26/10/2015 12:48 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:50 PM AEST

The Dive-Friendly Marine Reserve Holidays Within A Few Hours Of Australia

Michele Westmorland via Getty Images
MR male diver (age 27) encounter with a young and curious hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata). Palau Islands, Micronesia.

A marine reserve the size of California has just been declared around the tiny Micronesian islands of Palau.

If you're a diver, you're smiling right now.

In this massive reserve, the largest in the Pacific, there will be no fishing or mining, but plenty of world-class diving where fish, sharks, turtles and rays will be protected.

President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr said the Palau community -- north of Papua New Guinea and east of the Philippines -- knew the value of conservation.

"Island communities have been among the hardest hit by the threats facing the ocean," he said in a statement.

"Creating this sanctuary is a bold move that the people of Palau recognise as essential to our survival.

"We want to lead the way in restoring the health of the ocean for future generations."

Why choose to dive in a marine protected area? Well for starters, it's a way of using your purchasing power to say you support sustainable tourism.

1011'14 #padi #dive #fundiveing #sid #palau

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It places a value on the natural environment and generally speaking, you'll pay a fee that goes towards maintenance and education.

The most compelling reason to pick a marine reserve, however, is because you'll see more cool stuff!

So here are the marine protected reserves you can get to within a few hours' fly time.

Palau National Marine Sanctuary, Palau

All but 20 percent of the waters surrounding the 750 islands of Palau will be a marine reserve by 2015. It will grow on the world's first shark sanctuary set up in 2009.

Raja Ampat Marine Park, Indonesia

#wayaq #rajaampat #mytripmyadventure #visitindonesia #iloveindonesia #island

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This West Papuan oasis is the largest marine park in Indonesia, spanning the waters around four main islands.

You can expect to see dugongs, manta rays, turtles, sharks, fish and a spectacular array of corals.

One of the favourite entry points is the island of Misool, known for its eco resorts and coral beaches.

Shelly Beach, Manly, Sydney

You didn't expect that, did you?

Within an hour's drive from the airport, where the city still basically in sight, you can dive with the friendly groupers and juvenile dusky whaler sharks at Cabbage Tree Bay.

It may be small, but it's a no-take zone, which means fishing isn't allowed, and because of its unusual north-facing aspect, it harbors all manner of tropical fish.

Phoenix Islands Protected Area, Kiribati

Nowhere is the effect of Climate Change more immediate than in Kiribati, where islands are losing ground to sea level rise.

The Phoenix Islands Protected Area, however, is leading the world by example.

President Anote Tong calls it: "...our gift to humanity in recognition of the value of conserving marine biodiversity and the need to strengthen the ocean's resilience for the common good".

Ningaloo Reef, WA

Swimming with whale sharks is real bucket list stuff, and one of the places you can get in the water with these gentle giants is a marine reserve off the coast of Western Australia.

In this protected reef, you can also expect to see turtles, white-tip reef sharks, dolphins and fish of every colour and shape you can imagine.