Coral reefs are natural miracles, truly extraordinary ecosystems that we're just beginning to understand.
They're also in grave danger of disappearing as oceans warm due to climate change. This is a problem, and not only because of the fact that losing their natural beauty would be a tragedy. Coral reefs act as protective mechanisms for coastlines and also house countless species of fish and animals. These five coral reefs, in particular, are unforgettable—and looking through them might just inspire you to fight to protect them.
1. The Great Barrier Reef
As the world's largest coral reef, Australia's Great Barrier Reef is likely also the most famous reef in the world. Larger than the Great Wall of China, this reef is the only living thing on Earth visible from space. Plus, it inspired Finding Nemo.
The Maldives' reef is a mountain range that covers 2,000 square kilometers from the Laccadive Islands in the north, to the Chagos Islands in the south. Made up of 26 atolls and over 1000 islands, the Maldives' reefs are sweeping and highly saturated marvels.
3. Raja Ampat, Indonesia
This reef has the distinct honor of boasting the highest biodiversity of any reef in the world. This 15000 square mile reef features 1600 species of fish and 600 species of coral.
4. Belize Barrier Reef, Belize
Belize's reef is both a popular tourist and diver attraction as well as a vital centerpiece of Belize's ecosystem and food industry. One of its crown jewels is the Great Blue Hole, a giant marine sinkhole made famous by Jacques Cousteau. Home to a massive array of diversity, it has been designated a World Heritage Site and yet still remains threatened by oceanic pollution and coral bleaching.
5. Tubbataha Reef, Philippines
The Philippines' Tubbataha Reef is located in the middle of the region's Sulu Sea. Situated on the Cagayan Ridge, which is composed of a collection of underwater volcanoes, the reef is deeply isolated, and for good reason—it contains a huge variety of rare and endangered species.
6. New Caledonian Barrier Reef
While barrier reefs usually trigger thoughts about extinction and climate change, not all reefs are suffering direly—the New Caledonian Barrier Reef is actually one of the healthiest reefs in the world! Located in the South Pacific, the reef is home to a huge variety of endangered and rare animal life. It's threatened by nickel mining and coastal development, but overall, this reef is exploding with life and promise.