The world’s oceans are home to over 500 different ray species of all shapes and sizes. These close cousins to sharks are mesmerizing to swim with and leave a lasting impression upon anyone who swims with them. Whether you want to snorkel with huge mantas, spotted eagle rays, friendly stingrays or thousands of mobulas, you can. Read on to find out more.
Reef manta rays
- Hanifaru Bay, Maldives
One of the most famous manta ray destinations of all, Hanifaru Bay is simply incredible. This UNESCO Biosphere Reserve hosts hundreds of feeding mantas from May to November each year and you can go snorkeling with them.
- Kona, Hawaii
Kona in Hawaii is one of the only places in the world where you go can night snorkeling (or night diving) with reef mantas. Lit up by the beam of you torch, you can watch the mantas feeding right in front of you. It is one of the best-loved highlights of any Kona scuba diving trip.
- Lady Elliot Island, Australia
Lady Elliot Island, known as the ‘home of the manta ray’, is a gorgeous island in the southernmost reaches of the Great Barrier Reef. It hosts manta rays year-round and offers snorkeling safaris to swim with mantas and explore the island’s coral reefs.
- Barefoot Manta Island, Fiji
Sitting just south of the Yasawa Islands, Barefoot Manta Island is renowned for its manta ray encounters and has some of Fiji’s best coral gardens. You can swim with mantas there for May to October each year.
Oceanic manta rays
- Komodo, Indonesia – manta point (both reef and giant)
The Komodo National Park in Indonesia hosts both reef and giant mantas, which you can snorkel with at Manta Point. As well as mantas, Komodo has some of the world’s most diverse coral reefs and an endless list of incredible marine life to swim with.
- Mozambique (both reef and giant) – Tofo
Like Komodo, Mozambique’s waters are frequented by reef and giant mantas. These graceful rays visit Mozambique’s cleaning stations in numbers, where you can dive or snorkel with them. Tofo Beach in Mozambique is a great place to go snorkeling with both manta rays and whale sharks.
- New Zealand
If you want to combine topside adventure activities with world-class subtropical snorkeling, visit New Zealand. The famous Poor Knights Islands are rated as one of the top 10 dive experiences in the world and offer snorkeling with huge stingrays and countless schooling fish.
- Stingray City, Cayman Islands
Stingray City is one of the world’s top places for snorkeling with stingrays. The calm clear waters of this lagoon host dozens of stingrays, which cruise along the white sand landscapes and are tolerant of people in the water.
- Moorea, French Polynesia
Moorea Lagoon in French Polynesia is known for its friendly stingrays. This idyllic lagoon also hosts reef sharks, and you can go swimming with humpback whales further offshore.
- Shark Ray Alley, Belize
The Hol Chan Marine Reserve has some of the best Belize diving and snorkeling opportunities. At Shark Ray Alley, you will find beautiful coral formations, plus numerous stingrays, nurse sharks and sea turtles.
- Egypt’s Red Sea
Egypt is a classic and affordable destination for snorkelers and divers alike, offering vibrant coral reefs busy with gorgeous blue spotted stingrays.
Spotted eagle rays
- French Polynesia
Bora Bora Lagoon and Moorea Lagoon in French Polynesia host plenty of spotted eagle rays, as does Fakarava Atoll, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. This is one of the most romantic and beautiful destinations you will likely ever find.
- Egypt’s Red Sea
As well as hosting blue spotted stingrays in abundance, Egypt’s many house and offshore reefs also host spotted eagle rays. Simply grab your snorkel, walk off the beaches and start exploring.
- Félicité Island, Seychelles
The channel at Félicité Island hosts eagle rays year-round and is a gorgeous place to go snorkeling. If you don’t have any luck finding eagle rays there, the surround islands are some of the best places for spotting eagle rays in the Indian Ocean.
- La Jolla Cove, USA
Shovelnose guitarfish are strange-looking rays that also look a bit like sharks. These curious creatures can be found among the rich kelp forests of La Jolla Cove in California, where you can also spot leopard sharks and sea lions.
- The Maldives
Bowmouth guitarfish are a type of ray found at the Maldives. Although they are not commonly seen, keep your eyes out for them whilst snorkeling there. Even if you don’t see a guitarfish, you’ll be exploring one of the best snorkeling destinations in the world.
- Ningaloo Reef, Australia
Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia is visited by an array of ocean giants, including whale sharks, humpback whales, mantas, dugong and more. There, you can also find Guitara the giant guitarfish. Much loved by locals, Guitara is comfortable with people in the water and comes over to check divers out.
- Egypt’s Red Sea
In case you need another reason to go snorkeling in Egypt, the rich waters there host adorable-looking leopard torpedo rays. These small and round electric rays are often spotted wriggling across the reefs as they go about their business.
- Channel Islands, USA
Pacific electric rays are only found in the coastal waters of the northeastern Pacific Ocean. You can find them at rocky reefs and kelp forests from Baja California up to British Columbia, though the Channel Islands are one of the best places to encounter them.
- Baja California, Mexico
Last but by no means least, the Sea of Cortez is one of the best places to go Mexico diving and is renowned for its snorkeling with rays. This incredible destination hosts tens of thousands of mobula rays each year, which gather in huge groups to feed. Go snorkeling at Baja California to witness this true spectacle of nature.
Kathryn Curzon, a shark conservationist and dive travel writer for Scuba Schools International (SSI), wrote this article.
Top 12 Snorkeling Destinations in Oceania – Part II
Oceania has a fascinating mixture of well-known romantic destinations and wild, remote islands that few people ever get to visit. It is a region of contrasts with enough snorkeling destinations and cultural highlights to satisfy even the most adventurous snorkelers. In part II of 12 great places to go snorkeling in Oceania, we take a deep dive into some of this region’s most famous and little-known islands. Get inspired for your next snorkeling trip here.
French Polynesia has some of the world’s most famous destinations in Oceania, including Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora. Between them, they offer snorkeling among colorful reefs in warm, calm lagoons and the chance to meet a variety of marine life.
Go snorkeling with friendly stingrays and blacktip reef sharks at Moorea Lagoon or swim with humpback whales a little further offshore. Snorkeling and diving in Bora Bora are high on the wish list for many people and don’t disappoint, with pretty coral gardens and dozens of snorkeling spots in warm, azure waters.
At the nearby Tuamotu Archipelago, you can experience the thrill of drift snorkeling through Tiputa Pass and meet the pelagic fish, dolphins and sharks this pass is famous for. At Tikehau, a small atoll near Rangiroa, you can swim with graceful mantas at a shallow cleaning station.
The Solomon Islands
The Solomon Islands are a haven for more than 1000 reef fish species and numerous prized critters, plus dolphins, sharks, rays and six species of sea turtle. Hosting hundreds of wrecks and remote hard coral reefs, there is something for every snorkeler there.
Most snorkeling is conducted at resort house reefs of by boat tours to nearby islands and reefs. At Mary Island, you can go open-ocean snorkeling among dramatic coral-covered landscapes, home to sharks and large schools of fish.
The awe-inspiring Marovo Lagoon is the largest saltwater lagoon in the world and is made up of a chain of coral reefs and islands that are absolutely stunning. This popular tourist spot hosts some of the best coral gardens in the South Pacific, with deep and shallow snorkeling sites and remarkably clear waters.
To experience snorkeling over wrecks, make sure you visit the Florida Islands. The Solomon Islands have hundreds of WWII ships and aircraft, with many shallow ones that snorkelers can explore.
The Cook Islands
When it comes to warm welcomes, it’s hard to beat the Cook Islands. From the moment you arrive, you will be drawn into one of the friendliest nations in the world and won’t want to leave.
This wonderful country, with its warm, calm waters and excellent facilities, is the perfect place to teach your kids how to snorkel and maybe even get your Open Water Diver certification. Rarotonga is the main destination for tourism and is a charming island with fresh markets, cafes, restaurants, and resorts tucked away among the palms.
There are plenty of snorkeling spots off the beaches, with coral bommies, diverse tropical fish, giant clams, and occasional sea turtles. Muri Lagoon is one of the most popular places for snorkeling, as is the Fruits of Rarotonga Marine Reserve. This well-known reserve is absolutely teeming with fish.
New Caledonia is a wish-list destination known for its spectacular scuba diving, crystal-clear waters and abundant marine life. Unlike some remote destinations in Oceania, New Caledonia has modern infrastructure that makes it easy to explore at your pace – by car or island hopping with regular domestic flights.
There are several snorkeling trails at New Caledonia, built to allow you to meet the diverse array of marine life that calls the New Caledonia Lagoon home. This UNESCO World Heritage Site contains coral-encrusted walls, channels, and easy snorkeling trails busy with marine life. Simply follow the underwater trails and enjoy!
With dozens of islands to choose from, there are numerous other snorkeling options around New Caledonia. The extensive marine reserves ensure the waters are teeming with life, including mantas, dugongs, dolphins, stingrays, sea turtles, and an array of corals. With few people in the water and great conditions year-round, it is one of the best places to go snorkeling in Oceania.
Nearby Vanuatu is the perfect place to reconnect with nature, offering untouched rainforests, natural swimming holes, and excellent snorkeling.
Pristine reefs abound in Vanuatu, with many accessible simply by walking off the beach. The amount of marine life in Vanuatu is impressive and similar to New Caledonia, though the landscapes are quite different.
Tanna Island has breath-taking snorkeling among deep blue rock pools and coral gardens. At Lemnap, you can snorkel in the sun-dappled waters of a huge grotto. There is excellent snorkeling with sea turtles at Tranquility Island and you can go snorkeling in jaw-dropping inland blue holes at various islands.
Million Dollar Point is one of the most unique snorkeling destinations and hosts an array of machinery and equipment dumped by the US after World War II. Boasting wrecks in 15 to 25 meters of water off the beach, you can simply grab you snorkeling kit and explore.
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world, with more than 850 known languages and hundreds of different tribes. It is unlike anywhere else in Oceania.
Along with the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea has some of the healthiest coral reefs in the world, including at Kimbe Bay. This special bay was once ranked as the most beautiful reef by National Geographic and is an exceptional place to go snorkeling, with huge corals and large reef fish.
Milne Bay has great conditions for snorkelers, with gorgeous beaches and sands full of bizarre-looking critters and plenty of fish life. New Ireland Province boasts snorkeling among war wrecks, big fish, thriving reefs and sharks, whilst East New Britain has a spectacular drop-off at Tavui Point.
Some of the best snorkeling sites are at Tufi. These fjords are covered in lush rainforest and have crystal-clear waters. There are beautiful corals, countless fish and sea turtles, plus Birds of Paradise in the surrounding forests.
Kathryn Curzon, a shark conservationist and dive travel writer for SSI (Scuba Schools International), 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.
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