Have an itch to getaway and head out on a new adventure? Whether you are looking for a perfect dive spot, snorkel spot or just the best body of water to dip your toes in, we have you covered. There are so many spectacular options in the world to see, but only a few that offer something truly unique. Here are a few you definitely won’t want to miss. They will give you an extraordinary experience you will remember for the rest of your life.
1. SILFRA GAP
You may have not heard of the Silfra Gap. It is really not your typical diving location, perhaps due to its severe lack of wildlife. Many normally have tropical destinations in mind when planning their scuba diving escapades and aren’t thinking of hopping into icy glacial melt water. However, the Silfra Gap is one you will want to add to the top of your list!
This dive spot is located in Iceland. It is not a place you will find heavily populated by fish or marine life. Instead, this location, also known as the Silfra Fissure, provides you with something else to see and discover. It is a freshwater dive spot with some of the clearest water in the world. You can see out past 100 meters!
Here you will be able to dive down in the gap between the American and the Eurasian Continental plates. It is an experience unparalleled anywhere else in the world and there is even a section where you can touch both continents at the same time. I’m pretty sure is a serious bucket list tick item right there.
Keep in mind the water temperatures will be cold year-round, so a dry suit is a necessity for your dive. If you are not big on scuba diving or don’t have your dive qualifications, you can snorkel this site as well. Keep in mind you will have to take a guided tour where they show you the way and can take pictures for you throughout the excursion.
2. THE RED SEA
A top location for diving is the Red Sea. You can get to this locations many dive spots from Egypt, Israel, Jordan or Sudan. Egypt is probably the easiest and most common way to go for divers traveling to the area, however if you’re an avid traveler and want to escape the crowds, Sudan is the best place to go. The beauty is the temperatures and climate make this the perfect dive spot all year round.
The thing that makes the Red Sea unique and one of the top spots you should consider is the fact that this is a vast area with an abundance of shipwrecks. These wrecks make for every diver’s heaven since they are home to a variety of coral and marine life to explore.
A few top spots in the Red Sea you will want to try are the Thistlegorm Wreck in Sharm El Sheik, Abu Nuhas Reef in Hurghada and the Dahab Blue Hole. The Thistlegorm Wreck is one of the world’s top wreck dives. The Abu Nuhas Reef is a little better suited for novice divers though if you’re just starting out. Finally, the Dahab Blue Hole is famous for its deep blue depths, but is rather dangerous.
To most, the Galapagos Islands is pretty self-explanatory as to why it would be on the top of any diver’s list. The island chain is located off the coast of Ecuador. This is a subtropical location on the equator, so it will be warm and the weather doesn’t change too much from season to season.
The Galapagos Islands is one of the best dive spots for Shark Diving. You are almost guaranteed to see some type of shark on your dive in these waters as many migrate through here. Some of the most common you will find are Scalloped Hammerheads, Galapagos Sharks and White-Tipped Reef Sharks. Typically, this dive location is best suited for advanced divers due to some of the technical dive spots.
If you are not wanting to dive, that does not mean you can’t have a one of a kind experience in the Galapagos. These islands also offer the perfect destination for snorkeling and swimming. Gardner Bay is the perfect spot for you to take in the beauty of the island, snorkel and layout on the beach with the sea lions. There is an abundance of marine life here that will have you spending hours in the water taking in every stunning site.
4. GREAT BARRIER REEF
Located off the coast of Australia’s Queensland is every snorkeler’s dreamland, known as the Great Barrier Reef. This is the most bio diverse environment on the planet and one of the seven natural wonders of the world, so yeah - it’s a must visit.
Most people have heard of the Great Barrier reef due primarily to its size alone. It is the largest coral reef system in the world and home to over 1500 kinds of fish, 30 species of marine mammals and so many more varieties of marine life. It is a string of 2900 coral reefs, giving you so much to explore. Diving is a great option here as well if you are wanting to go a little deeper than just the water’s surface, however as the coral is relatively shallow, snorkelling is perfect in a lot of locations.
It’s certainly worth doing a little research for the best dive sites, as many companies offer snorkelling primarily with diving as a side option. While this is great for novice divers, the sites chosen are focused on the snorkelers meaning you can pretty much see the same wildlife without all the dive gear or extra cost for this extra. Instead, try and head out with a company who offer only dives as they’ll make sure you get the best value and experience for your money.
The reef running near Cairns & Port Douglas is probably one of your most popular destinations for snorkelling. It is the closest section of reef to Australia’s mainland. This location is great no matter what time of year you visit as marine life isn’t affected by the rains obviously. However, the best time to visit the area in general is from June to October when the chance of rainfall is minimal, and the days are nice and warm.
5. HAWAII’S BIG ISLAND
Rich in Polynesian culture, the Big Island of Hawaii offers some unique snorkelling opportunities where the beauty of the sea pairs with the history of the islands. There are several spots around the island that are truly magnificent.
One such spot is Kealakekua Bay just south of Kona. Here you will find a monument of Captain Cook overlooking the bay. The side of the bay at the base of the monument offers the best snorkeling and will give you the chance to see beautiful reefs and vibrant sea life. Honaunau Bay is a great second stop for snorkeling as well for a similar experience. If you want to explore a little further out of the Big Island’s radius, Maui’s Olowalu Reef is a must see. A unique site here is the Turtle Cleaning Station, where you will be able to swim with these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat.
Hawaii has a climate that is perfect to visit year-round. No matter when you chose to make the trip it will be a lovely temperature between 24-28 degrees and perfect for spending your days in the ocean cooling off.
6. BLUE LAGOON
Iceland has another gem to offer to those looking for a unique experience. Located on the Southwestern side of the country, the Blue Lagoon is not so much a diving or snorkelling spot, but a natural geothermal bath that you will want to experience at least once in your life.
Known for its milky blue-green colour, the Blue Lagoon has a temperature of about 38 degrees Celsius. The lagoon is filled with minerals, silica and algae that are so good for your skin. It’s as if you were taking a dip in a natural spa and coming out rejuvenated. It is an ultra relaxing experience you will thoroughly enjoy and will be a memorable experience to keep forever.
You are able to enjoy visiting the Blue Lagoon all year round, however, it is the most populated from May through September. If you want it to be a little less crowded, you may want to travel to the destination outside of peak season. If you head here in winter, you can head into the water in the dark with the hope of catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights. Alternatively, in June & July Iceland has the midnight sun, meaning you can hop in at any time of night and still be in full daylight – super cool!
7. CRATER LAKE
Nestled in the Northwest US in Oregon is Crate Lake. This is a site that rivals no other. This lake is absolutely stunning with its snow-capped mountains and the background and its stunningly clear deep blue water. Just to see it is worth the trip alone, but what fun would that be?
Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and is the ninth deepest in the world, reaching depths of about 1,949 feet. This lake was created as the result of a volcano collapsing and a caldera (volcanic depression) forming. With there being no rivers or other means of water coming or going into Crate Lake, it is able to retain its beautiful clear and pristine water.
There is only one place you will be able to swim in Crater Lake. It is in the section known as Cleetwood Cove Trail and at the end of the hike you will reach the shoreline where you can take a dip in the lake. It is a bit of a steep trail to get there, but definitely worth the trek! The best time of year to visit Crate Lake is in the warmer months, such as July and August. It can get quite cold and snowy in the winter months so I highly doubt you’d want to take a dip then, even if you are a little crazy.
8. BELIZE BARRIER REEF AND BLUE HOLE
Only beaten by the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Belize Barrier Reef is just as comparable in terms of marine life and beauty. In fact, we found it slightly better in terms of crowd levels. As Belize is less popular as a tourist destination, it has a drastic difference in terms of visitor numbers (approximately 80% less which equates to around 1.5 million less people each year).
Easily reachable from many places, we headed over from the small, Belize island of Caye Caulker. Hitting up two snorkel spots, we saw stunning coral and all manner of marine life. At one point, I there were SO many nurse sharks around me it was hard not to stroke them. Being a bit of a shark fanatic, it was actual heaven.
If you want to dive however, Belize has an even more special spot for you. The Blue Hole is world famed for being a huge oceanic sinkhole and can be found by Lighthouse Reef. If you want to try something pretty sensational, this is the place to jump in!
Fairly unknown to novice divers, Oman has some of the best diving in the Arabian Sea. Pretty much closed off to all tourists until the 70s, Oman opened it’s doors to the world who expected mainly desert but has an unbelievable amount to offer.
Having a relatively untouched coastline, the area hasn’t been polluted by tourists too much which, as we know, is becoming a huge problem in popular destinations like Bali. The main highlight in Oman however is the fact that, for a few months each year, you can dive both coral reefs and kelp forests. This does only occur over monsoon however due to the cool waters, so should be reserved for experienced divers only. For the less experienced, your best bet is to dive from October until May when the waters are calmer for a more trouble free dip.
10. ATHERTON TABLELANDS
Another swim spot rather than snorkelling or diving, the Atherton Tablelands in Queensland, Australia are perfect for people who want to take a dip in fresh water. About an hour from Cairns, it’s a perfect place to visit if you’ve got some time left over after exploring the Great Barrier Reef too.
The Atherton Tablelands have a huge number of waterfalls, lakes and even natural waterslides to enjoy. Being freshwater, it’s a little chilly compared to the balmy outside temperatures that Cairns has to offer, but is seriously refreshing. My favourite swimming spots are Lake Eacham, Millaa Millaa Falls and Josephine Falls. All are perfect for a dip and a relax, with Josephine having the natural waterslides to shoot down.
I do often get people asking about crocodiles here, and while you can find a few freshwater crocs here you won’t see the dangerous salty’s. Always check for signs at each swimming hole as they’ll clearly state if there’s anything to be looking out for, but your freshwater crocodiles are relatively harmless as long as you leave them alone. Saltwater crocs though… don’t mess with them! There’s a reason no-one goes to the beach in this part of the world…
11. THE PHILIPPINES
I don’t think it’s really possible to end my round up of top dive, swimming & snorkelling spots without a quick shout out to the Philippines. Known world wide for some incredible marine life, it’s also home to crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches.
One of the best and most popular dives / snorkel trips here is the sardine run. This happens each year off the island of Cebu, with the best access from the small town of Moalboal. Literally be at one with an unbelievable amount of sealife, with the fish swimming in synchronisation to form underwater rivers of fish. As you can imagine, the sardine run will also draw in predators seeking to take advantage of the ‘ocean buffet’. While the predators here won’t quite match what you would see in South Africa’s run, it’s still pretty spectacular.
Home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, with its crystal-clear water it is a perfect destination for anyone wanting to snorkel and enjoy the vast array of vibrant marine life. This is a great destination to visit year-round.
Most people will stay at a luxury resort when visiting the Maldives where the resort will have its own personal reef on the island. If you are staying in an overwater bungalow, it is truly a magical experience to be able to just jump off your deck into the crystal-clear water and enjoy the exploring the reefs right outside your room. You will also be able to see all the incredible sea life and coral from your hut or at some resorts, via under water spas and restaurants.
This is a great location for snorkelling, swimming in a breathtaking location and even diving! For scuba diving enthusiasts, you will want to take a boat ride out a little further from your resort. A few top spots you will want to check out are Fish Head and Banana Reef. These are magical destinations that will have provide you the chance to over a 1000 different marine life throughout your entire stay.