It may appear that the world is falling apart, not just from the frantic pace of modern life and the global pandemic, but with climate change and pollution making an irreversible impact on many aquatic environments. However, there are still some parts of the Earth, some ocean pristine reefs that have managed to maintain their integrity, remaining relatively untouched.
The top 10 most pristine reefs are havens for underwater life, where coral is thriving and aquatic life is flourishing. As one of the most endangered ecosystems on the planet, the health of these reefs is essential to the preservation of Earth’s biodiversity.
This ocean paradise and Polynesian island has a coastline measuring 930 miles (1,500 km) and consists of 94 coral islands, containing an abundance of tropical fish and marine mammals. With minimal human impact, Palau has the most pristine reefs in the world.
The Sea of Palau and its surrounding waters are renowned for their outstanding marine life, from rare tropical coral reefs to white and brown albino sharks, all of which live together in harmony. This country is home to a spectacular array of marine life and its waters are clean and clear, with luxurious blue hues. Palau has become a thriving destination for scuba diving since being first discovered by Jacques Cousteau.
2. The Great Barrier Reef
This is a classic ‘must-see’ attraction and UNESCO World Heritage Site. It runs along Australia’s northeast coast and stretches more than 2,000 km long. Some reefs are now protected thanks to a non-profit organization called Coral Reef Alliance, which has helped protect over 500 reefs from damage caused by fishing nets that kill coral polyps.
This is the most well-known of the top 10 reefs on the planet, boasting a complex and colorful coral and fish community. The Great Barrier Reef was named one of the 10 most iconic marine experiences for 2020 by The Lonely Planet Guide, due to its beauty and value.
3. Raja Ampat
Most people who go to Indonesia for a holiday end up Diving in Bali. While Bali is beautiful, the marine life there is blemished by overcrowding, polluted water and overfishing. However, you can experience a different side of Indonesia by visiting Raja Ampat – a string of coral reefs along the country’s western coast.
Raja Ampat is unspoiled by human pollution and industrial activity. This province located in the eastern part of Indonesia is known for its pristine reefs.
Some of the coral reefs have a high level of resilience in terms of fish species and even marine mammals such as the mantas have a much-improved population. It has a little-known wildlife sanctuary that is one of the most biodiverse places on earth with more than 1,500 species of fish and 300 species of coral. You can see everything from sharks to whales to sea turtles to giant clams here and it is also home to the iconic Komodo dragons.
4.The Belize Barrier Reef
The Belize Barrier Reef is the second-largest reef system in the world, stretching across 3,600 miles. The reef system has an abundance of species of coral, all of which is exposed in its water at different times during the year, giving rise to a colourful bloom. It’s also home to diverse marine life and a wealth of tropical fish.
It is also one of the most diverse coral reefs in the world and home to the critically endangered western humphead wrasse, a threatened species. Scuba divers, scientists and conservationists work with the Belize Barrier Reef Alliance to improve and protect the reef’s health. Reefs are also part of the Belize tourism industry, with thousands of people each year visiting the underwater paradise.
5. The Maldives
The Maldives are home to around 70 coral atolls with an estimated 1,000 species of fish, 700 types of sponges and several hundred types of invertebrates. As such, the islands are considered some of the best places in the world for diving due to their relatively high levels of biological activity. Having some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, these islands are a haven for shore and boat diving, with over 100 coral reefs and unique endemic species.
6. Fiji Rainbow Reef
One of the few remaining reefs to offer a diverse range of ecosystems, the Fiji Rainbow Reef spans 7500 hectares of ocean. The reef is home to a diverse ecosystem of flora and fauna including colorful reef fish. Lush corals stretch through the entire area of the reef and the reef is home to millions of sea fans and butterflyfish, as well as deep-sea fish, turtles and dolphins. The Fiji Rainbow Reef is one of the most incredible underwater regions in the world, and truly a place to visit when planning a dive trip to Fiji.
7. The Red Sea
The Red Sea is teaming with marine life. Both the North and South of the Red Sea provide some excellent diving spots with colourful corals and incredible marine life, including sharks, dolphins and even the rare dugong. Thanks to its location, the reefs in the Red Sea are protected from storms, and fewer tourists have meant less bleaching of the corals.
The South Red Sea is particularly pristine and beautiful, a lot quieter and with fewer tourists. The coral reefs here are clear, clean and full of marine life. Your chances of seeing sea turtles, sharks, including hammerhead and oceanic whitetip sharks, as well as the dugong are much higher, not to mention the corals are full of life and colour.
8. San Miguel de Cozumel, México
An excellent diving location all year-round, San Miguel de Cozumel off the Mexican shore is renowned for its clear visibility, amazing colored corals and is teeming with marine life. The Marine Park of Cozumel has meant that this section of the Mexican coast has been protected for years and remained full of marine life, including over 500 species of tropical fish, along with rays, nurse sharks, reef sharks and turtles. This diving hub offers some of the most incredible diving locations on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second-largest barrier reef in the world.
9. The Philippines
With thousands of islands forming a huge archipelago in the central part of the Pacific Ocean, the Philippines has a vast network of pristine marine ecosystems teeming with life. The coral reefs found feature some of the largest hard and soft corals in the world. The islands also boast the second-largest contiguous coral reef system in the world, including over 300 marine species. This popular destination and dive hub is well-known for its stunning beaches and beautiful coastal scenery.
Mauritius is well known for its crystal-clear waters and for being one of the most under-populated nations on the planet – not to mention harder-to-get-to locations. As such, the underwater life on the island is incredibly diverse and the country is known for having some of the best dive sites in the world. It is the pristine reefs that makes this small island so remarkable. A single reef on the island can support more than 10,000 reef fish. Over the years, the reefs of Mauritius have become a global symbol of the importance of marine protection and sustainably managed fisheries.