Just beneath that roiling blue, there’s a whole universe of creatures and plants, predators and prey, mysterious beauty and danger that seems so far removed from our land-walking ways. The line separating our world from the one undersea is thin – and these clever photographers have done a wonderful job reminding us just how close (and how different) the two are!
In a breathtaking moment of surprise, we see a massive whale drifting silently below the comparatively tiny fishing boat at center. This angle highlights the mystery and grandeur of the ocean spectacularly, starting off our collection on the right foot.
2. Papua New Guinea
There are few things in nature more incandescent, more bursting with the mutable dynamics of life than coral reefs. This shallow photo reveals an absolute cornucopia of color and shape resting just beneath a pair of native fisherman.
3 . Shark Park in South Africa
We all know the telltale sign of a shark in the water, that image of a lone fin piercing the surface, etched in our collective consciousness as a harbinger of danger. Dipping just below, we can see the wonderful flurry of life present when a school of the creatures passes by.
Using a longer exposure, the photographer was able to capture the luminous glow of algae and underwater greenery hiding just below the surface on an otherwise gloomy, overcast day. The bright reveal is a reminder that happiness can be found in the darkest of spaces.
5. Danko Island, Antarctica
The extreme contrast between blue ocean and soft grey skies makes this a truly unreal image. Being able to appreciate the true shape of an iceberg is already one of life’s small pleasures; add a family of penguins and we’ve got a spectacular picture.
6. Jellyfish Lake in Palau
Piercing the veil of the ocean’s surface, we come face to.. well, not face, with a cloud of jellyfish. These mysterious creatures have startled, confounded, and stung us humans for generations, but it’s always a pleasure to see them floating gently in the currents.
7. Mediterranean Sea, France
Beneath the pristine blue waves of the Mediterranean, we glimpse the captivating image of a scuba diver near an underwater cave. The sheer wealth of detail and sense of scale here is overwhelming.
8. Laguna de los Burros in Mexico
Anyone who’s spent enough time near rivers and lakes knows the telltale “pop” of a turtle head emerging from the water. With this immaculate profile view, we can see just what it’s like for our reptile friends beneath the surface.
9. Eliat, Israel
Here’s another blisteringly beautiful image of coral reefs beneath the waves. The explosion of color and life is surely one of earth’s greatest treasures, carefully hidden from the destructive hand of human development, for the most part. It’s amazing to think of how close this treasure lies to the sandy shores.
10. Neweiba, Egypt
Floating millimeters beneath the surface below a lengthy dock, this pair of iridescent jellyfish make for a stunning image of high contrast and novel life. Bright cold plumes hang between the purple bell shapes of the creatures in a sparkling dance of color.
11. Mare, New Caledonia
Perfect timing and the perfect angle collide in spectacular fashion to create this image. A man fishes in the ancient spearing tradition, caught mid-air in a Superman pose as he nails his prey. The best part is that the entire scene is framed in lush coral reefs.
12. Zanzibar, Tanzania
Blisteringly bright skies and crystalline waters are the most indelible beachside imagery known to man, the perfect example of “heaven on earth.” Add a clear view of a bold red sea turtle to the mix, and you’ve got a brilliant image of life below the surface.
13. Unknown Grotto
With light spilling in through a long collapsed ceiling, this half-submerged cave is illuminated in brilliant fashion. The water-softened rocks glow blue below the surface, making for unreal contrast and color.
14. Crystal River, Florida
The unofficial mascots of Florida ocean life, manatees are often endangered by excess boating and fishing. It’s beautiful to see one floating in peaceful bliss in the shallows near a nature preserve. This little guy seems hypnotized by the glimmer of light on the sea bed.
15. Raja Ampat, Indonesia
This image is jaw-dropping in the contrast of its underwater reveal. Thousands of silvery fish flit by like shooting stars or an entire moving galaxy below the seemingly placid surface, where a man stands fishing at sunset.
Just a few hundred feet out from the beach, this boat floats on a gently choppy surface while a woman dives into the clear blue abyss. It’s rare to get an image that so richly conveys the feeling of seeing underwater with goggles.
17. Smalblaar River, South Africa
Here’s a truly rare underwater photo, taken in the shallows of a rocky river bed. The trout pictured here almost seems to have a look of real surprise on its face, coming into such close contact with a camera. The hiker in the background is likely as awestruck at the mountainous surroundings.
18. Magdalen Islands, Canada
Well here’s an image as beautiful as it is adorable. A snow white baby seal peers down into the waters from a slim iceberg, coming face to face with an aquatic photographer. The black depths help frame the ice in perfect contrast.
19. Anonymous Coral Reef
Once again, the astounding flourish of a coral reef is seen bursting with life just below the calm surface of the ocean. The indelible beauty and essential biodiversity of these natural structures can never be emphasized enough.
20. Andaman Islands, India
It’s incredibly heartening to see humans and elephants interact in an environment of mutual respect and love. The pachyderm here seems to be enjoying a playful bath with her human, perched lightly on her tusks in the shallows off the coast of India.
21. Bora Bora
Face to face contact with a sea turtle is an exceedingly rare occurrence, even for aquatic photographers. This magic moment is framed by low coral reefs and lush greenery sprouting from the surface, offering a riot of color.
22. The Everglades in Florida
This one, we’ll admit, sent shivers up our spines. That classic image of a pair of eyes and a snout emerging from the everglades is unnerving enough; seeing the entire ancient creature nestled in the grass below the surface is a whole new level of wow.
23. Green Lake in Austria
This freshwater crater lake has obviously seen its levels rise in recent years, as we can see in this intensely evocative photo. In the bottom right corner, a formerly land-based tree barely pokes above the surface, while a walking deck is completely submerged a dozen feet below. The scene is so odd that the scuba diver appears almost out of place.
24. Pig Beach in the Bahamas
We don’t think we’ve ever seen a pig more blissfully happy than this very moment. The fuzzy pink creature seems to be thoroughly enjoying his stay at the beach, cooled in the water and warmed by the sun.
25. Blue Grotto in Capri, Italy
Underwater caves are some of the last frontiers on Earth, as far as human exploration goes. With a bit of dappled sunlight and a single flashlight, this deep and narrow cave is a treasure trove of texture and life, emerging from the dark.
26. Palawan Islands, Philippines
We love these rich, deep blues informing the coral-laden shallows next to volcanic island bursts, off the coast of the Philippines. A handful of colorful fish dance in the underwater “mountain range” in perfect contrast to the arboreal coastline nearby.
Upon the surface, we see only a tiny rock outcropping; beneath we see the vast stone array climbing from the depths. This lone scuba diver pops against the hazy background with black and red in bright relief.
This magical moment was captured in perfect timing, with a swell in the water appearing as if the river itself was bulging with fish. The passing school blends perfectly with the colors, making for a singularly organic appearance.
We really love these iceberg images. The contrast between snow in the bright sun and ice set against inky blacks will never stop being an arresting image. This angle is particularly neat, making the mountains beyond appear to float within the ocean.
30. Flores Sea, Indonesia
A photographer managed to catch another absolutely perfectly timed moment; here we see a wave swelling over a rich coral bed, wrapping the living organisms in the ocean’s warm embrace. A small island in the distance appears to float with ultimate indifference to the scene.
31. Caribbean Sea, Mexico
The mysteries of deep sea life have scarcely been unlocked for us humans. What seems to be a strange tube emerging from the depths here is actually the gaping maw of a whale, shaped to hoover up the tiny schools of krill that comprise its diet.
In the rich, forested shallows of the waters of Mexico, we see some thick plants emerging from below the surface. The vast array of greenery here feels more like a jungle than a shallow body of water.
Returning to the craggy, volcanic surfaces of Iceland, we visit the sharp contrast between rocky outcroppings and lush blue ocean. The mountainous landscape seems to extend directly into the depths without a shift in texture.
34. Sipadan Island, Malaysia
Here’s another vast school of fish swimming just below the surface, completely unbeknownst to anyone floating above. The fish form a veritable galaxy of silver as they flash by en masse.
We hope you’ve thoroughly enjoyed these immaculate oceanic images. The surprise and delight that accompany a dip below the surface are unmatchable in our dry world, a fact that should make us all treasure these parts of our Earth a little more. We’re not sure about you, but after this gallery we have a desperate need for a vacation to some far, preferably wet corner of the world.