Where Is the World’s Best Scuba Diving and Snorkelling?
With water covering most of our planet, there is no shortage of great dive and snorkel sites. Travel writer and photographer Michael DeFreitas shares his favourite places to experience the underwater realm. So where’s your favourite site?
The great undersea explorer, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, probably summed it up best when he said, “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” Today, the world’s oceans cast a fairly large net when it comes to spellbinding dive and snorkel sites. Here are four of the best to whet your appetite.
Located approximately 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) off Maui’s south coast, this partially submerged crescent-shaped volcanic crater is one of the world’s most famous natural aquariums. Washed by the Alalakeiki Channel current, it offers some of the Pacific’s clearest waters for snorkelling and diving. The western arm of the crater extends underwater in a series of steps to a depth of 107 metres (350 feet). The antler coral gardens blanketing the shallower sections of reef, offer snorkellers a galaxy of brightly coloured tropical fish, including raccoon butterflyfish, Moorish idols and blue-striped snappers. Near the end of the submerged arm is Reef’s End, a favourite with divers seeking encounters with manta rays, spinner dolphins and the odd humpback (during the December-to-April whale season).
Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Recognised by many as one of the most beautiful spots on earth, this lagoon island boasts 500 species of fish and a plethora of dive and snorkelling sites. Locals affectionately call the shallow protected emerald waters inside the lagoon near Toopua Point “lagoonarium.” Here, snorkellers can view a palette of vividly coloured soft and hard corals, schools of exotic tropical fish, sea turtles and small reef sharks. Outside the fringing reef in the deeper waters around Teavanui Pass near Motu Tapu, divers encounter blacktip and lemon sharks, six-foot Napoleon wrasse, lionfish and moray eels. From August to November divers see giant Pacific mantas perform underwater courtship ballets in the many channels through the reef.
Baie Ternay Marine National Park, Seychelles
Nestled at the northwest tip of Mahe, this park’s nutrient-rich waters provide some of the best “critter” snorkelling and diving in the world. Critters such as mantis shrimp, nudibranchs, octopus, lobster, eels, seahorses and clown anemone fish hang out between the soft corals along the shallower reefs and are especially easy to spot on night dives or snorkels. In deeper water, divers encounter hawksbill and green turtles, six varieties of sharks, humphead parrotfish, eagle rays and groupers. But the real show runs from August to December, when the whale sharks arrive in the bay to feed on the plankton blooms. Swimming with the largest and one of the most gentle fish in the sea is a memorable experience.
Baa Atoll, Maldives
Located just northwest of Male, this atoll’s marine life is so abundant and diverse that UNESCO has designated it a World Biosphere Reserve. At the atoll’s top dive site Maavaru Kandu, clouds of neon-coloured fusiliers, wrasse and basslets hover above a rainbow of soft corals and sponges that carpet its overhangs. The marine shelves that start at 7 metres (25 feet) and drop to 27 metres (90 feet) are ideal for snorkellers and divers alike. Pelagic action peaks during the April-to-June manta ray and whale shark season. Based at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru, the Maldivian Manta Ray Project is a non-profit research and manta ray conservation program that works with guests and other visitors to foster a greater awareness and understanding of these gentle creatures.
Cousteau also said, “The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish.” So to all you fish out there, where’s your favourite dive or snorkel spot?
There’s a plethora of world-class diving spots in other Four Seasons destinations as well. Be sure to visit the Big Island and Lana‘i in Hawaii. Other locations in the Americas include Costa Rica, Palm Beach and Nevis. Premier dive sites in Asia include Langkawi, Bali and Koh Samui. In the Middle East and Africa, explore the waters of Mauritius, Doha and Sharm El Sheikh. Visit the Four Seasons Sailing, scuba and other water sports web page for more information.