By Beth Roberts
You don’t need to be scuba-certified to be seduced by a life aquatic. In fact, all you really need is a mask.
If the idea of going underwater has you floundering for your flippers, you’re in luck. From stingray cities to sea lions and even night excursions, we’ve put together a list of the top ten snorkelling spots to satisfy your sub-aqua appetite…
1. Grand Cayman
Be mobbed by a flock of friendly stingrays in the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean Sea. A series of shallow sandbars off North Sound, Stingray City attracts all ages, with turtles, underwater ruins and soft corals to boot!
When to go: Between May and July waters are clear and calm, perfect for snorkelling whilst hotel prices begin to drop out of the peak season.
The soft coral capital of the world, over 1000 species of fish surround these Pacific atolls. At the Jean-Michel Cousteau Eco-Resort, you can view tropical reefs right from the pier, join a marine biologist guided tour or even try snorkelling at night. Conceptualized by the Cousteau’s son as a means to conserve this unspoiled paradise, it remains one of the best spots worldwide.
When to go: Fiji is a year-round snorkelling destination, but the best time to go is between April and October when the water is slightly warmer.
3. Similan Islands, Thailand
Hidden away in the pristine waters of the Andaman Sea, the Similan Islands are a snorkeler’s paradise. A marine national park since 1982, corals and vast schools of fish combine in a kaleidoscope of colour – whilst talcum powder beaches make for exceptional visibility. Transfers can be tedious, so make sure you’re on a fast boat-companies like Khao Lak Explorer offers speedy 1hr 15-minute trips.
When to go: Whilst March can be blisteringly hot, it’s also the best time of year to see both whale sharks and mantas. Visit earlier in the year for more bearable weather.
4. Cala Gonone, Sardinia
With almost 2000 kilometres of coastline, the transparent emerald waters of this Mediterranean Island could rival those of the Caribbean. There’s plenty on offer to ocean goers- explore caves from the crescent shaped Cala Luna beach, or Del Blue Marino Grotto which can be reached by boat.
When to go: The sunniest months are May through September, when the water is at its warmest.
5. Kimmeridge Bay, UK
Whilst the Great British seaside might not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of sub-aqua splendour, Dorset’s Jurassic coast is home to many marine species. The sheltered Kimmeridge Bay is just 7m deep, making it ideal for beginners.
When to go: Only in the height of summer, unless you’re feeling very brave!
6. Plaza Sur, Galapagos Islands
These islands abound with wild wonders – but none more magnificent than its marine life. Home to over a thousand sea lions, snorkelers at Isla Plaza Sur are treated to acrobatic displays as these playful creatures tumble and somersault about in the gentle water. Pups are inquisitive, and will approach you in the hopes of making a new friend.
When to go: The seas are calmer in the hotter months, with the wetter season through December – May enjoying the stillest seas.
Rising out of the Indian Ocean, this island archipelago is a picture perfect paradise. An underwater mecca for ocean enthusiasts, these granite islands boast clear waters that brim with life, rainbow corals and many species of turtle. You may also catch a glimpse of the world’s biggest fish, the graceful whale shark. Well protected in these waters, this is one of the best places to see these dappled giants.
When to go: The whale sharks migrate past Mahé between August and November – with sightings peaking in October.