Few new travel experiences hold the same level of grandeur and awe that one feels when slipping into warm, tropical waters and discovering an entirely different world. A world of astounding color that is teaming with life, beauty, power, and grace. This simple act has inspired a lifelong passion in many people and stories of the wonder that unfolds underwater inspires many to seek the experience for themselves.
So strap on your fins, seal those goggles, and let’s explore some of the best island reefs around the world.
Andros, the largest island of the Bahamas, is home to the third largest barrier reef in the world. At just over 230 km (140 miles) long, the island reef provides numerous opportunities to observe undersea life at its most brilliant. The shore side of the reef is quiet, calm, and semi-deep (about 2.5 meters/8 feet). Perfect for the beginning diver. The ocean side of the reef is anything but tame though and should be attempted by an expert only.
Located off the northwest tip of the island of New Guinea, Raja Ampat (the Four Kings) is a fast archipelago comprising over 1,500 small islands and cays. According to Conservation International, marine surveys suggest that the marine life diversity around the Raja Ampat islands is the highest recorded on Earth. The staggering abundance of marine life is due in part to its incredibly low human population density.
From its location in the Indian Ocean, Mahe, the largest island in the Seychelles chain, has an impressive amount of subaquatic scenery to offer a diver. Home to several marine parks, Mahe boasts the opportunity to dive with hawksbill turtles, bottlenose dolphins, Whale sharks, lobsters, and Moray eels. The Ste Anne Marine National Park, located 5 km from the capital Victoria, is one of the prime tourist locations in the Indian Ocean for scuba-diving.
Little Cayman a small island that arguably hosts some of the best dive spots in the world such as Bloody Bay and Jackson Point. With approximately 50 unique dive sites, a diver can achieve a level of experience that is hard to find anywhere else. This island offers sea plumes, coral gardens, and many different species of tropical fish.
Taveuni is the third largest island in the Fiji chain. The island is often called the “Garden Island” because of its abundant flower and plant life but the name could equally apply to the remarkable, colorful scenes beneath its waters. Taveuni is home to the magnificent Rainbow Reef, famous for its excellent diving and snorkeling opportunities. The reef is composed of a white, luminescent coral and offers the opportunity to observe the Blue Ribbon Eel, barracudas, white-tip reef sharks and leopard sharks.
Located 315 km (200 miles) south of Manila, Boracay is a tropical island with long white sand beaches that rival the best beaches of neighboring Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Nearly two dozen dive sites are situated at the north and south ends of Boracay. Camia wreck for example is an artificial reef that offers high visibility and a large number of fish. The two walls of Yapak are the most exciting dive sites around the island, but due to rough waters and strong currents, they are for the experienced only.
Located just off the Yucatan Peninsula, Cozumel is a popular destinations for scuba diving and snorkeling. The underwater world around Cozumel was discovered by Jacques Cousteau in 1959 who called it one of the best diving areas in the world. Since that time Cozumel has become a National Marine Park to protect the delicate balance of it’s beautiful coral reefs and amazing variety of tropical fish. The marine park offers the diver some of the best visibility that one might encounter. Visibility often reaches distances of 30 meters (100ft). or more. Perhaps the most distinctive part of this location is the Splendid Toadfish, a bright, colorful fish species found nowhere else on Earth.
Roatán is one of the Honduras Bay Islands in the Caribbean Sea. Located near the largest barrier reef in the Caribbean and the second largest barrier reef in the world it is a major scuba diving destination. Diving sites are teaming with sea life and are rarely affected by weather, making them some of the most ideal beginner sites available. Nearby Utila island boasts the cheapest Open Water courses in the Caribbean.
Koh Tao, literally Turtle Island, is a small island located near the eastern shore of the Gulf of Thailand. Around 7000 new divers get certified on Koh Tao each year making it one of the most popular places in the world to learn to dive and a popular attractions in Thailand. Diving around the island reefs is easy and fun and you can see an impressive variety of marine species such as coral, turtles, lots of small fish, barracudas and there is a very small chance of seeing a whale shark. The average visibility is around 15-20 meters.
Also located in the Caribbean, this Dutch island is surrounded by reefs for miles in any given direction. Bonaire is almost exclusively dedicated to scuba divers and snorkeling due to its lack of sandy beaches. Most dive sites around the island are easily accessible. In fact, Bonaire is the top destination in the world for shore diving, with each of its more than 80 dive sites being right offshore.