I’ve always been fascinated by sharks. Getting in the water with them was a lifelong bucket list item, which put learning to dive ahead of learning to drive.
However, as much as I loved diving, all it did was reignite my love of snorkelling. I always wanted to go deeper, explore more and with diving you can, but there is so much gear!
It seemingly takes all morning to get ready to dive, (gear check, dive brief, travel to dive site etc) then you can only dive usually for between 30-45 minutes, then it’s back out of the water again.
Meanwhile, with snorkelling, it’s mask-check, snorkel-check, fins-lets go. You can spend hours snorkelling and exploring and at low tide, many reefs don’t even require diving. You can easily discover it all, whilst snorkelling.
I always travel with my own gear and highly recommend it, because from experience, rental gear is gross, unreliable and rarely in good condition. Besides who know’s how many mouths that snorkel has been in… *shudder* Besides, you can easily buy cheap but quality snorkelling (and diving) gear from Decathlon.
I’m lucky to have dived and snorkelled all over the world, but some places are particularly memorable, here’s the best I’ve found so far:
Moalboal, Cebu, Philippines
Before booking my trip to the Philippines, I wanted a cheap vacation, nice food and great snorkelling. The Philippines delivered everything and more. I found a simple resort, The Asian Belgian Resort, with it’s own private reef, less than 20 metres walk from shore. It was clean, calm, with spectacular corals, along with nudibranchs, turtles, fish and a drop off. It had it’s own dive shop on site, so I could have dived, but over 4 nights I spent on average 4-5 hours a day exploring the reef. On the other side of Cebu you can Snorkel with whale sharks in Oslob, which too was spectacular and another bucket list item, but at Moalboal, I had the reef all to myself.
Green Island, Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Ah, Green Island. There’s few islands on the Great Barrier Reef you can walk straight off the beach and snorkel. It’s barely a square kilometre in size, white sand, rainforest in the centre, and a five star eco resort onsite. It’s popular with day-trippers, but of an evening, they all go home and whoever is staying on the island, is all that remains. I stayed here with Jen. The first night, it was just us, on the beach and two green turtles popped up out of the water. It was pure magic. We snorkelled off the pier and encountered white-tipped reef sharks at dusk-my first time seeing sharks in the wild and it was thrilling and yet fascinating. They were more scared of me! The reef off the island featured lots of fish like green and blue wrasse, harlequin tusk fish, and clownfish. From here you can join a cruise to the outer reef, which at the time, had some nice thorny blue coral, bright blue fish and a turtle at the end of the day. However I hear much has changed since I was there.
Niue, South Pacific
Ah Niue. I have so many wonderful memories of this place, everyone is sick of my stories. I’ve never seen anywhere that was more perfectly set up for snorkelling, yet at virtually every site, it was just me. There’s a clear sign showing you what you can expect to see, how long the trail is to get to the snorkel site, there’s steps and ropes into the water to hold onto, fresh water showers, lights at night, some have toilets, and there’s over half a dozen different sites around the island, which you can walk down to.
The visibility is incredible, and if that’s not enough, in the bay, I snorkelled with a big pod of spinner dolphins! There’s just one thing. It’s full of sea snakes. They’re totally harmless, but to the novice, especially Australian’s, it can be a bit freaky seeing snakes everywhere, who curiously come up to you to investigate your fins. I was in Niue for a diving holiday and every morning I did two dives, and every afternoon was spent snorkelling. Like Tonga, you can swim with humpbacks but I just missed them.
St Thomas, Caribbean
If you want to see turtles, St Thomas is the place to go. We stopped here as part of a family Caribbean cruise and from the moment my sister and I jumped off the boat, we were surrounded by turtles. I remember counting over twenty! They were eating sea grass off the ocean floor and surfacing right next to us. It’s a turtle sanctuary so unlike other places, you’re guaranteed to see turtles. In town, it’s also famous for gems (so cheap they give them away, with vouchers from the ship) and if you’re going to buy diamonds, why not get them from a former pirate haven? Arrgh.
Fafa Island, Tonga, South Pacific
About an hour from Nuku’alofa by boat is the stunning Fafa Island Resort. Crystal clear water, snorkelling off the beach. Hard and soft corals, stunning fish and star fish aplenty. There’s a small resort on the island, which you can stay at, so you could go snorkelling everyday. Between March and October you can swim with humpback whales, (elsewhere in Tonga) but as I was escorting a group of students, I was limited to what I could do.
Lambongan Island, Bali, Indonesia
As part of a snorkel trip off Bali, I visited three locations; the first was rough seas but with manta rays, the second a calm bay but lots of fish, and the third was a reef which we drifted along, being collected at the end. Unlike Philippines, there was lots of rubbish along the reef, BUT snorkelling with manta rays was up there with whale sharks, so it still makes the list.
Duck Island, Numea, New Caledonia, South Pacific
Duck Island can be a pain to get to (first attempt our water taxi driver didn’t turn up), but it has an underwater snorkel trail with signs showing you what you’ll see in that part of the reef. It’s handy to know what you’re looking at. Also you don’t have to travel too far off the beach to see stuff and there’s lots of fish, starfish, and the occasional sea snake. It’s a tranquil island, and afterwards (back on land) you can fill your hungry belly with fresh baguette and French cheese. Though I’d recommend you take food and drinks to Duck Island because it’s expensive.
Dubai Aquarium, Dubai Mall, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
I actually dived here, but you can also snorkel so it makes the list. Firstly, water temperature was 32º degrees Celsius (89.6F), secondly there was 92 sharks including; hammerheads, lemon, reef sharks, nurse sharks, guitar sharks, saw tooth sharks, rays, turtles and a giant wrasse as big as a car. It’s one thing to go diving and snorkelling hoping to see cool stuff, but to be 100% guaranteed to see everything that makes a dive awesome, whilst at the same time having people take photos of you because you’re in the tank, and seeing people shop at GAP. It’s amazing and bizarre and I would totally do it again. Besides in future, diving in an aquarium might be the only option to see reefs and sharks.
>> Find more info in my article featuring 7 things Dubai does better
Where are all these places? Find them now:
Need flights to somewhere warm you can snorkel? Search and compare hundreds of airlines to get the best price possible, with Jetradar.
>> There’s more about snorkelling with whale sharks and other places to visit in my Philippines podcast episode
>> I talk about green island and my experiences snorkelling with sharks in my Jade Talks Sharks podcast episode
>> Hear how I nearly died, three times in Niue in my Niue podcast episode
I know, I’ve already confessed in a podcast that underwater photos are not my strong point, but hopefully they give you an idea.
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