Mangroves are the unsung heroes of the ocean and a diver’s best friend. They are biodiversity hotspots and nurseries where up to three-quarters of all tropical fish species are born; ensuring plentiful life at dive sites around the world.
They provide shelter for critically endangered animals, contribute to the health of commercial fisheries, and provide products for international trade. They also ensure coastal protection from wind and wave action, such as tsunamis. The list is almost endless and the combined value of mangroves’ goods and services is estimated to be worth US$186 million per year.
The news isn’t all good though, with a report released on 1st December 2017, and tweeted by Mangrove Conservation, confirming mangroves may not be able to adapt to climate change.
With that in mind, now is the time to visit some of the many stunning dive sites supported by mangrove forests. Here are our top five:
Hol Chan, Belize
Hol Chan Marine Reserve is one of Belize’s most popular dive areas and contains coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangroves. This reserve has over 160 species of fish, 40 types of coral, dolphins and the West Indian manatee. Hol Chan Cut is great for night diving and Shark Ray Alley is renowned for snorkeling with nurse sharks and stingrays. Diving is possible year-round.
Cenderawasih Bay, Papua, Indonesia
Whale sharks are the main attraction of this bay and the area is known for the local fishermen who feed the whale sharks a portion of their bait, for good fortune. Diving here is possible year-round and there are mangrove forests close to shore, which are home to dugong and seagrass beds. This remote area is only accessible by Cenderawasih liveaboard safaris and new dive sites are still being discovered at this lesser-known destination.
Jardines De La Reina, Cuba
‘The Gardens of the Queen’ is a diver’s paradise, being a chain of 250 coral and mangrove islands with over 700 species of fish. The mangroves of Cuba are home to manatees, which divers can swim with. Another main attraction of Cuba is shark diving; including with whale sharks (most likely in November), bull sharks, reef and lemon sharks. Dolphins are also commonly seen. The best time of year for diving is December to April, when the water is 25 – 26 degrees Celsius.
Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea
Milne Bay is known for its many World War II wrecks, some of which can be explored by diving and snorkeling. The mangrove system attracts dolphins to the area and the reefs are colorful and diverse, with deep walls and coral gardens. It is a great destination for muck diving, especially at Dinah’s Beach – where this type of diving is thought to have begun amidst the black sand slopes. The is also a manta cleaning station at Gonu Bara Bara and January to April are the best months to visit.
Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia
Nusa Lembongan is a great area for less experienced divers, being well sheltered. A popular dive site is Mangrove, named after the mangrove forests lining the shore. This dive site is home to soft and hard corals plus visiting eagle rays, oceanic whitetip sharks, and banded sea snakes. Mangrove is a drift dive but is suitable for Open Water certified divers as well because it is sheltered. Nearby Crystal Bay is known for huge sunfish, that are found there year-round. The best time to visit for sunfish is July to October.