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Bonaire NOT for Snorkelers

Author: Mike F
Date of Trip: May 2009

Snorkelers Beware of Bonaire! Bonaire may be great for divers, but is NOT for snorkelers. Because of a medical condition I cannot dive (inner ear.) But Jill and I are extremely experienced snorkelers. We have been to dozens and dozens of Caribbean Islands, including three sets of islands just in the last five months. We have also in the 37-years I’ve been snorkeling done a few Pacific Islands.

Hurricane Lenny apparently wiped out the shallow coral in Bonaire in 1999. What Lenny didn’t take out, Hurricane Omar finished off last year. Nearly every place we went was nothing but rubble. The reef typically begins at a drop-off anywhere from 25 feet to a hundred feet from shore. If hovering over coral in 50 feet of water is your idea of a great snorkel-you will love it. Otherwise this place is not worth going to. The island also has no other redeeming assets unless you wind surf. The island is ugly and there are no real beaches. We knew this going in, but the Houston Dive shops that raved about it were so so wrong.

There are two different books on “Best snorkel spots” Don’t buy them they are crap. “Oil Slick” rated “Excellent snorkel” is coral rubble. Andrea 1 & Andrea 2 rated “excellent snorkel” is coral rubble. “Bari’s Reef” rated “Excellent Snorkel” is coral rubble.

If you are a snorkeler and you do go, plan on spending most of your time at Klien Bonaire, an uninhabited Cay about a mile or so from Bonaire. It does have lovely reef, but also expect waves that will beat you to death.

Ironically, there are great fish in several places in both Bonaire and in Klein Bonaire. At Tori’s Reef on Bonaire (while the shallow is nothing but coral rubble and rocks) we saw an octopus, a scorpion fish and a small (2-1/2 to 3 feet) eagle ray. At Windsock (Mostly rocks, some stag horn and elk horn coral) we saw three types of Moray eels, two types of cowfish, four types of filefish, two types of grouper, a large porcupine fish, French and Queen Angels, 5 or 6 types of the 14 varieties of Parrot, including the Queen parrot and a large midnight parrot. Great fish-ugly reef.

If you go do to Bonaire make sure you take the “turtle” snorkel to Klein offered by several dive shops. We saw at least 20 to 25 turtles of three varieties. The reef on Klein is beautiful, even in the depths shallow enough for snorkelers.

The Cayman Islands last month was far better-even though you need to be prepared to swim a long way to get the best reefs. St John USVI and the several of islands and cays on the British VI five months ago was far far superior, albeit the very best locations in St. John require you to hike in or take boats. (Yes, the beach at Trunk Bay is fantastic, but don’t settle for mediocre reef-go to Haulover bay, Salt pond, Leinster, Blue Cobblestone, Honeymoon Bay, Waterlemon Cay, the Cay at Cinnamon or kayak the east end.)

Bonaire? Not for snorkelers-spend your dollars elsewhere.

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