As a little kid I used to fill my sand box up with water—turning it into a mud box—and then would set out with my ski goggles on to for an afternoon snorkel session. I don’t remember seeing much in the way of tropical reef life in that second or two I had before my ski goggles filled up with water, but I didn’t care, I was snorkeling! With this in mind, I suppose that so long as you have a bit of water you can snorkel anywhere. However, if you really want to get the best snorkels possible then there’s a few key tings you should have in mind as you decide on where your next snorkel holiday is going to be.


Lagoon in Raja Ampat

If it’s that quintessential tropical snorkeling experience you are after, Asia—more specifically the countries within the Coral Triangle, really tick all the boxes. Why? Well, within this imaginary boundary that encompass Indonesia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands you can find 76% of the world’s coral species. Of course, there are great places to snorkel outside the Coral Triangle like the barrier reef off of Belize, or Palau, and French Polynesia. However, if you really want the best of the best of shallow coral reefs, tropical fish, and solid chances to encounter larger marine life like mantas and turtles you can’t really go wrong with the coral triangle.


Topography and the overall shape of the coast line really do play a big part in how the snorkeling will be. Deep bays for example are generally not great places to snorkel as the water movement is less here and what often happens is sediment accumulates here making the visibility poor. Stretches of reef more exposed to the open ocean are always going to have better visibility as the water movement keeps the sediment and particles in constant motion. This also means more marine-life is it tends to congregate around areas where there is more water movement.

aerial view of tropical island and coral lagoon


Depth is arguably the most important factor when considering where to snorkel. If we are really going to get the most out of our snorkel session then we want beautiful coral reef and marine life up close to the surface. You don’t want to spend your time cruising over a reef that’s consistently fifteen feet deep where the colors are less vibrant and the fish are well out of reach. The idea is to have the reef and fish at an arms length so we can not only see everything better but also so we can take our photos without becoming a championship freediver. This can become a bit of a tricker thing to find, unless of course you snorkeling in places like Raja Ampat, Komodo, Alor, Palau, French Polynesia, or Belize where the reefs literally come to the surface.

The Coral Triangle is a rough triangular area that starts with the Philippines in the north and runs southwest along the east coast of Borneo where it then follows the the southern chain of islands in Indonesia to the Solomon islands where it then heads north west up the coast of Papua New Guinea back to the Philippines. What’s the significance of this obscure triangular shape that is really more blob than triangle? Within this imaginary boundary lies what marine biologists refer to as the global epicenter of marine biodiversity. This area only occupies 1.6% of the world’s oceans but it holds 76% of all known coral species. Basically what this translates to is hyper-dense and diverse reefs which is home to thousands of different marine creatures that range from tiny nudibranchs, six of the seven species of sea turtle, both species of manta ray, lakes full of stingless jellyfish, shoals of fish, and everyones bucket list animal—the whale shark. What does all of this translate to? A seemingly endless supply of predictably epic snorkeling!

Even though the Coral Triangle area occupies less than two percent of the worlds oceans, it is still a massive area and literally full of islands. Indonesia alone has over seventeen thousand and the Philippines has nearly eight thousand. I suppose technically you just just pick a point at random within this magical blobby triangle in the tropics and have a pretty good chance of the snorkeling being awesome, but we wouldn’t recommend that. There are some destinations which may be better for divers as the reef and marine life start a bit deeper, while there are others areas which are really more suitable for snorkeling because the reefs and marine are quite literally at the surface. Here’s a quick break down of areas we believe to to offer some of the best snorkeling in the Coral Triangle. 

Raja Ampat Indonesia

Aerial view of Raja Ampat Islands

Raja Ampat  is a stunning islands off the west coast of Indonesian Papua, aka West Papua. Raja is usually referred to as the Kingdom of Coral as holds some seriously impressive records for marine diversity. Because of it’s large size and sheer volume of marine life and coral one could literally snorkel the area for years on end and not run out of new things to see. 

Alor Indonesia

Pristine coral reef in Alor

Alor is a cluster of twenty islands in south-east Indonesia and most famous for it’s undeveloped islands and truly pristine reefs. Also, because of the large movement of water through these island it also makes it a great place to encounter larger pelagic species on the surface like the giant ocean sun fish and blue whales!

Komodo Indonesia

One of Indonesia’s most iconic national parks made famous by the giant prehistoric Komodo dragons. Large terrestrial reptiles aside, Komodo is also very well known as a place for big action in the water with regular encounters from manta rays, turtles, sharks, giant schools of fish, and the occasional dugong if you are really lucky!


Nunukan Resort rooms

Ok, so Palau is not technically within the boundaries of the Coral Triangle but it’s so close to the imaginary line that you’ll still be blown away with the diversity of marine life and coral. While Palau hosts a healthy population of reef sharks and mantas thanks to it’s massive preservation efforts, what it’s most famous for is it’s highly unique lake full of stingless jellyfish. 

Moalboal Philippines

Coral Reef Scene with beautiful light in pescador island

Moalboal is a small coastal town in the south of Cebu island and it’s endless  fringing plateaus of reef which abruptly turn in to vertical walls that plunge into the blue abyss are iconic to the Philippines. The disco colored mandarine fish are found in colonies along the shallows while one of the largest residential shoals of sardines swarms just just meters off the soft coral covered walls. 


The Philippine’s unique location in the heart of the Coral Triangle makes it one of the world’s premiere snorkeling destinations. Much like Indonesia, the Philippines hold some of the world’s most bio diverse and pristine reefs, vast quantities of reef fish and larger marine species like sea turtles and whale sharks. With 7,641 islands to choose from in the Philippines it can be a daunting task of choosing the right one to visit. To save you a bit of a headache we’ve taken on the task of narrowing down the destinations to the three we feel offer the best balance between travel logistics, the resorts, and of course the snorkeling.  For those of you who have not had the pleasure of visiting the Philippines, here a little run down of what you’re missing or should expect on a Snorkel Venture trip to the Philippines.

The Snorkeling Around Moalboal-Cebu Island 

Green sea turtle swimming over coral reef

Moalboal is typically our fist stop on our current Philippines itinerary and it’s reefs are on the doorstep of the resort. Moalboal is a small town on the southern side of Cebu, and given the islands elongated shape the reef that fringes it just continues on and on and on. In the shallowest portions of the reef you’ll find vast sea grass and sargasum seaweed beds where strange little critters like pipe fish and file fish hide among the aquatic vegetation. When the water gets to be about three feet deep the sea grass tapers off and you’ll find yourself amongst the fields of hard coral and sponges. The reefs are home to many different marine species from the famous lion fish, a number of species of clown fish, sea turtles, sea snakes, and a rainbow of colorful reef fish that look like multi colored glitter suspended in the water column. One thing that is unique to Moalboal is that just a few meters off the doorstep of the resort is a residential colony of mandarine fish!

The Snorkeling around Cabilao Island

Snorkelers floating above coral wall

Cabilao is a much smaller island just a bit east of Cebu and a few hundred meters west of the island of Bohol. The reefs here in Cabilao are in my opinion some of the most unique of the this particular tour. First of all, the area is quite remote and secluded so you can be sure that you will be the only snorkelers in the area. But what really sets this place apart in my mind is that the shallow reefs, which eventually give way to breathtaking walls full fo sea fans and soft coral, are a labyrinth of coral structures which gave me the feeling of floating over a fantastical city. Dive down and you can get a ‘street view’ of the underwater world as you swim through the surreal coral architecture. 

The Snorkeling around Anda-Bohol Island 

Anda is a small rural town on the south coast of Bohol and along it’s entire coast line is a stunning fringing reef which just goes on and on like Moalboal’s does. The reef itself start a bit deeper than the other two sites with the shallowest point we’ve found to be around a meter or so, but average around two to three meters. While Moalboal tends to be more hard coral, Anda’s reefs can largely be characterized as a mixture of sponges, leather corals, and hard corals. The reefs are home to many green sea turtles as well as sea snakes, scorpion fish, and once again all the glittery little reef fish. Once of the favorite things to do here is to just float over the point of the reef which abruptly turns into a deep blue wall. This allows us to keep an eye in the blue for larger marine life like turtles and the odd whale shark which are not uncommon in the area, while also enjoying the stunning view of the reef.