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A regal angelfish on a reef in the Pacific Remote Islands (Photograph by James Maragos, USFWS)

The World’s Largest Marine Reserve

Notorious as the vicinity from which Amelia Earhart made her final distress calls, the equatorial Pacific between Hawaii and Fiji is becoming a little safer—at least for marine life.

United States President Obama recently added a new protected area larger than the size of Alaska to the existing Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (PRIMNM), effectively making it the world’s largest sanctuary on land or sea.

The seven volcanic reef atolls and islands of the PRIMNM remain uninhabited and—luckily for the endangered sea turtles, rare melon-headed whales, and pristine corals—are able to be visited only by permit.

Group Mentality: The neighboring isles of Palau, Kiribati, and the Cooks will also enlarge protected areas around their shores, totaling, along with the expanded PRIMNM site, reserves larger than Greenland.

How to Explore: The Nature Conservancy regulates public access to Palmyra Atoll, and underwater explorers can scuba dive amid unparalleled populations of tropical fish and sharks at Palau’s Blue Holes and Blue Corner.

This piece, written by Melissa Coleman, appeared in the November 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.

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