Southeast Asia is known for its many paradise-like dive destinations. They are paradise if you are a diver and have nothing better to do than three dives a day, except maybe some snorkelling in between (and of course sharing stories over a beer and dinner!), but for non-divers these places might be hell on earth because there is literally nothing else to do than to dive.
Assuming you’ve tried to convert your travel partners into divers without luck and don’t want to ditch them altogether, you’ll have to compromise. We’ve sorted out five destinations with excellent diving and good topside entertainment that doesn’t necessarily involve getting wet.
Koh Lanta (Thailand)
Lanta, located on the west coast of Thailand, is just big enough to be developed, but not so over-the-top as neighbouring Phi Phi Island. For you, it has excellent dive sites such as world-famous Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, but also the sites around Koh Haa are definitely worth checking out. There are frequent sightings of whale sharks and manta rays, but also of smaller life such as the ornate ghost pipefish.
For your non-diver buddy there are plenty of things to do. They can explore the national park that covers the southern point of the island by foot, join a sea-kayaking trip or polish their Thai cooking skills with a cooking course from Time For Lime. There is also a very active animal shelter on the island where you can take the dogs for a walk. If they want to zone out and relax there are many beautiful beaches, some only accessible by foot, and there are also several spas and yoga studios.
Perhentian Islands (Malaysia)
Although very small and not very developed, the Perhentian Islands on Malaysia’s east coast are a perfect little getaway for a few days, but only if your travelling partner is not looking for anything more than lazy days at the beach, swimming (or snorkelling) in nice, warm, shallow water and a fresh seafood BBQ dinner at night.
The nice thing about the Perhentian Islands is that the dive sites are only a short boat ride away and the dive trips are single dives only, so you could do a morning and afternoon dive while having a lunch on the beach together with your partner.
Perhaps the most obvious one on the list. Bali is bigger than any of the other destinations listed here and is perhaps more famous for its topside recreation than for its scuba diving. Still, with amazing dive sites such as the Tulamben Wreck and nearby Nusa Lembongan & Nusa Penida. There is no shortage of underwater amazement to explore while your companions get shitfaced every night in Kuta or learn how to surf or discover themselves on a yoga retreat.
For an island nation, it’s not surprising that most tourism-activities are focused on the water. Almost every island has at least one dive center and there is a huge diversity in dive sites, ranging from the world-famous Tubbataha reef to the thresher sharks in Malapascua to the WWII wrecks in Coron. This means, however, that for your non-diving travel partner it can be hard to find something else to do that doesn’t involve something with books, hammocks and cocktails. But to be honest, why would you want to do anything else (besides well, eh, diving of course).
Please share tips and recommendations in the comments! We’ve barely scratched the surface (ha-ha) and I’m sure we’ve overlooked many places. Where do you like to travel with your dry buddies?