Coral Triangle Snorkeling – Visit the World’s Liveliest Reefs

Coral Triangle snorkeling should be at the top of your bucket list. This region of the world has the highest diversity of coral and reef fish, making the snorkeling incomparable.

Coral Triangle snorkeling - damselfish and anthias over coral reef

The Coral Triangle includes six countries that form a vaguely triangular shape. These countries are Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, and Solomon Islands. It covers an area of 2.2 million square miles (5.7 million square kilometers).

Coral and reef fish diversity are incredible there. There are 76% of the world’s coral species in the Coral Triangle, around 600 species. Depending on which resource you quote, there are 2000-3000 different species of fish found there. This abundance of biodiversity applies to some invertebrates too and six of seven of the world’s species of sea turtle are found there. Because the Amazon rain forest is the most biodiverse area above the water on Earth, the Coral Triangle is sometimes referred to as the “Amazon of the Ocean.”

Best Places for Coral Triangle Snorkeling

We are overjoyed that we have been able to experience Coral Triangle snorkeling ourselves. We have snorkeled a number of places in Indonesia and were astounded at the number and variety of sea life we saw. We recommend all destinations.

Indonesia Has Outstanding Coral Triangle Snorkeling

Our favorite Indonesia snorkeling destination is Misool in southern Raja Ampat. It is a marine protected area and so full of life it is awe-inspiring. Islands fringed with hard and soft coral reefs teeming with fish and other creatures and patrolled by sharks. And they have some manta ray cleaning stations that offer close-ups with these huge creatures. You can read all about our experience snorkeling in Misool here.

Four large Bumphead Parrotfish in blue water above a reef in Misool Indonesia

Another favorite in Indonesia is Alor. This group of islands is very underdeveloped and surprisingly unheard-of in terms of tourism. And the reefs are abundant and varied with hard and soft corals, reef fish and creatures. You may see fabulous pelagic fish and mammals, too. Learn about what we saw snorkeling in Alor and how to do it yourself.

Many fish over a lively soft and hard coral reef in Alor Indonesia

Komodo National Park is a much more well-known and traveled Indonesia destination. There are areas of the park with fantastic snorkeling, with wonderful reefs and the ability to swim with manta rays and huge sea turtles. Find out the details about the Coral Triangle snorkeling in Komodo here.

Island with snorkeling waters in Komodo Indonesia

Another Coral Triangle snorkeling destination we have had the pleasure to visit is Wakatobi. It is also a national park and offers some healthy reefs with a wonderful variety of corals and colorful reef fish. The outstanding resort is very remote and only reached by private charter flight from Bali.

Tomato Clownfish over their bubble anemone in a fire coral in Wakatobi

On the same trip that we snorkeled Wakatobi, we got to visit North Sulawesi and snorkel the Bunaken National Marine Park. We really enjoyed the snorkeling and recommend a visit. There are healthy coral reefs, lots of sea turtles, and clouds of fish around the reefs.

Bunaken coral reef and Hawksbill Turtle

We were lucky enough to join an Indonesia liveaboard trip that visited three areas of Indonesia. The first area we snorkeled was northern Raja Ampat, specifically islands in the Dampier Strait. This is likely the most well-known of all the Coral Triangle snorkeling spots. It was exceptional, the reefs were so full of life and so colorful. Reefs in the mangroves, a manta ray cleaning station, and an abundance of cuttlefish were some highlights.

Many damselfish over branching hard corals in Raja Ampat

Another area we snorkeled on that liveaboard trip was Halmahera. It is located between Raja Ampat and Sulawesi in northern Indonesia. The reefs there were so alive it was astounding. We could not believe how many damselfish and anthias were darting around over the diverse and healthy hard and soft reefs.

Coral head with red Dendronephthya corals, anthias fish and a snorkeler behind

As part of the same liveaboard trip, we were able to snorkel Lembeh Strait, off the northeast coast of Sulawesi. This place is known for muck snorkeling, seeing rare critters over black sand. We enjoyed that, and were also pleasantly surprised by beautiful vibrant reefs and an amazing wall.

Banggai Cardinalfish on a reef in Lembeh Strait Indonesia
Banggai Cardinalfish on a reef in Lembeh Strait

You can read about many other Indonesia snorkeling destinations here. You can also find organized group Indonesia snorkeling trips here.

Coral Triangle Snorkeling in the Philippines

While we have not been to the Philippines, we know from our research that some areas of this country have the highest biodiversity in the whole of the Coral Triangle. This nation of about 7640 islands offers many choices in destinations. These islands are subject to typhoons that effect the shallow reefs, so do your research. And learn more in our community posts:

Coral Triangle Snorkeling Options in Malaysia

There is a small area of Malaysia that is included in the Coral Triangle. It is off the northeast coast of the island of Borneo, in the state of Sabah. There are reefs around the small islands off the coast. You can stay at resorts, or possibly homestays, with house reefs. Then you are taken to nearby reefs by boat as well. You can read more in our community posts:

Timor Leste, Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea

There are three more countries where you can find Coral Triangle snorkeling.

Timor Leste, also known as East Timor, is a tiny country on the eastern half of the island of Timor, along with two nearby islands and a small enclave farther west on the island surrounded by Indonesian West Timor. There are resorts and homestays and it looks like there is both shore snorkeling and boat snorkeling.

Green bubble anemone with clownfish in Misool Indonesia

The Solomon Islands lay past the east end of the large island of New Guinea. You can snorkel from a liveaboard boat or one of a few island resort house reefs along with small boat trips to nearby reefs.

Papua New Guinea is the name of the country on the eastern half of the island of New Guinea. It is large and there are many places you can choose to snorkel. There are resorts with house reefs and small boat snorkeling, homestays, shore snorkeling in some areas, and liveaboard boats to choose from. Besides the main island, there are islands off the east shore that are home to some of the resorts and where some of the liveaboards are focused. In addition to lively reefs, you can snorkel ship and airplane wrecks from WWII there.

Coral Triangle Snorkeling Trips

If you are interested in snorkeling with a group, our trips partner offers group trips to the Coral Triangle here. And we announce any new trips every month in our newsletter.

More Coral Triangle Snorkeling Tips