Best coral reefs: Best Coral Reefs in the World — Top 5
Top 8 Best Coral Reefs in the World
Reefs are underwater cities, their vibrant corals creating a complex and multilayered landscape that hosts innumerable creatures.
And just as each city in the world is unique, each reef has its own personality, from the technicolor marine megalopolis of the Great Barrier Reef to the shadowy depths of the Great Blue Hole in Belize.
Unfortunately, global warming and ocean acidification are harming the world’s reefs, draining them of their eye-popping hues and even wiping out whole sections. But there are still plenty of healthy, thriving reefs to visit, if you know where to look.
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Striped clownfish dart among swirling fingers of sea anemones while silvery fish reel in huge glittering whorls. Corals fan out in shockingly pink fractal branches or grow in coruscated hummocks, delicate enough to be damaged by a careless bump but, all together, vast enough to be seen from space.
An aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef
Stretching 2,900 km (1,800 miles) from Papua New Guinea to just shy of Brisbane, this is the world’s largest collection of marine life. The ecosystem knits together a mind-boggling array of corals, fish, sponges, mollusks, rays, starfish, dolphins, whales, sharks and birds, to name just a few of its inhabitants. This tightly interwoven biome was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981, and remains one of the most vital marine sanctuaries in the world.
Sadly, this magnificent reef has been damaged due to bleaching events and infestations of the deadly crown of thorns sea star. But there are still lots of healthy options for both snorkeling and diving.
Probably the healthiest reefs in Australia are near Lady Elliot Island, a bit north of Fraser Island. There, you can find mottled wobbegong sharks, swim alongside spotted eagle rays and hear haunting snatches of whale song. It’s a special place for both diving and snorkeling, with some nearby spots that you can reach from the beach, as well as some farther out which you need a boat to access.
Lady Elliot IslandSpotted eagle ray
During the Australian summer months (December to February), the island is home to immense nesting colonies of raucous seabirds, most of which have a very lackadaisical attitude toward any human presence. This can be a good thing or a bad one, depending on how you feel about close encounters of the feathered kind.
If you’d like your trip dedicated entirely to diving, I suggest a multi-day live-aboard cruise around Osprey Reef. This submerged coral atoll is perched on a seamount and the reef is fed by the cool, nutrient-rich waters that well up from the deep ocean. Isolated Osprey Reef hosts many rare or unique species, including a dwarf nautilus. Curious and gentle minke whales also frequent the reef.
Located southeast of Brisbane, Lord Howe Island isn’t technically part of the Great Barrier Reef but the diving here is worth the trip. It’s the southernmost coral reef in the world and includes both tropical and subtropical coral as well as some endemic species. The island carefully restricts visitors to help preserve the reef’s health, so it’s necessary to book well in advance.
- More about the Great Barrier Reef and Lord Howe Island
Somosomo Strait, Fiji
The Somosomo Straight, between Taveuni and Vanua Levu islands, is almost single-handedly responsible for the fact that Fiji is known as the soft coral capital of the world. A constant flow of currents feeds the lush carpet of soft-bodied corals here, stirring their delicate, almost feathery tendrils into hypnotic ripples.
There are a number of sites in the straits that have earned reputations as excellent dive sites. Rainbow Reef is a study in scarlet, fuchsia, orange and umber. The Zoo is known for its preponderance of large animals, including rays, barracudas and sharks. Pot Luck boasts large schools of sweetlips, barracudas, and vividly stippled parrotfish.
Coral reef, Taveuni, Fiji
The Great White Wall can be a breathtaking site, a towering vertical wall entirely carpeted in dendronepthya, their undulating blue-white polyps blooming in the tide.
To the west, the Namina Marine Reserve boasts a wealth of biodiversity, with hundreds of species of corals and marine plants. It’s also a migratory crossroad for cetaceans, including bottlenose dolphins, minke whales, pilot whales and sperm whales, as well as many endangered turtle species.
The best time to dive in Fiji is during the dry season, between May and October.
- More about Fiji
Baros and North Male Atoll, Maldives
The real draw of diving in the Maldives is the sheer amount of marine life that lives around the coral — it’s much greater than you’ll find anywhere else. The wild preponderance of sessile life — including hard and soft corals, gorgonian fans and bright sponges — supports a riot of bright tropical fish and invertebrates. You’ll also find manta and eagle rays, Napoleon wrasse, reef and whitetip sharks, and huge schools of barracuda and batfish.
Though the wealth of marine life has never diminished, bleaching has had a noticeable impact on the coral in the Maldives, especially on the house reefs just offshore. However, you can still find bright, healthy corals.
Aerial view of BarosNapoleon wrasse
Baros has shouldered the responsibility of maintaining its house reef with a restoration and conservation project. It offers good snorkeling and diving straight off the beach, suitable for beginners but with plenty to tempt experienced divers too. There are also boat trips to more distant spots, including the Black Coral Reef, where the inky branches of the coral set off the shocking shades of the fish.
Nearby, North Male Atoll also has a healthy reef, but the stronger currents make it less suitable for novice divers.
- More about the Maldives
Belize Barrier Reef, Belize
Stretching 300 km (185 miles) along the coast of Belize, the Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest in the world and the colossal ecosystem abounds with life. Scientists estimate that only ten percent of the reef has been explored, and new species are discovered every day.
The best-known feature is the Great Blue Hole, a massive underwater sinkhole that plunges down 124 m (407 ft) into a cavern filled with knobbly stalagmites. It’s also an area that attracts a number of shark species, including nurse sharks, hammerheads and blacktips. Divers come from around the world to plunge into the dark blue waters and explore the deep cave.
Great Blue Hole, Belize
The country is best known for its snorkeling and the glass-clear water provides excellent viewing opportunities. Two of the best spots are Hol Chan and Mexico Rocks. The latter has a friendly green turtle, only the size of a dinner plate, who likes to nip at divers as they swim by. Locals have named him Crush.
Turneffe Atoll is a destination for serious divers, especially those who want to spend several days diving while living on a ship. More than 400 mangrove islets are interspersed with lagoons, and the nutrient-rich shallows sustain a huge array of marine life. You’ll likely spot jacks and goliath groupers, as well as moray eels, barracudas, manatees, and bottlenose or spotted dolphins.
The best time for diving in Belize is between April and June.
- More about Belize
Utila and Roatán, Honduras
Southwest of Turneffe Atoll, Utila is at the southern reaches of the Great Maya Reef, a larger system that includes the Belize Barrier Reef. The smallest of the major Bay Islands, Utila has dozens of excellent dive sites with thriving corals and plentiful pelagic fish. But the big attraction here is usually the endangered whale sharks.
Gargantuan but elusive, the slow-moving filter feeders prefer warm, calm seas and their migratory patterns usually bring them past Utila in March and April as well as September and October. Those traditional peak times are less predictable than they used to be, however, due to the vagaries of climate change.
Gentle whale sharks aren’t the only creatures you’re likely to spot. Dolphins, pelagic fish, octopuses and hundreds of species of coral all thrive here, especially on the Black Hills seamount.
Near Utila, Roatán also has many good spots for reef diving, including Dolphin Den. The twisty maze of passages wends through the reef, your way illuminated by sunlight that spears through crevices in the coral. You’ll see snaky eels and darting silversides here alongside various tropical fish.
- More about Honduras
Andaman reefs, India
Only a handful of the 300 islands on this far-flung archipelago are open to visitors — a restriction is in place to help protect the islands’ indigenous tribes. This careful conservation, combined with the isolated nature of the islands, means that the Andaman Islands remain largely undiscovered for most divers and snorkelers.
Havelock Island, IndiaClownfish hiding in a sea anemone
The biodiversity here is remarkable. In addition to the usual hundreds of species of fish and corals, you’ll find tuna, stingrays and dugongs (sea cows), as well as the occasional saltwater crocodile. This is also an important breeding ground for various turtle species, some of them critically endangered. You’ll find leatherbacks, hawksbills, green and Pacific ridley sea turtles.
The Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park helps preserve and protect these reefs. Experienced divers can find black coral and sharks in the deep waters off Cinque Island. Newer divers may have better luck in the shallow waters around Havelock Island.
The best time for diving in the Andaman Sea is between December and April.
- More about the Andaman Islands
The peak of an extinct volcano just poking out of the ocean, Sipadan has steep sides that plunge hundreds of feet into the deep ocean. Those walls — heavily encrusted with corals and simply swarming with life — make Sipadan one of the most popular reefs for divers and snorkelers from around the world.
You’ll see shimmering barracuda, sleek sharks, green turtles and huge rainbow schools of fish wheeling by. Hundreds of species of corals and sponges grow here in kaleidoscopic profusion and turtles seem to be everywhere you look.
The island of SipadanPurple nudibranch
In order to preserve the ecology, especially the turtle breeding areas, you can’t stay on Sipadan anymore, and instead must visit from nearby hotels. Also, diving permits are limited to just over 100 a day, distributed among the local hotels, and they can hard to secure. You can increase your chances of getting a permit by staying for more nights.
The best time to dive in Borneo is between March and October.
- More about Borneo
Bunaken National Marine Park, Indonesia
At the heart of the Coral Triangle, Bunaken National Marine Park boasts one of the planet’s richest troves of biodiversity, including hundreds of varieties of coral. Oceanic currents sweep a steady supply of nutrients through the reserve, creating an almost flamboyant wealth of life, from tiny shrimp to wide-winged eagle rays.
Diver, Bunaken National Marine Park
The area is best known for its warm, clear waters and impressive wall reefs, particularly around Lekuan Beach. The sheer vertical cliffs are filled with tremendous coral structures, including black corals, plunging down deeper than most divers are willing to go. Flocks of parrotfish swim by and you’ll find lionfish, blue fin trevallies and scorpionfish, as well as the occasional wrasse. Green turtles are particularly common here.
You might also find larger animals, including hawksbill turtles, dolphins and sea snakes.
The best time to dive in Bunaken is between April and October.
- More about Bunaken
Start planning your trip to a coral reef
Start thinking about your experience. These itineraries are simply suggestions for how you could enjoy some of the same experiences as our specialists. They’re just for inspiration, because your trip will be created around your particular tastes.
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10 Astounding Coral Reefs For Scuba Divers To Visit
Every diver craves warm, colorful coral reefs. There is nothing more invigorating than the sight of multitudes of tropical fish crowding together in schools of thousands. Relaxing and beautiful, coral reefs never fail to astound even the most seasoned divers, and you never know what could be hiding behind the next looming brain coral or softly waving sea fan.
A Little Bit About Coral Reefs
So, what exactly is a coral reef? Coral reefs are living organisms, formed by millions upon millions of coral polyps. Each coral formation is made out of genetically identical polyps. There are many species of coral, each as different from one another as the variety of fish in the sea. Speaking of which, certain corals have tentacles that can reach out and grab fish, though most species use photosynthesis to survive.
Certain varieties of corals can only be found in specific locations. Some corals are only found in deep, cold water, like the Lophelia, a snow white coral with fluted branches. However, many species of coral prefer shallow, warm water. Other corals are found around the world, like brain coral.
When coral dies, usually because of pollution, increased water temperatures or boat damage, it turns a greyish white. A sure sign of a sickly reef is a graveyard of sun-bleached corals. Healthy reefs, however, are bright and vibrant, a coalescence of colors unlike you’ve ever dreamed. If you look closely, you can see the individual polyps, going about their sedentary business.
A heads up to those diving in the Caribbean and Southeast Asia: Fire coral is a prevalent and potentially dangerous form of “coral.” Though fire coral is technically not coral, it is easily recognizable with its bright yellow branches. When brushed against, fire coral shoots out tiny tentacles, similar to a jellyfish, resulting in a painful burn. See, even “coral” can defend itself!
10 Must-Explore Destinations
Let’s dive into 10 of the most astounding coral reef destinations that scuba divers will surely want to visit.
10. Apo Reef, Philippines
Photo by Storm Crypt
The second largest reef in the world is the Apo Reef, off the Philippines, which covers an astounding 67,877 acres (271,139 square meters). You can find the reef off the shores of Mindoro Island, and many of which are found in the Apo Reef Natural Park. Concealed by a mangrove forest, the reef is a wonderland, just begging to be explored. Fishing is not allowed on the reef, and this protected place thrives with activity, with more fish making appearances here every year.
A couple of favorite dive sites are Shark Ridge and Hunter’s Rock. Shark Ridge is a great place to get your shark fix, where reef sharks are abundant. They are most active in the early morning and evening. Hunter’s Rock is an incredible pinnacle, stretching up to nearly touch the surface of the water. The currents here can make it a little dicey for inexperienced divers, but braving the waters is well worth the trip.
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9. Mesoamerican Reef, Caribbean Sea
Photo by Grand Velas Riviera Maya
Stretching along the coast for almost 700 miles (1,126 kilometers), the Mesoamerican Reef graces Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. This extensive reef system has a plethora of fish and coral species, a veritable pantheon of marine life.
Some of the very best dives can be found along the Caribbean coast of Honduras, and especially around the island of Roatan. A couple of great dive sites are Mary’s Place and the Odyssey Wreck. Mary’s Place is by far the most popular dive site on Roatan, a mighty crevasse formed by ancient volcanic activity. Keep an eye out for the rare black corals found clinging to the walls. The Odyssey is the largest wreck in the area, and is a great place to get your wreck diving certification.
Off the shoreline of Mexico you can see huge staghorn coral formations, lovely places for fish to spend their time. These terrific structures are one of the most important (and endangered) coral reefs. You can see whale sharks and whales on their migrations, farther out.
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8. Great Chagos Bank, Maldives
Photo by Mark Hodson
Made up of a series of gorgeous atolls, the Great Chagos Bank is the largest reef system in the Indian Ocean. Formed by volcanic activity, the islands here only poke 4.9 ft (1.5m)above the sea, making the Maldives the lowest lying country in the world.
The white sand beaches and sunny blue skies draw visitors from around the world to the Maldives. Because the diving her is so spectacular, there are dive shops scattered all around these islands. Starting your experience on Kuredu Island is a good idea as this gorgeous spot is home to plenty of sea turtles and crystal clear waters.
The incredibly clear water here makes the Chagos Bank an excellent spot to practice your underwater photography. An especially nice area to snap some shots is Kudarah Thila, near South Ari Atoll. This is a protected marine area, and there is a unique collection of sponges to be seen here. If you have a dive light, don’t miss out on the overhanging coral reefs and impressive arch.
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7. Great Florida Reef, USA
Photo by Gergely Csaba
As the only coral reef in North America, the Great Florida Reef off the Florida Keys is well worth exploring. It makes its way from Dry Tortugas National Park up to Key Biscayne.
Charter a boat or go on an easy day trip from one of the Keys to get to the reef. Because it is found several miles from the shoreline, there is no way to do shore dives here. A great option for the more adventurous among us is to rent a kayak and head out into the gorgeous blue waters. It is remarkably shallow for a vast distance, heading out from the Keys. Be sure you know your destination well before you get there, no scuba spot is worth getting lost out at sea.
Head to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park to explore this epically beautiful destination. Some favorite dive sites are the Molasses Reef and the Christ of the Abyss. Molasses Reef is a quintessential spot to explore the Great Florida Reef, with fascinating coral formations and copious marine life. Pictured above, the famous Christ of the Abyss was placed beneath the cool blue water in 1961 in order to honor scuba divers around the world. You can find this 11 ft (3.3m) statue near the Key Largo Dry Rocks.
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6. Saya de Malha, Indian Ocean
Photo by Jean-Marie Hullot
To explore the largest submerged banks on the globe, head to Saya de Malha, a ridge that connects the epic islands of Seychelles and Mauritius, north of Madagascar. These breezy, sunny isles are an idyllic place to spend your diving holiday, and are relatively untouched by foreign hands.
This is a blue whale breeding ground, so be sure to come during this spectacular event. Though they can be found throughout the equatorial Indian Ocean throughout the year, the warmer months make the best place for breeding and calving.
See the green sea turtles feeding on sea grasses and seaweed. There is even a sea turtle festival held in Seychelles each year during August.
During your trip to the stellar dive sites here keep an eye out for the multitude of colorful nudibranchs that make their homes here.
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5. New Caledonian Barrier Reef, New Caledonia
Photo by Saturnino
Out in the Pacific Ocean divers can find the New Caledonian Barrier Reef. The second longest reef in the world, there are still many parts of this reef that are unexplored. Here, you may even run across creatures that remain unnamed, and marine biologists make their way out into the endless blue to encounter and classify these new species.
Enclosed within the reef is a breath-taking lagoon of more than 9,000 square miles (14,484 square kilometers). Depths meander around 80 feet (24 meters), giving divers plenty of space to explore.
There are a couple of dive sites that aren’t to be missed on your exploration of the New Caledonian Barrier Reef: Daa Djare Ile des Pins boasts two large coral boulders, teeming with life. Swimming between the two boulders is a surreal experience. Donga Hienga Hienghene is a spectacular spot to find ribbon eels. Because it is so vast, you have plenty of options, and no dive is a bad dive.
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4. Andros Coral Reef, Bahamas
Photo by Trish Hartmann
Between the islands of Nassau and Andros, in the Bahamas the Andros Coral Reef awaits. This exceptional reef is distinctive because of its orientation. Because it lies on the verge of a massive oceanic trench, the corals head down into the crevasse instead of flat along the sea floor. Some coral formations are even found all the way down to 6,000 feet (1828 meters) in depth. A whole host of weird, wild creatures are found busying themselves at this astounding depth.
If you enjoy diving at uncrowded dive sites, book your trip from June-October. This is low season in the Bahamas. Diving in the Bahamas changes little from month to month.
A few notable dive sites can be found around Andros Island. Jean’s Dream is a gorgeous coral garden dive, where you can see tremendous gorgonians and parrotfish. Another lovely spot is Jeff’s Ladder, which is a particularly excellent place to pick up a certification or two.
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3. Red Sea Coral Reef, Red Sea
Photo by Andrew K
Found off the shores of Egypt, Israel, and Djbouti, the Red Sea Coral Reef is one of the oldest reefs in the world, dating back five to seven thousand years. With unique endemic species and a myriad of types of fish, the Red Sea Reef is unlike any other in the world.
Come explore the Dahab Blue Hole known grimly as “The Diver’s Cemetery” Though a notoriously dangerous dive, those that brave the depths are rewarded with a diving experience unlike any other.
The great thing about diving in Egypt is it’s possible all year round with water temperatures ranging from 21°C to 28°C and you can expect visibility from 20-50 mtrs .
You can see some astounding sights at the Ras Mohamed National Park, a park with an abundance of dive sites to explore. The reefs here are world renowned, and well worth the trip.
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2. Belize Barrier Reef, Belize
Photo by The TerraMar Project
Though it is officially a part of the Mesoamerican Coral Reef, the Belize Barrier Reef deserves a section all its own. This unbelievable spot is protected by the UNESCO World Heritage organization, and is teeming with wildlife.
With more than 400 islands, white sandy beaches, the longest unbroken barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and 298 kilometers/185 miles of coastline, Belize is a world-class scuba diving destination.
Don’t miss out on the Blue Hole, a fantastic formation that can be seen from space. The cobalt blue maw of the hole is a portal to a whole new world. Once you head through the first several meters the walls expand, and an inky darkness begins to envelop you and your surrounding environment. Here, you may be lucky enough to see hundreds of bull sharks congregate, seeking the relative safety of the high walls.
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1. Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Made up of thousands of individual reef systems, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef in the world. Because of its incredible size and abundance of marine life, the Great Barrier Reef is a site of pilgrimage for scuba divers from around the world. Setting out from Queensland, Australia, divers can explore this tremendous destination as they please.
A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, Queensland’s gorgeous Great Barrier Reef stretches 1,400 miles down the east coast of Australia. Endless diving adventures can be had around its 600 islands and 2,900 individual reefs.
As the earth’s largest reef system, you can see just about everything when you go diving at the Great Barrier Reef. Dwarf minke whales, manta rays, sharks and cuttlefish parade around in abundance. The turtles and sea snakes are supersized.
Some of the very best dives in the world are found here. North Horn is a popular favorite, where you can dive with sharks on the Osprey Reef.
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is so large, in fact, that it is the only living organism that can be seen from space – Incredible!
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Which will you visit first?
Don’t miss out on these unbelievable coral reefs, homes for millions of creatures, great and small. Diving on these expansive coral reefs will blow you away, exposing you to a fantastic array of sights, from awesome geologic formations to weird and wonderful marine life. Though the types of animals vary by destination, you can always be sure to run into something unexpected and exciting.
Article written by guest blogger, Bridget Pearson
Top 10 coral reefs in the world
Any diver will agree that the value of coral reefs is difficult to overestimate. This fantastically diverse and at the same time so vulnerable ecosystem protects coastal areas from storms and high waves, filters water, absorbs carbon dioxide, creates conditions for the life of countless underwater inhabitants, not to mention its significance for coastal farms. Fact: corals help the planet survive .
«Coral Triangle» , a paradise for divers, is located between Philippines , Bali , Indonesia , East Timor and Solomon Islands 9000. Some statistics: occupying only 1. 6% of the total area of the World Ocean, this place is the world center of underwater biodiversity , the most extensive area of mangroves , home for 76% — 605 species! — of all known corals on planet , including 15 endemics, over 3,000 species of fish and 6 out of 7 species of sea turtles. In short, no place in the world will impress you more with paints and variety of underwater inhabitants. The epicenter of the «coral triangle» is located at Chendrawasih Peninsula in Indonesian Papua , which is home to 95% of the representatives of this region and 72% of the world’s biodiversity. The Raja Ampat Archipelago is home to 533 species of marine creatures, and surprisingly, up to 20 new species are discovered each year by scientists. What more could a diver’s soul ask for?
Caribbean region : Florida , Bagama , Bermuda , North-Eastern coast USA and Caribbean Sea -this is only 8% of the area of of all world coral reefs . There are two barrier reefs — Belize , 220 km long, and another one located at the Colombian island of Providencia . Here you will find 65 species of corals and over 700 species of fish. Variety — but not quality! — corals are considered not as large as in the western Indian Ocean, where 16% of the world’s coral reefs are located. However, approximately 30% of Indian Ocean reefs have been significantly affected by coral bleaching 1998 and 2016.
One way or another, beautiful and bright coral reefs can be seen in different parts of our planet . Isn’t it time to make a list of the most beautiful reefs and visit them all?
1. Fiji: Grand Central Station, Chimney, Rainbow Reef
Welcome to «soft coral capital of the world» ! Don’t lose the admiration regulator when you take your first couple of breaths underwater. Nothing you’ve seen before compares to colorful splendor 10,020 km² of coral reefs. Any dive at Fiji will be amazing, but there are a couple of dive sites that have no competition. Grand Central Station wall and Pinnacles cliffs habitat 400 species of coral , exotic sponges and a wide range of marine life including dolphins, turtles, whales and a variety of pelagic animals: schools of barracudas, tuna, trevally, snappers, schools of sharks , including «hammers», manta rays, marble rays, etc.
Ranbow Reef is a vast area at Tavenui , the main dive sites here are Rainbow’s End and Rainbow Passage . The name of the reef is fully consistent with reality: you will see a bright kaleidoscope of soft and hard corals — 230 species — and an incredible variety of underwater life — 1,200 species. Pay attention to beautiful nudibranchs, triggerfish and clownfish, and then look around: it is quite possible that a flock of barracuda looms behind you, or a whitetip shark along with its leopard «cousin». Real a feast for the eyes of divers and one of the best dive sites in the world! The most comfortable period for diving on Fiji is from April to October , but from July to December here you will find visibility up to 50 m !
2. Indonesia: Raja Ampat (Cape Cree), Komodo (Wakatobi)
Located in the epicenter of the «coral triangle» , Raja Ampat is home to 75% of all known corals — 537 species — and 1074 fish species. Just believe: nowhere in the world you will see so many different corals and underwater inhabitants in one place! Due to its location and conservation efforts, Raja Ampat reefs are in excellent condition .
Cape Cree is a legendary site where 374 species of underwater creatures were once discovered in a single tank dive — can you imagine that? On this The long underwater wall has more than 540 species of soft and hard corals and more than 1,000 species of fish, including tuna, giant trevally, groupers, whitetip sharks and chevron barracudas, not to mention hundreds of nudibranchs and scorpionfish. Biodiversity impressive !
Wakatobi Marine National Park , also known as Tukangbesi archipelago, offers amazing diving on one of the most beautiful reefs on the planet . Here you can see 25 coral reef groups , including barrier reefs , atolls and fringing reefs . More than 950 species of underwater creatures live here, including pygmy seahorses, nudibranchs, manta rays, dolphins, whale and hammerhead sharks, dugongs, whales and many others.
3. Egypt: Zabargad, St. John’s
And why was the Red Sea not called the Colored Sea? Dives in the south The Red Sea is impressive sheer walls covered with thick carpet of colorful soft and hard corals tunnels and eaves, a fantastic amount of reef life and excellent visibility .
Underwater slopes of the Zabargad Island («topaz» in Arabic), covered with various corals , reach a depth of 30 m, and then abruptly disappear into the blue. Pufferfish, schools of sweetlips, octopuses, turtles, spotted rays and crocodile fish live here. This place is also interesting for two wrecks: the Soviet transport ship Khanka lies at a depth of 24 m, and the German safari yacht Neptuna can be viewed at 15 m. In addition, green turtles and Hawksbill turtles have chosen the sandy beaches of the island: in August they lay their eggs here.
The extensive St. John’s reef system lies close to the border with Sudan and is known for the excellent condition of its corals, impressive caves and shoals of pelagic fish that live there. The variety of dive sites at St. John’s will be appreciated by those who like the vibrant marine life and lack of crowds of divers around. Dives in these places are available all year round , but most comfortable period would be the months May to September .
4. Philippines: Tubbatach Reef, RIF APO
Natural Park of the Tobbatach Rifa , which occupies about 100,000 hectares of the Marine Reserve , is the best region for Filippins and is part of the fifth most popular places for diving in the world. The location in «coral triangle» is known to guarantee excellent underwater life. Dive into it unique place is only possible as part of a dive safari in a short period from March to beginning of June , when the sea is quite calm . But if you succeed, it will undoubtedly become one of the most memorable trips of your life.
Park includes two coral atolls : North and South , as well as Jesse Beasley Reef . This diver’s paradise is habitat more than 30 varieties of corals and 600 species of other representatives of the underwater fauna. You will be amazed by the number of colorful reef fish, turtles, manta rays, countless schools of barracudas and trevally, as well as encounters with thresher, hammerhead and whale sharks.
The 34 km Apo Reef is the famous Marine Park, a place widely known for the diversity of its underwater world . The two coral reefs of are separated by a 30 m deep channel, and it is this place that attracts both reef sharks, manta rays and schools of barracudas, as well as an incredible amount of macro photography. From March to May the most calm seas and impressive visibility are waiting for you here.
5. Australia: Great Barrier Reef
You can’t just talk about the best reefs in the world and not mention the unique GBR , right? The Great Barrier Reef , the longest reef system in the world — 2,300 km — which is visible even from space , firmly occupies the top position in the list of must-see places for many divers to visit. Much of it suffered from bleaching, but dive sites such as Cod Hole , Ribbon Reefs and Osprey Reef remain some of the most beautiful dive sites on the planet.
Each section of the reef will delight you with something different. GBR — home to 400 species of soft and hard corals which in turn harbor over 1,500 species of fish, including red snappers, imperial angels, snappers, clownfish, coral trout, rockfish and many others. Macro photography enthusiasts will appreciate the number of pipefish, tiny seahorses, nudibranchs, sea snails and a myriad of clams hiding in coral reefs . There is no shortage of sharks on BBR . How do you like 125 species?? Dugongs can often be found here, as well as 30 species of dolphins and whales — according to conservative estimates, about 35% of the total number of cetacean species.
Diving at Big Barrier is possible all year round , but the period from late August to early December will be the most comfortable . In addition, from June to November you can meet minke whales and humpback whales here. And don’t miss Annual mass coral spawning on inland reefs : occurs in October , week after full moon . On outer reefs this miracle can be observed in November-December . But to be honest — a whole year is not enough to really explore the magnificent Great Barrier Reef !
6. Belize: Barrier reef; Bonaire
Second largest coral system in the world , the largest reef system in the Caribbean and the longest double barrier reef in the world, all of which are Belize Barrier Reef . It covers about 300 km² of seven marine reserves , there are 450 small sand islands and three atolls : Turneffe reefs , Lighthouse and Glovers . To date, scientists have identified 100 species of corals and 500 varieties of underwater inhabitants here, but since 90% of the reef has not yet been explored , the potential for discoveries is simply enormous. Sounds like a plan, doesn’t it?
soft and hard corals, branching gorgonians and an interesting underwater landscape attract thousands of bright fish, reef and hammerhead sharks, spotted rays, eels, trevally, triggerfish, parrot fish, large groupers, manta rays, turtles, seahorses and many other sea creatures. And being in Belize , you can’t miss visiting Big Blue Hole : its diameter is 300 m, depth — 124 m. This place is recognized by as one of the most incredible on the planet !
Belize with its impressive variety of dive sites and excellent conditions will suit any diver. The dry season here is from November to April , but the actual dive season on Belize lasts all year round .
Located in another part of the Caribbean Bonaire National Marine Park is known for its amazing coral reefs protected from currents. The site is recognized as one of the best dive destinations in the Caribbean , and often Bonaire «Best Underwater Photography Destination» , «Best Shore Diving» in the Caribbean90 and «Best Macro Diving Site» . The island has about 60 dive sites where you can meet colorful parrotfish, angelfish, butterflyfish, groupers, sea turtles, rays, dolphins and many other underwater creatures. Acropora , Gorgonian and staghorn corals will impress with their excellent condition and abundance of bright reef fish. You can dive here all year round , but the dry season — from April to November — will be the optimal time .
7. Mexico: Cozumel, Palancar Reef
Palancar Reef , the jewel of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System and the main attraction of the Cozumel National Park is an ideal destination for both divers and snorkelers. The site gained fame thanks to Jacques-Yves Cousteau and is today one of the most popular and colorful dive sites on the planet. The 5.6 km long reef is actually «complex» of several coral formations where sea turtles, nurse sharks, moray eels, countless schools of barracudas and a kaleidoscope of brightly colored fish can be seen all year round .
Among the popular spots is the Santa Rosa reef with its impressive coral canopies , huge sponges and many groupers living there; shallow Palancar Gardens with magnificent caverns; Columbia reef — sheer wall, going to depth and covered with giant coral formations . You are waiting for meetings with Hawksbill tortoises that pinch lips, endemic toad fish that amaze with their colors, huge Atlantic goliath groupers and beautiful moray eels. Diving for Palancar reef available all year round ; in December water temperature is usually about 24 ºC , and in August it is 30 ºC . Some people compare diving on the Palancar with flying — this is exactly the feeling that the visibility of more than 40 m gives the . Impressive, isn’t it?
8. Papua New Guinea
It is already known that «coral triangle» is excellent diving by definition, and0003 Papua New Guinea is no exception. This dive destination will offer you pristine coral reefs, clear waters, rich underwater life and exotic culture. Scientists have identified more than 350 species of corals and 860 species of fish living in areas of 45,000 km . By the way, thanks to its large area and remote location , on many dive sites your group will be the only one, and no one will interfere enjoy beauty .
The main APG spots are located at islands of the Bismarck Sea , at Milne Bay and at coral reefs at some distance from the mainland . Countless coral atolls , steep walls, barrier reefs , World War II wrecks, as well as numerous representatives of the macro world make Papua New Guinea an extremely attractive region for underwater photographers . We bet you’ve never seen so many different kinds of frogfish, needlefish, seahorses, exotic nudibranchs, crabs, shrimp and a host of other microscopic creatures. Fans of larger fish PNG will offer reef sharks, turtles, sea snakes, dolphins, flocks of barracudas and even pilot whales. Reefs in excellent condition ranked among the most beautiful reefs in the world due to the abundance of bright soft corals and sponges.
In PNG you are waiting for 12 months in the year , and the optimal periods for diving here will be the months from mid-April to mid-June and also from mid-December
9. Solomon Islands
Located 1,667 km southeast of Papua New Guinea , Solomon Islands are untouched paradise . 992 islands, which firmly occupy their place in the ten most biologically diverse countries in the world, are considered one of the main eco-secrets of the Pacific Ocean .
Solomon Islands is home to 494 species of soft and hard coral , excellent pop diving opportunities, many wrecks, caverns and an impressive number of tiny underwater creatures. The country is located in the eastern part of the «coral triangle» , which in itself guarantees the richest marine life, from endemic nudibranchs to cuttlefish, schools of barracudas and trevally. Sheer walls, caves and underwater cliffs are adorned with vibrant coral gardens , and diving here is exactly what will please explorers eager for new discoveries and underwater photographers . Dives in Solomon Islands are available all year round but the most comfortable will be dry season from June to August .
10. Thailand: Richelieu Rock
Richelieu Rock owes its discovery to Jacques-Yves Cousteau , who, in turn, was helped by local fishermen. This rock, rising 50m from the surface of the water, is one of Thailand’s brightest and richest spots and will definitely require several dives to explore.
This horseshoe-shaped site features a large central rock surrounded by smaller rocks. They are all covered sea fans , anemones, bright sponges and purple soft corals ; maybe that’s why Cousteau named this place in in honor of the red robe of Cardinal Richelieu ?
The main problem for the underwater photographers on this site is that it is very difficult to plan which lens to use. Rich underwater life is represented by chevron barracudas, manta rays, large groupers, giant trevally, whitetip and leopard sharks. Attentive divers will notice a huge variety of nudibranchs, frogfish, seahorses and porcelain crabs, but of course the main «stars» here are whale sharks attracted by plankton. They are not often seen here, but the chances increase from February to April . In general, diving here is available from end of October to end of May , and the best months are February and May .
In general, on planet there are not many places with stunningly beautiful coral reefs , however, unfortunately, not all of them are in good condition: the most obvious examples are fading Great Barrier Reef and Maldives . Since 2014, this tropical archipelago has suffered several times from the El Niño Current , which caused 60 to 90% of the corals to fade in different places . But nature has the ability to recover . Esl and do not interfere with her . And the more effort we put in to conserve coral reefs , the better world we will leave for future generations.
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The most beautiful coral reefs in Egypt
The Red Sea is one of the best places on the planet for diving. Each coral reef here is famous for its picturesque views and unusual colorful inhabitants, sunken ships and underwater caves. Thinking about a vacation in Egypt is all the more pleasant because since August you can fly a direct flight to one of the resorts. From 9August flies from Moscow to Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh five flights a week. Read the details in the note «What has changed in Egypt while you were not there.»
And we tried to make you fall in love with the amazing underwater world of Egypt with this selection of its most attractive marine reefs.
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Tiran Island, Sharm El Sheikh
The island was chosen by clown fish, dolphins, turtles and large anemones. The most beautiful corals are bizarrely placed on the walls of the reef, and at the very bottom of the underwater explorers, the sunken ship Kormoran awaits.
Hotels: Ships to the island depart from Naama Bay, where many excellent hotels are located: Movenpick Sharm Naama Bay 5*, Tropitel Naama Bay 5*, Solymar Naama Bay 4*.
Diving Schools: Dolphin Diving Center and Camel Dive Club & Hotel are always welcome.
Shark Reef, Sharm El Sheikh
We recommend visiting the reef in summer: it is at this time of the year that you can see schools of hundreds of crunks, barracudas and plataxes. Covered with dense coral thickets, the reef rock goes down to 750 meters.
Hotels: Sharks Bay is famous for its beautiful beach and hospitable hotels: Hilton Sharm Sharks Bay 4*, Sultan Gardens Resort 5*.
Diving schools: African Divers
Ras um el Sid, Sharm El Sheikh
The reef wall hides many grottoes and caves that have become home to lionfish, groupers and glassfish. A little aside, you can meet large Napoleons and admire flocks of tropical horse mackerels and barracudas.
Hotels: Reef Oasis Beach Resort 5*.
Diving schools: Dolphin Diving Club, African Divers, Elite Diving
Gordon Reef, Sharm El Sheikh
Shallow sandy plateau gradually gives way to coral and ends with a cliff resembling an amphitheatre. You can admire a variety of representatives of the animal world: stingrays, red mullet, hammerhead sharks and parrot fish.
Hotels: Rixos Seagate Sharm Resort 5*, Baron Palms 5*.
Diving schools: Aqua Naqk, Gold Stars Diving
Ras Mohammed Nature Reserve, Sharm El Sheikh
Seamounts extending almost a kilometer deep are replete with hundreds of species of corals and fish. Descending into the underwater depths of the most popular nature reserve in Egypt, the diver will find vast picturesque plateaus and an anemone city, reminiscent of a flowering garden.
Hotels: It is forbidden to build hotels in the reserve itself, but all certified diving clubs in Egypt bring their clients to this fabulous place.
Diving Schools: Blue Lagoon Diving Center, Dolphin Divers Club, etc.
The pearl of local diving is famous for its untouched coral coast and sheer walls, smoothly descending to a depth of 120 meters. Hammerhead sharks, manta rays, dolphins, tuna and huge schools of small fish will keep you company while diving.
Hotels: Radisson Blu Resort El Quseir 5*, Novotel Marsa Alam 5*.
Diving Schools: Wherever you stay, there are excellent dive centers waiting for you.
Dolphin Reef, Marsa Alam
Dolphin lovers should take a closer look at this reef, for a reason they are in its name! The horseshoe reef with amazingly clear water is also home to gray and whitetip reef sharks, hammerhead sharks, parrotfish, crocodile fish and tuna.
Hotels: Sentido Oriental Dream Resort 5*, Dreams Beach Resort Marsa Alam 5*.
Diving Schools: Each hotel in the resort offers diving services for both beginners and advanced divers.
Fanadir Reef, Hurghada
The longest reef in the vicinity of Hurghada is perfect for beginner divers due to its calm current. Here you can see cardinal fish, glassfish, tuna and pike. And if you are lucky, you will meet moray eels, lionfish and octopuses.
Hotels: Palm Beach Resort 4*, Sheraton Miramar 5*, Movenpick El Gouna 5*.
Diving schools: Panorama Divers, Dive Buddy
Giftun Reefs, Hurghada
Moray eels, rays and cuttlefish can be found in numerous underwater caves off the coast of the Gifun Islands. Quite dangerous marine inhabitants also live here: barracudas, long-winged and whale sharks.
Hotels: Seagull Beach Resort 5*, Zahabia Village & Beach Resort 3*.
Diving Schools: Crazy Dolphin Diving Center, RedSea-Divers
Abu Hashish Reef, Hurghada
Abu Hashish, we advise you to explore from the north: going around the «indented» reef from its southern part, you will find yourself in a picturesque lagoon with a depth of about 10 meters.