The best snorkeling destinations around the world

Swap your flip-flops for fins and your sunglasses for snorkels and plunge into waters, peacefully observing what life is really like under the sea!

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The deep blue sea transports you to a wet world of breathtaking beauty, immersing you into stunning coral reefs hosting an abundance of unique fish. Being able to see this exciting world easily has been made possible by snorkeling. There is no need for extensive training or expensive qualifications, it is a very simple premise; all you need is a mask and snorkel set, fins (optional) and be able to swim.

Seeing the world beneath the waves has never been easier and I’ll be looking at some of the best places across the globe for you to snorkel!

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1.  Australia – The Great Barrier Reef

The world heritage listed Great Barrier Reef is one of Australia’s greatest natural wonders; it is also the world’s largest coral reef and can even be seen from space, it is truly remarkable. The beautiful reef hosts a vast array of marine life and over 3000 individual reef systems and coral cays, it also accommodates over 900 islands stretching over 2’600 kilometers! If you want to stay in the Great Barrier Reef there are over 100 unique and exotic islands to choose from such as, Lizard Island, Daydream Island and Magnetic Island, each of the islands has its own charm so be sure to visit more than one.

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2. Bali – Menjangan Island

Menjangan Island, known as Deer Island, due to the barking deer swimming to the island every spring, is located off the North West coast of Bali and is part of the West Bali National Park. The island is home to crystal clear waters encapsulating spectacular reefs and walls, an abundance of tropical fish and other marine life such as turtles. Menjangan is a snorkeling paradise, especially for beginners as the current is very light and the visibility is also very good.

Some of the shallow parts close to shore resemble the children’s film, Nemo as you are surrounded by clown fish (Marlin), blue regal tangs (Dory), morrish idol (Gill), starfish (Peach), yellow tang (Bubbles), puffer fish (Bloat), sea turtles (Crush) alongside other marine life.

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3. Bahamas – Bimini Islands

On the most western shores of the Bahamas lives Bimini Island, it is made up of three Islands, North, South and East Bimini and is the closest island of the Bahamas to the United States being only 50 miles off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  There are many amazing snorkeling spots you must visit in Bimini but some are worth visiting more than others such as, the Bimini Road, commonly known as ‘Atlantis Road’ because two rows of parallel stones appear to be placed in a road formation often believed to be proof of the lost city of Atlantis. It is also located in the heart of the Bermuda Triangle adding a further sense of mystery.

The Sapona wreck is also an interesting snorkeling site located in the southern part of the Bimini Islands. The Sapona was originally a ship built by Henry Ford but now is a perfect spot for snorkelers due to its shallow waters, at around 12 foot deep, with a lot of the rusted ship being above water level. Over time it has become a great home for marine life so expect to see, trigger fish, lobsters, grunts, turtles, nurse sharks and more.

Be sure to also visit, Turtle rocks, Rainbow Reef, Stingray hole, Healing hole and many more!

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4. Belize – Hol Chan Marine Reserve

The Hol Chan marine reserve is only 4 miles from San Pedro and is the most popular snorkeling sites in Belize. There are 4 zones throughout the park: Zone A – Hol Chan Cut, Zone B – Seagrass beds, Zone C – Maingroves and Zone D – Shark Ray Alley.

The Hal Chan Cut is great for beginner snorkelers as some of the waters are as shallow as 5 foot, as soon as you enter the water you will be greeted by tons of vibrant fish, rays, turtles, nurse sharks and maybe if you’re lucky a dolphin.

Seagrass beds are large feeding grounds where huge stingrays feed on the bottom, along with schools of parrotfish and hogfish nibbling on the epiphytes. The Seagrass beds zone is much less visited than the Hal Chan Cut but just as interesting, you need to carefully look out for the well-camouflaged fish. The Mangrove zone includes the Boca Chica channel that borders the southern tip of the Ambergris cave and hosts one of the most colourful and biologically diverse habitats for marine invertebrates. Finally in Zone D, Shark Ray Alley is an incredibly popular dive site and it is easy to see why. As boats arrives into Zone D the sharks and rays approach in the hope for food, they have a great tolerance for divers and snorkelers which makes this dive in excellent visibility a great experience.

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5. Cuba

Cuba’s coral reef runs along the perimeter of the entire country and is known for owning some of the most beautiful underwater spots in the world, it has warm waters, high visibility, lively coral reefs, tunnels, caves and vibrant schools of fish. Around Cuba’s coral reefs you can watch parrotfish, tiger fish, wrasses, angelfish, sea turtles, spiny lobsters, coral shrimp, squids, purple jellyfish, barracuda, rays, sea urchins and even the occasional shark.

Be sure to visit Cayo Coco, Jibacoa Bay, Bay of Pigs, Cayo Santa Maria, Maria la Gorda and Santiago de Cuba to see some of these amazing sites.

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6. Iceland – Silfra, Thingvellir National Park

Now let’s slip into colder waters in Iceland and float through the Big Crack between two continental plates – North American and Eurasia. As you float through the narrowest part it then widens into the Silfra Hall where you will clearly see all of the mesmerizing colours Silfra has to offer.

The water in Silfra is unbelievably clear, because of the lava filtration and cold temperature so be sure to drink some of the pure Silfra water before you leave!

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7. Florida – Crystal River

Go to the manatee capital of the world and head to the warm waters at Crystal River in Florida where you have a high chance of seeing and swimming with the Florida Manatee!

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8. Lanzarote

If you want to clearly see a natural aquarium that will take your breath away take a trip to Lanzarote! The waters are warm and buzzing with marine life, and there are very few dangerous things in the sea here so if you are scared of what deadly creatures live in the water you will be okay in Lanzarote. Take a trip to Arrieta, Playa Jabillo, Playa Chica and Playa Flamingo you can see sama, rainbow fish, various bream, zebra fish and parrot fish, starfish, cuttlefish, sea urchins, crabs and if you’re lucky you may see an angel shark.

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9. Mexico – Riviera Maya

The Great Maya Reef, also called the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, is the largest coral reef system in the Northern Hemisphere, stretching more than 600 miles along the coast of Yucatán Peninsula all the way to Belize. Along this glorious coast you can see squid, octopuses, sea turtles, octopus, sea snakes, barracudas, stingrays and many other interesting fish! Here are a few places along the Riviera Maya where there are some good snorkeling spots, Xel Ha, Puerto Morelos, Akumal and Cozumel.

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10. Palau – Jellyfish Lake

Located on Eil Malk off the coast of Koror in Palau, Jellyfish Lake is one of 70 saltwater lakes that used to be connected to the ocean and is around 12,000 years old.  This secluded lake is the perfect place for jellyfish as there is an abundance of algae for them to eat and no predators to keep the numbers down. The jellyfish in the lake have stingers but they aren’t felt by humans, which makes this a perfect place to see thousands of jellyfish in a relatively small space.

Throughout the day the jellies migrate from one side of the lake to the other, following the path of the sun as this feeds the algae that the jellyfish feed on. There is a hydrogen sulfide layer at around 15 – 20 meters deep but as long as you above this the lake is safe to swim and snorkel with these interesting jellies!

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11. Thailand – Koh Nang Yuan

Koh Nang Yuan is a beautiful small island close to Ko Tao in Thailand. This picturesque island opens up a new and exciting world and is famous for its diving spots and snorkeling in glorious blue waters covering coral reefs and a vast array of marine life. Just take a look at the photograph of this remarkable paradise island.

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April Micallef

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