Exploring the world’s wonderful coral reefs

Lorna Cowan / 09 November 2017

The mighty ocean's of the world are full of underwater mega cities that flourish with life. Discover the best of those shown on this week's Blue Planet II.



Blue Planet II this week focuses on ‘Coral Reefs’ (12.11.17), undersea mega-cities that flourish with life. 

It’s thought that reefs cover less than a tenth of the ocean’s surface, yet they are home to around a quarter of all known marine species – and new sea creatures are being discovered daily.

Closely related to jellyfish and anemones, coral can live several thousands of years, getting much of their energy from photosynthetic cells living in their tissue. 

They may appear to be nothing more than rocky substrate, but each coral is made up of hundreds to thousands of tiny living creatures, commonly known as polyps.

The Blue Planet II team spent 250 days at sea filming for this new series, and 6,000 hours diving underwater to bring you stunning footage of sea life never witnessed before. Filmed with super micro time-lapse, hidden magical worlds are brought to life.

Magical holidays are also offered by Saga to destinations featured in this week’s episode – Egypt, Borneo, Australia, the Maldives and Indonesia.

Make 2018 extra special on a holiday of cruise with Saga. Find out more here.

Bottlenose dolphins in the Red Sea

Resorts on the coast of the Red Sea, a salty inlet of the Indian Ocean, are ideal for those wanting some rest and relaxation. And as those tuned in to this week’s third episode of Blue Planet II will see, no one seems to have more fun here than the bottlenose dolphin.

The coral reef that thrives in the water provides the perfect playground for young dolphins who are filmed performing impressive nose-balancing tricks. 

Seaweed, jellyfish, sponges – the marine mammal isn’t too fussy what it plays with. What’s important is spending time in a tranquil environment which lets the bottlenose dolphin take a break from its big ocean adventures, all the while learning vital life skills.

Taking a nap is crucial too, but even when the dolphin manages to catch 40 winks, it doesn’t fall into a deep sleep. It has to be conscious to breath, so half of its brain is always alert.

Fortunately, holidaymakers to the Red Sea can totally switch off, especially if you choose one of Saga’s Unwind breaks. Take the opportunity to go at a slower pace, flop on a sun lounger and simply have the most relaxing beach holiday imaginable.

On days you are feeling energetic, plenty of activities, including diving and snorkelling, are on offer.  

All-inclusive accommodation is also available on holidays to Egypt, so once you’ve chosen where to go, there really is nothing else for you to do except enjoy a well-earned rest.  

Feel the dry desert breeze from the Sahara and contemplate 5,000 years of human history in the magical land of the pharaohs Find out more here.

Saddleback clownfish in the Pacific Ocean

It was while filming in the south west corner of the Pacific Ocean, near Borneo, that the Blue Planet II team observed the egg-laying behaviour of the distinctive little saddleback clownfish. 

The dive lasted four hours and 20 minutes – the longest of the series. What they captured on camera, though, is truly astonishing.

In its quest to build a safe home for its offspring, the saddleback clownfish goes to great lengths to find suitable objects to take back to the nest, being particularly choosy about smooth surfaces and items that provide camouflage.

Often the objects, which can include coconut shells, are 10 times the weight of the small clownfish, but that doesn’t deter this strong-willed sea creature. 

It’s prepared to push treasured booty whatever distance necessary back to its anemone dwellings.

It was also here in the waters around Borneo that the Blue Planet II team discovered more about the elusive green turtle. Seen heading off early one morning to the reef’s equivalent of a health spa, a charismatic female soon realises she’s got company.>

 A few fellow turtles appear to be after some pampering too, but they’re not prepared to queue. Watch a clever trick or two that enables her to be first in line.

It’s not only sea turtles that entice so many visitors to Borneo. People travel to the captivating country in the hope they’ll catch a glimpse of an orang-utan or maybe even an endangered sun bear.

Proboscis monkeys, Bornean slow loris and flying squirrels also call the jungles and rainforests their home – a holiday in this part of the world really is a walk on the wild side.

Trips to Sepilok Orang-utan Centre and the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre are on the itinerary of Saga’s Borneo Rainforest Adventure

Actively involved in wildlife conservation projects, both centres hope to rehabilitate animals so they can return to their natural habitat.

With additional excursions included, such as an evening cruise on the Menanggul River and a Kota Kinabalu city tour, a holiday on this diverse Asian island will be memorable for all the right reasons.

With its untamed beauty and colonial charm, Borneo entices those with adventure in their hearts. Find out more here.

Grouper at the Great Barrier Reef

The most famous reef of them all, the Great Barrier Reef, is the world’s largest living structure. 

Made up of around 3,000 coral reefs, it covers an area bigger than the entire United Kingdom. Indeed, travel all the way to outer space and you’ll still see the reef below.

Around 600 types of soft and hard corals, more than 100 species of jellyfish, 3,000 varieties of molluscs, 500 species of worms, 133 varieties of sharks and rays, over 30 species of whales and dolphins, and 1,625 types of fish are found in the waters surrounding the Great Barrier Reef, located off the east coast of Australia.

Grouper, a mid-water predator that eats coral reef fishes, star in this week’s Blue Planet II, and are seen exhibiting some uncharacteristic sophisticated behaviour for a fish. 

Indeed, one particular grouper acts in a way more commonly seen in apes, or birds in the crow family.  

With a series of wiggles and poses, the grouper appears to use the fish equivalent of sign language, communicating with a reef octopus.

Instructing its eight-armed pal to help it hunt, the grouper then sits back and waits for dinner, while his partner in crime flushes fish out of their hiding holes with its tentacles.

A revolutionary underwater probe camera was used by the Blue Planet II filming team to capture this awe-inspiring sequence. 

As a result, viewers are treated to a fish-eye’s view of the action – those terrifying octopus tentacles coming straight at you.

Many tours around Australia include a night or two at Cairns on the east coast, allowing guests to enjoy an excursion to the Great Barrier Reef. Whether you stay aboard a comfortable catamaran, or put your snorkelling gear on and take a dip, visiting this great natural wonder will be a highlight of any trip.

Discover more about Australia and what it has to offer on an Australian Adventure holiday Find out more here.

Manta rays in the Indian Ocean

Reefs often take the brunt of incoming tides – this week’s Blue Planet II has disturbing evidence of this. 

In the Bahamas, the rush of water creates a whirlpool, while over in the Indian Ocean near Hanifaru in the Maldives, a powerful tide floods a coral lagoon, bombarding it with plankton that is unable to swim against a current.

It’s quite a feast for the manta ray who loves nothing better than a plankton dinner, but word quickly gets out and before you know it, hundreds of rays turn up for a snack. The feeding frenzy that ensues is quite a sight.

The Maldives and the Seychelles, with their wonderful coral atolls, are dream destinations on the itinerary of cruises available to book online with Saga. Glorious sunshine will greet you every morning and dramatic sunsets will wish you a good night, so a holiday on these shores will be a once-in-a-lifetime trip you’ll be sorely tempted to repeat!

Prepare to let your senses explode on a holiday to Asia Find out more here.

Bobbit worms in the oceans near Indonesia

This week’s third episode of Blue Planet II – ‘Coral Reefs’ - also features the bobbit worm, a metre-long predator found in the sandy ocean floor near Indonesia. 

It’s a menacing creature, with light and chemical receptors that cause it to lunge when unsuspecting prey pass its hiding hole. Boasting sharp teeth as well, it’s been known to pounce so swiftly that other sea creatures are sliced in half!

However, others who share the ocean with the bobbit worm are retaliating. Bravely leading the way is the monocle bream, who has cleverly learned to squirt water at the worm’s exposed jaw the second it’s about to attack. 

As you can imagine, the bobbit worm finds this most irritating and so flees the vicinity, alerting other potential prey that it’s wise to take a wide berth.

And talking of berths, the Indonesian island of Komodo, famous for its dragons, is just one stopover on Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines Wonders of the World cruise, available to book online with Saga. 

With the cruise setting sail from Southampton and lasting an incredible 109 nights, this epic voyage circumnavigates the globe, taking in five New Wonders of the World and much much more.

Where ancient meets modern, discover the captivating wonders of Asia Find out more here.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.