As boaters from the Florida Keys to the northern Caribbean began hurricane recovery efforts last fall, one of the first things they said was that the coral reefs seemed to be okay. Yes, Hurricanes Irma, Jose and Maria left massive destruction on land and in marinas, but underwater, for the most part, the diving and snorkeling hot spots appeared to be all right. That being said, here's some of the best destinations for snorkeling and diving to explore.
The Florida Keys and northern Caribbean—including the U.S. and British Virgin Islands—still have some of the best destinations for divers and snorkelers to visit in the Western Hemisphere. There are the longtime classics, such as John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park off Key Largo and the Virgin Islands National Park underwater snorkeling trail at Trunk Bay off St. John. A little farther south are the many snorkeling and diving sites of the northern Caribbean, everywhere from Antigua to St. Kitts and Nevis. (Every bareboat base, from Sunsail to the Moorings, can tell you where to pick up a mooring ball and don your fins).
Divers and snorkelers who are willing to travel farther afield can book charters—on bareboats or crewed yachts—in more exotic locales. Nowadays, charter yachts go to destinations that are far less popular, and thus more pristine, with colorful, vibrant reefs that stretch on for mile after mile.
For instance, Northrop and Johnson has been organizing a fleet of crewed charter yachts off the coast of Australia. Itineraries are available everywhere from the capital city of Sydney and its famous harbor to the Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef, which has long been a destination for divers from all around the globe. The 115-foot power catamaran Spirit, in particular, has set up its program, crew, tenders and other equipment to incorporate multiple dives a day into charters of a few days to a few weeks on the Great Barrier Reef.
Even more remote (and thus untouched underwater) is the Raja Ampat section of Indonesia, where companies including Camper & Nicholsons International are now promoting luxury crewed charters for scuba and snorkeling enthusiasts. Silolona Sojourns has long been a market leader in that part of the world, offering itineraries that can be as much, or as little, about snorkeling and diving as the clients would like them to be.
And of course, there is French Polynesia in the South Pacific, where the snorkeling and diving from Tahiti to Bora Bora and the neighboring Tuamotus archipelago can include not only giant coral heads, but also massive manta rays, lemon sharks and more. The experts at 37 South Yacht Charter market several yachts in this region, including some that are specially outfitted for scuba diving in particular.
If you're searching for more destinations to add to your travel wish list, check out the Top 10 Fishing Destinations Bucket List.