In his ongoing series of blogs, Dive in Style author Tim Simond shares his top destinations for snorkelling.
Dive in Style is not just for divers, as it says on the tin 'Chill - Snorkel - Dive'. Not everyone is a diver, nor particularly ever wants to be, but the pull of turquoise-hued waters beckons to all and surely your interest must be piqued by what lies beneath the waves.
All you need to enjoy much of what a diver experiences is a mask and snorkel, ideally a pair of fins, and of course sun block on your back to avoid the burn. It is so simple, and yet there is little information out there about where the best places are to snorkel around the world.
Having snorkelled at all of the destinations in Dive in Style, it has not been easy to reduce to just a few but here are my top picks for snorkelling.
Silver Banks, Turks and Caicos Islands
Simply the best snorkelling experience you will ever have - guaranteed. You lie in the water and deep beneath you glimpse the outline of a 40ft humpback whale feeding her calf who then slowly rises to the surface and swims within mere feet of you, admiring the admirers. You heart is caught between fear and awe as nowhere else can I think of in the animal kingdom where a mother allow humans to be in close contact with her baby. Truly wonderful, but only wonderful for a few weeks of the year when the whales come to the Silver Banks on their endless migratory cycle.
Lizard Island, Australia
Acres and acres of utterly pristine coral gardens, the best I have ever seen. And when you tire of the coral (if indeed that is possible) you can float above the famous Cod Hole and come within inches of giant potato cod. Closer to home, indeed just off the beach are the amazing clam gardens, a riot of brightly hued giant clams, some even older than the first island residents who came to Lizard in the nineteenth century, and all in just a few feet of water. The snorkelling options at Lizard Island are numerous and varied. How about a peaceful snorkel with green turtles whose polished shells suggest they are catered for by the attendant hotel staff, followed by a wicker basket picnic on a deserted beach? Or perhaps a guided snorkel with a marine biologist? When you are finished here I can assure you that you will want to learn to dive!
Sinai Peninsula, Red Sea, Egypt
The great thing about the Red Sea is that is has many fringing reefs which mean shallow waters, waters floodlit with endless sunlight and so bringing to life this amazing underwater flower stall. Little Crack, a dive spot accessed on a day trip from the hotel is a brilliant snorkel as you float just a few feet above the divers in translucent waters and a veritable kaleidoscope of colours alive with fish. It is literally breathtaking. Elsewhere, you can follow the reefs above the divers and possibly see more in the first six feet than most divers see in 60.
Soneva Fushi, Maldives
For the nervous snorkeller, this is the perfect place. You can hover in a mere two foot of water, whilst your head can peer over the gentle drop off to the wonders beneath. For the more adventurous you can dive down to mix it with the grazing turtles. In 1998 the house reef surrounding this perfect resort offered simply stunning snorkelling and then El Nino arrived and it is true to say things have never been the same as regards the coral. However, nature is doing a remarkable repair job and whilst still a long way from how they were, in an extraordinary manner the reefs still seem to play host to the same plethora of marine life, and floating along the drop-off remains a wonderful experience.
A snorkelling encounter with the gentle giant of the sea, the whale shark, is something never to be forgotten. Here, in a marine park off the barrier reef, you are virtually guaranteed many magical moments as, set to a now well understood and established time-clock, the whale shark come to gorge on the clouds of snapper eggs. Yes you can dive as well, but as these wonderful creatures normally swim just beneath the surface, you might even find yourself having a better view snorkelling.
This is utterly superb snorkelling with coral 'gardens' that really fulfil the meaning of the word, a sort of underwater Chelsea flower show with nature awarded 'best in show'. Literally perfect reefs with both hard and soft corals and endless marine life. Described as having the best house reef in the world, there is little I can really add to that, except that the beach is not bad either!