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The Most Stunning Deep Sea Sights in the World

From coral reefs and sinkholes to shipwrecks and submerged hotels, the ocean is brimming with beautiful scenery that even landlubbers will appreciate.

Wonderful and beautiful underwater world with corals and tropical fish.Brian Kinney/Shutterstock

Great Barrier Reef | Australia

You can’t talk about the ocean without mentioning the Great Barrier Reef. This 1,429-mile ecosystem is the largest living thing on the planet. It’s so gigantic, you can see it from outer space! Just let that sink in for a second. Enormity aside, this natural wonder of the world wows with its dazzling array of fish, mollusks, dolphins, sharks, and turtles. No surprise, the Great Barrier Reef landed on our list of awe-inspiring UNESCO sites everyone needs to visit.

Statues underwaterKrofoto/Shutterstock

MUSA | Cancun, Mexico

An underwater museum actually exists: MUSA (Museo Subacuático de Arte) is truly a sight to behold. This subaqueous attraction features 500 life-size sculptures that are fixed to the ocean floor and constructed with materials that promote reef growth. Prefer not to get wet? You can view this incredible installation via glass-bottomed boat.

Mandarinfish or Mandarin dragonet ( Synchiropus splendidus ) is close-up shot , it very small tropical fish vivid color , Sipadan island Borneo . Celebes sea, malaysia22August/Shutterstock

Mandarinfish

Small, brightly colored, unmistakably tropical—the mandarinfish captivates with its exotic beauty. This member of the dragonet family is native to the warm tides of the western Pacific (Indonesia, Philippines, Australia, and New Guinea). Its rainbow scales and graceful fins make it a favorite of saltwater aquarium hobbyists. Fun fact: Synchiropus splendidus is one of only two vertebrates to have a blue tint because of cellular pigment. Here’s an intimate look at sea creatures large and tiny.

Anna segeren/shutterstock

SS Thistlegorm | Red Sea

The SS Thistlegorm was a 415-foot British merchant navy steamship built in 1940. A year later, while en route to deliver supplies to Allied troops, it was hit by German bombers and sank off the west coast of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in the Strait of Gubal. Divers can explore the wreck along with its wealth of WWII relics such as weapons, vehicles, and crates of munition. Take a peek at these award-winning underwater pictures.

Blue Corner Palau, Best Diving/ Snorkelling, Diving with Sharks, Best of Pacific Islands, Blue Holes, Ngemelis, Pacific Ocean- MicronesiahighD/Shutterstock

Blue Corner | Palau, Micronesia

For adrenaline junkies with a penchant for Neptunian pursuits, the Blue Corner in Palau is a must. Renowned for its unpredictable currents, sheer drops, and biological diversity, this epic drift dive is not for newbies. You’ll need plenty of practice before taking this advanced plunge with grey reef sharks, eagle rays, black snapper, humphead wrasses, and schools of barracuda.

House in the sea with clear blue skyWatchara Pongsanguansuk/Shutterstock

Subsix | Maldives

Ever dreamt of dining in the depths of the Indian Ocean? Such is the reality at Subsix in the Maldives. Submerged 20 feet (six meters, hence the name) below sea level, it’s accessible by speedboat. Guests can sip champagne and savor gourmet fare while watching shoals of florid butterflyfish and moray eels swim past. While you’re in the Maldives, don’t miss this stretch of sand that glows in the dark.

Faint-banded sea snake or belcher's sea snake ( Hydrophis belcheri )swimming to the water surface for breathing fresh air, Bali, IndonesiaHans Gert Broeder/Shutterstock

Faint-banded Sea Snake

Do marine reptiles from the Paleozoic era still roam? Technically no, although their direct descendants are pretty darn terrifying. There are over 60 species of sea snakes—many of which are spectacularly hued and poisonous. Hydrophis belcheri is among the most majestic. While not likely to bite unless threatened, these snakes should be given plenty of distance and respect because of their deadly venom.

The Great Blue Hole in BelizeGlobe Guide Media Inc/Shutterstock

Great Blue Hole | Belize

Belize is a mecca for snorkeling and scuba enthusiasts (not to mention one of the top vacation spots in Central America). Of all its abyssal attractions, none compare to the Great Blue Hole. Made famous by French explorer Jacques Cousteau, this massive 406-foot-deep marine cavern lures aquatic adventurers with its crystalline waters, stalactites, and fascinating creatures, including the critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle. Check out these wave photos you won’t believe are real.

Wooden ShipwreckAndrew Jalbert/Shutterstock

Queen Anne’s Revenge | Beaufort, North Carolina

The lore of Blackbeard lives on, so it stands to reason that his flagship frigate continues to intrigue tourists. The notorious pirate seized Queen Anne’s Revenge in 1717 and captained the ship for a year, before grounding it offshore of Beaufort. (British forces killed the pirate in the Pamlico Sound months later.) Excavation of the wreck began in 1996. Recovered artifacts—his treasure—are on display at the N.C. Maritime Museum.

Aerial view of Mauritius island panorama and famous Le Morne Brabant mountain, beautiful blue lagoon and underwater waterfallMyroslava Bozhko/Shutterstock

Underwater Waterfall | Mauritius

An underwater waterfall in the middle of the ocean? Mauritius is home to a plethora of spellbinding natural sights—and this jaw-dropping optical illusion. In actuality, the dramatic “cascade” effect is the result of sand and silt deposits, though that hasn’t stopped millions of visitors from flocking to see it each year. The best vantage point? A helicopter. You’ll also want to check out these breathtaking waterfall shots.

Blue shark swimming in the blue. Image was taken during a baited shark dive offshore, out past Western Cape in South Africa. .wildestanimal/Shutterstock

Blue shark

Looks can be deceiving. Take the blue shark for example. Its big black eyes, slim body, and indigo skin conjure images of adorable cartoons. Despite its cute appearance, this deep-sea dweller is not mild-mannered and has an insatiable appetite. Prionace glauca gorges itself until it regurgitates to make more room for more food. Biting incidents pertaining to humans are rare, but you’re better off safe than sorry—give this predator respect and space.

via themantaresort.com

Underwater Room | Pemba Island, Tanzania

The underwater room at The Manta Resort, off Pemba Island, gives new meaning to the phrase, “sleeps with the fishes.” Anchored to the ocean floor, the three-story floating structure boasts a sun-splashed rooftop, sea-level lounge area, and subaqueous snoozing quarters with 360-degree views of life beneath the surface. At night, you might even catch a glimpse of an octopus. Don’t miss these 11 other breathtaking underwater hotels you can stay in around the world.

Lindsay Cohn
Lindsay Cohn is an avid traveler who has visited 45 countries across six continents and writes about travel for Reader’s Digest as well as USA Today, Fodor’s, Travel + Leisure, Brides and PureWow. Beyond travel, she covers a variety of lifestyle topics including beauty, wellness and design. Her work has also been published on Well+Good, Elle Decor, Martha Stewart, Domino and Mindbodygreen. Follow her on Instagram @lindsay_cohn