Today’s Travel Tuesday destination Life Under the Waves, courtesy of the 1,000 Places to See Before You Die Page-A-Day calendar.
1. Raja Ampat Archipelago, Papua, Indonesia: Raja Ampat is a long way from anywhere, and that is a significant part of the pristine archipelago’s appeal. So is the fact that it is one of the richest coral reef ecosystems on the planet. Located in the warm, shallow waters off the western Bird’s Head Peninsula of Indonesia’s Papua Province, Raja Ampat—or Four Kings—compromises more than 1,500 islands and islets clustered around the three main islands of Waigeo, Salawati, and Misool. The archipelago spans over 15,400 square miles of sea and it home to Cendarawasih Bay, the largest marine national park in the country.
- Where: 995 miles/1,600 km northeast of Jakarta.
- Best Times: Drift diving is possible year-round, although seas may be rougher from July-September; April-September is the wet season.
2. The Maldive Islands: Made up of 26 atolls scattered across the Indian Ocean from north to south in a shape that resembles an exclamation point, Maldives is a fragile wonderland of white sand, palms, lagoons, reefs, and Hockney-blue seas. Each resort—there are almost 100—occupies a private island and is dedicated to showing off its own jewel of the sea. Divers and snorkelers revel in the easy to access miles of coral gardens in shallow, crystal-clear waters. They come in search of small, colorful creatures like unicornfish, harlequin sweetlips, and glassfish, as well as hulking reef sharks and manta rays.
- Where: 250 miles/400 km southwest of India, spreading more than 500 miles north to south.
- Best Time: December-April for driest days and clearest waters.
3. Sipadan, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia: Part of the Semporna Archipelago, off the coast of Borneo, tiny mushroom-shaped Sipadan sits atop a submerged volcano in a protected conservation zone. With a cap of only 120 visitors a day and no overnight accommodations, this speck of an island in the Celebes Sea appears on every diver’s dream list. Walk 15 feet of from the soft white sandy beach, stick your head in the water, and be prepared for the treat of a lifetime. Incredibly clear and calm waters enable even novice snorkelers to enjoy the wonders of the underwater kingdom. Experienced scuba divers can choose from 12 dive locations with seawalls that plunge 2,000 feet into a deep blue abyss, all less than a few minutes from shore by boat.
- Where: 22 miles/36 km off northeast coast of Borneo.
- Best Time: May-October for nicest weather, but diving is good year-round.
Read more on 1,000 Places to See Before You Die and the calendar line here.