Picture this: A kaleidoscope of colourful corals, from gargantuan brain corals to gently swaying fan corals. Schools of vibrant purple and yellow fairy basslets dance above whilst snakelike moray eels lurk in crevices. Rainbow coloured parrot fish peck away for algae below a giant goliath grouper. A green olive riley turtle might even glide past…
Who's watched the new Netflix documentary, Chasing Coral? It's an absolute must for all divers and a stark reminder of the need to conserve our wonderful oceans and all the marine life they support. To that end, we've donned our conservation caps and compiled a list of our top eco hotels where you can explore and protect some of the world's most enticing reefs.
Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, Fiji
If it has "voice of the ocean" Jean-Michel Cousteau's backing, you know the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort will hold some serious eco-credentials. Located on Savusavu Bay, expect swaying palm trees, cashmere-soft beaches and passionate people running the show. This resort makes a genuine effort at sustainable tourism, from a giant clam project to its water filtration program, they've covered all bases. Diving here includes the Namena Marine Reserve, considered one of the top dive sites in the world, where you will see everything from huge schools of wrasse, tuna and barracuda to the blue ribbon eel. For those looking to go full eco-warrior, guests can do reef walks with the resident Marine Biologist or better yet, help conduct a Reef Check or plant coral at the reef farm.
Palau Pacific Resort, Palau
Palau: An archipelago of some 300 emerald islands that spread out like paint splatters on a turquoise canvas. Underwater? Well, there's a reason it's been dubbed the underwater Serengeti - think big fish, colourful corals and the famous Blue Corner. And you can access all of this from the doorstep of Palau Pacific Resort. Their eco-credentials are pretty squeaky clean. Think solar power generators, composting, rainwater supplies - they've even invented an environmentally friendly machine that converts plastic into oil which is then used for fuel around the island. Oh, and they also have the Palau Pacific Resort Marine Sanctuary which protects over 566 species of marine life - including the endangered Dugong.
Alphonse Island, Seychelles
A nature lover's paradise, miles of unblemished shorelines, lagoons and sea flats characterise Alphonse Island. And they have a list of conservation activities longer than your arm. With the Island Conservation Society (ICS) you can go on turtle patrols, conduct beach cleans ups, feed giant tortoises and explore the forests in search of exotic birds. Up the academic ante with the resort's coral reef ecology and conservation speciality courses - then don your mask and watch soft coral reefs teeming with green turtles, bottlenose dolphins, nurse sharks… the list goes on.
COMO Maalifushi, Maldives
Ahh the Maldives: pearl drop islands scattered against a turquoise lagoon housing some great corals and a mind-boggling amount of marine life. But as the threat of coral bleaching looms, COMO Maalfushi provides the answer. The resident Marine Biologist has partnered with Seamarc to implement coral propagation, whereby broken, but still living coral fragments are collected and attached to coral frames. These frames are then planted on the seabed to regenerate the reef. Sponsor a frame and get twice yearly photographic updates, and if you go back and visit they'll even take you to your frame so you can see for yourself.
Misool Eco Resort, Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Misool Eco Resort is built on conservation. Literally. The resort was built using salvaged driftwood and free-fallen timbers collected from the surrounding islands, and this philosophy echoes throughout the island. No light pollution, no noise pollution, no phone signal - at Misool Eco Resort there is very little to distract you from the surrounding natural beauty. The resort's Misool Foundation is dedicated to safeguarding 300,000 acres of the world's most biodiverse reef, which is now one of the few places on earth where biodiversity is improving rather than declining. The charity is also committed to community education (they even built a school), recycling and manta research. Impressive.