Do you want to experience the gentle West Indian manatee? Look for elkhorn coral and juvenile reef fish? Spot a gregarious flock of stingrays? Underwater photographer and adventurer Tanya Burnett-Palmer shares her favorite places to sightsee beneath the waves.
Not only does Burnett-Palmer tell you where to head but she goes one step further, giving you on-site secrets for each destination.
Dean’s Blue Hole, Long Island, Bahamas
A blue hole is created when the ceiling to an ancient cave system collapses in the ocean-Dean’s is thought to be the world’s deepest. Fin your way off the powder-white beach and watch the sand go from 5 to more than 600 feet deep in just a few kicks.
On-site secret: I found I could circumnavigate the entire blue hole by swimming along the cliff base and sandy shoals. On a light-wind day, it’s easy to snorkel the protective reef near the mouth of the small bay. Keep an eye out for: jacks, tarpon, turtles, the occasional dolphin or porpoise almost anything can wander in. Small reef fish stay in the shallows.
When to go: all year; 242/338-0011 or reeldivers.com.
Buck Island, St. Croix, USVI
An underwater trail makes navigating the tropical fish and young elkhorn coral easy. What rounds out a trip to this national park so nicely for me is a visit to Turtle Beach on Buck Island’s west end. A nap under a palm tree here, poised between emerald forest and aquamarine seas, will enhance your definition of paradise.
On-site secret: If you’re still honing your snorkeling skills, seek out the operators sanctioned by the park; they’re quick with instruction and help. Keep an eye out for: the three species of sea turtles that call the park a nesting area.
When to go: all year, but check for wind speed — the waters can get choppy. Summer offers fewer crowds; gotostcroix.com/buck_island.php.
Why not learn a thing or two from the pro and check out the rest of “10 Top Spots to Snorkel.”