The Handbook
The Handbook

With the World’s oceans covering 1.35 billion cubic kilometres, marine life, and the decisions to explore it, takes the traveller to breath-taking destinations and makes for big adventure and huge businesses.

Fun though it is, snorkelling has risks so preparation is everything.  Head out with a buddy or group and check the tides and local knowledge with the lifeguards, tour information sheets and snorkelling adventure companies locally, to grab the right masks and torso gear for the experience. There are a few direction pointers here to whet your appetite, but the World is your oyster, so snorkel out, find the mer-person inside you and let the ocean life take a peek at your colourful collection of trunks and bikinis!

Sodwana Bay, South Africa

Situated on the east coast in the Sodwana Bay National Park, KwaZulu-Natal province, Sodwana Bay is a natural bio-diverse jewel by the Indian Ocean.  It is home to 12,000 species, including coral fish, turtles, rays and eels, all within a short distance from your paddle into the sea.  The shallow tidal pools can also capture an array of fish to gaze at, for beginners.  As with all the best diving and snorkelling centres, guided tour operators can take you out on a boat to more snorkelling depths into the lagoons and if you’re feeling braver, it is possible to motor out to dives, to spot Raggie sharks, dolphins and even humpback whales that migrate through this area.

Look out for an abundance of white crabs that feed on the shoreline, or you might be lucky enough to spot a loggerhead turtle, off to lay her eggs in the sand – February is hatching season!  With a variety of sleep lodges, great eating places, shops to buy your snorkelling equipment and other outdoor adventures such as quad biking, this is great for a family visit.  At this magical snorkelling site, you just put on your goggles and go!


Dive O'Clock

Champagne Reef, Dominica, Caribbean

Rated by the Caribbean Travel and Life Magazine as their number one snorkelling site, of 25 in the Caribbean, Champagne Reef is world famous.  The area is full of islands and inlets, with warm turquoise waters and an abundance of sub-ocean fauna and flora.  It is aptly named too, as underwater geothermal springs, from the volcanic sea bed, emit many thousands of bubbles that pop into your mind a feeling of snorkelling in a glass of champagne – clever!  With expert guides you can either walk straight into the sea from the beach (a little rocky and uneven) or be taken out on a boat, where you might even spot a 17th Century ship wreck.

Bubbling and bumbling with you in this effervescence are parrot fish, lobsters and Hawksbill turtles.  With patience you can spot seahorses, trumpet fish, octopuses, rays and batfish. Natural sulphur sea baths can be taken here in the shallower areas of the shore, for that thalassotherapy treatment.  With coconut trees lining the beach, coupled with weekly musical entertainment, all in a safe tourist venue, it’s straight from the surf to the bar for the snorkies, with a real five-star atmosphere.


The Great Barrier Reef at Cairns, Australia

This is North Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) so think big and then bigger – it’s vast!  Cairns is a great venue for the snorkies and the barbies which, after being in the briny, is the Australian way to relax.  It is a good idea to don a Lycra swim suit here, for extra protection from the hard coral.  All equipment can be hired or bought and is in as much abundance as the fish in the ocean, so prepare well before your once in a lifetime splash into the swell, for the greatest marine show on Earth.

Cairns adventure trips by boat will take you safely out to your snorkelling spots and you will find large resting buoys have been placed in the water, for snorkellers to float between, as safety guides.  Flipper-kick and gaze at marine life imbued with colour.  There are 15,000 species of sponges alone, together with thousands of starfish, molluscs, spikey fish – well everything really! Declared a World Heritage Site, the GBR encompasses over 350,000 square kilometres of the South Pacific Ocean. You will find hospitality and a love of the outdoor life from the locals: the snorkies will be floating about for quite a while around Cairns.



Migdalor Beach and Dolphin Reef, Eilat, Israel

Another one for the families!  Visiting Eilat’s beaches and giving snorkelling a go, in the Red Sea, will be a spellbinding experience to brag to your friends about. Israel has long been a popular diving and snorkelling venue, with less pricey boat trips. You are almost guaranteed a few glimpses of Nemos swimming about here.  Migdalor is named after a lighthouse on a nearby hill and is also situated approximately 8 kilometres from the border of Egypt (another snorkies’ paradise).  Here, beginners can chillout on the calmer coral reefs but can adventure further on guided tours, with most of the companies very experienced in helping plan and teach snorkelling and diving at all levels.

The marine life will not disappoint, so the hours will sail by as you look out for octopuses, stingrays, barracudas, sea snakes, turtles, 25,000 types of coral and other creatures that are unique to the Red Sea.  The Japanese Garden on the south end of Eilat is the largest and most well protected snorkelling and diving site here, so there is diversity if one area of fishy profusion is not for you, though I could never imagine why!  Five minutes from Migdalor is Dolphin Reef.  This is a private beach where trained dolphins swim in a controlled area. There is an entrance fee but for an hour or two and some snorkelling with a dolphin, this is bound to be high on somebody’s bucket list.


Koh Nang Yuan, Ko Tao, Thailand

In the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Nang Yuan (best said when sober) consists of three islands off the tip of Ko Tao.  Flipper your way over white soft sand and sink into the reef, where there is both hard and soft coral.  The shallowness of the reef is ideal for all snorkies but there is an entrance fee to this privately-owned island, and it is worth it, as the area needs protecting, mainly from the tourist influx.

Since Leonardo DiCaprio put Thailand’s Mayo Bay on the map, whilst filming ‘The Beach’ there in 1999, tourists have been slimmed down in that area to save the bay and its marine life from total destruction. This makes the luxury of Koh Nang Yuan a price worthy of paying for stunning scenery above and below the water line.  It brings to the table staghorn, mosaic and mushroom corals, butterfly fish, bannerfish and green hawksbill turtles.  Add to that lion fish, yellow box fish and Harlequin Sweetlips fish and you know there’s an ‘identify the fish’ pamphlet to be perused before a snorkelling day out at this utopia.


The Girl Outdoors

Prussia Cove, Cornwall

Yes! Snorkelling in England exists and yes, the weather is great in July and August!  Made up of three smaller coves (Piskies, King’s and Bessy’s) here lies an idyllic Cornish cove, approximately 5 miles east of Penzance, close to Helston, on the coast of Mount’s Bay.  It isn’t possible to drive or unload your gear at the Cove, so it’s accessible only by a half mile hike from a car park that can get full early in the day at the height of summer.  Prussia Cove has mid to low water and rocky outcrops, where the seabed is covered with sandy particles and rock and weed.

This means snorkelling is best done in a wetsuit for added safety.  With Cornwall being a favourite holiday destination, making a break for the Cove is sure to tire out the younger family members who will dream all night of their finds below the foam.  It is a great place for the less confident snorkeller as there isn’t too much to surprise in sudden motion but spotting the harmless jellyfish and tiny tiddlers darting about is a relaxing experience.  With a great old romantic history in the area, about a local smuggling family, shipwrecks falling to the Davy Jones Locker, a good snorkel about for relics and pieces of eight could bring up more from the pirates than the famous local pasties and potted shrimps have to offer.


Poipu Beach Park, Kauai, Hawaii

This is your laptop moving screensaver come to life! Trigger fish, wrasses, flounders and live coral such as blue rice, cauliflower, lobe and lichen. Not stopping there – parrot fish, baby unicorn fish and old flip flops.  Ahem!  Surf, barbeque, dive, swim and snorkel all day amongst the young-at-heart beach boogie boarders and be a part of this 50thUSA State’s marine movie.  The beach is split into two halves, so go for the left side for calm snorkelling under the watchful eye of the lifeguards.  There is a tiny island just off the beach that is connected to a sand spit which is called a tombolo.

This is an unusual natural formation but does give protection to the right side from trade-winds waves.  Being safely taken out a little further over the reef, you could be lucky enough to spot sea cucumbers, goat fish, eels, surgeon fish, juvenile rock wrasses (that look like seaweed) and the Hawaiian state fish with a super name – altogether now – the humuhumunukunukuapuaa!  A sea turtle apparently needs about 30 feet of space (between you and it) so whilst watching its elusive twists and turns, practice remembering its name – the honu – to impress the rest of the family at dinner. Look out for the endangered Hawaiian Monk seals that will race you to the sea in their search for fishes at this destination, voted the best in Hawaii.


Blue Lagoon, Comino, Malta

Said to be the most beautiful beach in Malta, who could resist this snorkelling stopping point?  With its translucent azure water and rocky outcrops, marine life weaves in and out almost beckoning you to pull on your mask and flippers and follow them to secret romantic areas in Neptune’s grassy beds.  It is so clear in the Blue Lagoon, that turtles just hang about floating on the surface and you can spy an octopus as clear as you can your hand in front of you, so what a magical snorkelling paradise for the young ones to explore.

There are rainbow wrasses and moon wrasses and Malta is renowned for its fauna and flora. The Blue Lagoon was used as a location for scenes in the film ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’, Guy Ritchie’s ‘Swept Away’ and a mini-series called ‘Helen of Troy’.  In fact, Malta is a favourite for the film makers so you could find yourself on camera snorkelling about in this location.  If you can go out of high season, it will be more tranquil as boats constantly bring tourists in to this sought-after area.  You wouldn’t want to share this lagoon with anyone else except your favourite Hollywood star and the fiesta of flamboyant fishes of this Mediterranean island.


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