The global ocean covers a staggering 70.8 per cent of Earth’s surface and yet its depths still remain largely a mystery. One thing we can be certain of though is the benefit of spending time in or around water on our wellbeing. It is known to improve our physical and mental health. With that in mind, here are 5 top, diverse underwater destinations to explore:
Indonesia has around 13,000 uninhabited islands and is home to over 500 species of coral and 2,000 species of fish. It sits within the Coral Triangle; an area that covers the waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste. The Coral Triangle hosts 75 percent of the world’s coral species and is home to six of the world’s seven sea turtle species. Understandably it has been recognised as the centre of global biodiversity.
Indonesia is popular with travellers wanting to experience cultural highlights and island life and there are also plenty of underwater highlights to enjoy. It isn’t necessary to be a scuba diver to enjoy time in Indonesian waters, as many of its underwater highlights are accessible for snorkelers.
Raja Ampat is well worth visiting and is a picture-perfect area of over 1,500 islands. Not only does the area have secluded white sand beaches, there are also over 1,000 species of fish in the area and plenty of other marine life to see. One of the benefits of visiting Raja Ampat is there are numerous visiting cruise and dive boats, providing something for all budgets and interests. For a chance to experience whale sharks, Cenderawasih Bay is not to be missed.
The Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands are part of Ecuador and are a popular travel destination for people looking to explore volcanic islands and experience an array of species, some of which are found nowhere else on Earth. The underwater landscape is equally as unique and can be explored from cruise ships, land-based resorts, and whilst snorkelling or diving.
Wolf Island is home to numerous hammerhead and silky sharks, sea lions and dolphins. Whale sharks can also be seen there. Darwin Island and Punta Carrion offer the chance to enjoy pristine reefs and numerous fish species, plus Galapagos sharks. Cabo Marshall is great for giant manta rays and Punta Vicente Roca is the place to visit for sunfish, or mola mola. These flattened and strange-looking fish can reach up to 2,300 kilograms in weight and bask in the sun near the surface.
Micronesia consists of around 2,000 tropical islands and is divided into four main archipelagos. What makes the underwater environment of this area unique is the combination of man-made and natural highlights in the ocean. It is steeped in history and is a destination where travellers can combine island hopping, white-sand beaches, and learning more about World War II.
Chuuk, or Truk, Lagoon is famous as the site of a Japanese naval base in World War II and there are over 48 wrecks to explore, with artefacts from the war scattered amongst them. Whilst they are best explored by scuba diving, it is also possible to snorkel some of the sites and get a feel for the sheer history of the lagoon.
Palau, a group of 250 islands in Micronesia, is known for its flourishing reefs and diverse fish life. An underwater highlight there is Jellyfish Lake; named for the opportunity to swim amongst millions of harmless jellyfish.
It goes without saying that Egypt has plenty of land-based historical sights to explore, but it is also one of the most colourful areas to experience underwater. Easily accessible and affordable, it offers something for everyone looking to dip their toes into the water.
Sharm el Sheikh has numerous beaches with their own ‘house reefs’ to explore. The reefs are in good condition, colourful, and with crystal-clear warm water. They are perfect for those new to the ocean and wanting to experience vibrant reefs. There are a variety of liveaboard boats that tour the coastal dive sites and venture offshore into the stunning Ras Mohammed Marine Reserve and Straits of Tiran. There are plenty of options available for non-divers and divers alike.
By contrast, Marsa Alam is a quieter destination and offers the opportunity to see dugongs at Abu Dabbab and enjoy a slower pace of life whilst exploring the area.
Whilst Italy is not at the forefront of peoples’ minds for underwater experiences, it has some unique sights and history along its coastline and among the islands.
Elba Island, in the Tuscan Archipelago National Park, has numerous underwater highlights including an underwater museum. The museum, just off the Corsican Canal, contains a collection of statues depicts historical and mythological figures. The Underwater Archaeology Park of Baiae, in Naples, offers the unique opportunity to explore the remains of ancient villas, mosaics, and other Roman artefacts. There are a number of sites to explore with highlights including the Sunken Nymphaeum (a collection of Roman statues), spas, paved roads, fallen columns and more. The sites are accessible to divers and snorkelers alike.
Kathryn Curzon is a diver and writer for Liveaboard.com.
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