Six of the best places on Earth to swim with marine life

NEPTUNE ISLES, OFF PORT LINCOLN, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

There's something about the terror of confronting a Great White Shark – and surviving – that never fails to appeal. If you're going to do it with anyone, why not Australian icon Rodney Fox, who was torn apart by one 56 years ago, but now spends his days lovingly introducing great whites to fresh meat. After an overnight boat trip out to the waters the sharks frequent, guests slip down into a specially-designed cage, wearing breathing apparatus, and wait. Fox, his son Andrew and their crew toss bloodied fish around to attract the predators and then … they appear, red of tooth and terrifying as they circle. Rodney Fox, who bears with pride the 462 stitches on his chest and shoulder from the attack, says the cage is impenetrable, and you just have to trust him. He hasn't lost anyone yet. See rodneyfox.com.au

KAILUA-KONA, HAWAII, US

Giant Manta Mobula birostris occurs circumglobal in tropical to temperate waters, mainly in near-shore waters, near coral and rocky reefs where feeding on plankton. Common length is 450cm, maximum length over 900cm!

These specimen were attracted by an immense density of plankton, attracted by intense light. Simply put a lot of light on a shallow reef and wait!

The unusual colour of the Mantas is generated by the low colour temperature of the lamps.

USA, Hawai'i, West Coast Big Island at 8-10m depth
19°44'13.5belizescuba.com

HA'APAI, TONGA

Humpback whale in Tonga
SatFeb8SixBestMarine

The warm tropical lagoons off the picturesque Tongan island of Ha'apai are among the few places in the world licensed to allow swimmers in the water with humpback whales. From June to October, tourists stay at the eco-resorts for the chance to snorkel alongside these mighty creatures, to admire their size and their intelligence, and sometimes to witness their playful side. With encounters organised by Australian eco-tour operator Majestic Whale Encounters and governed by the country's Responsible Whale Watching Code, you can swim, watch and marvel, safe in the knowledge that no one be allowed to do anything to jeopardise the trust that can exist between humans and beasts. See majesticwhaleencounters.com.au

AKUMAL, MEXICO

Akumal Bay and Half Moon Bay on the site of a former coconut plantation in Tulum Municipality in the state of Quintana Roo, and is part of the Riviera Maya area. The Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park is off the coast of the island of Cozumel in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. The Cozumel reef system is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second largest coral reef system in the world. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (MBRS), also popularly known as the Great Mayan Reef or Great Maya Reef, is a marine region that stretches over 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) from Isla Contoy at the tip of the Yucatán Peninsula down to Belize, Guatemala and the Bay Islands of Honduras. The reef system includes various protected areas and parks including the Belize Barrier Reef, Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park, Hol Chan Marine Reserve (Belize), Sian Ka'an biosphere reserve, and the Cayos Cochinos Marine Park. SatFeb8SixBestMarine
iStock image for Traveller. Re-use permitted.

Photo: iStock

There's just something irresistible about sea turtles. Is it their ungainliness on land when, after nesting and laying eggs, they waddle back into the ocean? Is it their tiny cute babies which hatch on the sand and then rush down into the waves? Or maybe it's the way they're so stately in the water. There aren't many places where you can swim with the endangered species but Akumal on the Yucatan Peninsula, with its coral reef and warm waters, teems with marine wildlife, and is one of the best. Swimmers regularly see more than one turtle paddling through the languid water, taking no notice at all of any of the company, intent on their own business. See absolute-adventure-mexico.com

NELSON BAY, NSW

Nelson Bay dolphins SatFeb8SixBestMarine
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Swimming with dolphins has to be one of the most beautiful experiences possible but too many of these encounters, the world over, rely on captive dolphins specially bred to be tourist attractions. But right here in our own backyard, there's a sensitively-run swim with wild bottlenose dolphins that won't traumatise them – or you. You wear a wetsuit, snorkelling gear and a safety harness, and are carried through the water on a rope tide between the two bows of a catamaran. The dolphins can dart in and out, beside and below you. It's absolutely mesmerising, and all the more enjoyable knowing the dolphins are having just as much fun as you are. See dolphinswimaustralia.com.au

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