Does the sight of the ocean drive you wild with joy? Do you wish you had fins instead of feet? These stunning island lodges offer you the opportunity to escape to the sea and embrace your true element. From diving amid stingrays at the Great Barrier Reef and swimming with sea turtles in the Galápagos to exploring World War II relics in the waters of Vanuatu, enchanting undersea worlds are yours to explore.
Bordered by one of our planet’s most breathtaking natural wonders, Lizard Island offers unparalleled opportunities for exploring the vibrant world that lies beneath the ocean’s surface. Among the kaleidoscopic coral live an array of fascinating species, like stingrays, feather stars, sea pens, and around 1,500 kinds of fish. The renowned Cod Hole—home to enormous potato cod—lies but 45 minutes from the shore, and a range of excursions are available to get up close to the fantastic denizens of this dive site, as well as many others along the reef.
The owners of Fregate Island Private—situated on an otherwise uninhabited isle in the idyllic Seychelles—have worked tirelessly to restore native habitats following decades of destructive plantation agriculture. Unique and endangered wildlife now flourishes here, both on land and below the water—from Aldabra giant tortoises and tropical birds to sea turtles, moray eels, fantail rays, butterflyfish, and whale sharks, the largest fish in the sea. Fregate is also home to a PADI center, offering certification courses for divers of all levels.
Nestled in a secluded cove on the wild Bahamian isle of Andros, Tiamo offers prime access to the world’s third largest coral reef, inhabited by an astounding array of marine life. Just beyond the colorful coral gardens, the sea floor plunges into a trench known as the “Tongue of the Ocean,” frequented by whales, dolphins, and other large fish species. Andros Island also harbors a string of blue holes—enchanting underwater caves that were once explored by legendary oceanographer Jacques Cousteau.
In the extraordinary Galápagos isles, nature reigns supreme—and the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel lies at the heart of it all. About one-third of the archipelago’s waters are designated marine reserves, and the undersea wonders found here are nothing short of spectacular. Sea turtles glide past your snorkel mask and sea lions perform playful pirouettes, while several species of shark abound in the waters of the northern isles. Unlike many snorkeling and diving destinations, most of the marine inhabitants of the Galápagos can be viewed year-round.
The turquoise waters surrounding the Bazaruto Archipelago make up Mozambique’s only marine reserve, established as a sanctuary for sea turtles and the vulnerable dugong—the world’s only vegetarian marine mammal. Guests at the lodge can dive straight into the Indian Ocean to swim with dolphins, whale sharks, and dugongs; or venture to the sunken coral gardens of Two Mile Reef, which sustain more than 2,000 types of fish, as well as several species of rays, sea turtles, and reef sharks.
Efate Island, one of the many isles that make up the South Pacific archipelago of Vanuatu, was used as a base by the U.S. Navy during World War II; wreckage from the war can still be found in the waters of Havannah Harbor, where the idyllic Havannah Vanuatu is located. Guests at the lodge have the opportunity to snorkel amid sunken planes and rusted artillery shells as sea turtles and school of tropical fish dart by. The island’s pristine waters also shelter herds of gentle dugong, while 17 world-class dive sites lie a short boat ride away from the lodge.
With the Atlantic on one side and the Caribbean on the other, snorkeling and diving enthusiasts can encounter all manner of fish and coral in the Grenadines. At Petit St. Vincent, travelers can step off the beach and directly into a world of sea turtles and parrotfish. National Geographic guests are treated to a private snorkeling tour with a dive instructor from the Jean-Michel Cousteau Dive Centre, established on the island by the son of diving pioneer Jacques Cousteau.
This tranquil hideaway is located on the small volcanic island of Nosy Komba, just off Madagascar’s northwestern tip. Blessed with idyllic beaches and the rich waters of the Mozambique Channel, beginners as well as experienced divers and snorkelers are spoiled for choices here. Swim past vivid corals, moray eels, and giant groupers at shipwreck sites, or encounter kingfish, barracudas, and tree-like black corals at Jo Langouste Point or the Tanikely underwater reserve.