Snorkeling can be done in many different environments. This page is to help you to learn about the main types of snorkeling spots and their features, so that you can figure out what to expect when snorkeling them.

Coral reefs

Coral reefs are snorkelers favorite spots, but there are different types of reef formations:

Closed fringing reef

Formed near the shore, these reefs are made up of a small “lagoon” (1 to 2 meters deep) and a coral barrier a few hundred meters from the shore at the most. These small “lagoons” (they are more precisely “shallow backreef zones”) are a kind of nursery for many fish. They are reassuring and shallow, and thus ideal spots for beginners.

Snorkeling spots types - Closed fringing reef
Narrow fringing reef

Coral sometimes colonizes the rocky or sandy seabeds right next to the coastline. Narrow reefs are formed, which are more or less dense in coral. They are recent, and characterized by the absence of coastal benches or barriers, and give rapid access to the open sea.

Snorkeling spots types - Narrow fringing reef
Reef drop-off

When a fringing reef is sufficiently developed but has not yet formed a barrier, it takes the form of a reef drop-off that is relatively abrupt, and which overlooks the open sea or a deep lagoon. The absence of a barrier means you can explore the outer slope of the reef and observe species that rarely or never venture into shallow water.

Snorkeling spots types - Reef drop off
Barrier reef

These narrow reefs are separated from the shore (sometimes by several kilometers) by a relatively deep lagoon. They form a more or less continuous reef crown around certain islands. The depth of the lagoon means many species find a home there, and the inner area is often the most interesting part to explore.

Snorkeling spots types - Barrier reef
Inner reef

Inner reefs are located inside a lagoon (between the coast and the coral barrier), and are sometimes visible on the surface, or form around islets or sand banks. The coral formations are situated in an environment protected from waves and currents, and are often of excellent quality.

Snorkeling spots types - Inner reef
Atoll

An atoll is an island shaped like a ring, made up of coral reefs and surrounding a generally shallow lagoon. They represent the oldest coral systems and are among the very richest. The outer side of the reef, open on the ocean, is the most favorable for exploration.

Snorkeling spots types - Atoll
Other types of spots

The coral reefs, with their colorful and rich biodiversity, are certainly the most popular snorkeling spots, but many other aquatic environments can potentially be explored. Here are the main non-coral reefs snorkeling spots types:

Sandy / grassy / rocky seabeds

These areas, situated near the coast, are generally made up of sand, seagrass, pebbles or rocks. Coral is absent, or almost, but they represent particular ecosystems that are the home to specific species.

Snorkeling spots types - Rocky seabed
Snorkeling spots types - Seagrass meadows
Snorkeling spots types - Sandy seabed
Open sea

In these deep zones far from the coast, accessible by boat during an excursion, you can sometimes see marine mammals (whales, dolphins) or whale sharks from the surface.

Snorkeling spots types - Open sea
Wrecks and artificial reefs

Shipwrecks are one of snorkeler’s favorites. With an ecological aim, to combat erosion or develop fishing resources, the authorities also sometimes submerge artificial reefs near the coast. They are soon colonized by undersea life and are often interesting areas to explore.

Snorkeling spots types - Wrecks and artificial reefs