A Guest Blog by Ruth Franklin of Secret Paradise Maldives
1200 islands of 26 different atolls make up the island paradise of the Maldives. Once prehistoric underwater volcanoes, the coral reefs and ecosystems that surround these picture perfect islands offer some of the world’s very best snorkeling locations. There’s no better destination than the pristine tropical waters of the Maldives for first time snorkelers or veteran underwater lovers. With an average of 200+ sunny days per year, the Maldives really is second to none when it comes to choosing an idyllic snorkeling escape.
What is Snorkeling in the Maldives Like?
You’ve probably seen the picture perfect images of the Maldives floating around the internet, popping up on your Instagram feed or plastered across what it seems like, pages of every other travel magazine. Thoughts of ‘there’s no way that ocean water can be real’ or something along the lines of ‘that’s definitely photo shopped’ may have crossed your mind more than once. Take our word for it from us here at Secret Paradise, as we can assure you that yes – the water is really the colour depicted by the magazines. In fact, the island waters here reflect a spectrum of blue tones that seem to change façade with every spec of light. This island paradise is just waiting for you to dive beneath the surface to discover its abundance of incredible reef life and the spectacular coloured corals.
If you’re privileged enough to delved into the underwater world of the Maldives, you can expect nothing but excellent clarity and visibility, combined with blissful year round ocean temperatures of 26 – 29 degrees Celsius. You may also be thinking that a snorkeling holiday in the Maldives is probably out of your budget … Again, let us reassure you that there has never been a more affordable time to travel to the Maldives. A snorkeling vacation is very reasonable and can begin from as little as USD$50 per night … let us show you how.
What Are the Options for Maldives Snorkeling Holidays?
Here at Secret Paradise, we offer quality and value for money snorkeling day trips and bespoke Multi-day Island hopping itineraries. On our tours, expect to explore the uncharted local islands of the Maldives, an alternative to an expensive resort style vacation.
Staying on a local island in a guesthouse allows for exploration of some of the Maldives’ very best snorkeling sites and marine life, whilst experiencing the local tradition and culture of the Maldives. Think palm trees, white sandy beaches, sun bathing and of course snorkeling, all combined with wandering locally inhabited islands, tasting Maldivian foods and seeing local traditions first hand. Enjoy being transferred from your local island via a traditional wooden dhoani boat, to stunning nearby snorkeling sites – the very same sites that resort guests snorkel at, all for a fraction of the cost! Our affordable snorkeling holidays and day trips will leave you with long lasting Maldives memories.
Is The Maldives Best For First Time or Experienced Snorkelers?
The answer to this question is both. The Maldives is spread across a thousand small islands scattered throughout the Indian Ocean, meaning it offers vast ocean environments, perfect for both beginner and experienced snorkelers and everyone in between.
The islands here in the Maldives consist of both shallow and deep-water lagoons. Beginners can simply choose to snorkel the reefs adjacent to the shoreline, in the safety of still water. Intermediate snorkelers can explore reefs a little further off shore whilst advanced snorkelers who are more daring have opportunities to try the local ‘drift-snorkeling’ method, using the aide of the ocean currents to explore the underwater terrain. As the ocean currents here in the Maldives are extremely tidal, our local guides will accompany you to ensure that you experience a safe yet ‘bucket-list’ type of underwater snorkeling experience.
What Is The Best Time of Year For Snorkeling In The Maldives?
The snorkeling season of the Maldives runs yearlong. As the Maldives is located near the equator, it is susceptible to two monsoon seasons, better known as the wet and dry seasons. From May to November (the wet season), the abundance of reef life is more varied and the visibility levels are better on the western side of each island. December to April is generally known as the ‘dry’ period, where the eastern side of each atoll is best for snorkeling.
Buy or Rent Snorkeling Equipment?
When it comes to packing for your Maldives snorkeling vacation, deciding upon whether to buy or rent your snorkeling gear is certainly a great question and one that needs to be given substantial consideration, as everyone’s snorkeling needs are different.
Firstly, decide how often you think you may snorkel on your Maldives trip. Do you think that number is worthy of purchasing your very own snorkeling gear? Let us help you make a wise travel decision.
Let’s face it, there’s nothing quite like owning your own snorkeling equipment – being assured that your own mask, fins and snorkel fit your face and body perfectly, not to mention they haven’t been worn by the many tourists before you. It’s a great little luxury if you believe you will be snorkeling frequently throughout your Maldives stay. It will also save you the hassle of searching for the snorkeling equipment that is right for you.
However, remember transporting and carrying your own snorkeling gear can often be bulky and heavy, and the last thing you want is for your equipment to be damaged in transit. Renting your snorkeling equipment is essentially easier, as your gear you won’t need to be transported from place to place. Fins especially take up a substantial amount of room in your luggage.
Another alternative is to purchase your own face mask and snorkel before your trip and hire your fins whilst on holidays. A mask and snorkel combination is small and lightweight – it takes up minimal space in your luggage. This way you will be assured that your mask will fit you comfortably, it won’t leak and it is sanitary, plus you won’t have to awkwardly lug fins around in your luggage.
Our Secret Paradise Packing Tip:
Cushion your mask between clothes to ensure the lens won’t be damaged in transit. As fins are durable, pack them on the outer edge of your luggage to prevent your other belongings from being damaged.
Discover more of The Maldives with www.secretparadise.mv
12 Top Places to Snorkel with Dolphins
Not many experiences can match the sheer joy and fun of swimming with dolphins. These intelligent and playful creatures have captivated humans for generations with their acrobatics and friendly natures. There are numerous places where you can snorkel with dolphins and see what all the fuss is about. Whether you are looking for somewhere close to home for the whole family or an exotic getaway with idyllic snorkeling spots, we’ve got you covered in our round-up of the top places to snorkel with dolphins.
Egypt is known for its aquarium-like house reefs just a few steps from the shore, world-famous wrecks and exciting offshore reef dives. For the best opportunity to snorkel with dolphins, head to the Southern Red Sea.
Samadai (Dolphin House) reef at Marsa Alam is a sheltered horseshoe-shaped reef famous for its population of spinner dolphins. It is also close to the best snorkeling and diving in Marsa Alam.
Species: Spinner dolphins, bottlenose and Risso’s.
- The Bahamas
With numerous corals cays to choose from, you are spoilt for choice when visiting the Bahamas. There are plenty of places where you can encounter dolphins but the best places to spot them are Bimini and Grand Bahama. There are several resident pods present year-round there.
Species: Atlantic spotted, spinner, bottlenose and striped.
- The Azores
The Azores is one of the world’s leading whale and dolphin watching destinations. In the bright blue waters of these volcanic islands, you can swim with up to 5 different dolphin species, plus blue sharks, mantas and mobula rays.
Species: Atlantic spotted, bottlenose, striped, Risso’s and common.
Along with the Azores, diving in Madeira is one of Portugal’s top attractions. Known as the ‘Pearl of the Atlantic’, this subtropical archipelago has thriving reefs, deep wrecks, and is visited by 26 species of whales and dolphins.
You can swim with playful schools of wild dolphins year-round at Madeira. With some of the cleanest and clearest waters in the world, it is an unforgettable experience.
Species: Common, spotted.
- New Zealand
New Zealand has no less than 4 destinations where you can swim with dolphins and hosts 9 different dolphin species.
The popular Bay of Plenty offers dolphin swim safaris, and the rich waters there also host seals, whales, sunfish and sea turtles. Go swimming with up to five different dolphin species in the forest-draped Marlborough Sounds or swim with dusky dolphins in the shadow of Kaikoura’s rugged mountains.
For the ultimate dolphin experience, go swimming with Hector’s dolphins at the pretty coastal town Akaroa. These adorable dolphins are the smallest in the world.
Species: Common, dusky, bottlenose, Hector’s.
Australia offers accessible swimming with dolphins on the doorsteps of its best-known cities.
Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park, just 2.5 hours’ drive north of Sydney, offers dolphin swimming tours with common and bottlenose dolphins. Port Phillip Bay near Melbourne hosts resident bottlenose dolphins that often approach people in the water.
You can hang out with playful bottlenose and common dolphins at Glenelg near Adelaide, or head to Perth in Western Australia to swim with the local dolphins of Shoalwater Islands Marine Park.
Species: Common, bottlenose.
Hawaii hosts an impressive array of marine life, with 25 per cent of its species found nowhere else on Earth. Its underwater treasures and lava landscapes draw people to Hawaii scuba diving every year.
Head to Oahu or Big Island to find dolphins along the coastline or join a dolphin swimming tour. Make sure you book with a Dolphin SMART operator and leave plenty of time to explore Oahu’s many top places to spot Hawaiian green sea turtles as well.
Species: Spinner, bottlenose, spotted.
Fiji’s rainbow-hued reefs and 300 or so idyllic islands are perfect for snorkeling adventures in search of dolphins.
Both spinner and bottlenose dolphins are found in Fiji’s warm waters and some resorts have resident dolphin pods just offshore. There are various tours you can join to swim with the dolphins, so just ask at your local Fiji dive center to find out more.
Species: Bottlenose, spinner.
- The Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands sit at the top of many divers wish lists and understandably so. These wild islands offer unparalleled wildlife watching opportunities above and below water.
Diving with sharks, rays, penguins, marine iguanas, sea lions and countless fish is the norm at this UNESCO World Heritage site. Dolphins are also often seen in the water, with both bottlenose and common dolphins resident all year. Fernandina Island is one of the top places to spot them.
Species: Bottlenose, common.
- French Polynesia
French Polynesia’s rich marine ecosystems, which include a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the second-largest atoll in the world, are teeming with marine life, including dolphins.
From November to mid-July, large pods of spinner dolphins are found along Moorea Island’s coastline. Join a boat tour to swim with the dolphins then head to Moorea Lagoon to meet the resident stingrays and reef sharks this picture-perfect location is known for.
- South Africa
To witness one of the world’s true spectacles, visit South Africa during the sardine run. Billions of sardines migrate along the coast of South Africa every year, attracting countless diving sea birds, dolphins, whales and sharks.
Drop into the water amongst the sardines and you can watch the pelagic action unfold, with hunting dolphins working together to make the most of this awe-inspiring feast.
Species: Bottlenose, common.
Fernando de Noronha in Brazil is a diving mecca that hosts some of Brazil’s best beaches and snorkeling opportunities.
Sea turtles, reef sharks, rays and dolphins gather in the clear, warm waters around this archipelago of 21 volcanic islands. At the aptly-named Dolphin Bay, hundreds of spinner dolphins gather daily to feed on the fish and socialize. Watch these acrobatic dolphins from the shoreline or join a tour to swim with them.
Kathryn Curzon, a shark conservationist and dive travel writer for Scuba Schools International (SSI), wrote this article.
10 Great Coral Reef Destinations for Every Snorkeler
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.
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