIFFICULTY: Beginner

LENGTH OF THE TRIP: 8 to 11 days

WATER TEMPERATURES: 82 to 86° F (28 to 30° C)

BEST BOATS: Best Papua New Guinea liveaboard boats compared

HIGHLIGHTS: World War II wrecks and birthplace of muck diving

 

 

 

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4. CUBA

 

This popular Caribbean destination features several protected marine environments, which have gone a long way toward ensuring the integrity of the dive sites. A Cuba liveaboard will take you into a lively underwater world where friendly fish swim along immaculate coral reefs.

Cuba can be dived all year round and the big-ticket items, such as sharks and crocodiles, will always be there. But the nicest time to dive is during the dry season, which boasts warm waters between 79 and 84° F (26 and 29° C) and little current. Visibility during this time reaches over 100ft (30m).

 

WHERE TO GO FROM: Jucaro, Cuba

PRICE RANGE: $2,500 – $4,000

DIFFICULTY: Beginner

LENGTH OF THE TRIP: 7 to 8 days

WATER TEMPERATURES: 79 to 84° F (26 to 29° C)

BEST BOATS: Best Cuba liveaboard boats compared

HIGHLIGHTS: Friendly sharks and groupers, healthy coral reefs

 

 

5. OMAN

 

Oman is mostly known for its spectacular macro life, easily accessible by beginner divers. If you’re lucky, you might glimpse a whale shark or a hawksbill turtle.

The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) recently voted this up-and-coming country as one of the top places for winter diving. Only with an Oman liveaboard can you visit the best sites in protected marine environments.

The cooler season in January is the best time for glimpsing whale sharks and a variety of other marine life in Oman. Temperatures are pleasant, with waters at 77°F (25 °C), and divers can take advantage of the relatively small window when the Daymaniyat Islands are open. The visibility is comparatively good but still doesn’t surpass 25m due to the plankton and nutrients which draw the fish.

 

WHERE TO GO FROM: Dibba or Port of Salalah, Oman

PRICE RANGE: $1,500 – $3,000

DIFFICULTY: Beginner

LENGTH OF THE TRIP: 7 to 8 days

WATER TEMPERATURES: 68 to 77° F (20 to 25° C)

BEST BOATS: Best Oman liveaboard boats compared

HIGHLIGHTS: Quiet dive sites away from the crowds

 

 

6. SIMILAN ISLANDS

 

Peer into the coral at the Similan Islands and you’ll lock eyes with octopus, moray eels and a host of other reef fish. Some of the islands are closed for months at a time in an effort to preserve the marine environment. But divers who manage to book a Similan liveaboard will love the stunning underwater landscapes and crystal-clear waters surrounding these nine idyllic islands off the coast of Thailand.

Winter in the Similan Islands is pleasantly cool, going from 77 up to 84° F (25 to 29° C). Earlier on, you might run across some wind and waves but by the middle of January, weather is good and boasts the least cloud cover of the whole year. The waters around the Similan Islands are known for having excellent visibility.

 

WHERE TO GO FROM: Khao Lak, Thailand

PRICE RANGE: $1,000 – $2,500

DIFFICULTY: Intermediate

LENGTH OF THE TRIP: 5 to 7 days

WATER TEMPERATURES: 77 to 84° F (25 to 29° C)

BEST BOATS: Best Similan Islands liveaboard boats compared

HIGHLIGHTS: Manta rays, whale sharks and huge schools of fish

 

 

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7. PHILIPPINES

 

The Philippines offers something for everybody, from shallow reef dives to deep wrecks and night diving. January is a good month to spot seahorses and manta rays in addition to the dolphins and the many species of sharks that are there year-round. The best sites are only reachable with a Philippines liveaboard.

In January, the Philippines experiences dry weather and a break from the country’s infamous typhoons. The northeast monsoon brings fierce winds, cooler waters and air temperatures around 28° C. Keeping in mind this is high season, you shouldn’t be surprised to find crowded dive sites and higher prices. Unfortunately, Tubbataha Reef is closed this month.

 

WHERE TO GO FROM: Cebu or Palau (Malkal), Philippines

PRICE RANGE: $2,000 – 3,500

DIFFICULTY: Beginner – Advanced

LENGTH OF THE TRIP: 7 to 8 days

WATER TEMPERATURES: 73 to 81° F (23 to 27° C)

BEST BOATS: Best Tubbataha liveaboard boats compared

HIGHLIGHTS: Amazing marine biodiversity in the heart of the Coral Triangle

 

 

8. MALDIVES

 

The Maldives is iconic, a tropical paradise comprising 1000 islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Divers come here to see a long list of pelagics including whale sharks, mantas and schools of barracudas. A Maldives liveaboard gives you the option of going on exhilarating drift dives through the currents or simply cruising for macro life along the coral reefs.

January sees the start of dry monsoons in the Maldives. This is a good time of year for pelagic action, when plankton-rich waters bring in whale sharks and manta rays. Water temperatures vary little throughout the year, usually measuring between 80 to 86° F (27 to 30° C).

 

WHERE TO GO FROM: Malé, Maldives

PRICE RANGE: $1,500 – $2,500

DIFFICULTY: Beginner – Advanced

LENGTH OF THE TRIP: 8 to 11 days

WATER TEMPERATURES: 80 to 86° F (27 to 30° C)

BEST BOATS: Best Maldives liveaboard boats compared

HIGHLIGHTS: Drift diving with sharks and manta rays

 

 

9. SOCORRO

 

The Revillagigedo Archipelago, often referred to as Socorro, is a cluster of volcanic islands off the coast of Baja California. Thanks to the strong currents, waters around the uninhabited islands are teeming with pelagic species including dolphins, whales and turtles. A Socorro liveaboard is the best way to experience the area’s challenging dive sites, for which you’ll probably want your Advanced Open Water certification.

January in Socorro offers a range of marine life depending on what part of the month you go. In the warmer beginning of the month, you’ll be swimming with sharks and mantas, whereas by the end, you might be able to spot the first few migrating humpback whales.

Water temperatures can descend to 70° F (21° C) in late January but the water is calmer and visibility is better than in December. This is high season in Mexico so be prepared to pay premium prices.

 

WHERE TO GO FROM: San Jose del Cabo or Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

PRICE RANGE: $3,000 – $4,000

DIFFICULTY: Advanced

LENGTH OF THE TRIP: 8 to 10 days

WATER TEMPERATURES: 70 to 79° F (21 to 26° C)

BEST BOATS: Best Socorro liveaboard boats compared

HIGHLIGHTS: Friendly manta rays and active volcanic seascape

 

 

10. DJIBOUTI

 

For untouched dive sites and lively pelagic life, look no further than Djibouti. This tiny country nestled at the southern end of the Red Sea gives access to rocky volcanic seascapes with a variety of pelagics and other fish. With a Djibouti liveaboard, you’ll have the plenitude of marine life practically to yourself.

Despite the inferior visibility, most divers head to Djibouti between October and January to avoid the hot season. Divers in January can catch a glimpse of the last whale sharks on their annual migration. This is also a good time of year to see manta rays.

 

WHERE TO GO FROM: Djibouti Marina, Djibouti

PRICE RANGE: $1,500 – $2,000

DIFFICULTY: Beginner – Advanced

LENGTH OF THE TRIP: 7 to 8 days

WATER TEMPERATURES: 79 to 84° F (26 to 29° C)

BEST BOATS: Best Djibouti liveaboard boats compared

HIGHLIGHTS: Migrating whale sharks

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