So you want to head for the water with your snorkelling gear and be dazzled by tropical fish, colourful reefs and crystal clear water? Well we’ve done the hard work, and have put together a list of our consultants’ favourite snorkelling destinations around the world.
1. Ningaloo Reef. This World Heritage marine park in Western Australia covers an incredible 12,500km, populated with turtles, dolphins, reef sharks, manta rays, whale sharks and tropical fish. This is the only place in the world where tropical fish, sea turtles, manta rays and whale sharks all live together, and it has the second highest number of marine species in the world. The best time to visit to see whale sharks is March to August. Humpback whales visit the area July to November.
2. Great Barrier Reef. Australians know we have the largest coral reef ecosystem in the world right on our doorstep. But how many of us have actually experienced the incredible beauty of this natural wonder? From manta rays to barracudas, there’s over 1800 species fish, 5000 types of shellfish and 125 species of sharks. Then there’s the seahorses, clown fish and green turtles to swim alongside.
3. Maldives. Known as one of the most beautiful destinations in the world, the beauty doesn’t just lie in the beaches and resorts. Dive underwater to seek out the 700 odd species of fish, as well as anemones, coral, octopus, sharks and turtles. And if you’re travelling with people not keen on snorkelling, the water is so crystal clear they can put on some reef walkers and still experience this underwater wonder.
4. Fiji. So easily accessible from Australia, Fiji is definitely worth considering if you want to swim among colourful tropical fish. The best time of year to snorkel is April to October, and it is known as the soft coral capital of the world. Some of the best areas for snorkelling are the Namena Marine Reserve off Savusavu, the Yasawas and the Mamanuca islands.
5. Thailand. Some of the more popular areas of the Thai islands are overrun by tourists and don’t make for a relaxing snorkelling experience. But there are still areas of pure beauty to explore. The Similan Islands are a national park and offer world-class snorkelling. Khao Lak has good snorkelling all year round. Other areas to visit are Monkey Beach and Maya Bay.
6. Mexico. Cozumel is acknowledged as one of the best diving and snorkelling locations in the world. Visibility is often around 70 metres and the island is surrounded by more than 25 reefs across 32km. Then there’s the marine park area of Puerto Morelos, which is the most beautiful in the Riviera Maya. Isla Mujeres is 13km from the coast of Cancun and you’ll find clear, calm shallow waters, and the island features a multitude of statues of Ixchel, the Mayan goddess of love, fertility and medicine. The MUSA (Museo Subacuatico de Arte) is a unique snorkelling experience with over 500 sculptures peppered along the sea floor.
7. Hawaii. All the Hawaiian islands offer great snorkelling spots, however the Big Island has more square footage than all of the other islands combined. Two places of note are Honaunau Bay, with its colourful coral gardens, and Kealakekua Bay where you’ll experience the technicolour fish and coral. Our second pick is Maui where there are plenty of great snorkelling spots, Molokini Crater being our favourite.
8. The Philippines. There are 7000 islands that make up the Philippines, all of them offering great snorkelling opportunities. The most well-known location is Palawan where you’ll find whale sharks in the Bay of Donsol, coral reefs at Noa Noa Island and fish-filled lagoons. Another top site is Apo Island where gigantic turtles feed among the coral gardens.
9. The Galapagos Islands. This would have to be the most unique snorkelling destination on the list. Instead of sighting pretty fish and coral, the Galapagos Islands offer up the bigger marine life – sharks, dolphins, turtles, sea lions, fur seals, whales and penguins. The aquatic life doesn’t encounter huge crowds of people, so they tend to be approachable. It’s not uncommon for a playful group of sea lions or turtles to swim alongside you.
10. Solomon Islands. You can wade off the beach to find beautiful reefs on Mary Island and Uepi Island. The ocean here is populated with giant eagle rays, sharks, batfish and barracuda. The Solomon Islands offer some of the most pristine environments, and the reefs are extremely healthy and diverse.
11. French Polynesia. Bora Bora offers one of the few places in the world you can swim along giant manta rays and reef sharks while exploring the incredibly colourful coral reefs. But French Polynesia offers a variety of incredible snorkelling locations including Moorea, Raiatea and Tahaa.