The Best Coral Reef Locations: the Maldives or the Great Barrier Reef?

 

The coral reef of the island of Funamadua, Gaafu Alifu Atoll, the Maldives.
The coral reef of the island of Funamadua, Gaafu Alifu Atoll, the Maldives.

The underwater map of the world has few great snorkeling locations. We constantly look for new places, learning about the Seychelles, Belize, or the Bahamas, but every time, we return to the Maldives.

It seems like snorkeling does not require special training and expensive equipment: just buy a mask and fins, and you can admire underwater life as long as you want or can. However, the incredibly beautiful and extremely fragile global coral reef ecosystem is threatened with extinction, so for a healthy coral reef, you will have to search. Unfortunately, in most cases, it will not be located near your home.

Since 1770, when the Endeavour, the legendary sailing ship of James Cook, suddenly ran aground in the middle of the sea, the area between Australia’s North Queensland and Papua New Guinea was haunted for travelers. Sailors avoided it, but snorkelers would give much for a vacation among the tangled chains of the coral reefs and shoals of the Great Barrier Reef. We also are not averse to joining them, but even today the way to the Great Barrier Reef will require no less effort than the removal of the Endeavour from shallow ground. Think, a flight from Europe, for example, takes about 30 hours.

The beauty of underwater life of the Australian coast is legendary. Somebody said that, getting to Wilson reef, snorkelers, barely throw their bags into the hotel room, and sink into the water, leaving it only an hour before departure from the hotel. I readily believe you can relax wonderfully there … for ten thousand dollars a day. In general, few have seen the Great Barrier Reef with their own eyes except during the Snorkel Safari from the town of Cairns for $45 for fifty minutes. Well, those who were lucky enough to spend their holiday on this famous reef, apparently, do not run travel blogs.

The Endeavour

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia.
The Great Barrier Reef

From Europe, it is also difficult to get to the other famous coral reefs—Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii, or Belize and Guatemala—therefore this year, we again flew to the Maldives.

What do you know about the Maldives except that it is a paradise on Earth with palm trees and golden sand? Look under the water. Maybe cartoon Nemo with his dad Marlin and funny girl/fish Wanda live precisely here? For a home, fidgety clownfish chose beautiful sea anemones which are absolutely safe for them, but you’d better stay away from them because they are toxic. Here, you can swim with sea turtles, as long as you are not bothering them and they will leave you far behind despite all your efforts to catch them. Admiring the coral gardens, you can meet a shark, and I tell you frankly, many people come here just for that.

Clownfish. Snorkeling on the Maldives.

Sea turtle. Snorkeling. Coral reef of the Maldives.

Sea turtle. Snorkeling. Coral reef of the Maldives.

Reef shark. Coral reef of the Maldives.

It is a pity that some corals (for example, Acropora palmata and A. cervicornis) are becoming another victim of global warming. They serve as a home for many species of fish which may also disappear. Despite the fact that Maldivian coral reefs are smaller than reefs of the Egyptian shore of the Red Sea, and much smaller than the Great Barrier Reef, they are the best we have seen in our life.

Coral reef of the Maldives.

Snorkeling. Coral reef of the Maldives.

Snorkeling on the Maldives.

Snorkeling on the Maldives.

It is difficult to find a coral reef with rich underwater life that is interesting, not only for divers, but also for snorkelers. Sometimes we spend a few months searching for an island for the next visit. It’s very convenient that a vacation on the Maldives is possible year round, and a flight from Europe is short. However, the choice of the reef can be complicated by the choice of the island-hotel.

Hundreds of Maldivian hotels are ready to accept you, even if we exclude the most expensive; however, we have to take into account some nuances. For example, a hotel may not have a coral reef, but only a lagoon with emerald water. Or their coral reef may be located on an underwater wall with a vertical drop-off and a strong current along it, and inexperienced swimmers just will not dare to swim in such conditions to see everything that is hidden under the water. Or some people simply don’t tolerate curry, and will be forced to look for a hotel with a European chef.

What else is as important for an idyllic vacation in the tropics is a simple thing such as the absence of cockroaches in the bungalows. Mankind wrongly considers itself the king of nature, but any zoologist will tell you that our planet belongs to insects. Unfortunately, they are superior to us not only in quantity, but also in the ability to survive. I remember that in my childhood, my father showed me an ant under a microscope. For dozens of years before the movie Alien came out, I saw a real, live alien, a monster. I remembered it for a lifetime. Irina’s attitude toward insects is much stricter than mine: in the case of a single mention of insects in a review, the hotel is ruthlessly deleted from the list of choices. This obstacle is insurmountable—paradise and cockroaches are incompatible concepts for Irina.

So, trying to take into account all the aforementioned, we chose the Robinson Club Maldives 4*. You know, it’s nice to live a little like Robinson Crusoe on an idyllic island in the middle of the ocean without also experiencing the deprivations of the famous hermit.

Ten hours of flight, and we were in Kaadedhdhoo Airport. The threatening stormy sky was a surprise. An hour from the airport, the weather had been fine. Another half-hour ride by speedboat, and we would be in the Robinson Club Maldives. We have never been so far south—it’s almost the Equator, only 60 km from it.

Robinson Club Maldives.

Sunset. The Maldives.

Robinson Club Maldives.

A spacious beach villa №1318 with an outdoor terrace and sunrise view stood just ten meters from the surf. Seven days of life in paradise were waiting for us, but the Equator presented an unexpected surprise: probably, we found a place where clouds are born. The rain poured continuously all the first day; however, snorkeling in such weather turned out to be very comfortable. The water was a bit murky, but the coral reef was beautiful. A real storm began at night. The noise of the waves hitting the shore was so powerful that it seemed we were about to be washed away into the ocean, hotel and all.

I woke up in the middle of the night and saw that Irina was not asleep. She stood near the window, apparently checking whether waves came to our doorstep.

“Cannot sleep?”
“No. I’m afraid. Let’s be afraid together?”
“OK.”

I hugged her and we fell asleep peacefully—at least, I did.

In the morning, the bright tropical sun rose over the Robinson Club Maldives, and the ocean calmed down and returned to its familiar emerald color. It’s great to start the morning in paradise on a veranda with a cup of freshly brewed coffee. Breakfast at the hotel starts at 8 a.m., so after coffee, you still have time for a walk along the shore. The island is small, no more than 200×500 meters, so you will do the lap around it in twenty minutes. However, the Germans spend much less time on the same road because they jog. I could not understand why their fitness instructors did not explain to them that healthy people need not jog in the sun, especially at the latitude of the Equator. We just walked.

After breakfast, we immediately went diving. Already after the first dive, we unanimously decided that it was the most beautiful coral reef we had ever seen. To the right of the water villas, real underwater gardens extend, but you cannot get to them every day. This is a place for experienced swimmers, since usually, it has a very strong current. Enjoy the reef in calm weather. It is not often that you will meet such beauty as the underwater life of the Maldives.

Snorkeling on the Maldives.

Snorkeling on the Maldives.

Coral reef of the Maldives.

Coral reef of the Maldives.

Reef shark. Coral reef of the Maldives.

Coral reef of the Maldives.

Snorkeling on the Maldives.

Clownfish. Snorkeling on the Maldives.

Coral reef of the Maldives.

Coral reef of the Maldives.

More about the Maldives:
Fly to the Maldives Whenever You Can
Probably, the Robinson Club Maldives will be Destroyed
Eternal Challenge on Fihalhohi Island, the Maldives

34 thoughts on “The Best Coral Reef Locations: the Maldives or the Great Barrier Reef?

  1. Epically nice shots! Thank you for taking me to the Maldives. I just got back from Belize and your shots are a thousand times better than what I saw in Belize!

    Thanks for the quantity of photos too. Really enjoyable post!

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      1. Well worse is a tough word. It was totally awesome. But the corals and fish weren’t of the caliber you are showing in your photos. In fact the coral almost seemed browner or greater like it wasn’t healthy. I am not a very experienced diver so I could be wrong. But that was my observation. 🙂

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