Best places to snorkel: The world's top 10 snorkelling spots

THE GREAT BARRIER REEF, QUEENSLAND

Let's get the big daddy out of the way first – the Great Barrier Reef isn't named sarcastically. But there's an art to picking the best snorkelling sites. As a general rule of thumb, the outer reef is in better condition than the inner reef – the Agincourt Reef where Quicksilver Cruises heads to from Port Douglas is an excellent bet. Similarly, the southern sections of the Reef are less affected by bleaching. Fly out to the likes of Lady Elliot Island, and you've got great variety just offshore. See quicksilver-cruises.com ladyelliot.com.au

NINGALOO REEF, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Fish coral reef sea ocean underwater, Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia SunJul22T10 - Traveller 10 Snorkelling Hotspots - David Whitley CREDIT: Shutterstock

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

Ningaloo isn't necessarily better than the Great Barrier – it's just different. And it's incredibly close to shore. Swim out for about 100 metres from the beaches on the North West Cape, and you're over the dazzling coral, shoals of brightly-striped fish and in among the gliding rays. For sheer white sand magic and reef accessibility, Turquoise Bay is a plum base. See visitningaloo.com.au

MORETON ISLAND, QUEENSLAND

Tony O'Doherty said 12 Triton Street overlooks the bay and Tanaglooma's famous shipwrecks.

Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland

Don't expect all that much coral and fish action here, although rays and turtles are usually spotted. Moreton Island offers something usually only available to divers – a series of shipwrecks near the shore at Tangalooma. These are easily explored with a snorkel and fins. Sunrover runs one-day adventure tours, including sandboarding after the snorkelling. See sunrover.com.au

CENOTE DOS OJOS, MEXICO

Cenote Dos Ojos in Quintana Roo, Mexico. People swimming and snorkeling in clear blue water. This cenote is located close to Tulum in Yucatan peninsula, Mexico. SunJul22T10 - Traveller 10 Snorkelling Hotspots - David Whitley CREDIT: Shutterstock

Cenote Dos Ojos in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Photo: Shutterstock

Not all snorkelling has to be done in the sea, and Mexico's cenotes – essentially giant sinkholes – serve up a visually stunning freshwater experience. There are several of them along the Riviera Maya coast, and it's not so much about what's living in there as the rock formations. If you can imagine swimming through a show cave, you're about right – and Cenote dos Ojos near Akumal is dazzling example of this. See cenotedosojos.com

THE SILFRA FISSURE, ICELAND

Water in a fissure between tectonic plates in the Thingvellir National Park - Iceland SunJul22T10 - Traveller 10 Snorkelling Hotspots - David Whitley CREDIT: Shutterstock

Water in a fissure between tectonic plates in the Thingvellir National Park. Photo: Shutterstock

The aquatic life isn't up to much in Iceland's Thingvellir National Park, but going for a snorkel in the Silfa fissure isn't really about fish-spotting. Like the Mexican cenotes, the rock formations are staggering, but this time there's added lava. However, it's mainly about bragging rights – the fissure is the crack between two continental plates, and how many people can say they've gone swimming in one of them? See Dive.is

Advertisement

HOL CHAN MARINE RESERVE, BELIZE

The colourful coral's there, as are the multi-coloured parrotfish, but the key attraction in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve is the unimaginatively-named Shark-Ray Alley. No prizes for guessing what swims through here in large numbers, although they're ably accompanied by teams of splashing humans on day trips from Ambergris Caye. See holchanbelize.org

RAJA AMPAT, INDONESIA

Colorful Fusilier fish schooling and congregating around the Wing of a american fighter plane from worldwar 2 that is overgrown with abundant soft corals in Raja Ampat, Indonesia SunJul22T10 - Traveller 10 Snorkelling Hotspots - David Whitley CREDIT: Shutterstock

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

Several of the world's top snorkelling sites are clustered between the Philippines, Timor and New Guinea, in the so-called ''Coral Triangle''. It's not the easiest place to get to, but the Raja Ampat Islands off West Papua are in with a strong shout of being the most impressive destination within this triangle. There are about 540 species of coral, while lack of development and run-off makes for excellent water quality and there's such diversity that some recently-found species there weren't known to exist until a few years ago.

KOMODO NATIONAL PARK

The sea turtle in Komodo island SunJul22T10 - Traveller 10 Snorkelling Hotspots - David Whitley CREDIT: Shutterstock

A sea turtle in Komodo Island. Photo: Shutterstock

Also within the Coral Triangle, and marginally easier to get to, the Komodo National Park is best known for the big beasts that live on the land. But once in the water, you're likely to forget about the Komodo dragons, and concentrate on the manta rays, sharks and dolphins swimming past. It's also an excellent spot for nudibranchs – weird, often hyper-colouful molluscs. Coral Triangle Adventures runs tours both here and in Raja Ampat. See coraltriangleadventures.com

PALAU

Underwater photo of endemic golden jellyfish in lake at Palau. Snorkeling in Jellyfish Lake is a popular activity for tourists to Palau. SunJul22T10 - Traveller 10 Snorkelling Hotspots - David Whitley CREDIT: Shutterstock

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

The notorious Jellyfish Lake – full of harmless jellyfish – is the best-known snorkelling destination in this tiny Micronesian island nation. But with most of its waters a marine sanctuary, with supreme visibility and dramatic underwater walls, pretty much every time you jump off the boat you're going to find something special here. Fish N Fins is among the dive operators that run snorkeller-friendly tours. See fishnfins.com

AITUTAKI LAGOON, COOK ISLANDS

xxAitutaki Aitutaki Lagoon Cook Islands ;  text by Brian Johnston ; SUPPLIED via journalist ; credit: Cook Islands Tourism; Vaka Lagoon boat docked at Aitutaki Lagoon

Photo: Cook Islands Tourism

Has it got the best marine life? No. But you're going to wish you'd packed a snorkel more than ever before. The key factor is being able to slide off the beach – all the island's accommodation is next to it – and into the water. Where most snorkelling trips require a degree of organisation, here you can go on a whim in search of trevally, giant clams and turtles. See cookislands.travel

David Whitley has been a guest of tourist boards in Australia, Mexico and the Cook Islands.

Comments