For the travelers and the seekers of blue, observing coral reefs is always a must. Home to delicate ecosystems with rainbow-colored fish dancing around one another, the appeal to visit coral reefs is obvious. Unfortunately, what is sometimes not-so-obvious is the impact these visits and other human activities can have on these beautiful creatures.

Well-known and loved reefs like the Australian Great Barrier Reef draw enormous audiences, and have even been known to be voted the world’s best place to visit. But as the tides turns, and oceans become more polluted and temperatures rise, the integrity of global reefs–among other natural sites–becomes compromised. To stop this, care must be taken (reuse, reduce, recycle!), and to motivate you, here are six of the most incredible coral reefs known to man.

The Hawaiian Coral Reef  

75The Hawaiian Coral Reef stretches more than 1200 miles in the Pacific Ocean and takes up over 410,000 acres. Today, the reef is home to over 500 species of fish, plants and invertebrates. Like most reefs, the Hawaiian reef’s ecosystem is unique and many–about 25%–of these plants and animals cannot be found anywhere else in the world. However, it is best known for being the home to some of the most colorful tropical fish, Green Sea Turtles, and dolphins. In fact, the part of the reef found in Kealakekua Bay was so beautiful that the team for Finding Nemo frequently visited it to use it as inspiration in many of their animations.

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The Belize Barrier Reef

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The Belize Barrier Reef was described by Charles Darwin as “the most remarkable barrier reef in the West Indies.” And it’s not hard to see why. The reef itself is actually part of a series of reefs that come together to total to around 300 km long, known as the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, and is second in size to only the Great Barrier Reef. What makes the Belize Barrier Reef so remarkable is the presence of a giant submarine sinkhole located right in the middle of the reef. The sinkhole is over 400 ft deep and 900 ft wide and is home to hammerhead sharks and enormous parrotfish.

Honduran Coral Reefs

Snorkelingdives.com - Flickr Creative Commons

Snorkelingdives.com – Flickr Creative Commons

The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System manages to extend so far down that it can be found along the coast of the Bay Islands of Hondura. These locations are vital to the maintenance of a specific type of coral colony known as elkhorn. Elkhorn coral provides homes to lobsters, shrimp, and parrotfish. What’s more, relative to other corals elkhorn coral colonies grows at a fast rate, allowing for colonies to spread quickly over large areas, helping assure to the ongoing preservation of the reef.

The Great Barrier Reef

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No coral list would be complete without mentioning the Great Barrier Reef. The world’s largest coral reef system, it stretches over 1400 miles and can even be seen from space. The size of the reef aside, it is home to one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems, housing 1500 species of fish, 200 types of birds, 20 types of reptiles and billions of coral polyps.

The Great Barrier Reef has been a World Heritage Site site 1981 and is vital to the Australian economy, generating around $3 billion of yearly revenue.

Unfortunately due to unnatural and natural causes alike, the reef has been rapidly dying, and some scientists estimate that the reef has lost more than half of its corals in less than 30 years.

 

Fiji Barrier Reef

Taveuni Palms Resort - Flickr Creative Commons

Taveuni Palms Resort – Flickr Creative Commons

A dusting of freckles in the South Pacific Ocean, Fiji is home to some of the most wonderful islands and beaches in the world,making it an ideal travel destination. Part of its appeal, however, is due to the Fiji Barrier Reef which is an arpeggio of reefs, mangroves, and seagrass. Its coral reef system is home to giant groupers, surgeonfish and crown-of-thorns starfish.

Many have dubbed Fiji as the “soft coral” capital of the world, due to its expansive and colorful colonies of alcyonacea. Soft corals do not produce calcium carbonate skeletons, effectively making them the invertebrates of the reefs. Unfortunately soft coral is less likely than hard coral to fragment and start new colonies, thus making its preservation even more vital.

Indonesian Coral Reef

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Around 20% of the world’s coral reefs are found in Indonesian waters. And this enormous amount of hard coral (over 480 species of hard coral have been recorded) hosts a staggering amount of biodiversity. Unfortunately, this number is quickly and intensely dwindling. Thanks to deforestation, sedimentation is affecting the ability for coral polyps to feed. Indonesia exports around 500 tons of coral, yearly and Indonesian practice of blast fishing–using explosives to kill and then harvest schools of fish–is quickly degrading the coral and its various inhabitants.

Experts predict that 85% of Indonesia’s reef is threatened due to human activity.

 

Still, Indonesia hosts 75% of the world’s known coral species and 2000 speeches of reef fish sit in the Coral Triangle, and while it remains will be beautiful to behold.

Honorable mention: Jellyfish Lake, Palau

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Though not exactly–or at all–a reef, for those looking to explore wildlife and oceans, the Jellyfish Lake in Palau cannot be missed. Once part of the ocean, this saltwater lake was cut off, leaving behind a few jellyfish buddies. With no natural predators in sight, and plenty of yummy algae to go around, the jellyfish quickly took over. And what’s better than a giant lake filled with cute and squishy jellyfish? A lake filled with cute, squishy, and totally harmless jellyfish. That’s right, the Mastigias papua etpisoni resident jellyfish have stingers, but they’re so small that they can’t be felt by humans, making swimming in the lake is totally safe. So there’s that.

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Have you been to any of these reefs? Did we miss any of your personal favorites? If so, let us know what you thought below!

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