The underwater world houses a great deal more species of fascinating species than the world above it. The beauty and mystery of the big blue waters is enhanced by the interesting mix of marine flora and fauna. Protecting these majestic species are the coral reefs that border and adorn the coastlines, acting as a habitat to an assortment of ecosystems. These reefs contain almost a quarter of the world’s sea life and are one of the richest environments on our planet. Unfortunately, they also happen to be highly endangered and in dire need of preservation. So, if you are someone who loves snorkeling or scuba diving, or basically yearns to raise awareness about the beautiful treasures slipping away from us, here is a list of the top 10 coral reef sites in the world!
10. Bonaire Coral Reef
Named after the island whose coastline it adorns, the Bonaire coral reef is officially the last of the healthy coral reefs to survive in the Caribbean. The corals of the Caribbean have been decimated due to global warming, pollution, and overfishing. But, Bonaire on the other hand has risen strong over the adversaries and is still resilient. You can still find schooling groupers and monitpora corals and is an excellent scuba diving programs and locations, this place truly is a diver’s paradise. With a coral restoration program in place, the vast populations of this shallow water reef are safe and sound for you to marvel at them and feel closer to nature. One could also partake in the volunteer and support programs here.
9. Palancar Reef – Cozumel, Mexico
The Cozumel national park boasts of the Palancar garden reef which has a deep wall dive along with swim through and tunnels. This coral reef site is fit for a novice diver and snorkeler as the waters here experience very moderate currents. The water offers more than 200m visibility and boats are available to drop off divers about 2kms away from the shoreline. One gets to witness an abundance of sea turtles, eels, crabs, lobsters, rays, nurse sharks and a plethora of other colorful marine life. Sponges, brain corals, and much more are the star attractions of this site you must visit and experience.
8. Tubbataha Reef – Philippines
In the middle of the Sulu Sea in Philippines, lies an isolated and remarkable coral reef – the Tubbataha Reef. Discovered only in the 70s, this reef was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. The awe-inspiring and captivating dramatic underwater experience here, credit to the marine biodiversity and terrain, fills one with a newfound respect for marine organisms like sharks, turtles, manta rays and nature in general. The high density of species here spread over extensive lagoons and two coral islands, is a pristine view. The isolation of the reef does little good regarding their safety and protection; however, reaching here is only possible through a live-aboard boat.
7. New Caledonia Barrier Reef
The world’s healthiest reef system is also the world’s largest continuous barrier reef. Out of the thousands of marine species found here, about 800 are unique to this gem in the South Pacific Ocean and new species are being discovered on an everyday basis. Diving, sailing, water sports, etc, are activities one can participate in on the white sandy beaches outlining the coral reefs. The extensive natural beauty full with mangroves, lagoons, and the world’s most diverse amalgamation of reef structures, capture divers’ attentions. Arches, caves, fissures, combined with majestic fauna constituting of whales, turtles and other aquaculture paves way for sustainable tourism and an enriching experience.
6. The Maldives
Deemed as a superlative diving destination amidst the Indian Ocean, the coral reefs of the Maldives are home to the most diverse and stunning marine ecosystems in the world. These corals are of the oldest systems in the world but have been rendered reduced by more than half due to coral reef bleaching, global warming and rise in sea levels. The unforeseen effects of blatant urbanization is taking its toll on this destination as it yet remains to enchant and attract tourists and travelers from all around the world. Experience Maldives before the islands and reefs are lost forever.
5. Great Mayan Reef
Second only in size to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, the Mayan reef, also known as the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, runs from the Bay Islands of Honduras to the south Yucatan Peninsula. This natural marvel is made up of rocky colonies, corals, microorganisms, anemones and a variety of marine flora and fauna. The marine tropical jungle attracts and endless stream of visitors all through the year to experience breathtaking views of crystal clear blue waters, the nearby islands and engage in scuba diving and snorkeling. Whether you are an experienced or novice diver, you will be astounded at the sheer beauty and possibilities of this tourist destination which had a major role in the development of civilizations along its magnificent shores.
4. Rainbow Reef – Fiji
Fiji has earned the title of the “Soft Coral Capital of the World” quite rightfully credit to the Rainbow Reef present in the Somosomo Strait that runs between the Taveuni and Vanua Levu islands. Dive resorts and liveaboard serve the world renowned best dive site of Fiji. The generous and wonderful proliferations of pink, orange, brown and multicolored soft coral Dendronephthya expand for divers to gaze in awe as currents drift in the water. Fiji is the home of the clownfish, anthias, groupers, and zoanthids! Among the other attractions here is the Great White Wall, a sunken landform that is blanketed in luminescent white soft corals. Manta rays, reef sharks, barracuda, and other larger marine life lurk amidst the striking environment. You will be dumbfounded by the plethora of colors present here!
3. Raja Ampat– Indonesia
Pellucid turquoise waters surround this Indonesian paradise known as Raja Ampat. Home to more than 500 varieties of corals, and the best spot for bird watching, this sparsely populated group of islands is covered in lush greenery and enormous caves. The unprecedented charm of this place has resulted in many calling it one of the best diving spots of the world. Your dreams of swimming in a larger than life tropical aquarium can come true here at Raja Ampat. The beautiful shallow waters and the abundance of fishes among the coral colonies is a treat for the eyes in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Fly to Sorong from Jakarta or Bali to land in the midst of overwhelming sights where over 75 percent of the marine species of the world dwells.
2. Red Sea Coral Reef – Egypt
Over 5000 years old, the coral reefs found in the Red Sea are the northernmost point in the Indian Ocean where such ecosystems are present. Fringed reefs, atoll shaped ringed of corals, and other peculiar complex patterns of reef can be witnessed here. The coral reefs of the Red Sea are one of their kind since they do not fit into the classic reef categorization. Not only do you get to witness and experience paraphernalia of marine creatures such as schooling chromis , brain corals, acroporas, you also get to dive right between Arica and Asia! The corals found here are surprisingly healthy for a place with extreme climatic conditions. The shallow water body enables one to clearly see well below the surface of the water and gawk at the beautiful corals.
1. Great Barrier Reef – Australia
Australia is blessed with some of the most wondrous natural wonders and topping the list is the Great Barrier Reef. The world’s largest coral reef is breathtakingly beautiful and comprises of over 3000 reef systems and an even greater number of marine species. Whether you a looking to find invertebrates, such as an octopus, bubble tipped anemone, acropora colonies, montipora plates, zoanthids and palythoas, or fishes such as a barracuda, groupers, anthias, clownfish, or blue tangs, the Great Barrier Reef has it all. The picturesque islands and tropical sun kissed beaches adorn the reef systems and have turned into the most sought after tourist destinations. Apart from diving and snorkeling, one can take a self sailing boat ride, a glass – bottomed boat ride, cruise ship tours, helicopter rides and much more here. The vivid colors and soothing breezes can be reached by flying directly to Cairns Airport. The Great Barrier Reef happens to be one of the seven wonders of the natural world since it is the only living thing visible from space! Pack your diving gear and head straight here!