A view of a huge oceanic sunfish, a large circular-shaped fish that is the largest in the world, in turquoise deep blue water

Best Mola Mola Diving: 7 Spots to Find The Largest Bony Fish in the World!

The enigmatic Mola mola, also known as the oceanic sunfish, is one of the most peculiar species of fish in the world.

Gentle giants with a prehistoric look, there’s something especially unique about mola molas, given their strange flattened, circular shape combined with their massive size.

These fish are truly massive, growing more than 3 meters long (10 feet), and weighing a whopping 2,000+ kilograms (over 5,000 pounds)… seeing one is truly more akin to seeing a whale underwater than a fish, even though these are truly just fish.

Mola molas are rather shy, too, so your encounters with them are typically as brief as they are magical.

Mola molas are found all over the world, pelagic in nature, meaning they favor the open ocean as opposed to coastal environments… which makes them a little hard for divers to spot.

That said, there are a few places closer to coast where mola molas congregate, mostly at cleaning stations where helpful fish (and apparently seagulls?) can help remove the 40-odd types of parasites that tend to infest these massive yet mostly helpless creatures.

Mola molas are deep dwellers at heart, living as deep as 600 meters, nearly 2,000 feet underwater, hunting down their favorite snack — jellyfish — at whatever depths that requires.

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But occasionally, they do come up near the surface, to bask in the sun and warm their core body temperatures and also to be cleaned by fish so they don’t succumb to parasitic infections and annoyances.

Whether you’re a seasoned diver or just beginning, the opportunity to dive with mola molas is a remarkable adventure — here are 7 places around the world where you have a chance of diving with mola molas.

But remember: these huge fish are elusive and unpredictable, so set your expectations low and your hopes high!

That’s exactly what lends to their special magic.

Note: I am using the word mola mola interchangeably here with other mola species.

Technically, there’s the mola mola (oceanic sunfish), the mola alexandrini (the bump-head sunfish or Southern sunfish — the largest of the three), and the mola tecta (the hoodwinker sunfish).

I’m not always going to differentiate between them because there’s very little difference in how they look, and they’re all commonly known as mola mola — it’s mostly the size and where they’re found.

Nusa Penida, Bali

A mola mola in Nusa Penida approaching the shallower waters, with fish all around it to clean it from parasites

This is where I tried diving for mola mola and while I unfortunately didn’t see one, other people who were diving the same day I was did… including one fortunate Open Water course student!

Imagine being that lucky — I’d buy a lottery ticket.

While I was unlucky and didn’t see any mola molas on my 5 dives in Nusa Penida, I went slightly out of the main season, in November.

You will likely have better luck if you visit in the peak season, which runs from around July to October.

However, as the dive shop I went with told me, the mola mola diving season is changing a bit due to climate change which is impacting the water temperatures.

Now, mola molas often don’t begin to congregate around Nusa Penida until August and often are found even into December, as a diver I follow on Instagram just recently saw one in mid-December!

The prime spots to find mola molas are in Crystal Bay (a gorgeous dive site even if you don’t spot mola molas!) and the Blue Corner (where my dive buddies spotted several mola molas just a few days’ prior to my arrival).

But they can be found on virtually any dive in the Nusa area — the lucky open water diver who saw a mola mola even saw it at a shallow part of the dive at Pura Ped!

Vertigo Point is supposed to be another popular spot for mola molas (well, technically you usually find mola alexandrini here — the largest of all mola species) to congregate.

Just be aware that mola molas love cold water… so expect temperatures of around 18 Celsius or 64 Fahrenheit.

Dive shops in Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida will give you a 5mm wetsuit, but in my opinion, that’s really not sufficient for me.

If I were to go back, I would bring some Sharkskin layers to put underneath, or a nice hood to keep warm on these chilly dives.

Mola molas also are found diving quite deep, typically around 30 to 40m, so you’ll want to have your Advanced Open Water or even your PADI Deep speciality to be diving within your certification.

Many mola mola dives are Nitrox dives due to the depth, so you’ll want to be exceptionally careful with your maximum operating depth (MOD) based on your Nitrox blend.

You risk oxygen toxicity — read: underwater convulsions and possible drowning — if you exceed your MOD, so you’ll absolutely need to have a dive computer that you check regularly.

Always keep an eye on that, do not follow mola molas blindly into the abyss!

Note that it’s possible to see mola molas in other parts of Bali… there have been sightings in Amed and Tulamben as well as Candidasa and Padang Bai, but if you are specifically seeking out diving with mola molas, you’ll really want to focus on Nusa Penida.

The Hebrides, Scotland

A giant mola mola near the surface in the islands of the Hebrides in scotland, in cold waters which the mola mola love!

Scotland probably doesn’t come to your mind initially as a dive destination.

But for those of you who are willing to brave cold water (or learn drysuit diving, which I’m going to do in March in Lofoten, Norway!), Scotland has a ton to offer.

Incredible wreck diving, for one, with the Orkney Islands’ Scapa Flow being one of the top wreck destinations in the world.

But Scotland is also home to a ton of sea life — just those species that don’t mind the cold.

Luckily, mola molas are little freaks who love the cold water — and that’s why you’ll find them chilling in the Hebrides islands of Scotland during mola mola diving season!

The mola molas you’ll find in the waters around Scotland are usually smaller than the ones you’ll see in Bali, but ‘smaller’ is relative: they’re still incredibly big!

They’re not particularly commonly spotted, but if you are going to see them, it’s typically during summer months — they love to snack on jellyfish blooms!

Like Nusa Penida, expect chilly waters even during the summer months, reaching maximums (yup, maximums!) of around 18 C or 64 F.

Galapagos, Ecuador

Sun fish, or mola mola, swimming at the dive site, "Punta Vicente Roca" which is popular with mola molas in Isabela Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, while on a liveaboard dive

A popular liveaboard destination, you can find mola molas in the Galapagos Islands year-round, as the water temperatures remain pretty steadily chilly but not freezing — the Goldilocks formula for these temperamental fish!

You can find two species of mola in the Galapagos, Mola mola (oceanic sunfish) and mola ramsayi (the southern sunfish).

That said, they look basically identical — scientists had to confirm the difference via genetic analysis, so this is more of a pedantic difference than one of any great importance.

Mola molas are still rather uncommon to find for divers because they typically live too deep, but they sometimes like to float near the surface, basking in the sun — which is what gives them their name of the ‘sunfish’!

Hey, if you lived in cold 18 C waters nearly your whole life, you’d want to warm up sometimes too.

While you can find them throughout the Galapagos, the most common area to find them is off of Isabela Island, specifically near Punta Vicente Roca.

Musandam Peninsula, Oman

A mola mola seen underwater at depth with its parkings and its pointy sail-like fin pointing upwards

For an offbeat place to dive, with a chance of mola mola sightings, head to the Musandam Peninsula in Oman in the summer months.

This beautiful Arabian peninsula country, neighbored by the glitzy UAE, is a place of rugged beauty both above and below the water, with dramatic fjord-like seascapes and tons of marine life, including the majestic mola mola!

The waters around the Musandam Peninsula are perfect for these huge, otherworldly creatures in the summer, where they’re often found basking near the surface to sun themselves or sometimes swimming at around 20-40 meters where they can get cleaned by helper fish.

Diving in Musandam offers a unique opportunity: the chance to go diving with mola molas in a relatively untouched environment, especially when you compare it to the circus that can be diving in Nusa.

The peninsula’s remote location that fewer divers end up here — and fewer diver bubbles means a greater chance of seeing the famously shy mola mola!

Beyond just a chance of seeing the world’s largest boned fish, with their sheer size, peculiar pancake-like shape, and calm demeanor, you can also admire the incredible underwater topography of Musandam, with its steep drop-offs and vibrant reefs.

Sea of Cortez, Mexico

An oceanic sunfish surrounded by other fish in shallow-ish waters with sandy sea floor and sea grass

The Sea of Cortez sits between the Baja California Peninsula and Mexico’s mainland, a narrow strip of sea bursting with biodiversity as it’s been well-protected by the Mexican government.

From July to November, you have a decent chance of spotting the mola molas, who normally are deep-dwellers but might rise to shallower depths to sun themselves or get cleaned.

This is prime mola mola diving season in the Sea of Cortez, which is usually accessed by La Paz, the diving capital of the region.

Generally, the mola molas you’ll find in the Sea of Cortez are a little younger and smaller, typically only 1-2 meters in length when they can normally reach 3 meters.

Of course, you’re not guaranteed to see these typically-deep dwellers so you’ll want to have a back-up plan — luckily, divers in the Sea of Cortez are spoiled with lots of large species to dote on, including playful and curious sea lions who will get up close and personal with you (whether you like it or not!), several kinds of whales, dolphins, and mantas.

Costa del Sol, Spain

A mola mola giving a surprised or curious face to the photographer with a diver nearby for perspective on just how huge this fish is

The Mediterranean isn’t particularly renowned for its scuba diving, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a few unique offerings.

The Costa del Sol, which borders the Alboran Sea in Spain, is a prime place to see mola mola.

The Alboran Sea is the midpoint between the Atlantic Ocean and the Strait of Gibralter, making it an essential thoroughfare for mola mola migrating to the open ocean where they can feed more.

The waters here can get cold enough for mola mola to feel happy, with temperatures reaching as low as 14 C or 58 F during the colder months, so it’s chilly enough for these silly cold-loving fish.

You can see them year-round if you are lucky, but they’re more likely to come up from depth and warm up in the sun where you can see them during the warmer months.

Izu Peninsula, Japan

A circular shaped large fish with fin, tail, wide eye, open mouth -- the sunfish

Mola molas spawn annually in the waters off the coast of Japan, making this one of the prime places for mola mola diving!

You can typically find them along the Izu Peninsula area in Shizuoka Prefecture.

They have a few favorite dive sites that they frequent so you may want to prioritize these ones if you are trying to dive with mola molas in Japan.

Those main dive sites are Osezaki (believed by biologists to serve as a cleaning station, as mola molas are highly susceptible to parasites), Nakagi, and Futo, which are all located around Mikomoto Island.

Mola mola season depends on the water temperatures — they like it not too hot and not too cold (they die at temperatures below 10 C, which, same). — so you’ll find them typically between April and August in Japan.

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