Grand bodies of water have always fascinated humans. Throughout history, people have told stories about underwater cities, gargantuan sea monsters and legendary deities, in an attempt to explore the possibilities of what might lie submerged. Snorkeling and diving allow us to peer into the mysterious realms below. In some parts of the world, you can find fish, corals, sea turtles and sharks lurking not far from the surface.


01. Tuamotus

The Tuamotus of French Polynesia is a snorkeling paradise made of 77 atolls in the South Pacific Ocean. Those looking for an off-the-beaten-path experience will avoid Bora Bora and choose Fakarava or Manihi instead.

Ranigiroa Atoll, French Polynesia – Photography: Olivier Bouchez

Fakarava Atoll, French Polynesia

Fakarava is a UNESCO-designated Biosphere Reserve. Its narrow, underwater valley — known as the Shark’s Hole — is a popular destination for lemon, whitetip and hammerhead sharks. Manihi, on the other hand, is a quiet and nearly untouched destination. The small population — under 1,000 people — consists mostly of coconut farmers and fishermen. The surrounding waters are home to grouper as well as manta and eagle rays. Manihi’s inner lagoon is the perfect spot for finding Tahitian black pearls.

Photography: Bildagentur Zooaar Gmbh/Shutterstock

02. Silfra

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Thingvellir National Park conceals a unique snorkeling and diving spot in Thingvallavatn lake: the Silfra fissure, a crack between the North American and Eurasian continental plates. Its glacial waters come from Langjökull, the second largest ice cap in Iceland. The extreme clarity provides a visibility of over 328 feet. Fish are a rare sight far down in the lake, but the variety of algae creates a unique array of colors, making Silfra a one-of-a-kind experience.

Silfra, Iceland – Photogrpahy: Nudiblue/Shutterstock

03. Oahu

Besides its reputation for surfing, Hawaii provides some of the most spectacular spots for snorkeling. The Central Pacific island of Oahu is known for its calm, translucent waters where, even waist-deep, visitors can admire dozens of reef and fish species. With its underwater tunnels and caverns, Makaha Beach Park is a popular destination for dolphins, turtles, octopuses and eels.

Hanauma Bay, Oahu – Photography: Andrea Izzotti/Shutterstock

Convict Tang Off Oahu's Coast – Photography: G Ward Fahey/Shutterstock

04. Apo Island

This volcanic island and marine reserve in the Philippines is a renowned diving and snorkeling sanctuary. Green sea turtles are frequent visitors. The island is also home to over 650 species of fish and 400 types of coral. Those who’ve visited this unique and unforgettable underwater paradise praise the diversity and breathtaking colors of the local marine life.

Chromis fish near Apo Island, Philippines – Photography: Klaus Stiefel

05. Great Barrier Reef

One of the world’s natural wonders and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the only living thing on earth that’s visible from space. It’s home to over 100 islands, over 3,000 individual reef systems and over 1,500 species of tropical fish. Many endangered species rely on the reef, and humpback whales stop by on their way from the Antarctic.

Photography: Larissa Dening/Shutterstock