There is nothing like drifting over a coral reef, watching vibrant fish life and thriving corals as the sun shines overhead. If you’re lucky, you might spot a passing sea turtle, manta ray or even a whale shark whilst you explore. Reef snorkeling is simply one of the best experiences and you don’t need to travel far to try it.
Whether you’re looking for an affordable destination close to home, a family-friendly trip, an idyllic island getaway, or a touch of luxury, we’ve got you covered. Read on for our pick of 10 great coral reef destinations for every snorkeler to enjoy.
Family-friendly coral reef destinations
- Easily accessible.
- Year-round sunshine.
- Plenty of facilities and entertainment for families.
Egypt is a classic family destination that offers clear blue waters teeming with life. There are dozens of snorkeling spots just off Egypt’s beaches, especially at bustling Sharm El Sheikh. Snorkeling there is like swimming in an aquarium, and it is a perfect for adults and kids of all ages.
For a more laid-back vibe, head south to Marsa Alam. This small resort town is renowned for its sandy beaches and coral reefs. That said, the real highlight there is snorkeling with large families of spinner dolphins, dugongs and sea turtles.
Australia might be further afield than Egypt for many people, but the big marine life and year-round sunshine make it hard to beat.
Take a trip to Cairns and you can visit two UNESCO World Heritage sites at one place: the enormous Great Barrier Reef and the ancient Daintree Rainforest. As well as plenty of smaller reef life, the Great Barrier Reef hosts reef sharks galore, plus dwarf minke whales and humpback whales in winter.
Love whale sharks? Head west and to snorkel with these spotty giants at Ningaloo Reef and explore the remarkable UNESCO-listed Ningaloo Coast.
Luxurious coral reef destinations
- Romantic settings.
- Luxurious accommodation options.
- Combine world-class reef snorkeling and relaxation.
- Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Sitting in the heart of the Coral Triangle, Raja Ampat has some of the highest marine biodiversity in the world. There are numerous manta rays, whale sharks and pastel-hued soft corals, putting diving in Raja Ampat at the top of many wish lists. These stunning islands are best enjoyed by hopping on a Raja Ampat cruise.
- Wakatobi, Indonesia
If you want to indulge in a luxury getaway and explore coral reefs that few people visit, go to Wakatobi. There you will find palm-fringed islands washed by azure waters with almost no other people in sight.
Underwater, Wakatobi is known for having huge sponges and corals that are busy with prized Coral Triangle critters. There are healthy seagrass beds with plenty of juvenile green sea turtles and you can spot Hawksbill turtles on the reefs.
- The Maldives
The Maldives is what luxury getaways are all about. Picture-perfect islands, warm waters, soft white sands and fantastic food. All with a generous helping of excellent snorkeling just a few paces off the shore.
Whether you hop on a day-boat to the outer reefs or explore around your resort’s house reef, snorkeling and diving in the Maldives are hard to beat. You can swim with whale sharks, hang out with hundreds of mantas at Hanifaru Bay, or simply enjoy a cocktail whilst the sun goes down.
Idyllic island destinations
- Perfect for island-hopping adventures.
- Tropical destinations far from daily life.
- Easy snorkeling at some of the world’s best reefs.
Fiji is known as the ‘soft coral capital of the world’ and doesn’t disappoint. The reefs at this welcoming destination are swathed in vivid soft corals in just about every color you can imagine.
As well as eye-popping reefs, Fiji has fantastic seasonal marine life, including plenty of whales during winter and large pelagic fish. Go island hopping to swim with mantas or become a certified diver to join Fiji’s famous bull shark dive. The choice is entirely yours.
- The Solomon Islands
The Solomon Islands offer some of the finest snorkeling in the South Pacific, if not the world. Whilst there are numerous destinations to choose from at these volcanic islands, don’t miss Marovo Lagoon.
It is the world’s largest saltwater lagoon and is dotted with hundreds of jungle-clad islands, many of which are uninhabited. The waters are calm, and the reefs are thriving; with huge sea fans, countless reef fish, shallow shipwrecks and stunning coral gardens
Coral reefs off the beaten path
- Great for adventurous travelers and experienced snorkelers.
- Go the distance and enjoy the rewards.
- Few other tourists in sight.
- Sipadan Island, Borneo
Sipadan Island was formed by living corals growing on top of an extinct volcano and offers fantastic snorkeling thanks to the deep-water currents that bring up nutrients to the reef.
There you will find mesmerizing underwater landscapes with around 600 species of coral and 1200 fish species. There are huge schools of barracuda, plus parrotfish, reef sharks, tiny critters tucked among the corals, and abundant sea turtles.
- Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea (PNG) is well off the tourist trail. But if you don’t mind the travel time, you can snorkel among untouched reefs and immerse in a tribal culture like no other.
With over 600 islands, there are numerous destinations to choose from in PNG. Kimbe Bay was voted as one of the world’s most beautiful reefs by National Geographic. Take a trip to Tufi and you can snorkel in the shadow of dramatic fjords and experience PNG’s incredible marine diversity.
- The Marshall Islands
With around 5000 visitors a year, the Marshall Islands are one of the world’s least-visited countries. Don’t expect to go there and find endless restaurants and resorts. Instead, you will find friendly locals and vibrant reefs that few people ever get to see.
Even better, the Marshall Islands has been home to the world’s largest shark sanctuary since 2011 and this island nation continues to be committed to ocean conservation. Go there before the rest of the world finds out.
Kathryn Curzon, a shark conservationist and dive travel writer for Scuba Schools International (SSI), wrote this article.
Top 12 Snorkeling Destinations in Oceania – Part 1
Encompassing over 8 million square kilometers, Oceania hosts some of the world’s most idyllic snorkeling destinations. There are untouched reefs and shallow wrecks, countless forest-draped islands, and volcanic landscapes with rich black sands full of weird and wonderful critters. With abundant marine megafauna, including manta rays, whales, dolphins, seals, sharks, and thousands of sea turtles, it is a paradise for every ocean fan. Read on for part I of our round-up of 12 great places to go snorkeling in Oceania.
Drop a pin on a map of Australia’s vast coastline and you will likely land close to some epic snorkeling spots. There are dozens of places to experience the best of Australia’s rich and varied underwater landscapes.
In the remote northern reaches of the Great Barrier Reef, there is a sea turtle nesting area that hosts more than 60,000 green turtles each nesting season. A little further south at Cairns, there is classic Great Barrier Reef scuba diving and excellent snorkeling, with reef sharks, friendly dwarf minke whales, and vibrant coral reefs teeming with fish. If you’re keen to try diving, this is one of the best places to get your diving license and then hop on a short liveaboard to explore.
The southern Great Barrier Reef hosts Australia’s best-known manta ray hotspots, Lady Elliot Island and Lady Musgrave Island. Diving in Australia isn’t just about the Great Barrier Reef though. There is excellent snorkeling close to many of Australia’s coastal towns and cities.
You can snorkel with beautiful weedy sea dragons near Melbourne, go cage diving with great white sharks off Port Lincoln, or swim with enormous stingrays in Port Philip Bay. Ningaloo Reef’s many whale sharks are one of the top reasons to go snorkeling in Australia, but you will be spoilt for choice wherever you choose to explore.
New Zealand may be a lot smaller than Australia, but it packs a punch when it comes to snorkeling. With over 600 islands, 44 marine reserves, and the 9th longest coastline in the world, snorkeling in New Zealand is diverse, unique and fascinating.
Sun-soaked Northland is the best place to start your snorkeling trip in New Zealand and features the famous Poor Knights Islands. These unique islands were rated as one of the world’s top ten dives by Jacques Cousteau and offer sub-tropical snorkeling among sun-dappled kelp forests that huge shoals of fish and stingrays.
Further south, the Mercury and Aldermen Islands are a summer playground for Aucklanders and tourists alike. This picture-perfect area is dotted with white sand beaches and has fantastic warm-water snorkeling. There are volcanic rock formations with an abundance of marine and birdlife. Seasonal visitors include whales, bronze whaler sharks, makos, marlin and other prized finds.
You can go swimming with wild bottlenose, common and dusky dolphins in the Marlborough Sounds or head south to Kaikoura to meet some ocean giants. Kaikoura is one of the only places in the world where you can see sperm whales all year and is a great place to go swimming with seals. Make sure you spend a few days there to snorkel the coastline and join a local boat tour to meet Kaikoura’s albatrosses, dolphins and sharks.
Fiji is a classic destination in Oceania, offering a wealth of forest-draped islands and snorkeling highlights worthy of any bucket list. If you’re looking for a destination that has something for every snorkeler, and plenty for non-snorkelers too, Fiji could be for you.
Viti Levu, the main tourism hub and largest of all Fijian Islands, is famous for its bull and tiger shark diving, and has beautiful coral reefs for snorkelers. Go island hopping from Viti Levu and you’ll be immersed in a world of rainbow-hued soft coral landscapes, pelagic fish, and manta rays. You could easily while away your days simply drifting over Fiji’s many thriving coral gardens.
Just make sure you leave some time to explore topside. The friendly Fijian welcome, excellent jungle hikes, lush rainforests and waterfalls are not to be missed.
The Federated States of Micronesia
Micronesia is high on the wish list for many divers and consists of over 600 islands strewn across the western Pacific Ocean. This stunning destination is best-known as a wreck diving mecca and hosts dozens of World War II wrecks calm lagoon waters.
The wrecks of Chuuk Lagoon are renowned among divers and some of the wrecks are accessible to snorkelers. This calm, warm lagoon was the site of a fierce battle in World War II that resulted in hundreds of ships, planes and submarines sinking. The wrecks remain there to this day and are covered in rainbow-hued corals and surrounded by fish. Diving among the tanks, trucks and airplanes of this special lagoon brings history to life in the most vivid way.
As well as an enviable list of wrecks, Micronesia also has countless shallow reefs, manta rays at Yap, and some of the world’s most pristine snorkeling at Kosrae Island.
Palau is a snorkeler’s paradise with dazzling coral gardens and over 1300 fish species. Made up of 340 coral and volcanic islands, this stunning destination offers exceptionally good snorkeling.
The Rock Islands hosts the most popular snorkeling spots in Palau and can only be accessed by boat. This UNESCO World Heritage Centre is dotted with forest-draped islands surrounded by coral reefs. There are diverse underwater landscapes to explore, including drop-offs, walls, channels and sheltered bays.
With over 1300 fish species, 700 coral species and numerous prized critters, there is plenty for underwater naturalists and photographers to enjoy at Palau. Being the world’s first shark sanctuary, Palau’s waters are also busy with sharks.
Kathryn Curzon, a shark conservationist and dive travel writer for SSI (Scuba Schools International), wrote this article.
Snorkeling In India: 5 Great Reasons to Go There Now
With its white-sand beaches and tropical islands, India is a must-visit snorkeling destination, but it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. There are isolated coral reefs, numerous shipwrecks, remote atolls, and shallow coral gardens that host an eye-popping array of marine life. With India recently opening its borders to fully vaccinated travelers, now is the time to explore this incredible destination before the rest of the world finds out.
1. Choose from numerous idyllic destinations.
With over 8000 kilometers of coastline and 1382 islands nestled in the Indian Ocean, India has a huge variety of destinations and world-class snorkeling spots. The best time to visit India’s top destinations varies, meaning you can find somewhere in India to indulge your inner mermaid at almost any time of year.
The Andaman Islands are surrounded by bright blue waters and fringed with isolated coral reefs, making them one of the best places to go snorkeling in India. It is a tropical paradise destination with thriving mangroves that support diverse marine life and extraordinary birdlife.
Havelock Island and Neil Island are two of the most exceptional snorkeling spots in the Andaman Islands and are regularly rated as two of the best places for scuba diving in India.
2. Snorkel among vibrant marine life in crystal-clear waters.
Sitting in the warm Indian Ocean, India’s snorkeling sites host a dazzling array of life, including abundant tropical reef fish, lionfish, moray eels and prized critters. Manta rays, whales and dolphins are also seen in India’s waters.
Sea turtles are regularly spotted cruising the reefs and nest at many of India’s islands, including at the Lakshadweep archipelago.
Kadmat Island (Cardamom Island) in Lakshadweep is all about turquoise seas, white sand beaches and encounters with numerous sea turtles. With healthy seagrass beds and coral reefs to explore, it is a mecca for marine life. Make sure you leave time to visit this impossibly idyllic island.
3. Explore endless golden beaches and castaway islands.
India’s islands are easily on a par with better-known island destinations such as the Maldives and Mauritius. There are swathes of golden and white sand beaches to explore, plus numerous untouched coral reefs and remote atolls.
Bangaram Atoll is entirely surrounded by coral reefs and the continuous nature of the reef makes it one of the most interesting places to snorkel at Lakshadweep. As well as gorgeous corals, Bangaram hosts Princess Royal, a famous 200-year-old shipwreck that attracts divers from around the world.
Sitting on the west coast of India by the Arabian Sea, Goa is known for its long beaches and lively nightlife. But if you step back from the bustling bars, you will find picturesque snorkeling sites and a destination rich in culture and history.
There are several snorkeling spots to choose from at Goa, with Grande Island being one of the most popular. The water can be cloudy around Goa but the shallow coral gardens, abundant fish life, and underwater shipwrecks make up for it.
4. Visit the chic ‘French Capital of India’.
Puducherry’s crystal-clear waters are enough to attract any keen snorkeler to explore this well-known French colonial settlement and the surrounding area.
Above water, Puducherry is a quaint destination with a French Quarter of bougainvillea-lined streets, colorful colonial villas, and sophisticated boutiques. You could easily while away a couple of days there.
Below water is equally as eye-catching, with a huge range of marine environments along Puducherry’s vast coastline. There are unexplored coral reefs and shipwrecks, plus famous dive sites that also offer great snorkeling.
Aravind Wall at Puducherry is a popular snorkeling spot that is renowned for its diverse marine life. As well as numerous vibrant reef fish, there are lionfish, eels, rays, parrotfish, and crustaceans. If you visit during February or March, you might even see a passing whale shark.
5. See the second tallest Shiva statue in the world.
Netrani Island (Pigeon Island) is one of India’s best-known snorkeling spots and sits off the famous temple town of Murdeshwar. Shaped like a heart, it is also known as ‘the heart of India’s diving’ and offers world-class snorkeling with excellent conditions.
There are rarely any currents at Netrani, making it an ideal destination for snorkelers who like easy conditions or want to earn their Open Water Diver certification.
Start your days by exploring Netrani’s diverse coral landscapes then visit the fascinating Murdeshwar temple, which hosts the second largest Shiva statue in the world. At 123 feet (37 meters) tall, the statue is an impressive sight.
When is the best time to go snorkeling in India?
The best time to go snorkeling in India depends on which area of India you are visiting:
- Andaman Islands: November to April.
- Lakshadweep: October to May.
- Goa: October to May.
- Puducherry: February to April, September to November.
- Netrani Island: October to May.
Kathryn Curzon, a shark conservationist and dive travel writer for SSI (Scuba Schools International), wrote this article.
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