The best way to immerse yourself into a new destination is through its cities where a veritable smorgasbord of exotic sights, sites, sounds, history, culture, tradition, architecture and food are brought to life. Now picture a multicoloured marine city, where all types of life survive and thrive surrounded by magnificent architectural wonders magnified against an ocean backdrop; these are the coral cities of the big blue.

Encompassing 2.3 million square miles of the western Pacific Ocean, from the Philippines to Timor and the Solomon Islands, the Coral Triangle is the most biodiverse underwater region on earth. Home to a staggering 76% of the world's coral species, diving here is a psychedelic experience where you drift past slender branches of towering red whip corals, knobbly blue sponges and jagged green stag corals, flower-like elephant ears, giant barrel sponges and delicate soft corals, all adorned with colourful crinoids. The heart of their communities, these magnificent building blocks harbour clouds of equally kaleidoscopic reef fish, large nudibranchs with skirts of eggs, spirals of a thousand barracuda, sharks and turtles.

Outside of the Coral Triangle, there is a wealth of underwater metropolises for spectacular coral diving, from the 'soft coral capital of the world', Fiji to the world's second largest barrier reef off Belize and explosions of soft and hard corals in the Red Sea in Egypt. And unlike the hustle and bustle of cities above the waves, you'll often have these all to yourself.

Top Five Destinations for Coral Diving

Move over London, Paris, New York and Tokyo, these are the greatest cities on earth. Discover our top five places to go coral diving.

1. Indonesia - Hailed as the best coral diving in the world, Raja Ampat is located on the bullseye of the Coral Triangle, but spectacular coral diving also awaits across the Indonesian archipelago, be it in under-the-radar Alor or Komodo, the Banda Sea and even Bunaken National Park in Northern Sulawesi

2. Papua New Guinea - Papua New Guinea's coral colonies enjoy a prime location within the Coral Triangle, but due to their remoteness have remained largely unexplored, with over 20,000 square miles of reef systems made up of barrier reefs, coral walls, fringing reefs and sea grass beds

3. Red Sea - Boasting over 400 species of coral, the dive sites across the region are home to plunging, dramatic walls, caves, caverns and pinnacles. Even the wrecks (of which there are many) are wrapped like presents in rainbow coloured corals. Whether diving from the shore or setting sail to the far corners of this region on a liveaboard, you're sure to enter this aquatic kaleidoscope

4. Bonaire - Home to the best coral diving in the Caribbean, Bonaire is surrounded by fantastic coral formations, from ginormous brain corals to piers and anchors adorned in colourful sponges and corals.

5. Fiji - Fiji's reefs sport dazzling displays of colour and life along the Somosomo Strait. From marvelling over the multicoloured corals at the aptly named Rainbow Reef, Purple Wall and Yellow Tunnel to descending down the luminescent white corals (Dendronephthya) that drape the Great White Wall like a blanket of snow, the sheer variety of colours across the strait is

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The Top Destinations for Coral Diving

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Jacqui is our 'Coral Diving' expert and as a seasoned traveller has the inside track on the most memorable adventures.

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