Out of mother nature’s many wonders, coral reefs can most definitely take a spot near the top of the list. Featuring a unique underwater ecosystem comprised of countless different organisms, the world’s reefs are a fascinating source for research, discovery, and entertainment. From reefs that are over 20-million years old to ones that sport only a few thousand years, each one holds its own amazing mysteries. Although each coral reef presents unique beauty on its own, some may just shine a tad brighter than others. Keep on reading to find 10 of the world’s best and brightest coral reefs!

10 Maldives

With over 2000 species of fish and over 2000 km of underwater reef areas, the Maldives is a treasure trove of discovery and life. From reef sharks to sea cucumbers, every organism found in the Maldives reefs offers its own unique mystery. Some unique species found in this expansive reef system include the stonefish, the schooling bannerfish, the manta ray, and pelagic sea snakes.

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Popular commercial species include the tuna as well as tilapia. These reefs attract thousands of scuba divers and tourists each year. While these reefs have been victims to overfishing and bleaching, conservation efforts have greatly improved their chances of recovery.

9 Red Sea Coral Reef

A beautiful, life-sustaining coral reef was the last thing we expected to find between two extremely hot deserts, but nature finds a way! The Red Sea coral reef resides between the Sahara and the Arabian deserts and shares with them one interesting characteristic: its ability to withstand extreme conditions.

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The reef is home to over a thousand species of fish, 10 percent of which can only be found there. But the shocking factors don’t end there: the coral reef is over five thousand years old! It’s no surprise that the Red Sea Coral Reef attracts tons of scuba divers every year, but it should be noted that some species residing here are not so friendly to humans.

8 Rainbow Reef

Located near Fiji, the Rainbow Reef certainly lives up to its name! Its colorful nature and astounding biodiversity won a spot in the world’s best diving spots lists. One of the best attractions within the Reef is the Great White Wall, a surface blanketed in glistening white coral.

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Thousands of scuba divers and tourists swarm Fiji for a chance to behold this majestic reef. With over a thousand species of fish and two hundred types of coral, the Rainbow Reef is an enticing treat for the visual senses. In addition to fish and coral, species such as octopi, anemone, and crustaceans also reside within the reef. Just beware of the barracudas!

7 Palancar Reef

Cozumel, already popular for its pristine beaches and lovely culture, is also home to one of the world’s most beautiful coral reefs. At about three-miles long, the Palancar Reef isn’t as large as the others on this list, but it’s nearly covered in beautiful coral of all colors and makes for a wonderful attraction to divers from all over the world.

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It also makes great fun to swim through, with many perfectly sized, naturally formed tunnels through the reef. The Palancar Reef is also home to many interesting species, such as the sunfish, the sea turtle, and the spiny lobster.

6 The Great Chagos Bank

Located in the Indian Ocean, the Great Chagos Bank is home to about half of the world’s coral. With this staggering amount of beautiful nature, it is no surprise that this reef is the world’s most protected. Within the 300 different types of coral resides an astounding world of different species, ranging from special crustaceans to over 800 species of fish.

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There are also over 50 different types of sharks living near the reef. As the world’s largest atoll, the Bank contains over 60,000-square kilometers of shallow reefs! It is extremely crucial for us to continue to preserve this wondrous phenomenon.

5 Belize Barrier Reef

As the largest barrier Reef in the northern hemisphere, the Belize Barrier Reef sports a very impressive level of biodiversity as well as beauty. Stretching to over 300 kilometers, the reef is home to hundreds of species of organisms. However, the wonder lies in the fact that only 10 percent of the organisms have been discovered!

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This reef is still under research and holds the potential for entire worlds of discovery. Already, there are several threatened species identified near the reef, including the West Indian Manatee. Furthermore, the prevalence of sea turtles as well as the beauty of the reef itself makes the location hugely popular, attracting over 200,000 visitors every year.

4 Raja Ampat

Raja Ampat is an extremely popular reef for tourists and divers alike near Indonesia. It has the highest biodiversity to size ratio in the entire world, making it a main focus for conservation scientists. Home to over 700 species of hard coral alone, it is no surprise that the Raja Ampat holds otherworldly beauty.

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In addition to coral, this reef is also home to over 1700 species of fish. The reef is also popular for whales, orcas, and dolphins, which in turn boosts tourism in the area. Lastly, there is also a rather interesting abundance of over 700 species of mollusks, which adds even more beauty to the reef.

3 Andaman Reefs

Located in India, these are mostly fringing reefs unique in the fact that they are separated from the shore by a wide lagoon. In addition to hundreds of species of coral and fish, you can also find unique, rare species such as the dugong, or sea cow.

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If you’re lucky, (or not so lucky, depending on your interests) you might even stumble upon a saltwater crocodile. Although this reef isn’t as popular as the others on the list, this makes it all the more special to visit! You’ll surely fall in love with the tranquility of the crystalline waters here.

2 N’Gouja

N’Gouja is another reef that’s not as popular as the others on the list, yet holds unique beauty on its own. While the main attraction at this cute little island reef is the hundreds of sea turtles, the coral and fish are not to be ignored. When you swim to the drop-off site, you are sure to be astounded by the hundreds of damselfish wriggling in swarms between the anemone, angelfish, and coral of all types.

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Visitors often describe the reef as a “turtle paradise” with countless sea turtles of all ages living in harmony around the reef. While scuba diving is endorsed, make sure to be conscientious and leave the habitats the way you found them so that even more marine critters can thrive!

1 The Great Barrier Reef

Last but certainly not least, we have the infamous Great Barrier Reef of Australia. Composed of almost three thousand individual reefs, the Great Barrier is a melting pot of biodiversity. The reef features over 30 species of whales and dolphins, 1500 species of fish, and 6 species of sea turtles, just to name a few organisms. In fact, over 10 percent of the entire world’s fish can be located at this reef! At an astonishing 20-million years old, we have to contend that the reef looks more than amazing for its age. However, even the world’s greatest reef can’t escape the unfortunate effects of pollution. We must redouble our efforts in conservation to make this reef available for future generations!

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