Five Great Alternatives to the Great Barrier Reef
It’s the world’s largest barrier reef, and the most famous – but the Great Barrier Reef certainly isn’t the only coral reef on the planet. If you love diving or snorkelling, the world is full of amazing underwater sites to explore. Here are a few great alternatives to the Great Barrier Reef…
Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia
One of Australia’s largest coral reefs, Ningaloo is also the largest fringing reef in the world. This means that the best sites are a few hundred metres offshore, which makes it easy to explore and perfect for families. It’s also quite possibly the best Australian alternative to the Great Barrier Reef.
What to see: In April, Ningaloo is filled with whale sharks who return for the annual spawning season, while between June and November around 30,000 humpback whales migrate past the reef.
Mesoamerican Reef, Central America
Also known as the Great Mayan Reef, the Mesoamerican Reef is a great alternative. Starting at the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, it stretches nearly 700 miles along the coasts of Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras.
What to see: Along the Mesoamerican Reef it’s possible to find Loggerhead, Green and Leatherback turtles, as well as several species of shark – including nurse sharks and whale sharks. The Belize Barrier Reef, home to the famous Blue Hole, is part of the Mesoamerican Reef system, and is the second largest coral reef in the world.
Florida Keys, USA
North America’s only living coral reef can be found off the southeast coast of Florida, running 221 miles from Key Biscayne to the Dry Tortugas. Much of the reef has been designated as America’s first underwater state park, the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
What to see: Larger animals include bottlenose dolphins and manatees. Also popular with divers are the numerous shipwrecks in the area.
Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Legendary amongst scuba divers, the coral reefs of Raja Ampat are often considered the best place to dive in the world. This reef holds the world record for the most fish species seen on a single dive; a staggering 284! Being fairly hard to reach and not particularly well known means that Raja Ampat is far less visited than many of the other reefs, making it a fantastic alternative to the more popular Great Barrier Reef.
What to see: Home to over 1200 fish species, the reefs around Raja Ampat are considered the richest coral reef on earth. Keep an eye out for the rare Raja Ampat walking shark, a species of epaulette shark that can only be found here.
Red Sea Coral Reef, Red Sea
At around 1,200 miles long, the Red Sea Coral Reef stretches along the coast of several countries, including Egypt and Israel. Its northern end is one of the world’s most popular dive locations, but if you want to get a little off the beaten path, head to the less visited southern end.
What to see: Bursting with life and home to many rare fish and animal species, the Red Sea Coral Reef is rightly popular with divers. Rare sailfish, silky sharks, and scalloped hammerheads can all be seen in these waters, and almost 20% of the species found here are not found anywhere else in the world.
Planning a range of adventurous trips over the next year? Don’t forget to organise your Annual Multi-Trip insurance to give you peace of mind on all your holidays.