Maybe we should subtitle the blog “a family snorkelizing around the world.” We love getting underwater, and it shows! Our favorite five are epic; the next five are pretty spectacular too. Yet it was so hard to just share ten favorites, I can’t resist sharing the other places that loom large in our memory. They didn’t rate top ten, but they were each incredible, and worth seeking out if you’re cruising in these regions or planning a trip.
Instead of attempting any kind of priority order- which really is futile- they’re organized here by geography, running roughly east to west.
Agua Verde, Sea of Cortez / BCS, Mexico
Boats hiding up in the SOC during hurricane season are treated to beautiful clear water for snorkeling. There aren’t corals here to speak of, it’s too far north, but the fish and other marine life are really interesting- especially out at the pinnacle ‘Roca Solitaria.’ We remember many spots fondly, but Agua Verde’s pinnacle remains one of our favorite spots for sheer diversity of marine life near a stunning, protected anchorage. We loved our season in the Sea of Cortez, and getting into snorkeling was a big part of it.
Tres Marietas, Nayarit, Mexico
Tres Marietas (and Los Arcos) are probably on our memorable spots list because we spent so much time in Banderas Bay on Totem, two years in a row. They were great day trips from the anchorage in La Cruz to commune with pretty fish and take a break from the pre-passage boat projects.
Tenacatita, Colima, Mexico
I’ll never forget snorkeling here, because it’s where our daughter Mairen finally got the hang of the gear- the sound of my little girl squealing through her snorkel was priceless. There’s a large coral head near the outside of the bay, at the north side, where the water is lovely and the fish are pretty. Resident dolphins and beautiful rays and a convivial cruising community – Friday night Dinghy Sundowners!– round out a choice spot.
Anaho, Marquesas, French Polynesia
The stops we made in the Marquesas didn’t make for great snorkeling, between the sharks, the black sand, and the roadstead anchorages. There is awesome diving, but for snorkelers, the options are fewer. Anaho Bay in Nuku Hiva was a standout, even if you don’t count the outrageous days of swimming with giant mantas. I spent about five hours snorkeling all the way around the fringe with our friends on IO, with everything from turtles to lionfish to cute little squid… and more coconuts than you could eat/drink on shore when refreshment was required. Read more on the blog about this idyllic spot.
Anywhere in the Tuamotus, French Polynesia
I remember wondering when we arrived in the Tuamotus: how many shades of blue can there be? Fakarava’s south pass is the #3 favorite on our top ten list, but basically, it was very hard to go wrong anywhere in the Tuamotus. It’s breathtaking, rich, healthy, and vibrant. Go already.
Moorea, Society Islands, French Polynesia
The reef here is nothing special, just as the reefs around the rest of Tahiti, Bora Bora, and the Societies are nothing special (surprise!). But there’s a touristy angle to this bay at the north side of Moorea that makes you forget it all. Stingrays are conditioned to show up here, and tourists are conditioned to bring them bits of raw fish to eat. Having a stingray feel you up or jump on you like a puppy is truly unforgettable. Embrace the tourist trashiness and enjoy.
Panapompom, Louisiades / Milne Bay province, PNG
Panapompom, in the Louisiades (Milne bay Province) of PNG, had a great Japanese Zero wreck that was in only about 2 meters of water at low tide. AWESOME. Lots of fish making it their home now, lots of corals growing on the plane; but rest of the reef/snorkeling around Panapompom was ho-hum. What makes it special is that although there are tons of WWII wrecks in PNG, but most of them have little you can see unless you have scuba gear or are a stellar freediver. It was one of many reasons to love the Louisiades.
Tunung Island, near New Hanover, PNG
Three Islands Harbor, off Tunung island, is spectacular not for the reef but for the massive wreck. A Japanese supply ship is just below the surface here. Even with a waypoint, we circled and circled until a local guy paddled out and offered to guide us to the spot- but once there, wow. It would be better for freedivers and better still with scuba gear, but is still incredible to see snorkeling.
Hermit Islands, Manus province, PNG
The Hermit Islands, west of Manus, had some really beautiful reef environments, and a resident group of giant mantas. Locals have a religious restriction against eating shellfish, so we saw the biggest giant clams ever in this bay. And then, there were the whales. A pod of False Killers was here during our visit, and we had two incredibly memorable swims with these amazing animals.
Hoga Island, Wakatobi, S. Sulawesi province, Indonesia
Wakatobi (also charted as the Tukangbesi islands) is a series of four islands off the SE corner of Sulawesi. It has a great reputation, but our experience wasn’t as stellar as we expected from the raves. We were there off season, had poorer water clarity, and a lot of trash in the water, and we didn’t see anything radical. That said, I think it’s worth keeping in a bucket list. Friends of ours have raved about the resort on Wangi Wangi, at the north end of the island chain.
Komodo National Park, Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia
Komodo National Park is a more of a dive destination than a great snorkeling spot, but we found lovely corals and a gazillion anemone fish off Komodo’s pink beach; up at the north end off Gili Lawa Laut (and other areas in the park) were resident giant mantas, and some neat pinnacles to check out.
Menjangan Island, Bali regency, Indonesia
Menjangan Island, off Bali, was gorgeous. It didn’t have the “oh wow” factor compared to many other places we have been, but it was still beautiful and easily earns a place on our favorite spots in Indonesia. There weren’t a lot of fish (it’s a conservation area, but there were fishermen everyhwere- even the rangers were jigging off the dock), but other marine life was interesting and colorful. That said, I’d rather spend another day in Raja Ampat than a week in Menjangan.
This is far from exhaustive. We’ve hit a few hundred anchorages, adn if the water is good we stick our heads in, but we’ve still barely scratched surface. There are places we breezed through in a few weeks and found nothing where cruisers with more time found underwater riches. But the thrill is the search, and we are thrilled to keep searching- we have more wonders ahead.