We all dream of diving in the most amazing coral reefs in the world’s ocean. The luckiest of us have had the pleasure of doing just that. Yet some of us have not yet found our coral reef diving nirvana. We’ve got you covered with a list you’ll want to add to your #divinggoals (and revisit even if you’ve already been there!).
Coral reefs: The facts
Coral reefs are located around the world in over 100 countries and cover an estimated 110,000 square miles. Marine life in these reefs is incredibly diverse. It is estimated that over 25% of all marine species are found around or in coral reefs, which is a compelling reason to preserve them. They are also responsible for global food resources, income, and coastal protection from flood damage.
You will find hard and soft coral while exploring the reefs of the world. Hard coral grow in colonies and are the builders of coral reefs. They build with limestone, which over time hardens into rock. Soft corals are the bendable types with features resembling small trees or flora.
Best coral reefs for diving
Compiling coral reefs for a diving bucket list is a daunting task. These incredible structures are all beautiful and worth viewing at least once. For this list we pulled five of the most popular with unique highlights and features, although we could carry on about so many more!
Palancar Reef earned the term “underwater garden of Eden” for its amazing colors and lush garden-like splendor. The rich coral appears as a rainbow carpet of flowers and entices divers to capture their beauty in photographs and video footage. Palancar is considered to be one of the crown jewels of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. It stretches across 3.5 miles and is known for its crystal-clear waters (estimated visibility is up to 200 feet).
Grand Central Station and Chimneys
Fiji reefs are known as the “soft coral capital of the world.” Grand Central Station and Chimneys are two reef locations in the Namena Marine Reserve. This reserve includes Namena Island and the horseshoe-shaped barrier reef around it. Namena offers the most diverse and beautiful dive experience according to Jean Michel Cousteau of Ocean Futures Society, and shelters over 1000 species of invertebrates and 400 known corals.
Raja Ampat is one reef without the crowds. This gem in The Coral Triangle has not had heavy scuba traffic and remains a pristine and beautiful oasis. If you’re looking for a good variety of hard corals to view, you’ll have come to the right place – it boasts over 600 different hard coral species and over 1200 different types of fish, which is more than any other place in the world. Some scientists would say it is the center of life on Earth.
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea (also referred to as PNG) is acknowledged as unrivaled in coral reef biodiversity. It is located in The Coral Triangle as part of the Bismarck Archipelago. Its Kimbe Bay features a wealth of marine habitats. PNG has about 400 species of coral over 52,000 square kilometers of reef systems and has been called “the underwater photographer’s paradise.”
The Great Barrier Reef
Surely you expected to see this one on the list! It cannot go unmentioned here, as it is the largest coral reef on the planet. It is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, with over 3,000 individual reef systems. Fun fact: It is the only living thing on Earth that is visible from space! That’s understandable, considering it stretches over 1,250 miles. It is home to over 300 species of hard coral and many other varieties of marine life.
Reef dives are on every diver’s bucket list. We hope we gave you renewed inspiration for your future dives. But we would be remiss is our ocean conservancy if we did not include a list of ways to preserve these amazing living architectures. Diving activities can have far-reaching impacts to reef systems. So how can you ensure reefs survive well into the future? Here are 3 ways to do just that:
Wear reef-safe sunscreen: New sunscreen formulas have been developed without using chemicals known to be harmful for marine life.
Don’t step on coral: Stepping on or accidentally kicking or hitting with fins can break coral and cause injury and irreparable damage to these living creatures.
Avoid stirring sediment: This may sound harmless. But stirring sediment can actually spread disease. It also reduces the available light for corals (which is needed for photosynthesis).
If you’re looking for even more ideas, check out this 10 Ways to Protect Coral Reefs infographic from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Gearing up for a reef dive? We’d love to see your pictures! Share yours in the comments below.
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