Grab your snorkelling gear – it's time to explore the waters of these destinations in Asia
When you’re done lazing around Asia’s best beaches (or villas!), put on your mask, snorkel, and fins and dive into the blue to explore a different side of these hot vacation spots. Here are our top 10 destinations in Asia to see big, beautiful corals, turtles, rays, sharks and more.
Pulau Perhentian, Terengganu, Malaysia
Terengganu’s well known for its crystal-clear waters, and the two islands that make up Pulau Perhentian – Besar and Kechil – are no exception. It’s a great place to spot sea turtles and small sharks (don’t worry, reef sharks won’t bite).
Getting here: Fly to Kuala Terengganu, and then take either a bus or taxi to Kuala Besut jetty for boat services to Pulau Perhentian
Nusa Penida, Bali, Indonesia
You’d need to scuba dive to see Nusa Penida’s main star – the ocean sunfish. But for an encounter that’s just as exhilarating, you can snorkel at the Manta Point site and spend hours swimming with schools of playful manta rays.
Getting here: Fly to Bali, and then head to Sanur beach for boat services to Nusa Penida
Donsol, Sorsogon, Philippines
In 2014, TIME Magazine named Donsol the best wildlife encounter destination in Asia. What exactly can you spot here? Whale sharks, lots and lots of them, feeding on plankton near the water surface. Best time to visit: February through May.
Getting here: Fly from Manila to Legaspi, and take a public van to Donsol
Cenderawasih Bay, West Papua, Indonesia
Another spot that’s ideal for some whale shark action is Cenderwasih Bay in Indonesia’s remote West Papua province. Sure, it’s not easy to get to this place, but ponder the fact that you’ll get to spend lots of time with these gentle giants, sans annoying crowds. Convinced yet?
Getting here: Fly from Jakarta to Nabire Airport, and then rent a boat to Cenderawasih Bay
Gili Islands, Lombok, Indonesia
In addition to party boats, yoga, and surfing, Gili Islands is a popular destination among snorkellers, thanks to its beautiful shallow reefs and its sea turtle population. Either rent masks or fins off the beach, or go on a snorkelling boat trip that will take you to three or four spots.
Getting here: Fly to Ngurah Rai International Airport in South Bali and take a fast boat from Benoa or Serangan Island
Havelock Island, The Andaman Islands, India
The best thing about snorkelling around the Andaman Islands in India is that the most gorgeous sites are actually really near the shore, so just grab your gear and go. Elephant Beach on Havelock’s extremely popular, and in the water, you can expect to see critters like butterflyfish, parrotfish, snappers, and clams.
Getting here: Fly from Chennai to Port Blair, and then head to Port Blair Harbour for ferry services to Havelock Island
Cape Maeda, Okinawa, Japan
One of Okinawa’s most popular snorkelling spots, Cape Maeda is home to a colourful array of marine life – from turtles to sharks, and even manta rays. The most spectacular feature of this site is inarguably the Blue Cave. Located at Maeda Point, you can swim into the cave and be mesmerised by the blue-coloured sunrays that beam down from above.
Getting here: Fly from Tokyo to Okinawa Naha, and then rent a car to Cape Maeda
Pulau Kakaban, Derawan, Indonesia
It’s about a 12-hour journey from Singapore to Derawan, but for the uber-unique experience of snorkelling with millions of stingless jellyfish on the island of Kakaban, we say it’s worth it. It’s a bit of a trek to get to Jellyfish Lake from the main jetty, but when you get there, you’ll be greeted with crowd-free waters and majestic green hills towering over the lake.
Getting here: Fly from Jakarta to Tarakan. From Tarakan, rent a speedboat to Derawan Island
Maalifushi Island, Southern Thaa Atoll, Maldives
With amazing marine life to be seen off the pristine beaches, private island resort, Maalifushi by COMO (located on the idyllic Southern Thaa Atoll), is a great place to stay if you’re a snorkelling fanatic. Plus, there’s a resident marine biologist on-site to answer your various queries.
Getting here: Fly to Malé International Airport in Maldives, and then take a Sea Plane Transfer to Maalifushi Island
Green Island, Taitung, Taiwan
Besides cycling and hiking, Taiwan’s Green Island is great for both diving and snorkelling. The water visibility can go up to 20 metres, and you’re likely to see marine life such as moray eels, parrotfish, and sea snakes while exploring the island’s cool waters.
Getting here: Fly to Taipei, and then hop on a train to Taitung. Afterwards, take a quick taxi ride to the ferry dock for ferry services to Green Island
Hikkaduwa, Galle, Sri Lanka
The clear waters of Hikkaduwa – a small town situated about 17 kilometres North-West of Galle – are great for spotting tropical reef fish like angelfish and snappers. If you’re lucky, a green turtle might show up!
Getting here: Fly to Colombo Airport in Sri Lanka, and then rent a car to Hikkaduwa