Top 10 Macro Photography Destinations

New Survey: Top 10 Underwater Macro Photography Destinations, conducted by UWMP
By Brent Durand

Where is the best place you could possibly visit as a dedicated underwater macro photographer? Ask many macro enthusiasts and you'll probably get a number of different answers.

A survey was conducted by the Underwater Macro Photographers and published in their latest eNews edition (#23). The survey was refreshing to see and a great complement to the breathtaking macro and supermacro images throughout the edition.

These rankings are from a diverse group of macro shooters. Keep in mind that many divers live in different parts of the world, so travel times, costs, time off work and the fact that these photographers are probably traveling exclusively to capture more amazing macro images contributed to these rankings.




1.  Lembeh Strait, Indonesia

Heralded as one of the best macro and muck diving hotspots since the days of Larry Smith, Lembeh Strait's black volcanic substrate is home to some of the world's most incredible critters. Dive sites are close to the resorts (and even a daytime liveaboard) allowing photographers time to hang out between critter-packed dives. Night dives in Lembeh are always amazing.

The downside of Lembeh is that you have to transfer through Singapore or Bali, making it just a little more difficult for some people to get to. Also, a large number of resorts have sprouted up in the last few years, making it a little more crowded than it used to be.

Learn more about Lembeh Strait's best dive resorts and dive sites.


A Flamboyant Cuttlefish float-walks across the sand. Photo: Brent Durand


A Harlequin Shrimp pair peek out from their shelter. Photo: Brent Durand



2.  Anilao, Philippines

Anilao is a relative newcomer on the scene, but talk to bonified critterheads like Mike Bartick and you'll see why Anilao ranks a close second for macro behind Lembeh (and a 1st place in many circles) and has been greatly increasing in popularity. Sand and coral reefs combine to provide the perfect home for all the sought-after macro critters, including the reknowned Lembeh Sea Dragon. 

Just a 2.5 hour van ride from Manila airport, Anilao is relatively easy to get to and offers more diversity than some other muck locations.

Learn more about Anilao's best resorts and dive sites.


Mating Blue-Ringed Octopus in Anilao. See the full Mating Blue-Ring Photo sequence. Photo: Brent Durand


Profile view of a Zanzibar Whip Coral shrimp. Photo: Brent Durand



3.  Tulamben, Bali

Tulamben, Bali is home to the world famous macro site, Seraya Secrets, sitting right in front of two great dive resorts. Not only is this one of the richest house reefs in the world for macro, but the neighboring dive sites are also world-class, from the USAT Liberty wreck to the beautiful Coral Gardens and more.

Not only does Bali offer great macro photography, but some great wide-angle sites and a plethora of topside/cultural activities that can keep a non-diver occupied.

Learn more about Tulamben, Bali's best resorts and dive sites.


A Bumble Bee Shrimp pauses to have it's portrait taken. Photo: Brent Durand


Seraya Secrets is not only a muck dive site, but home to sea fans as well. Photo: Brent Durand



4.  Dumaguete & Dauin, Philippines

Dumaguete offers the perfect mix of everything a dive traveller would want - a great selection of resorts, a nice town, good wide-angle shooting at Apo Island, whale sharks nearby, and of course, excellent macro photography.

Learn more about Dumaguete and Dauin's best resorts and dive sites.


A green sea turtle stares at the camera mid-water. Photo: Scott Gietler



5.  Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Raja Ampat ranks high on many scuba dive destination lists and for good reason - pristine, healthy reefs teeming with marine life. Raja Ampat is often referred to as the center of marine biodiversity. Any while many photographers focus on shooting wide-angle scenes, the macro diving is also just as colorful and diverse. It's here that local divers first discovered the Denise's Pygmy Seahorse (Hippocampus denise).

Although you don't always see all of the critters you would see in Lembeh or Anilao, Raja has a diverse, large number of nudibranchs plus pygmy seahorses found at many dive sites.

Learn more about Raja Ampat's best resorts, liveaboards and dive sites or view the availability of some of the best liveaboards in Indonesia


A Hippocampus denise makes it's home in a fan among skeleton shrimp. Photo: Brent Durand


Glassfish make colorful macro subjects during safety stops in Raja. Photo: Brent Durand



6.  Manado, Indonesia

Manado, Indonesia is the jumping-off point for diving the famous Bunaken National Park. The park's walls, turtles and pelagic sightings are a big lure for most divers, however smart macro photographers know that the sites around Manado are extremely rich in critter life. From blue-ringed octopus to ghost pipefish to nudibranchs, Manado delivers. It's also easy to visit Manado as a combo trip with Bangka Island and Lembeh Strait.

Learn more about Manado's best resorts and dive sites.


A blue-ringed octopus perches up high before beginning to hunt. Photo: Brent Durand


Soft coral crabs have excellent camouflage, not naturally seen perched high on their coral host. Photo: Brent Durand



7.  Ambon, Indonesia

Ambon is off-the-beaten-path but known as a critter hotspot that also has great wide-angle photography, vibrant reefs, pelagics and more. UWPG recently published a complete photo essay on Ambon macro photography. Check it out here:

Rare Photos from Ambon, Indonesia

Learn more about Ambon's best resorts and dive sites.


The iconic Yellow Rhinopias from Ambon. Photo: Mike Bartick


8.  Mabul & Kapalai Island, Malaysia

Best-known as a jumping-off-point for diving Sipadan Island, Mabul and Kapalai Island boast some incredible macro photo opportunities and several resorts.

Learn more about Mabul & Kapalai's best resorts and dive sites and diving in Malaysia.


flamboyant cuttlefish mabul kapalai sipadan maco
Flamboyant cuttlefish in Mabul, Malaysia. Photo: Scott Gietler


9.  Komodo, Indonesia

The biodiversity of Komodo, Indonesia will impress even the most seasoned dive travellers and underwater photographers. Between the large marinelife and plentiful macro subjects, every diver will have fun on a Komodo trip. Diving is generally done by liveaboard.

Learn more about Komodo's best liveaboards and dive sites or view the availability of some of the best liveaboards in Indonesia.


Juvenile Ghost Pipefish shot on a night dive in Komodo. Photo: Dan Kurz



10.  Various locations

The survey only had 9 results, but there are many more great macro destinations - places like Alor, Indonesia; Puerto Galera, Philippines; Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea. Also, many cold-water destinations like Southern California, British Columbia and Norway boast excellent underwater macro photography. What places do you like to shoot macro that were left off the list? Email and let us know.


Further Reading


About the Author

Brent Durand is an avid California beach diver, photographer and writer dedicated to capturing unique underwater, ocean lifestyle and adventure images. Brent is an editor of the Underwater Photography Guide. Follow UWPG on Facebook for daily photos, tips and everything underwater photography!



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