1. The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef in the world, roughly parallel to the coast of Queensland, Australia, for almost 2,000km. Australia has almost 1/5th of the world’s reef area and most is located in the GBR. It was declared a World Heritage area in 1981 and added to the National Heritage List in 2007.
The waters of the Great Barrier Reef provide the world’s busiest and most varied marine habitats. Marine life is in abundance. From the many species of coral to the sought after Black Marlin and all sizes and species of fish in-between. The varied colours of the reef’s fish and other marine life will astound the visitor with colour combinations that artists haven’t even dreamed of. It is the largest of the world’s 552 World Heritage Areas, covering 347,000 km There are more than 2800 catalogued reefs in the area.
2. The Palancar Reef, San Miguel de Cozumel, Mexico
Cozumel is an island in the Caribbean Sea east of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It is located 12 miles east of the Mexican mainland, where the town of Playa del Carmen is located, and 42 miles south of Cancun. It is 30 miles long and 19 miles wide. Its main town is San Miguel Cozumel, where most of the 75,000 inhabitants of Cozumel live.
Palancar is located off the southwest side of the island of Cozumel, part of the Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park in Mexico.
Back in 1960, world-famous sea explorer Jacques-Ives Cousteau discovered and presented to the world the incredible beauty of the reefs on the southwest coast of Cozumel as one of the best diving places in the world. Today it is regarded as one of the finest diving spots in the Western Hemisphere, with great visibility, warm water year-round and magnificent sea life.
The reef consists of a platform 60 to 100 feet deep full of interesting coral formations and caves and with plenty of colorful fish and other sea life to watch. This platform ends at an almost vertical cliff which goes all the way to the bottom of the sea, more than 1300 feet all around the island. Along this cliff, many large animals are to be seen, such as sea turtles, barracuda as well as huge schools of medium sized fish which are spectacular to see. The visibility is one of the best in the world and most of the year it is from 100 ft to more than 160 ft on an excellent day.
Raja Ampat casts a spell on all who visit – scientists, photographers, novice divers and crusty sea-salts alike. This group of majestic islands, located in the northwestern tip of Indonesia’s Papuan “Bird’s Head Seascape,” lies in the heart of the coral triangle, the most bio-diverse marine region on earth
Raja Ampat meaning ‘ the Four Kings’, is the name given to these mystical islands and pristine seas in West Papua, the name derived from a local myth. The four major islands here are Waigeo, Misool, Salawati, and Batanta. The size of this marine park is enormous, as it covers more than 9.8 million acres of beautiful scenery, both above and below the surface. Divers claim that Raja Ampat is the best place in the world to observe manta rays, dugongs, wobbegongs walking sharks, and the legendary pygmy seahorses. Photographers also praise the beauty above the surface.
4. Grand Central Station and Chimneys, Fiji
Fiji is known as the “soft coral capital of the world” with covering an area of 207,000 square kilometres. The best diving destination in Fiji is certainly the Namena Marine Reserve. The Namena Reserve is one of the world’s most spectacular barrier reef, inhabiting over a thousand invertebrates’ species and about 445 marine plants. It’s location that’s miles way from a developed town/city, varying range of depths and current patterns, coastlines around with extensive mangrove forests and sea grass beds that feed the reef and the vertical walls dominated by sea fans, sponges and crinoids, all of them together blend to create a habitat that attracts a unique and interesting marine life and a temptation for divers.
Two of the best dive sites here in this reserve are the Chimneys and the Grand Central Station. The visibility at these sites is about 50-60 feet in the west season and up to 80 – 100 feet in the months from May to August.
The Chimneys comprise of two coral towers, with soft corals, surrounded by schools of fish. Right on top here, you can see the amino fish. The chimneys are home to three species of them. This site also gets its vibrancy from blue ribbon eels, banded pipefish, groupers, gray and whitetip reef sharks.
The Grand Central Station is an equally spectacular site – known for pelagic fishes like the tunas, barracudas, hammer head sharks, jacks, snappers, manta rays, marble rays and others. You can also spot the nudibranchs and leaf scorpion fish and lion fish as well.
This wonderful adventure is an absolute must for all enthusiasts, craving for new unusual experiences.
5. Belize Barrier Reef, Belize
The Belize Barrier Reef is home to a large diversity of plants and animals and is one of the most diverse ecosystems of the world. It is the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and the second longest in the world. It is comprised of 70 hard coral species, 36 soft coral species, 500 species of fish, and hundreds of invertebrate species.
This impressive corals reef is located in the Atlantic Caribbean coast of Belize approximately 300 meters from the coast at the north of the country and around 40 Kilometers from the coast at the south of Belize. The Belize Barrier Reef is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System; the Belize’s Barrier covers 260 Kilometers of the Mesoamerican Barrier. Because of its amazing beauty and diverse ecosystem the Belize Barrier Reef is considered by CEDAM, one of the Underwater Wonders of the World.
chaacreek, westminster, toursholic
6. Magic Passage and Rock Planet, Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is a collection of hundreds of islands just south of the Equator. It was barely more than a century ago that the first Europeans really explored the diverse and fascinating country, and there are still many areas that remain virtually untouched by Western influence.
The north coast of the mainland (Madang) and adjacent islands are scattered with coral cays, sand-fringed lagoons and deserted atolls. The area is fast becoming known as the best tropical dive locations in the world. With a staggering choice of unspoiled sites to choose from, the Madang area has it all: coral reefs, World War II ships and aircraft wrecks submerged in crystal clear water, sunken live volcanoes and cathedral-like caves, grazing dugong, cruising turtles and a mind-blowing array of multi-coloured reef fish.
Planet Rock is an oceanic sea mount about 2km off shore, to the south-east of Madang. Only accessible during calm weather, this pinnacle is a pelagic fish lover’s dream come true! Hammerheads are one of the most common visitors to Planet Rock, but you will also see tuna, barracuda and jacks schooling here. The coral growth here is spectacular, as the rock acts as a nursery for the young of many species of invertebrates.
Magic Passage can been reached from Jais Aben in about 10 minutes. This deep channel cuts through Madang Barrier Reef between Kranket and Leper Islands, and is a natural flue through which fish are drawn at each tide. If the current is racing, then you can see just about anything down here; schools of pelagic and reef fish, including sharks, barracuda and turtles. Huge sea fans and whip corals sprout from the walls.
7. Andaman Sea Reefs, India
The Andaman Sea lies on the eastern edge of the Indian Ocean, bordered to the west by an arc of islands stretching from northern Sumatra to the Irrawaddy delta. Fringing reefs are abundant in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (India), Mergui Archipelago (Myanmar), west coasts of Thailand and Malaysia and northwest Sumatra (Indonesia).
The Andaman Sea ecoregion is biologically rich in both diversity and abundance. This high biodiversity is encountered from genes to individuals to species, habitats, and ecosystems. The coral reefs, mangroves, sea grass beds, marine lakes and Deep Sea valleys of the region form a constellation of diverse habitats that support a spectacular variety of flora and fauna. Much of this remains to be investigated or fully documented. In India, the Andaman and Nicobar islands are the country’s most important coral reef resources and the largest block of coral cover in South Asia. Fringing reefs dominate, surrounding most of the 500 islands, although isolated outcrops and extensive communities growing on rocky shores and vertical granite walls also are frequently found.
The area is regionally outstanding in terms of both species diversity and intact corals. Approximately 200 coral species and 400 fish species have been recorded to date. Thailand’s most extensive, pristine, and best-developed reefs occur in the Andaman Sea, particularly in the Surin Islands. Although the Andaman Sea composes only one third of Thailand’s coastline, over half of the country’s coral reefs are found in these waters. Surveys here have recorded 210 species of coral, and over 100 species of reef fish. Further South in Malaysia, a number of islands are important for coral reef development, while mangroves are more common on the mainland coast.
8. Aldabra Atoll, Seychelles
A UNESCO World Heritage Site Aldabra, is one of the largest coral atolls in the world, a ring of four islands enclosing a shallow tropical lagoon, surrounded by a fringing reef. It is located in a very remote part of the eastern Indian Ocean, about 1,000 km west-south-west of the main Seychelles group, 400 km north-west of the northern tip of Madagascar and 600 km from the East African coast. The four islands have been built up from the sea bed and represent the top of a coral limestone ‘cap’ varying in thickness from 0.6 to 1.6 km. They show a complex history of emergence and submergence, and today lie about 8 metres above sea level. The ring of islands, with its enclosed lagoon covers an area about 34 km long and 14 km wide, with each island being about 2 km wide.
The atoll contains thousands of birds, including the white-throated Aldabran Rail (the only flightless bird in the Indian Ocean). Also on view are Lesser and Great Frigate birds, Red-footed Boobies, Dimorphic Egrets (found only here and in Madagascar), Aldabra Sacred Ibis, Greater Flamingos and the Malagasy Kestrel.
Aldabra is contains one of the most important natural habitats for studying evolutionary and ecological processes. It is home to the largest giant tortoise population in the world. The richness and diversity of the ocean and landscapes result in an array of colours and formations that contribute to the atoll’s scenic and aesthetic appeal.
whc.unesco, africannaturalheritage, planetware
9. Diving the S.S. Yongala, Queensland, Australia
The S.S. Yongala sank during a cyclone on March 23rd, 1911 with the loss of all 122 passengers and crew. While it was one of Australia’s worst maritime disasters, it is now rated Australia’s Best Dive and is sometimes called ‘Townsville’s Titanic’.
The wreck was first dived in 1958 and due to its remote location it has remained mostly untouched. The wreck now lies on its starboard side in 14-28 metres of water and at 109m long is the largest and most intact, historic shipwreck in Australian waters.
The Great Barrier Reef is the most bio-diverse ecosystem on the planet including over 1500 species of fish and 350 different types of coral. The Yongala wreck has now become an artificial reef with more varieties of coral growing on it than most natural reef systems. It is also host to a huge diversity of pelagic and reef species found in the Coral Sea. You will see more fish in one dive on the wreck than ten on the reef. It’s certainly a dive experience you will never forget.
10. Tubbataha Reef, Filipina
Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park is a wonder to behold. Located in the southern province of Sulu, Tubbataha is a 10-hectare preserved site that is home to thousands of marine life and one of the most beautiful corals in the world.
The park is an underwater sanctuary where nature thrives. Tubbataha is the Philippines’ first national marine park and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a place of global importance being preserved for future generations of humankind.
Tubbataha is made up of two reefs, simply referred to as the North and South Reefs or Islets, that are separated by 4 nautical miles of water with surrounding depths that descend to around 1,200 meters. The North Reef is 4-5 km wide and completely encloses a sandy lagoon. The reef is shallow and some of it is uncovered at low tide. The South Reef is 1-2 km wide and also encloses a lagoon. On the southern tip is a islet with a lighthouse. This is used as a rookery for birds and is frequented by turtles.
Tubbataha Reef is nominated as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature.