Seychelles is an archipelago made up of 115 islands off the coast of East Africa, located in the Indian Ocean northeast of Madagascar and about 990 miles east of Kenya. Most of these islands are uninhabited, and many are protected as nature reserves. Full of color and beauty, the white sands and turquoise sea create a tranquil setting for a relaxing vacation.
Technically, nature can’t deliver a sure-thing when it comes to animal encounters, but Isla Mujeres, found 9 miles offshore of Cancun, Mexico, is as good as it gets. June through August, the turquoise waters are thick with the spawn of bonito tuna — becoming a buffet for whale sharks, the world’s largest fish at up to 41½ feet long. Local tour operators can drop you in the path of these fish, allowing encounters that can sometimes last up to 20 minutes. This area is also home to two underwater statue parks filled with more than 500 life-size sculptures in 12 to 20 feet of water.
When snorkeling on or near coral reefs, care must be exercised to avoid contact with the delicate (and sometimes sharp or stinging) coral, and its poisonous inhabitants, usually by wearing protective gloves and being careful of one's environment. Coral scrapes and cuts often require specialized first aid treatment and potentially, emergency medical treatment to avoid infection. Booties and surf shoes are especially useful as they allow trekking over reefs exposed by low tide, to access drop-offs or deeper waters of the outer reef - this is, however, ecologically irresponsible.
In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 2,300 miles west of South America and 1,100 miles away from any neighboring island, there is a small Polynesian volcanic island called Easter Island, also known by its indigenous name of Rapa Nui, belonging to Chile. It is a World Heritage Site, famous for its archeological park containing 900 enormous statues known as Moai.