You don’t have to be a scuba diver to enjoy the fabulous marine world, because there are some amazing waters to snorkel. If you can swim, when kitted out with a snorkel, mask and flippers, you’re set to discover some of the ocean’s secrets. You may not be able to go as deep as when scuba diving but the sights are no less pleasurable or exciting. Here are some of the world’s great waters to snorkel.
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Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
As one of the most crowded Caribbean destinations, Grand Cayman has some of the world’s loveliest waters to snorkel, with excellent visibility, a wealth of sea life, and an impressive and colorful coral reef. Stingray City is most frequented by snorkelers, as thousands of rays call the place home, and has been so often tended to by snorkelers that they’ve grown used to them. Though it is some of the most crowded snorkeling, it’s crowded for a reason. You can dive in and snorkel Cemetery Reef, which lies directly off a pleasant little beach, or visit Eden Rock which boasts beautiful and unique underwater grottos. There is even a sunken shipwreck to explore...albeit intentionally sunken – the USS Kittiwake sits eerily 15 feet below the surface.
Want to swim with the sharks but can’t buck up the courage in the face of all those sharp pointed teeth? No need to fear the whale shark, whose adults can weigh around 15 tons and measure anywhere from 25 to 50 feet in length. Known as the sea’s biggest fish, these sharks don’t care for human meat, instead partaking in a diet of krill, plankton and other small appetizers. To swim with these impressive creatures of the sea, head to Utila on Honduras’s Bay Islands, home to a large population of whale sharks. Some of the area’s dive shops offer snorkeling tours with the aim to introduce snorkelers to these sharks. Other tremendous snorkeling in the area includes Blue Bayou and Airport Reef.
Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles
For over 30 years, Bonaire’s waters served as a protected national marine park; as a result, the environment is well-preserved, allowing for crystal-clear visibility in which you can observe its enormous marine ecosystem. Vibrantly-colored tropical fish weave in and out of corals, while the reef’s larger sea creatures try to dominate the scene. Brightly painted yellow stones range along the road, indicating snorkeling sites which you can access directly from the shore. There is also a Bonaire Guided Snorkeling Program, a collaboration between local tourism and dive shops in which snorkelers can receive a guided tour of the area’s top five snorkeling sites, including Just a Nice Dive and 1,000 Steps.
Cozumel was noted as one of the world’s best waters to snorkel by none other than Jacques Cousteau in 1959. After fifty years, it remains so still, and that’s no surprise, with its stunning underwater world, which includes nearby Palancar’s Shallows and Garden. Cozumel also boasts a number of sites to snorkel only accessible by boat, including a sunken Convair airplane, which was intentionally sunken for use in a ‘70s film shoot. Dzul-Ha, as well, is worth a boat-trip; just off the strip of shore, you’ll be treated to the visual delight that is Dzul-Ha’s astounding coral formations.
Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
The Baths are the gem of Virgin Gorda. This bank of huge granite boulders stretches from the shore deep out to sea. You can stick to the shallows and have plenty to explore within the secret grottos and maze of passages. Or you can leave the crowd behind and snorkel out further, where the granite terrain breaks away into the area’s coral and sea life. If you happen to visit when The Baths are at their loudest, there are plenty of small boulder fields along Virgin Gorda’s coastline.
Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles
As Bonaire’s twin island, Curaçao is just as pretty. Boasting a ginormous reef-spread just steps away from shore, snorkelers don’t have to venture in too far to come face-to-face with hundreds of species of fish. The area’s waters are temperate year-round, the average visibility is 110 feet, and with over 50 snorkeling sites circling the island, you may not know where to start. I suggest you jump right into Curaçao Underwater Marine Park, 12 miles of turtles, fish and dolphins making merry in the area’s exquisite coral gardens. When you’re finally willing to return to land, Curaçao is also known for its great selection of restaurants, hotels, shopping, and nightlife.
Long known as one of the Caribbean’s top diving destinations, Dominica also serves up some of the best waters to snorkel. With the contrasting mountainous land against the stellar sparkling sea, your outdoor adventures don’t have to stay in the waters. But they should start there, at Champagne Beach, where the volcanic vents underwater are like bubbling champagne. Or head to Soufriere-Scotts Head Bay, where soft and hard coral covers the volcanic crater’s rim and is home to abundant marine life.
When you’re making your packing list for this year’s vacation, make a note about a snorkel, mask and flippers. There’s no time like the present to learn to snorkel and see the ocean world for yourself. Do you snorkel?
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