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The Top 10 Most Beautiful Coral Reefs In The World

Whether you’re a scuba diver, a snorkel fiend or partake in that weird combination of the two. Snuba? Scorkel? You’ll know that what awaits us under those blue ocean waves is a colourful land of mystery and surprise! The greatest reward for every flip of your flippers are the coloured coral reefs and unique marine life that swim amongst them.

So in no particular order, though as an Australian I’d definitely put the Great Barrier Reef at number 1, here you have my pick of the top 10 coral reefs on the planet!

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

A mix of coral and tropical fish in Australia Great Barrier Reef

Australians are a competitive bunch, we just love to be number one. The Great Barrier Reef is just another win for us. It is the largest of all the coral reefs in the world and, by my estimation, therefore the best. Located in northern Queensland, the reef is made up of over 3000 individual reef systems and hundreds of pristine white sand Islands. As far as the marine life go you’ll be spoilt for choice with over 400 types of coral and colourful fish and sea creatures to boot! These are just some of the reasons why this coral reef is listed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The rest you’ll just have to go and discover for yourself. 

New Caledonia Barrier Reef, New Caledonia

Clear waters and white sand beaches in New Caledonia

Who doesn’t love a good barrier or two? I know I do! And look I know I said there was no particular order here, but this one would probably be number two. Number two in size (coming second to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef), number two on my list and, fun fact, number one in reef health. 

Rainbow Reef, Fiji

The colourful coral reefs of Fiji's Rainbow Reef

How was a reef with a name like “Rainbow Reef” not going to make it on to the list. If there is an opposite to the saying “don’t let the name fool you” it would apply to this reef. The name is spot on, the reef is an underwater living rainbow! Tucked between two Fijian Island,  Vanua Levu and Taveun, Rainbow Reef is made up of a mix of hard and soft coral. The mixture of corals has allowed the marine life to thrive, making it an excellent dive spot for fish lovers.

Red Sea Coral Reef, Egypt, Sudan, and Eritrea

Coral formations and fish in the Red Sea Coral Reef

I always thought the Red Sea was that really salty place everyone goes to float… until discovering that that is the Dead Sea. Silly me. The Red Sea, rather than being located alongside tropical islands, is located between the Sahara and Arabian deserts. Despite the arid landscapes that surround it the Red Sea Coral Reef is teeming with aquatic life, many species of which are only found there. There are over a thousand species of fish that live there, swimming amongst the lagoons, cylinders and colourful coral. Just like you can when you visit.

Palancar Reef, Mexico

A seahorse floating in blue water in one of Mexicos coral reefs

What it lacks in size the Palancar Reef makes up in colour. Part of a much larger reef system that goes all the way down to Honduras, Mexico’s Palancar reef is a popular and stunning dive spot. The array of colourful coral would be worth a visit on there own, but they are only part of what makes the reef incredible. Swimming amongst the coral are brightly coloured fish, sea turtles and for the keen eye, seahorses. 

Tubbataha Reef, The Philippines

A healthy patch of reef in the Philippines

Another island reef, the Tubbataha reef is where you go if you want to see sea turtles. Better for deep sea divers rather than those surface loving snorkelers, the reef is an underwater wonderland often referred to as one of the best diving spots in the world.   

Captain Cook Monument, Hawaii 

Kealakekua Bay in Hawaii

Not the actual monument itself, though your welcome to visit it, but the coral reefs that surround it to the left and right. Whether you’re hanging around in the crystal clear shallows or heading out in to the deeper water you’ll be in for a wondrous underwater treat. You’ll discover unique and otherworldly coral formations surrounded by a plethora of fish and other wildlife. If you’re after larger sea life head out into the deeper waters to find dolphins and sea turtles. 

Cayo Coral Reef, Panama

Skyline of Cayos Limones Panama

More for the snorkeler than the scuba diver, this reef has an average depth of 10 metres.  Its proximity to the surface shouldn’t lead you to believe that it is anything short of magnificent though. Only able to be reached by boat this Panamanian reef surrounds the small island, aptly named, Cayo Coral. The reef is the most popular snorkel spot in the Bocas del Toro archipelago but there are others for the scuba divers to explore.

Belize Barrier Reef, Belize

Belize Barrier Reef from above

The best kind of reef is a barrier reef, in my opinion. I have no reasoning to back this up, it’s just something I said and I’m sticking to it! The Belize Barrier Reef, as the name implies, lies off the coast of the Central American country Belize. Charles Darwin once described it as “the most remarkable reef in the West Indies” and when it comes to nature that man has authority. Don’t just take his or my word for it though. Go and discover it for yourself.

Great Chagos Archipelago, Indian Ocean

A large brain shapes coral formation in the Indian Ocean coral reefs

Way out in the Indian Ocean, all on its own, you’ll find the best protected and least polluted coral atoll (some kind of reef) in the world. 55 Islands, some very brain looking coral, colourful fish and a variety of marine mammals call this archipelago home. Half of the world’s coral is in fact found here! And if you’re lucky you’ll see whales swimming through the clear waters and dolphins as well.

Protecting our coral reefs

View from Above of a boat on Australia's Great Barrier Reef

I’m going to take the mood down a few notches briefly to talk about something serious. Many of our reefs are in danger, no the Great White Shark kind of danger, the destruction due to human activity kind. Make sure when visiting coral reefs, that you don’t touch the coral or marine life. Limit the chemicals you are taking into the water on your skin and in your hair. I’m talking sunscreen, bug repellent and hairspray or gel.

Make sure when going on a boat or tour that the company taking you out has a policy of respecting the reef and the sea life. If relevant to you, you can even take it one step further and write to your congress/ parliament to protest fracking or drilling close to coral reefs in your country. Whatever you can do to help preserve these colourful underwater worlds. 
As John Mayer once sang to the sea “Your body is a wonderland”, let’s all do our bit to keep it that way.

There are a million other coral reefs out there, many of which I’ve never explored and, that I’m sure, deserve a place on the list. If you’ve been to one let me know about it in the comment section below.

Or book an adventure to one of these amazing coral reefs here.