Top 10 Snorkling

Discover a hidden paradise of charismatic colour and dream-like marine life in the glistening seas of these snorkelling hotspots.

Amongst the seemingly limitless number of snorkelling paradises scattered throughout the world’s most breathtaking destinations there are a spectacular few whose warm, translucent waters and unique animal life make them stand out from the rest. For captivatingly colourful scenes swimming with technicolour marine life and amazing natural reef formations, these sites are hard to beat and are only a short jump from the yacht deck. With calm, protected waters, unforgettable underwater scenery, ideal depth and easy yacht access, these top ten spots are the ultimate snorkelling adventure sites.

1. Rurutu, French Polynesia

The appeal of this awe-inspiring destination is its immense whale-haunted waters, where motionless snorkellers can view the massive beasts first hand and hear their eerie singing reverberating through the surrounding waters. Rurutu is a tiny outpost in the Australs of Tahiti, which plays home to humpback whales from August to November when they migrate to the warm, shallow waters to give birth, nurse and mate. Apart from these giant creatures, the shape of the island also provides snorkellers with captivating caves to explore and is home to a colourful reef edging on lagoon where the big fish, manta rays and hammerhead sharks that swim within its unbelievably clear water are easily visible.

2. The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

You could choose any point of the spectacular Barrier Reef and it would be considered an amazingly unique snorkelling experience, with technicolour reefs and fascinating marine life everywhere you look. The Great Barrier Reef is perfect for both experienced and first-time snorkellers, featuring calm protected shallow spots around the islands as well as deeper reef sites rich in marine life on the outer reefs for those more experienced.

Resorts

There are luxurious resorts on Heron, Green and Lady Elliot Islands which have first-class snorkelling right off the beach and make fabulous bases for exploring this natural masterpiece where everything from eagle rays, sea turtles and starfish to vividly coloured fish and nudibranchs are at your fingertips.

Lord Howe Island

Lord Howe Island is another superb spot, as only a limited number of guests are allowed on the island at any one time, creating conditions of unrivalled privacy to explore this world-class spectacle. Many snorkelling hot spots are also located in the calm, shallow water of the lagoon off the west coast of the island, including Erscotts Hole on the inner southwest side where curious marine life traverse the colourful coral gardens.

3. Fiji

With so many island paradises to choose from, you will never be short of underwater brilliance in Fiji. Known for the scenic presence of “bommies” on its reefs, these pillars of coral rise from the depths of the ocean to within a short space of the surface and support a fascinating range of giant clams, starfish, anemones, and an excellent array of fish species including clownfish, plumed lion fish, puffers, barracudas, manta rays, and reef sharks.

Vanua Levu

Absolutely amazing snorkelling can be found on Vanua Levu off Jean-Michel Cousteu Resort, which as the name would suggest, has shallows simply teeming with sea life and vivid reefs that make it perfect for all levels of snorkelling. Night snorkelling is also available for those seeking an extra slice of adventure.

Bligh Water

Some of the most stunning sites can be found in the remote region of Bligh Water, between Vitu Levu and Vanua Levu islands. Here, an oasis of marine life is sheltered by fans of kaleidoscopic soft corals that attract passing schools of fish and multi-hued invertebrates. Stronger snorkelling skills are recommended for this site as it is quite far from land and is known to experience strong currents.

4. Bimini Island, Bahamas

Although tiny in size, Bimini Island offers a huge range of first-class snorkelling options including majestic coral gardens, scores of reef fish and the fabled road to the legendary lost city of Atlantis; parallel monoliths known as Bimini Road. Stretching along the warm currents of the Gulfstream, the waters surrounding the sandy oasis possess a myriad of flourishing corals and wondrous marine life. The waters are also the perfect place to come face-to-face with wild Atlantic spotted dolphins who often call them home. Just south of North Bimini is the wreck of the 85 metre ship Sapona, driven up on the reef during a hurricane in 1926. Some of the best sites to don a mask and flippers include the coral ridge of Rainbow Reef, which is one of the most heavily-concentrated fish areas in the Bahamas, and Stingray Hole where huge numbers of rays swirl around you and can often be handfed.

5. Virgin Islands

Although fabulous snorkelling destinations can be found throughout the Virgin Islands, nothing quite beats those in the U.S Islands, especially the coast of St. John which is riddled with protected places to snorkel.

St John

Thanks to the island’s almost complete National Park status, St. John has managed to keep its natural beauty intact, ensuring its diverse range of dive sites remains spectacular. Leinster Bay’s ultra-clear waters teem with sea life, while local favourite Haulover Bay offers dramatic snorkelling set with ledges, walls and hidden nooks. Trunk Bay is a wonderful spot for beginners, offering a self-guided 200 metre snorkelling trail clearly signposted.

St Croix

St. Croix is home to the beautiful north-shore Cane Beach which flourishes with brightly-coloured fish and brain coral and features an amazing drop-off wall. Buck Island boasts a reef system with over 250 species of fish and a myriad of colourful sponges, corals and crustaceans.

BVIs

The British Islands are not devoid of brilliant snorkelling spots however, not by far. Big Corn Island off Jost Van Dyke is gloriously secluded and has waters swarming with southern stingrays, green morays and yellow fairy basslet fish. Even more tranquil is Flamenco Beach, the island's best spot for encountering hawksbill turtles, squid and angelfish among the fingers of reef.

6. Uepi Island, Solomon Islands

This South Pacific Island is an absolute menagerie of colour, action and movement that is remarkably visible mere footsteps from the sandy beach. Ideally situated amongst the jade and turquoise beauty of Marovo Lagoon, this snorkelling paradise is home to one of the word’s most incredibly diverse ecosystems. A mixture of hard and soft corals, sponges and seafans hide a glorious sight of reef fish, crustaceans and invertebrates within their colourful fingers. Below the Welcome Jetty is a world of snowflake morays, nudibranchs, clownfish, giant clams and often a gang of blacktip reef sharks. Snorkelling here also allows you to swim with one of the ocean's most unusual inhabitants in the chambered nautilus. With an intricate circular shell sought-after by collectors, the living animal within is even more fascinating. Instructors recommend a break-of-dawn snorkelling adventure to see this critter pulse water through its siphon and appear to dance around the hard corals.

7. Turks and Caicos

The Providenciales (Provo) is world-renowned for its amazing diving and snorkelling with access to unbelievable sites provided directly off the beach or on unforgettable boat excursions. Grace Bay is miraculously unspoilt and its incredible Coral Gardens are located right off the beach, although for truly flourishing marine gardens, the nearby Smith's Reef and Bight Reef, both in the Princess Alexandra National Park are perfect. Smith’s has been ranked as one of the top 10 snorkelling destinations by National Geographic with its striking limestone entry and abundant marine life including brain and fan corals, purple gorgonians, anemones, sea cucumbers, sergeant majors, green parrotfish, long-nosed trumpet fish and green morays. Try catching a conch in several feet of water and bringing it back to shore for a fresh seafood treat. An excellent place for beginners and experts alike, the waters surrounding the island are clean, clear, temperate, and gentle, perfect for supporting a rich and thriving marine life. For a more secluded snorkelling adventure try Salt Cay where forests of elk horn coral hide nurse sharks and sting rays, and winter brings the immense shapes of humpback whales to the waters.

8. The Seychelles

A relative Garden of Eden lies beneath the Indian Ocean surrounding this island stretch, housing a marine ecosystem that gifts snorkellers one of the most varied and enthralling reef explorations anywhere in the world.

Mahé

One of the best locations is St. Anne National Marine Park off the coast of Mahé, whose coral alone is worth donning a mask and flippers, fading from whites to purple and adorning the sea bed in a variety of shapes and sizes. Also on Mahé is Anse Royal, enclosed behind a reef and Sunset Beach for its manta rays and hammerhead sharks. The Seychelles famous Granite Rocks shelter a remarkable variety of tropical fish, rays, sharks and dolphins. They also create brilliant swim-throughs, their rough towering walls decorated with clams and an artistic blend of hard and soft corals.

Desroches

The island of Desroches boasts amazing snorkelling with its spectacular coral reefs and seldom-seen sea life such as oriental sweet lips and lion fish only metres from the main beach. For the best conditions, visit the Seychelles between April and May or October and November for superior visibility.

9. St. Lucia, Windward Islands

Home to lush, shallow snorkelling, St Lucia proudly boasts some of the Caribbean’s best. The gem in the crown is most definitely Anse Chastauet, possessing a large majority of the island’s magnificent underwater scenery. This snorkelling spot is all about colour; that of the coral, sponges, sea fans and fish. Citrus sponges vie for attention beside azure sea fans, as jade tangs and technicolour fish swim alongside golden eels and spotted seahorses. Anse Chastauet is buoyed off for snorkelling safety and features a plateau on the reef that reaches from one to eight metres deep and falls away to 42 metres into a coral wall bursting with curious marine life.

10. Stingray World, Moorea

The wonderful South Pacific features again with this fantastic destination located in French Polynesia. Not far from Tahiti is the island of Moorea which has been attracting snorkellers in-the-know for many a year. Stingray World is perhaps the region’s number one drawcard, located on a sand bank off Moorea in just one metre of water, where you will find yourself surrounded by swathes of friendly stingrays which will allow you to both touch and handfeed them. Moorea is a relatively easy snorkelling destination with calm, crystal clear waters protected by the lagoons and a generous variety of gentle sea life to explore.