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The “Snorkeler’s Guide” to awesome aquatics experiences in Bonaire

(DiverWire) Since 1962 with the arrival of Captain Don Stewart, Bonaire has proven that it is a Diver’s Paradise – it is also known as a snorkeler’s paradise. Bonaire was recently rated number one in the Caribbean and Central American region for snorkeling by www.away.com.

Bonaire and Kline Bonaire (a small uninhabited island just offshore) offer over 60 excellent snorkel sites. The waters surrounding Bonaire and Klein Bonaire are part of the marine park that was first established in 1979. Since that time, the STINAPA organization has worked to preserve the reef and over 430 species of local marine life.

Scuba diving has benefits in its own right and so does snorkeling. Here’s just a few:

  • Snorkeling has the benefit of unlimited air compared to Scuba Diving.
  • There are few pieces equipment and less weight to carry.
  • It is easy to communicate with you friends on the surface.
  • Depending on the location – visibility is sometimes better in shallow waters as the sunlight illuminates better.
  • There are no time limitations to participating in the sport before flying.

With the ever increasing needs of the non-diving travel consumer, I developed H2O Visions in January 2012. The goal of my company is to offer private, personalized snorkel and photo tours for those who prefer to stay on the surface while enjoying the sea life below.  Children who are also vacationing on Bonaire now have an opportunity to learn about reef environments, while enjoying how to learn to snorkel with Brenda.

Here are 3 recommendations for shore based snorkel sites on the main island of Bonaire. A local snorkel guide can show you the best sites according to your ability and interests. They can also assist with challenging entries/exits, fish identification and lessons to those that are new to the sport.

  • Te Amo Beach – Easy entry and exit.

As you leave town head south towards the airport, go past the airport and take the first right into a large parking area.

Te Amo means my love and this area was once popular with young couples in the past. There is a nice beach with a sandy entry and a huge shallow coral structure – that during low tides actually sits above sea level. Do not try to go over the top of the structure; it is best to go around it to deeper waters.  Once you are clear of the coral swim towards the marina channel. Remember to stay close to the rocks and not wander to the middle of the channel as there is boat traffic at times. As you explore you will see many juvenile fish species; yellow tail damsels, brown chromis and French grunts are everywhere. Keep an eye out for tiny Lettuce leaf sea slugs; they come in many sizes and colors. Once you reach the large rocks that extend out from the shore explore the crevices for critters that hide during the day. If you are lucky you may see an Octopus or an Eel. Once you have seen enough in this area head back to the beach area and swim towards the small pier that is south of the beach area. I like to swim over the drop off and check out into the blue for bigger fish and hopefully a Turtle! You will come across a large colony of stag horn coral, spend a few minutes there to see what’s lingering about. I then continue to the pier (only if no boats are there that day) to check out the pillars – I find various juveniles, blennies and Christmas tree worms there. I then return to the entry point exploring the shallows before exiting at the same sandy spot, just in front of the beach.

Intermediate – Challenging entry and exit.

  • Red Beryl

Look for the dive site yellow rock marker – this site is south past White Slave Huts.

Here you require beach shoes/booties to walk over the rough shore; there is a step down onto smoother hard pan. This site is best snorkeled when the winds are low and there are no Kite boarders in the area. Head northbound on the edge of the wall drop-off, you will see many soft corals waving in the current – a great place to look for turtles resting and Black Margate. As you head north you will also see colonies of Stag horn coral and schools of juvenile grunts. After about 20 minutes head into the shallows to see some Elkhorn coral and numerous juveniles before returning south to your entry point.

Advanced – Exciting entry with challenging exit, drift snorkel. This drift snorkel is best done with a guide due to possible current changes.

  • La Dania’s Leap

Located just before the Karpata plantation dive site this snorkel site allows the snorkeler to experience fun and excitement before getting wet! Park your vehicle at Karpata and walk back (with beach shoes /booties & all snorkel gear) along the one way road to a spot marked with coral piling and a ying/yang painting on the road, then follow a narrow path towards the sea . It starts with jumping from a limestone outcrop into the sea, once you are in the only way back out is to snorkel for about 35 minutes north to Karpata. Here you find fabulous soft corals and dense marine coral growth. This snorkel is a feast for the eyes, multiple turtle sightings and larger fish hide within the corals. Keep your eyes to the blue; you may find some pelagic passersby’s. The exit is done very carefully amongst large coral pieces to the former concrete jetty.  Once again this snorkel is best done by advanced snorkelers or with a guide.

If you’re interested in coming to Bonaire, contact your local dive center or travel professional. There are plenty of opportunities whether you’re planning to scuba dive, snorkel or both!