Blue belts. Nope, we haven't taken up karate and we're not advertising a new fashion trend, we are in fact referring to the UK Government announcing the expansion of protected coastal 'blue belt' marine areas surrounding the British Isles. Another excellent step on the ladder to conserving our oceans, alongside initiatives like National Geographic's #PlanetorPlastic campaign. And while we're on the topic of 'blue belts', there are some pretty spectacular protected marine areas across the globe, where reefs flourish, marine life thrives and the diving continues to captivate and cement our love of the ocean.
The Revillagigedo Archipelago, Mexico
What: Located 250 miles south of Mexico's Baja peninsula, North America's largest marine reserve, the Revillagigedo archipelago spans an impressive 57,176 square miles and contains four volcanic islands, all accessed from aboard the swish Nautilus Belle Amie.
To Sea: Giant manta rays, bottlenose dolphins, ten species of shark including scalloped hammerheads, humpback whales (January to April), bait ball season (May to July), whale sharks (April to May and November to December).
The Outer Islands, Seychelles
What: Part of a pioneering new scheme backed by high profile environmentalists including the Nature Conservancy and Leonardo DiCaprio, the Seychelles has designed a huge new marine reserve spanning 81,000 square-miles. Luckily for you we offer an exclusive exploratory trip to some of the most remote reefs.
To Sea: Hard and soft corals, hammerheads, dogtooth tuna, wahoo, dorado, sailfish, large groupers, barracuda, bumphead parrotfish, eagle rays, sweetlips, turtles, napoleon wrasse, reef and silver tip sharks and even manta rays on occasion.
Palau National Marine Sanctuary, Palau
What: Palau was the first country to create a shark sanctuary and ban bottom trawling. Its most recent eco-initiative, the Palau Pledge, is a declaration signed with a stamp in visitors' passports to ensure responsible, sustainable tourism. Access the most wondrous corners of the sanctuary aboard the Palau Aggressor II or enjoy surface intervals on dry land at Palau Pacific Resort.
To Sea: Japanese WWII wrecks, dugong, hammerheads, manta rays, bull sharks, dolphins, white tip, grey reef sharks, napoleon wrasse, grouper, dogtooth tuna, nudibranch, cuttlefish, hard and soft corals.
Galapagos Marine Reserve, Ecuador
What: The don of marine conservation, the Galapagos Marine Reserve is one of the largest and most biodiverse marine protected areas on earth, spanning over 80,000 square miles. Hop aboard the Galapagos Sky to access the most dramatic diving in the Galapagos, if not the world, at Wolf and Darwin.
To Sea: It would be easier to list off things you can't see, however a few local favourites include sea lions, penguins, fur seals, giant manta rays (December to May), dolphins, whales, whale sharks (June to November), sea turtles, marine iguanas and many, many sharks.
Misool Marine Reserve, Indonesia
What: Located in the epicentre of The Coral Triangle, Misool Marine Reserve is home to one of the world's most pristine reef systems, carefully safeguarded by the Misool Foundation, the charity arm of the beautiful private island Misool Eco Resort. Whether you choose to stay here or set sail by luxury liveaboard it's worth enquiring now for 2019/20, as it's selling like hotcakes.
To Sea: Sweeping, kaleidoscopically colourful coral formations (it is The Coral Triangle, after all), mantas, black tip, white tip and grey reef sharks, wobbegong and epaulette sharks, big eyed trevally, barracuda, hairy squat lobsters, nudibranch (including the entrancing Spanish Dancer nudibranch), the list goes on.
Mafia Island Marine Park, Tanzania
What: Tanzania's first marine park, Mafia Island Marine Park boasts some of Africa's healthiest coral and marine life, with most diving centered around Chloe Bay. For those who love technicolour critters, shore diving from Mafia Island Lodge offers excellent muck diving with nudibranch, frogfish and ghost pipefish, to name but a few.
To Sea: Whale sharks (November to January), humpback whales (September), hard and soft coral reefs, mangrove forests, guitar sharks, dugongs, sea turtles and over 460 species of fish.