GoPro cameras have become probably the most popular camera for snorkeling, and for a number or solid reasons. Their small size is perfect for traveling, not to mention all GoPro’s from the Hero 5 on are waterproof to certain depths without a housing. That being said, it’s wise to use a housing for added security. Even though the GoPro’s are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand they pack a serious punch where image quality is concerned-both in the film and photo department as they offer 4K footage and a solid 12 megapixel photo with RAW format capabilities. However, despite all of these stellar specs and intuitive design—I see a lot of people struggling with their GoPro cameras in a variety of areas. So, to hopefully alleviate some of these camera issues to make your snorkeling experience better, I’ve put together a quick list of the most common problems I see with simple remedies.  Here we go. 

I never edit my footage because I always have too much

If you’re one of those people who strap the GoPro on your wrist and swim around with your arm constantly extended like Mega man while the camera records the entirety of the snorkel session…herein lies your problem. It’s a good idea to fall into the habit of pressing record only when you want to film something. Just by doing this you will then have a series of short clips which are easy to scroll though so you can find the exact moment you are looking for, rather than scrubbing through hours of dizzying footage. 

Everything I film looks so small and far away

All GoPro’s are equipped with a very wide fish eye lens which causes this effect. This is a good thing though as a really wide lens is the best for underwater imaging, so long as we keep one simple thing in mind. Get closer! We need to get close to our subjects-as close a physically possible without damaging the reef or bothering the subject. This will improve the overall clarity of your image as we are now shooting though less water while filling the frame with the subject. The GoPro lens is best for large subjects like turtles-mantas-and reefcapes. Shy subjects who prefer to keep their distance are not ideal subjects to concentrate on, take a mental photo and move on. 

The colors keep changing when I’m filming

This is a white balance issue and is a result of the Auto White Balance (AWB) trying to figure out what white balance setting is best for the constantly changing light underwater. The best thing to do is to turn off the AWB so it’s set to a single color temperature. 

My red filter makes everything looks super red and turns the water purple.

The reason for this is because you are using a red filter that is too strong, or too red. We use stronger red filters when we go deeper to compensate for the lack of red. However, since we are snorkeling and our subjects in the shallows we need just a bit of red. Switching to a lighter shade of red—something that will work up to five meters or fifteen feet in depth—will alleviate any unappealing colors and bring out the natural colors of our subjects.

My videos and photos are always very shaky and blurry.

To create more steady videos and sharp photos takes a bit of practice, and possibly some simple accessories. As snorkelers we are constantly being moved around by the waves on the surface—no matter how flat the water may seem so we need to be extra aware of this. When you see something you want to film or photograph try to duck dive down a bit, even a meter will make a huge difference. Another thing that will help will be to ditch the selfie stick and mount your camera on a tray with a single or double handle. After all, when is the last time we saw a professional camera operator using a selfie stick in the field? 

Komodo is famous for a lot of things—most notably it’s giant carnivorous lizards—which rule the uninhabited islands. As tourism started to grow in Indonesia people quickly learned that the Komodo Dragons were not the only thing unique to the area—and that it in fact had some of the most biodiverse marine life in the world. Diving and snorkeling became even more popular than the large terrestrial reptiles and now people are coming from all over the world to witness Komodo’ underwater splendor. After spending years diving and snorkeling Komodo, we’ve put together a quick list of what we believe to be Komodo’s best snorkeling sites. 

#5 Turtle CityTwo green sea turtles with black background

As you may have guessed, the site known as Turtle City is riddled with sea-turtles. The shallow protected hard coral reef has become a natural sanctuary for the large green sea-turtles and as snorkelers we can casually float above them as they go about their naps and enjoy the many cleaning stations where small cleaner fish peck off any parasites and algae from their shells. 

#4 Batu Bolongcolorful reef and reef fish

Batu Bolong is a small rock island in the middle of Komodo National Park where all sort of marine life congregate. It hosts one of the most immaculate and diverse reefs in the park and come just a few centimeters from the surface. Living within the reef is a massive colony of orange anthias who explode from the reef in a brilliant flurry. Larger marine life like tunas, giant trevallies, and the occasional pod of dolphin are all things that can be seen on this magical site. 

#3 Tatawa Besar

If you like drifting over reef and just watching everything go by—you’ll love Tatawa Besar. This elongated island is the perfect drift for snorkelers as it’s fringed by another bustling shallow reef home to all sorts of fish like sweet lips, crocodile fish and cuttle fish while mantas and eagle rays are not uncommon encounters either. 

#2 Manta Pointmany mantas feeding on the surface

Manta point is probably one of the most famous sites in Komodo thanks to it’s resident fleet of mantas who use the dozens of cleaning stations on a daily basis. In the mornings when the water is flat, and with a decent current, (don’t worry you just drift with it) the mantas come to the surface to feed on the plankton which is trapped in the shallow water all around the drifting snorkelers. 

#1 China Shophard coral reef with manta swimming through blue water

China shop is sort of a hidden secret, but in our opinion one of the best spots for snorkelers. The shallow reef is in pristine conditions and extends for hundreds of meters in either direction, and it can offer everything Komodo is famous for in one snorkel session. Mantas frequently feed in the channel at the edge of the site while many turtles live in it’s outstanding reef along with any other reef creature you could wish for. Oh, it also happens to be the same site where one lucky diver had one of the most unusual underwater encounters in recent history when a mega-mouth shark swam right over their head a few years back! 


VIDEO: See how amazing these sites are in this short video.

What is a House Reef?

This is the term we give to reefs that lie in front of resorts, off the jetty or beach that can be accessed directly or by a short swim, usually not requiring a boat ride.

house reef and pier at komodo resort

Why we love House Reefs?

Unlike reefs that can only be access by boat, having a good house reef provides us with the option of getting into the water when ever we want to, rather than at some pre-arranged time. And means that we can spend as long in the water as we choose. Also, very often one can go for an evening or night time snorkel more easily on a house reef as it’s close, often sheltered in a bay,

Being close to the shore also provides stunning opportunities for photographers to get interesting split-shots. More about that here.

Wakatobi is one of Indonesia’s most beautiful snorkeling areas. The reefs here are in impeccable condition as very few boats/resorts have access to the area, which is a well managed marine park. The house reef offers stunning shallow water ideal for snorkeling. The resort staff will gladly give you a ride on a small boat if you want to explore a section of reef a little further away from the entry point, otherwise you can just bumble in, under the watchful gaze of the lookout staff. More than 400 fish and 700 coral species have been recorded on this house reef, pretty amazing really. Because visiting Wakatobi involves a 2.5 hour charter flight from Bali, you are unlikely to encounter many other people on this reef, which covers a huge expanse so one could spend days snorkeling only the house reef without getting bored. Turtles, crocodile fish, rays, leaf fishes and more await discovery.

aerial view of wakatobi resort

Misool Resort, located in southern Raja Ampat, is a private island resort, hidden in an otherwise uninhabited archipelago. The resort island boasts bright white beaches surrounded by stunning reef in warm turquoise water. The house reef here offers miles of pristine coral and great chances of seeing schooling jacks, turtles, octopus and large schools of bumphead parrot fish. There are also lots of baby black tip sharks to be found in the shallows. The famed “walking shark” can also often be spotted on the shallows on a night snorkel.Misool resort bungalow with baby sharks in the shallow water

Komodo Resort, located on a small island on the outskirts of Komodo National Park, has a beautiful house reef running along its beach. Accessible from the jetty (as not to trample the coral) or by small rib, this reef has brightly coloured hard corals in the shallows sloping gently onto a slightly deeper sandy area alive with schools of fish like snappers and jacks. The jetty itself has become a hub of marine life, offering shade and shelter for large schools of fish, and many crabs and shrimp. The sandy part of the reef is home to loads of various sea stars and rays. We have spotted many an eagle ray “flying” over this reef.

Split shot of Komodo resort and its house reef

Nunukan Island Resort, located on a tiny private island off the coast of Indonesian Borneo, has a 4KM long house reef along its shores. Accessable from the jetty or from small boats this reef starts in the very shallow water and leads all the way down to 40m. Here we always see turtles, often encounter sharks and various rays, and commonly see other interesting fish like leaf fish, loads of nudibranchs, octopus, various schools of brightly coloured fish and a wide array of healthy corals.

Aerial view of Nunukan Island and reef

Alami Alor is an intimate resort situated on the rocky shores of Alor Island, and has a stunning house reef directly in front of it. Accessible from the jetty or boat drop off, this reef is a treasure trove. We often see small schools of juvenile reef sharks in the mornings, and for the evenings entertainment we can watch Mandarin fish mating in the shallows. The time in between is filled with lively schools of fish, octopus, nudibranchs, eels, crabs, shrimps and more. Under the jetty we usually find huge schools of fish, and lots of juveniles like trumpet fish and bat fish looking for refuge.

Giant frogfish on jetty in Alor












The Top 5 spots for Snorkelling Raja Ampat

Alongside Indonesia’s Komodo, snorkelling Raja Ampat is a paradise with endless opportunities. What makes Raja Ampat so good is its range of shallow reef systems – everything from a variety of corals and reef fish – all seen with outstanding water clarity. What’s more is that Raja Ampat offers more than your typical tropical reefscape. Raja Ampat boasts an impressive diversity of sites, everything from clear blue mangroves to village jetties bursting with colorful life.

Raja Ampat has over 65% of all of the worlds known species of corals which means there is an incomprehensible amount of marine life to see once you are there.

Snorkelling Raja Ampat provides the most pristine and untouched reefs. We have compiled a complete guide of the very best snorkel spots to check out on your next visit:

5) Manta Sandy and Manta Ridge: Dampier Straight

Snorkeler Surrounded by Manta Rays

Manta Sandy and Manta Ridge are easily some of the most popular sites in Raja Ampat, quick hint, it’s not  because of gobies. These two sites, which are part of a large network of sandbars, submerged bays, channels, and several popular cleaning stations offer up everything a manta could ever wish for. The underwater topography is ideal for funneling and trapping plankton on the surface for easy feeding, while the cleaning stations offer them respite from the tiny parasites on their body. What does all this mean for snorkelers? Well, as it’s the most predictable place to see mantas in Raja, it can mean pretty incredible manta encounters right on the surface!

4) Yiliet Beach aka Baby Shark Beach: Misool

baby black tip reef sharks in the shallows

This picturesque white sand beach lined with palm trees and dense jungle is more than just a nice place for a selfie. It also happens to be a nursery for baby black tip reef sharks. Stand at the waters edge and it won’t be long before you start to see little “Jaws” fins breaking the surface. Wade in a bit further and if you manage not to move much the foot long sharks will swim right over your feet! This is a great place to spend a surface interval as you can just pack along your mask and snorkel and float in very shallow water to watch the dozens and dozens of baby sharks swim over the white sand  and refine their inherent predatory skills, starting by ambushing leaves floating on the surface. 

3) Batu Rufus: Piaynemo

school of batfish in coral reef

The reef itself is stunning, with sea fans and sponges growing right up the side of the rock walls of the island, as shallow fields of hard coral extend well beyond the line of visibility. The shallows are a great place to find more turtles, and on this particular site, lots of adolescent baby black tip reef sharks. This is all very beautiful and exciting, but what really sets this site apart from some of the others is its signature arch or window lined with sea fans just beneath the waters surface. That’s not all, the opposite end of the site is where the opening to a lagoon the size of an olympic swimming pool. Be aware though, the lagoon is very shallow and blanketed with fragile hard coral and can only be accessed at high tide. 

2) The Mangroves: Dampier Straight

Snorkeling the mangroves of Raja Ampat is an absolutely magical experience, and unlike any  reef you will ever snorkel. Now, there are mangroves all over the world, but what makes Raja’s mangroves extra special is that the water is clear and the bottom is full of coral and not silt like the other mangroves. As you paddle along and enjoy the serene view of the arching mangrove roots reaching down to the reef from the canopy above to seemingly stitch the two world together, you’re sure to see some unusual suspects. Archer fish, known for spitting a precise arrow of water at insects crawling on the leaves above to knock them into the water, dwell within the chaos of the intertwined roots, along with juvenile batfish and quite often baby sharks who use the area as a nursery. At this point, I know you’re what most of you are thinking, what about crocodiles. Yes, it’s true that salt water crocodiles have been seen in the mangroves of Raja Ampat before, however, if you go to the right mangroves, the chances of seeing a crocodile are about as likely as seeing a polar bear. The area is small and visited daily by the day boats and liveaboards with everyone keeping a keen eye out. In five consecutive years of diving the mangroves every week, I have still yet to see one or hear of one in this particular area. 

1) Sauwandarek Jetty: Dampier Straight

School of fish swirling around pier pilings

Raja Ampat is famous for a number of things as you may already know, the area contains the most coral and fish species, it is home to the first established manta sanctuary, and it’s just really really beautiful! Something else Raja is famous for are it’s jetties, with Sawandarek Villag’s jetty quickly emerging as the most popular. It might sound strange, but beneath the horizontal wood slats of the gangway lies a stunning scene where humans, for once, seem to have created something that benefits the environment. Snorkeling between the vertical wood pilings give the impression of floating though a psychedelic forest as purple and pink soft coral cling to the structure. Fish of all sizes congregate around the jetty as it acts as place of refuge from the serrated jaws of the lurking barracuda and jack fish beyond. If you are really lucky, you may find your self in a swirling silver cloud of scads who occasionally visit the jetty. While the jetty is absolutely the highlight of this area, swim just beyond it and you’ll find yourself in a vast coral garden that goes on for hundreds of meters in either direction.

VIDEO: See how amazing these sites are in this short video.