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If you are on a nature tour to a seaside location, there’s a thrill awaiting you the minute you don a face mask and snorkel. But where to go snorkeling? That’s the question. And the answer is, just about anywhere in the world you might think about taking a coastal wildlife trip.  

If you’ve never tried it, you should know that donning a face mask and breathing tube opens up a whole new experience of the natural world. Snorkeling is a simple gateway through which you can enter the watery habitat of creatures that live along the shoreline, and it’s an activity everyone can enjoy so long as they are able to swim. To get the most out of the pastime, though, it’s a good idea to look at some snorkeling guides which will gives you a good idea of how to get the most out of it, from simple beginner levels to learning more advanced techniques.

Want to travel to do some snorkeling?

The local specialist tour operators on Blue Sky Wildlife can arrange a wildlife trip to include the opportunity to observe the marine world. Enquire direct or book through Blue Sky Wildlife for the best deals.

The beauty of this form of wildlife watching is that most marine animals are less aware than their land-based cousins of the presence of man. The mysteries of their everyday lives are revealed if you have the patience to just float and watch. It would be rare to get the chance of such close and prolonged observation of an animal out of the water, which would be much more inclined to run away and hide.

That’s not to say that you can get too close! There are limits, and the watchword in the snorkeling community is ‘respectful observation and no touching’. Interfering with or interrupting any animal’s natural activities or disturbing its habitat – on land or in the sea – is very much frowned upon, as every dedicated wildlife watcher knows.

Pic credit: Shutterstock. Whale Sharks

So think about snorkeling as a pursuit when you’re planning your next holiday. Apart from anything else, leisurely bobbing around on the ocean is a great way to relax and unwind. The popularity of snorkeling and scuba diving as a leisure activity is helping to contribute to the conservation of many countries’ natural resources as offering these activities is a good source of revenue for local people.

Wildlife tours to coastal regions in many countries can afford the opportunity to spend some time snorkeling alongside an inland tour. And many local, specialist tour operators can build in some snorkeling time to a bespoke itinerary. Tours where you take to the seas in a wildlife-watching boat can also often include an opportunity for a refreshing swim – and that means a chance to snorkel as well.

Marine Creatures to See

Depending on where you are in the world, there are multitudes of fascinating animals to find. There are some giants that will be on almost every snorkeler’s wish list – who wouldn’t want the awe-inspiring experience of being alongside a Whale Shark, for instance, especially seeing it from below as well as above!

There are also some very small animals that can be just as captivating and many snorkelers go out of their way to try to find. Take the amazing beauty of a nudibranch, for instance. These tiny sea slugs come in a myriad of bright colours with feathery projections and frilly edges and they can be found almost everywhere, gliding elegantly over rocks and coral, if you look carefully enough.

Pic credit: Shutterstock. Nudibranch on corals

Here are some highlights of the underwater environment in different seas and oceans around the world.

Where to go Snorkeling in Africa

The east side of the African continent, lapped by the Indian Ocean, offers the best snorkeling opportunities in this region of the world. The coastline has coral reefs, extensive seagrass meadows and forests of kelp, depending on the temperatures of the waters. In the south of the continent the seas can be chilly, possibly requiring a wetsuit for comfortable snorkeling, but the further north you go, towards and into Tanzania and Kenya, the warmer they get.

The Western Cape in South Africa is known for its whale watching as Southern Right Wales pass by between September and November. For snorkeling you can enjoy tidal pools that rarely go deeper than 2m and are full of shoals of fish such as Sergeant Majors and Raccoon Butterflyfish. You often get small coral blocks that harbour octopus, colourful sponges and sea anemones. Places such as Langebaan, a saltwater lagoon open to but protected from the open ocean, is home to a multitude of crayfish and harmless sand sharks and there are opportunities to snorkel with seals. Further north is iSimangaliso Wetland Park where you can snorkel at low tide to see stingrays, surgeon fish and many other colourful species.

Pic credit: Shutterstock. A shoal of Sergeant Majors

Tanzania, Zanzibar, Mozambique and Kenya offer warmer waters and classic Indian Ocean reef species such as a wide variety of pipefish, sea stars, many species of butterflyfish, damselfish, wrasses and moray eels, as well as specials such as Harlequin Shrimps, Spotfin Lionfish and Fire Urchins. Further out, the islands of Madagascar and the Seychelles are also excellent snorkeling destinations.

Specialist local African tour operators that organise birding and wildlife trips should be able to accommodate requests to spend some time snorkeling, if it is available in their area.

Where to go Snorkeling in Asia and Oceania

The southern Asian continent, Australia and New Zealand have some marvellous snorkeling opportunities. The Indian Ocean is rich in marine species – easy-to-find shoals of butterflyfish, chromis and surgeonfish and individual parrotfish and angelfish poking around the coral. From the common Mantis Shrimp to the elusive Painted Frogfish, the reefs are alive with colour, movement and excitement.

The shores of Asian countries such as Malaysia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia and Thailand abound with places to snorkel. Again, beautiful coral reefs teem with fish and invertebrates, while the open seas not far from shore can afford encounters with rays, sharks and turtles that can be seen swimming not far under the surface.

Moving further south to the south Pacific and you come to the world’s most famous coral reef system – the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. That country, and its neighbour New Zealand, offer some great snorkeling opportunities. To fully appreciate the Barrier Reef, you would need to make it a main trip in its own right, or an extension to a birding or general wildlife-watching trip, because the main reefs are situated a good boat ride from the mainland. However, that’s not to say that you have to head for those larger stretches of reef and nothing else will do. There’s good snorkeling to be had on smaller reefs all along the Gold Coast in the east as well as places such as Ningaloo Reef off the west coast in the East Indian Ocean.

Pic credit: Shutterstock. Colourful corals in shallow water at the Great Barrier Reef Australia

In New Zealand you can arrange snorkeling with dolphins in a number of spots, and visit places such as Goat Island that offers safe snorkeling for everyone. There you can encounter large crayfish, Red Moki, Silver Drummers, marblefish, moray and congar eels, among many others.

Specialist local Asian and Oceanian tour operators who organise birding and wildlife trips should be able to accommodate requests to spend some time snorkeling, if it is available in their area. If you fancy including this pastime in your wildlife trip’s itinerary, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Where to go Snorkeling in Europe

Apart from the clear salt waters of the Adriatic, the warm Mediterranean and the Black Sea, Europe can offer some unexpected places to snorkel, such as the freshwater Danube Delta, for example. Well known for its abundant and interesting birdlife, the mouth of the river also contains some interesting fish life. The Delta’s extensive reedbeds filter the river as it enters the sea and leave it crystal clear. Look carefully and you can spot catfish, pikes, bream and perch, as well as newts and tadpoles among the waterlily stems and sponges growing on submerged tree roots.

In many of the southern European countries, such as Italy, you can enjoy some snorkeling. Although there aren’t the brilliant hues of fish that you can find in more tropical venues, but there is nonetheless quite a lot of interest to see, not least the archeological remains and shipwrecks in the shallows that have accumulated over time in this part of the world – not quite wildlife, you say, but such things do offer shelter to a wide diversity of animal species, so they are well worth exploring.

Pic credit: Shutterstock. Snorkeling in the Mediterranean

Snorkeling in this part of the world can also involve seals and dolphins and give you a much closer view of those marine animals than can be gained from a boat.

Specialist local tour operators in European countries such as Italy, Montenegro, England, Spain, Greece and Romania, who organise birding and wildlife trips, should be able to accommodate requests to spend some time snorkeling, if it is available in their area, although you will most likely need to be equipped with a wet suit.

Where to go Snorkeling in the Caribbean and Central America

This has got to be top of the wishlist of glorious places to snorkel in the world! Costa Rica, Guatemala, Belize, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Honduras… take your pick of destinations with hot sun, warm waters and a fantastic marine world to explore alongside glorious birdlife, fascinating mammals and intriguing reptiles and insects. Goliath Groupers, Blue-striped Grunts, Spotted Drums, Porcupine Fish, Peacock Flounders, Squirrelfish and Queen Angelfish – the names alone arouse curiosity to see their exotic shapes and colours.

There are more than 1,400 species of fish living in these waters, as well as 65 species of hard corals and countless soft corals, sea fans and gorgonias. So this region is a dream destination for snorkeling as well as all other types of wildlife watching. Combine hiking days following forest trails in search of exotic birds and elusive mammals with lazy days hunting out exciting plant species and their insect visitors and peaceful days floating in a turquoise sea watching a kaleidoscope of sea creatures’ lives unfolding, and you have a nature watcher’s nirvana!

Pic credit: Shutterstock. Queen Angelfish

Specialist local tour operators in the countries of Central and South America, who organise birding and wildlife trips in coastal areas, should be able to accommodate requests to spend some time snorkeling.

Want to Arrange a Wildlife Holiday?

The specialist local tour operators on Blue Sky Wildlife can tailor make the perfect wildlife trip. Enquire direct or book through Blue Sky Wildlife for the best deals.


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