As a little kid I used to fill my sand box up with water—turning it into a mud box—and then would set out with my ski goggles on to for an afternoon snorkel session. I don’t remember seeing much in the way of tropical reef life in that second or two I had before my ski goggles filled up with water, but I didn’t care, I was snorkeling! With this in mind, I suppose that so long as you have a bit of water you can snorkel anywhere. However, if you really want to get the best snorkels possible then there’s a few key tings you should have in mind as you decide on where your next snorkel holiday is going to be.
If it’s that quintessential tropical snorkeling experience you are after, Asia—more specifically the countries within the Coral Triangle, really tick all the boxes. Why? Well, within this imaginary boundary that encompass Indonesia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands you can find 76% of the world’s coral species. Of course, there are great places to snorkel outside the Coral Triangle like the barrier reef off of Belize, or Palau, and French Polynesia. However, if you really want the best of the best of shallow coral reefs, tropical fish, and solid chances to encounter larger marine life like mantas and turtles you can’t really go wrong with the coral triangle.
Topography and the overall shape of the coast line really do play a big part in how the snorkeling will be. Deep bays for example are generally not great places to snorkel as the water movement is less here and what often happens is sediment accumulates here making the visibility poor. Stretches of reef more exposed to the open ocean are always going to have better visibility as the water movement keeps the sediment and particles in constant motion. This also means more marine-life is it tends to congregate around areas where there is more water movement.
Depth is arguably the most important factor when considering where to snorkel. If we are really going to get the most out of our snorkel session then we want beautiful coral reef and marine life up close to the surface. You don’t want to spend your time cruising over a reef that’s consistently fifteen feet deep where the colors are less vibrant and the fish are well out of reach. The idea is to have the reef and fish at an arms length so we can not only see everything better but also so we can take our photos without becoming a championship freediver. This can become a bit of a tricker thing to find, unless of course you snorkeling in places like Raja Ampat, Komodo, Alor, Palau, French Polynesia, or Belize where the reefs literally come to the surface.