An integral part of the ocean’s thriving marine landscape is coral reefs, which protect marine ecosystems, fortify coastlines, and offer livelihood opportunities to thousands across the globe. Conscious tourism and a series of impactful mandates to reduce emissions are underway to preserve them. To shed light on these efforts, we take a look at some of the most beautiful coral reefs around the world. By Eshita Srinivas
Humans have explored far greater percentages of the surface of the moon and planet Mars than the ocean bed. Several untold stories lay dormant in these vast waters, and much about what lies underneath is still uncertain to us. What isn’t, however, is the importance of coral reefs. They are large underwater structures composed of the skeletons of marine invertebrate species called coral. They’re found in oceans, the biggest being in the shallow waters of the tropics and subtropics.
Corals protect shorelines from the effects of hurricanes and are home to thousands of species. Several travellers head to different parts to take in the stunning sight of these important aquatic features. However, global warming, pollution, and overfishing have slowly begun destroying them. It’s important, hence, to visit the ones that aren’t restricted to professionals. That said, here are 10 breathtakingly beautiful reefs around the world that are worth a dip in the ocean.
These coral reefs are home to beautiful marine landscapes
The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and featured as one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is one of the most decorated reefs in the world. It also happens to be the largest, with 400 types of coral, 1,500 types of fish and 4,000 types of mollusc. It’s also home to a rare large green turtle named dugong. A news report by the Guardian also revealed that a rainbow-like blanket octopus was spotted here quite recently.
The reef is situated off the coast of Queensland and can be visited through one of the hundreds of islands located on its waters. Most recently, Australia pledged AUD 700 million (INR 3740 crore) to protect the reefs.
Raja Ampat Reefs, Indonesia
A favourite with most divers, the reefs of Raja Ampat islands have over 450 species of reef-building coral, making it the area with the largest coral reef biodiversity-based solely on size. These are located in the Coral Triangle, which is a marine region located in the Pacific Ocean that has 75 percent of all recognizable coral species. Colourful marine life, including 1,427 species of fish, call this their home and the resources from here sustain several livelihoods.
Rainbow Reef, Fiji
Couched in between the islands of Vanua Levu and Taveuni, this reef is known for its kaleidoscope of vibrant hues, hence the name rainbow. When underwater, you might spot over about 1,200 species of fish. Soft corals, non-reef building corals like sea fingers and sea whips are in abundance, giving the region the title of the soft coral capital of the world. About 230 hard and soft corals can be seen here. A range of species such as the clown triggerfish, anemonefish, unicornfish, nudibranchs, and schools of sharks and barracudas call this their home.
House Reefs, Maldives
Maldivan islands, all 1,200 of them, feature a stunning coral landscape and are home to three percent of the world’s coral reefs. Each island resort has its own big reef and small reef, some just a few metres below the surface. Many, called house reefs, are easily accessible and right off the beach. Over 250 species of coral, 1,100 species of fish, 5 species of marine turtles, and 20 species of marine mammals can be witnessed here. Their stunning landscape has been hit by climate change but the Maldivan government has been working towards reducing the damage and the results have been encouraging. Many locals depend on the tourism the corals bring for their livelihoods.
Red Sea Coral Reef, Red Sea
Between the scorching hot arid deserts of the Sahara and the Arabian lies a refreshing, stunning 1,900 kilometre-long coral reef in the Red Sea. It’s home to over 300 hard coral species and 1,200 fish. Researchers and scientists have taken a particular interest in this reef since it’s extremely resilient and employs biological mechanisms to shield itself from extreme temperature changes. This could hold the key to the conservation of reefs across the globe that are suffering due to global warming.
Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Philippines
One of the most popular diving and snorkelling sites in the world, the Tubbataha reefs are home to 600 species of fish, 360 species of coral, 13 species of dolphins and whales, 11 species of sharks as well as Hawksbill and green sea turtles. The mighty manta ray can also be spotted here. This diversity, along with the fact that these reefs are pristine, led to the natural park being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Palancar Reef, Mexico
A large coral reef to the Southwest of the island of Cozumel, this one’s a part of the Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park and divided into several sections based on depth and the formations of the corals themselves. Although not as large as most others, this reef features crayon-like hues of reds and yellows and is home to seahorses, lobsters, rays, barracudas, sea fans, squirrelfish, parrotfish, and butterflyfish.
Great Chagos Archipelago, Indian Ocean
Located in the centre of the Indian Ocean are 55 islands and the world’s most protected coral formations. Half of the world’s corals are found here, and the high coral cover has given rise to more fish per square metre than any other country’s reefs. Ctenella chagius, a type of coral that resembles a brain, is found here. As are dolphins, turtles, whales, and other more rare marine species like Chagos Anemonefish that can’t be found anywhere else. Due to conservation efforts and the presence of the military, diving here is restricted at the moment. Only researchers are allowed to head here.
Belize Barrier Reef, Belize
The third UNESCO World Heritage Site on this list, the entirety of the Belize Barrier system, the largest in the northern hemisphere, has coastal lagoons and mangrove forests. 106 hard and soft coral species are complemented by 500 species of fish. Climate change had nearly damaged this stunning spot a few years ago, but conservation efforts have allowed it to thrive again. The reef is home to vibrant marine life and protects several small islands and the coast of the Caribbean nation of Belize. It’s also a favoured spot for swimming and snorkelling by visitors and several fishermen depend on it for their livelihood.
Rose-Shaped Coral Reefs, Tahiti
This reef was discovered in November last year by a team of UNESCO on a research mission. One of the largest in the world, it’s pristine condition and healthy rose-shaped corals have caught the attention of people across the globe. The reef is believed to be located at a depth of 30 and 65 metres and is approximately three kilometres in length. This depth is unusual for coral reefs, which usually sit at 25 metres below the surface, but scientists have pointed out that this could mean that there are several reefs beyond the ocean’s “twilight zone” of which not much is known.
Which of these is going into your bucket list?