The dozen or more inner reef sites are much of a muchness. Concentrated day-tripping means that you’ll probably be sharing the experience with several other boatloads of people, with scores of divers in the water at once. On a good day, snorkelling over shallow outcrops is enjoyable; going deeper, the coral shows more damage, but there’s plenty of patchily distributed marine life. Michaelmas Cay, a small, vegetated crescent of sand, is worth a visit: over thirty thousand sooty, common and crested terns roost on the island, while giant clams, sweetlips and reef sharks can be found in the surrounding waters. Nearby Hastings Reef has better coral, resident moray eel and bulky Maori wrasse, as well as plenty of sea stars and snails in the sand beneath. The two are often included in dive- or reef-trip packages, providing shallow, easy and fun diving. Another favourite, Norman Reef, tends to have very clear water, and some sites preserve decent coral gardens with abundant marine life.
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