Coral reefs are some of the world's most colourful and diverse ecosystems, and a hidden treasure to feast the eyes upon for any scuba diver and snorkeller. But why should you wait for a boat trip from your hotel when you can access these underwater Edens straight from the shores of your resort? So without further ado, here's our top five hotels with the best house reefs.
Azura Quilalea Private Island, Mozambique
Visible from the sky, the Quirimbas Archipelago is a mesmerising tapestry of colour; a chain of 32 coral islands, thick with mangroves and encircled by white sand which dissolves into crystal waters fringed by coral skirts - and one of these islands is the luxurious Azura Quilalea Private Island. The protected reefs lining the island's shores offer some of the best diving in the world - expect to see green, hawksbill and leatherback turtles, reef sharks, sting rays, moray eels and a plethora of colourful reef fish. Depending on the season, you might also spot humpback whales and whale sharks. And with only nine individual villas, you'll have the reef all to yourself.
Largely uninhabited and unknown to the majority of tourists, Moyo Island is a treasure chest waiting to be discovered. The marine park was established long before tourism reached the area, so divers are in for a real treat - think corals dating back more than 100 years and a whole spectrum of fish, from frogfish, lionfish and blue ribbon eels to white tip sharks and nudibranch the size of dinner plates (extremely rare).
The only hideaway on Moyo Island, Amanwana is located on a protected cove in the west. Here, you can stay in luxury tents encapsulated by lush tropical rainforest. Most significant, however, is the diving, with one of Moyo's best dive sites, Panjang Reef, mere minutes from Amanwana. In fact, the reef is so enticing you may not spot the bigger pelagics casually gliding past behind you…
Angsana Ihuru, Maldives
Quite simply the best house reef in the Maldives - over 150 fish species, turtles, rays and sharks call Angsana Ihuru (the sister resort to Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru) home. Forming a perfect circle around the island, you can don your mask and explore these perfectly preserved reefs straight from the chalk white shores. Night dives? Sure, experience a different reef as you swim amongst nocturnal manta rays and snakelike moray eels. Into wrecks? Dive the Rannamaari shipwreck, conveniently located less than 100 metres from the beach. Fancy a day trip? Take a boat to sister property Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru and snorkel a different scene. You can even plant a coral or two at the resort's Marine Lab.
Picture a tropical paradise hideaway and you will have pictured Qamea. A place where emerald, jagged volcanic mountains meet shockingly turquoise waters via sweeping white beaches. Most importantly, a place where you can snorkel out to some of the world's best reefs without breaking a sweat. In fact, there are so many spectacular dive sites within easy reach of the resort that you'll be hard pressed to experience the same topography twice. From a 100ft vertical wall dripping in sea grapes and hard corals, to technicolour soft coral gardens (Fiji is the "soft coral capital of the world" after all), drift dives and swim throughs - not to mention the whirlpool of marine life to feast your eyes upon.
Wakatobi Dive Resort, Indonesia
About as remote as you can get, Wakatobi Dive Resort is an adventure in itself to get to; a two and a half hour charter from Bali followed by a ten minute bus ride and fifteen minute boat. But it's worth the pilgrimage - 400 species of coral and 700 species of fish have been officially recorded in Wakatobi alone. Want to head out on the house reef solo? Get dropped off at the perfect spot and let the current drift you along the world's best aquarium, spotting the most sought after species in abundance (pygmy seahorses, crocodile fish... the list goes on) before being conveniently deposited in the shallows to waiting staff to relieve you of your gear in time for sundowners.