Hoi An Diving – A Guide to Scuba Diving the Cham Islands

When most people think of Hoi An, the images that tend to come to mind are rows of colourful lanterns, the Ancient Town and unique culture. In addition, all the delicious, signature food dishes of Hoi An. But there’s even more to do in this beautiful city. One of our favourite activities in Hoi An is scuba diving as it allows you to immerse yourself in a completely unique, alien world. 

Many people don’t realise how close Hoi An is to the ocean. It’s easy to plan a scuba or snorkelling day excursion. In this article, Hidden explores the best places to dive, Hoi An’s dive shops, overall dive quality, and the necessary logistics to have the best diving experience.  

 

Cham islands diving in Hoi An
Find your way to the top of the Cham Islands for a breathtaking view.

Diving in Hoi An – The Cham Islands

A popular day trip from Hoi An, the Cham Islands are the best location for diving in Hoi An. The islands offer ten unique dive sites each featuring countless types of fish (clown, trigger, lion, pipe, eel, barracuda, etc.), shellfish, octopus, corals, and other hidden creatures. 

The Cham Islands are a good location for both experienced divers as well as beginners. There are so many different dive locations offering varying ranges of depth and current challenges. The local dive shops offer a variety of training courses for all levels, from those looking to try scuba for the first time, to those working to obtain their Divemaster certification. The price in Hoi An for these various levels of certification is competitive. So if you have been considering certification now is a great time to do it! 

Snorkelling is also a popular option here. The waves are small and there is plenty to see in shallow water which makes for an enjoyable experience. Click here for our standalone article on snorkelling.

A popular choice for most staying in Hoi An near the Old Town is to take a day trip out. However, there are also options for those looking to spend time on the Cham Islands overnight. 

Dive Quality in Hoi An 

We have been grateful for the opportunity to experience scuba diving in both Hoi An and Nha Trang. (Nha Trang being a fairly close-by Vietnamese city, about one hour south via plane). We enjoyed our dives in both locations. 

In Nha Trang, the water was a great temperature (approximately 25-27c). We used shortie wetsuits and never felt cold. There was good visibility (around 8m), and there wasn’t too much water current. 

While we really enjoyed our diving experience in Nha Trang, diving at the Cham Islands was exceptional. The difference was a slightly warmer water temperature (approximately 27-29c).  We still used shortie wetsuits here and felt great. The visibility was notably better (around 12-15m), and there was more current. The current wasn’t a challenge, however, as it made for a more engaging dive. 

Happy divers create an epic selfie
Happy divers create an epic selfie. Photo: Courtesy Blue Coral Diving

Hidden’s Diving Experience with the Hoi An Diving Centre (Blue Coral Diving)

We chose to dive the Cham Islands with Hoi An Diving Centre (also known as Blue Coral Diving) based on their reputation for quality. They are the only 5 stars PADI IDC Center in Hoi An. Blue Coral offer courses from introduction level ‘Try Diving’ to Divemaster and Instructor level certifications. This was obvious during our trip based on the quality of the boat and the equipment used.

We had the pleasure of having Steve Reid, the founder of the Hoi An Diving Centre, come on our trip. He told us that during high season Blue Coral employ as many as 20 instructors at a time. Meaning they can take out as many as 50 people on their ten-year-old boat (named Jennifer after Steve’s daughter).

Steve has been diving for over 25 years and says his favourite aspects of diving are the peace and quiet you experience underwater. As well as the variety of macro life photography available while diving the Cham Islands. 

Hidden Hint: If you’re staying in Hoi An long enough for a multi-day dive trip, ask about diving Ranh Man. This is a hidden two square km sunken island Blue Coral offers exclusively to advanced divers.

Diving the Cham Islands with Blue Coral

We started our day around 8 a.m. with Blue Coral picking us up from our homestay. From there, we picked up a few other guests and made our way to the Cua Dai Harbour to load the boat and depart for the Cham Islands. 

It took about an hour via boat to arrive at the first dive site at approximately 10.a.m. The team first unloaded the ‘Try Scuba’ divers (those with no certification but would like to try scuba for the day. Basically this does not provide any credit toward certification but allows anyone to get into the ocean their first day). This ensured they had adequate time to get acclimated to the water. Then, we joined the experienced divers and began our dive.  

The Dives at Hon Thai North and Hon Thai South

Our dives at Hon Thai North and Hon Thai South were wonderful. The biggest appeal for the Cham Islands dive sites was the overall environment. There was a large variety of different types and coloured corals, which can be hard to find, everywhere. The landscape truly felt alive with numerous different fish, crabs, eels, and various other creatures. 

One of the really interesting animals we saw were the sea cucumbers who eat with tentacles near their mouth. If you fan some water toward them they contract – making for a fun experience. We also saw a variety of beautiful lionfish. However, you need to keep your distance from them as they are venomous. Luckily they tend to stay still and avoid humans. We also saw a large grouper (around 1-1.5m in length) who was minding his own business at the bottom of a reef! 

However the ultimate appeal of the dive site was the overall atmosphere, as we traversed up and down large rock ledges and valleys. The view continued to change and make for really unique dives. 

Hidden Hint: Stay close to your divemaster as they have the best knowledge of the area and are more likely to spot unique creatures!

Hoi An's unique sea creatures
Diving in Hoi An can bring you up close with some unique sea creatures. Photo: Courtesy Blue Coral Diving

Post Dive Relaxation

After completing these dives, we were dropped to Ong Beach on the Cham Islands for a proper Vietnamese lunch. This consisted of rice, noodles, spinach, fish, pork, chips, and pineapples. 

Hidden Hint: The lunch is made in large amounts and served to several tour groups, so we stuck with the vegetarian option to reduce the risk of getting ill.

The crew gave us plenty of time after lunch to relax and enjoy the beach. After a quick nap, we swam from the beach and took pictures of the monkeys that visit most days. The boat trip back to Hoi An provided more time for relaxation and sunbathing. After an hour return trip, we arrived back to our homestay around 5 p.m, with plenty of daylight leftover and time for dinner.

Hoi An Dive Season – When to Dive

The Cham Island dive season unfortunately does not last year-round. It is recommended to dive between March and September, with the best weather between June-August. 

Outside of these months, the weather in Hoi An can be rough with seasonal storms thrashing the coast and causing unsuitable diving and snorkelling conditions. Most of the dive shops actually close down from October through to February due to these rougher weather conditions.  

Cham Islands divers and students on a boat
Divers in the water off the Cham Islands

Getting to the Cham Islands

Most dive companies cover this for you as part of the full day costs. With all of the dive companies setting out for dives from Hoi An, there is little point in making your own way to the Cham Islands. Info on independent trips to visit the Cham Islands by ferry or speedboat can be found here.

Most companies ride out on larger wooden dive boats rather than speedboats for diving. These boats have a higher capacity for people and gear, as well as offering a more enjoyable sightseeing experience back and forth to the dive site. If staying in Hoi An, the dive companies pick you up from your hotel and bring you to the boat. 

However if you are staying outside the city and the dive shop says it’s too far for the morning pickup, just grab a car or shuttle into central Hoi An for morning pickup. But if you are already close to the beach you can meet the group at the boat, which typically departs from Cua Dai Harbour. Make sure to discuss your options with the dive company first though.  

Hidden Hint: You really don’t need to bring much other than your phone for pictures at the surface and a swimming suit and towel. However, if you have an underwater camera bring it to take pictures of all the beautiful underwater life and scenery. 

Dive Companies in Hoi An

Hoi An Diving (also known as Blue Coral Diving)

Price: 1,900,000 VND (83 USD) price of two dives for certified divers. 2,000,000 VND (87 USD) price of two beginner or ‘try’ dives 

Business hours: 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., 7 days a week

Duration: Pickup from Hotel around 8 a.m., drop off 5 p.m.

How to book: Through their website

Address: 33 Tran Hung Dao Street

 

Cham Island Diving

Price: 2,100,000 VND (92 USD) price for two dives for certified diver. 1,800,000 VND (78 USD) price of two beginner or ‘try’ dives 

Business hours: 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., 7 days a week

Duration: Pickup from Hotel around 8 a.m., drop off 5:30 p.m.

How to book: Through their website

Address: 88 Nguyen Thai Hoc

 

Sea Trek – Underwater Walking

Sea Trek offers a unique service, around the Cham Islands similar to Blue Coral and Cham Island Diving. Similarly, they take you out on a boat, with lunch and time on the Cham Islands included.  However, the big difference being that instead of free scuba diving, you use their “Sea Trek” equipment to explore fairly shallow waters (4.5 metres). 

This equipment, developed in California is used worldwide. Essentially it is a breathing device with a large open helmet that allows you good visibility. It goes over your head and the system weighs you down so you slowly sink to the bottom and stay at the floor of the ocean. Consequently allowing you to walk underwater!  Therefore offering a different experience as you get closer to the coral and are able to feed fish. Their tagline is ‘if you can walk and breathe, you can Sea Trek!’

Price: 1,250,000 VND (55 USD) 

Business hours: 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., 7 days a week

Duration: Pickup from Hotel around 8 a.m., drop off 5 p.m.

How to book: Through their website

Address: 160A Nguyen Duy Hieu

Sea Trek dive helmets
Sea Trek dive helmets are a unique way to experience the underwater world. Photo: Courtesy Sea Trek

Snorkelling at the Cham Islands

While the focus of this article is scuba diving, we wanted to call out the number of snorkellers we saw and how that might be a better fit for some people. Snorkelling is cheaper than diving and doesn’t require a certification or any training. It’s easy to swim around on the surface and then get back in the boat at your leisure, and finally, it doesn’t require as much equipment. 

Snorkelling is a lot of fun for those who may be scared to try scuba (although we would definitely recommend facing your fears if you are scared and giving scuba a try!). It’s also fun to float around on the surface and challenge yourself to see how long you can dive down and hold your breath. 

diver swimming on shallow waters
Shallow waters and great visibility while snorkelling on the Cham Islands. Photo: Courtesy Blue Coral Diving

Hidden’s Thoughts

Whether you have never tried scuba diving before or you are an experienced diver, Hoi An is a great place to spend some time underwater. The biggest appeals of diving in Hoi An are the beautiful reef formations, a variety of underwater life, and multitude of colours. Furthermore, make sure to visit between the months of June-August for the best temperature and visibility.