GEORGIA, United States, Thursday December 24, 2015 – It’s been quite a year for the Dominican Republic, which has featured prominently on lists naming everything from the world’s best luxury travel experiences to the top all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean.
Now, the popular Spanish-speaking tourist trap has reclaimed its spot in CNN’s world’s best snorkelling destinations rankings, which were updated this month for the winter season.
Compiled for CNN by Tammy Kwan, a freelance journalist who divides her time between Hong Kong and Vancouver, the latest list benefitted from the input of several marine experts, with special thanks going to Lee Goldman, marine biologist and snorkelling guide of Coral Triangle Adventures; Jim Sano, vice president of travel, tourism and conservation from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF); and Ted Martens, vice president of marketing and sustainability with Natural Habitat Adventures.
Amid oceans of exotic snorkelling locations just waiting to be explored, the Dominican Republic flew the flag for the Caribbean with Silver Bank, one of only a few places in the world where people can swim and snorkel alongside humpback whales.
According to CNN, Silver Bank is in a relatively shallow stretch of the Caribbean Sea, making it off limits to large ships and a safe haven for the North Atlantic humpback whale population to mate and give birth.
Snorkelers can catch up with the humpback whales between December and April, when they pass through the area, the article said.
Nearby, Isla Holbox, a sleepy island off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, also reclaimed its place on the list.
Isla Holbox is the world’s top destination for whale shark swimming, according to Ted Martens, vice president of marketing and sustainability with Natural Habitat Adventures.
“These giant creatures are actually harmless,” he adds.
During the summer months, when the whale sharks swim near the surface and feed on plankton, snorkelers can swim next to the gigantic fish, some of which can reach up to 18 meters (60 feet) in length.
The island itself is famed for its sound eco-tourism practices.
Making its debut on the 2015 list is Kealakekua Bay, just one of “a ton of great snorkel spots in Hawaii,” according to CNN.
The Bay is not only said to have vibrant coral, colourful fish, turtles and dolphins, but has a touch of history as well.
The best marine-life spotting is found just in front of the onshore Captain Cook Monument, a stark white obelisk erected near the site where famed circumnavigator James Cook was killed by Hawaiians in 1779.
The small bay is accessed in one of three ways: on foot down (and back up) a rugged jungle trail; by paddle on a rented kayak; on a guided tour offered by a select group of companies licensed to operate in these protected waters.
Other top snorkelling destinations on the list are: Raja Ampat (West Papua, Indonesia); Komodo National Park (Indonesia); The Galapagos Islands (Ecuador); The Coral Triangle (Asia Pacific); The Philippines; Palau (Micronesia); Great Barrier Reef (Australia), and The Solomon Islands.