March is yet another great month for diving, with exceptional scuba and shark dives in the northern and southern hemispheres. It’s the start of Australia’s whale shark season and the Philippines is showing off its diving jewel in the crown; the pristine Tubbataha National Park. It’s also an ideal month to explore Cuba’s coral reefs or dive the idyllic islands of Micronesia.
The Philippines is a world-class dive destination, home to the renowned Tubbataha National Park. It’s no surprise this special reef is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Made up of almost 100,000 hectares of thriving reef, there are numerous dive sites to explore teeming with marine life. There are hundreds of vibrant coral and fish species at Tubbataha, plus around 13 types of whales and numerous shark species. Go diving there and you’ll be surrounded by large schools of fish and likely see turtles, mantas, eagle rays and more. It’s also a great destination for macro divers.
Being remote, Tubbataha is only accessible by liveaboard and is a peaceful destination away from the crowds. The short dive season runs from March to June, taking advantage of clear skies and the best sea conditions. Tubbataha scuba diving is suitable for all experience levels thanks to the diversity of dive sites.
Cuba is a great place for March scuba diving and exploring the Jardines de la Reina or ‘Gardens of the Queen’ during the calm dry season. This national park was established in 1996 to protect Cuba’s southern coastline – an area rich in islands, mangrove forests and seagrass beds. It is one of the most successful conservation efforts in the Caribbean Sea. Divers can find plenty of elkhorn coral, rarely seen in neighbouring countries anymore, and explore diverse coral reefs teeming with sharks. There are lemon, silky, blacktip, nurse and hammerhead sharks to dive with. Be sure to also keep your eyes open for saltwater crocodiles in the mangroves and seagrass beds.
There are dive sites for all experience levels in Cuba, ranging from calm easy dives to steep drop offs and swim throughs. If you can’t visit in March, July to November offers the chance to swim with whale sharks.
If swimming with whale sharks if your idea of scuba diving bliss, it’s the perfect time of year to go scuba diving in Western Australia. Much less frequented than the Great Barrier Reef, this hidden gem hosts one of the largest whale shark aggregations in the world. Hundreds of whale sharks arrive at Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef each March, attracted by the seasonal plankton bloom and coral spawning. Go there in March and you’ll be diving in warm waters, surrounded by big pelagics and without any crowds. Mantas are resident at Ningaloo all year, as well as sharks, huge potato cod and barracuda. If you’re lucky you’ll even witness the coral spawning event itself, said to occur the week after March’s full moon.
It’s a great destination for everyone, where it’s easy to combine snorkelling, diving and laid-back sailing on the turquoise seas. Be sure to visit before the rest of the world catches on.
There is no bad time to go diving in Micronesia and explore this stunning dive destination. That being said, March is a particularly good month for flat seas and dry weather at Palau. Palau is one of Micronesia’s best-known dive areas and offers flourishing reefs with over 1300 fish species and around 700 species of coral. There are numerous critters to find, plus larger marine life such as green and Hawksbill turtles and sharks.
There are reef dives, drop-offs, drift dives, caves and wrecks to explore at Palau, with numerous World War II artefacts dotted amongst the wrecks. Blue Corner, a natural corner in the ocean, is one of the most exciting dives - with changeable currents and a sea wall plunging down to the depths. There are plenty of pelagics at Blue Corner, plus numerous cabbage corals and turtles that come close to divers. German Channel is one of the best dive sites for spotting manta rays at their cleaning stations, whilst the Iro Maru wreck isn’t to be missed. This 143-meter-long Japanese Navy vessel lies in almost no current, sitting upright and offering an impressive view to all who dive there. Whilst there are options for new divers at Palau, it is best to experience this diverse destination as an advanced diver with wreck and drift diving experience.