Covering more than 70% of the Earth’s surface and home to the majority of its plants and animals, exploring the ocean is one of our all-time favourite activities. Happily, the best spots for diving and snorkelling are in some of the world’s most beautiful locations. From brain coral to clown fish, sea fans to stingrays, here are 6 of our favourite hideaways for exceptional marine life encounters.
Set amongst sand dunes on Australia’s Indian Ocean coast, this remote tented eco-camp is the ultimate off-grid getaway. The 15 safari-chic Wilderness Tents are just a few footsteps from the white sand and coral gardens of Ningaloo Reef – one of the longest fringing reefs in the world. A short swim from the shore and you’ll find brightly coloured tropical fish and manta rays cruising the nutrient-rich coastal currents. Beyond the breakers whale sharks congregate and humpback whales pass by on their annual migration.
TOP TIP: Leave your high heels, Burberry baggage and iPhone at home
Leave your shoes and your cares behind at this ultra-chic slice of sandy perfection. Arcing out from its own private islet, COMO’s 33 villas and suites are inspired by dhonis – local fisherman’s boats – and set on stilts above a turquoise lagoon. Floor-to-ceiling windows, white interiors and teak flooring create an air of understated elegance, while slipping from your sundeck into a pristine world of tropical fish will dazzle even the most experienced snorkeller. A plethora of nearby dive sites include caves, wrecks and some impressive drifts.
TOP TIP: COMO offers 1-hour guided night snorkeling excursions around its house reef – a chance to see shy, nocturnal creatures like octopus, moray eels, stingrays, lobsters and nurse sharks.
A world away from Bali’s well-trodden tourist track, Bali Barat National Park is a veritable wildlife wonderland. Scattered amongst the forest and along the beach, a handful of romantic thatched villas and secluded suites exist in perfect harmony with their natural surroundings. Just offshore, coral-crusted Menjangan Island (named after the ‘menjangan’ deer that swim to its sandy shores) has some of the world’s most colourful dive sites. With light currents and great visibility, you can see anything from pygmy sea horses and schools of snapper to white tip sharks and wonderful gorgonian fans.
TOP TIP: Don’t miss dining in the 33m Bali Tower Bistro with amazing views over the forest canopy
Overlooking spectacular Playa Uvita on Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast, this adults-only resort is a dream destination for nature lovers. Surrounded by wildlife-rich jungle, the 12 stunning glass-fronted villas are within easy reach of Marino Ballena National Park – named after the great many humpback whales that come here to breed (the beach is even shaped like a whale’s tail!). Visitors to the pristine coral reef include Olive Ridley turtles, leatherback turtles and bottlenose dolphins.
TOP TIP: Bring your binoculars to spot humpback whales from your villa
The car-free island of Pemba – Zanzibar’s smaller sibling – remains relatively unknown in terms of tourism. Wonderfully remote, this barefoot bohemian lodge offers some of the best diving in East Africa with a seascape of deep inlets, mangrove coasts, coral islands and fringing reefs just a short boat-ride away. From hillside bungalows that feel like treehouses to beachfront rooms connected by sandy pathways, it’s a fabulous combination of island simplicity and laidback luxury.
TOP TIP: If you don’t dive, borrow a mask, snorkel and fins to explore the shallow reefs nearby
With a breathtakingly beautiful coastline flanked by virgin rainforest, the Andaman Islands are India’s best-kept secret. Set on a mile of pristine white sand (once voted the ‘best beach in Asia’ by Time magazine), this remote retreat is an unpretentious hideaway with a genuine eco-conscience. The double-height villas and boho-chic cottages are wonderfully cool and breezy, while the clear waters beyond abound with colourful fish, turtles, sting rays, dolphins and the occasional dugong.
TOP TIP: Take a night-time guided kayak tour to see thousands of stars competing with the sea’s dazzling bioluminescence