Are you daydreaming about a sunny escape? How about a trip to one of the planet’s best snorkelling spots? After all, oceans make up a whopping 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface. Not only will you be able to pad your feet across white-sand beaches and sip cocktails under swaying palms, but you can also wade into crystal-clear waters to sight sea creatures and coral gardens. Dive in with the eight destinations ahead.
Lady Elliott Island, Queensland
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the natural wonders of the world and for a good reason, as it’s the globe’s largest coral ecosystem. (The warm weather and beaches surrounding it are pretty enticing, too.) There are plenty of places to snorkel across its 2000-kilometre length, but one of the most pristine is Lady Elliot Island in the southernmost part of the reef (accessible from Bundaberg, Brisbane, Hervey Bay and the Gold Coast). Here, you can immerse yourself at whatever level you feel comfortable – whether that’s boating out to see deep-sea creatures such as sharks, manta rays and whales, or simply walking up to the water’s edge and dunking in your head.
Best for: seeing the Great Barrier Reef right off the beach.
Raja Ampat Islands, Indonesia
The ‘Coral Triangle’ is an area of the western Pacific Ocean stretching from Indonesia up to the Philippines and down to Papua New Guinea, and it’s spoilt with the greatest concentration of marine life in the world. Of the various places you could access these underwater riches, the Raja Ampat Islands are among the most rewarding, with around 600 coral species (or 75 per cent of all the types) and more than 1000 tropical fish. It can be a little tricky to get to, as there are no direct flights, but it will be worth the extra connection to experience this slice of snorkelling paradise.
Best for: vibrant and diverse marine life.
El Nido, Philippines
The Philippines might not be the first spot you’d think of for a snorkelling adventure, but its access to the Coral Triangle makes it an excellent destination for diving into the deep. And El Nido, a remote part of the Palawan region, is a gateway to some of the country’s most picture-perfect beaches and technicolour reefs. One of the big drawcards here is the beautiful Bacuit Archipelago, with its rocky outcrops, dazzling blue lagoons, and thriving underwater world. And with myriad islands to explore, you’re bound to find a stretch of shore that’s all yours. Getting to El Nido can be a bit of a trek, but any travel-weariness will melt away as soon as you set foot on this magical place.
Best for: an escape far from reality.
Ningaloo Coast, Western Australia
The Ningaloo Coast often gets overlooked for exotic escapes beyond Australia’s border, but with its national parklands, sweeping beaches and snorkelling mere metres from the shore, it’s one of the best vacation destinations around. The Indian Ocean is the warmest of all oceans, too, so prepare for some super-inviting swims (no need to psyche yourself up to finally dive in). There are lots of options within this World Heritage-listed area, including the popular shallow-water snorkelling of Turquoise Bay. But Australia’s ‘other reef’ is particularly famous for its schools of gentle whale sharks, for which you’ll need to swim further out. Head to Exmouth to explore this unique stretch of coastline.
Best for: swimming with whale sharks.
If, contrary to what Beyonce thinks, you are ready for that jelly, then add the Jellyfish Lake in Palau to your bucket list. Located in the Rock Islands, a protected, mostly uninhabited area with numerous lagoons, more than 600,000 (harmless) jellyfish call this 400-metre long lake home. This waterway was only recently reopened to visitors, which is all the more reason to add swimming with a bloom of jellyfish to the travel plans while you can. The phenomenon is just one of the many marine highlights that draw snorkellers and divers here each year, and there is a flourishing environment to explore onshore as well.
Best for: floating with jellyfish (sting-free).
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The incredible biodiversity of the Galapagos is well known, but you might be surprised to learn the second-largest marine reserve in the world also resides here. Snorkelling these islands is a bit of a different beast to other places, though, with larger animals such as penguins, sea lions, manta rays and sharks swimming among its volcanic seascapes. And of course, you’ll also want to sight the giant tortoises, iguanas and bird life on land.
Best for: coupling on and offshore wildlife sightings.
Blue Hole, Egypt
Egypt may be more frequently associated with pyramids and pharaohs, but the Blue Hole near Dahab on the southern Sinai Peninsula is proof that there is more to the country’s watery wonders than just the Nile. Found a few kilometres north of Dahab, this submarine sinkhole is one of the Red Sea’s most popular snorkelling spots. Wade into the Blue Hole from one of two entry points – a wooden jetty or Bells, a reef crack 200 metres north of the main site – and begin paddling past brightly-coloured coral gardens and shoals of bannerfish, groupers, parrot fish, angel fish and perhaps even the odd turtle. Take little notice of the jellyfish; no stingers means it’s safe to share space with these languidly floating creatures.
Best for: an introduction to the Red Sea.
It almost seems unfair: all the ways that Mother Nature blessed the Maldives. Not only does this archipelago stun with its above-water good looks, but take a dip into the turquoise waters to discover abundant house reefs teeming with kaleidoscopic-hued fish, varied marine-life and coral shelves. Snorkelling in the Maldives can be done from pretty much any of the atolls, but particular ones to make note of include Baa, North Male, Laamu, Huvadhoo and South Ari. Many resorts and hotels offer snorkel equipment for guests, and some stays can also facilitate trips to a handful of the Maldives’ inhabited isles for an even more exclusive snorkelling experience.
Best for: envy-inducing social media posts.
Reaching for your goggles and flippers already? Book flights to these snorkelling spots with Webjet and get ready to experience some of the best snorkelling in the world!