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Snorkelling On Bonaire

Bonaire's pristine reef and huge diversity of marine life are considered unique. The reef is home to more fish, and more species of fish, than anywhere else in the Western Atlantic. A staggering 355 species of fish have been logged by researchers in the waters around Bonaire. The beautiful coral reef is just 25-30 metres from the shore - the length of a swimming pool. The ocean is usually calmer than the average swimming pool - and almost as warm. Over 100 species of fish and many other forms of marine life inhabit the shallow, crystal clear water above the sandy shelf that leads out to the reef. Perfect for snorkellers to be able to enjoy the amazing marine life.  The fantastic condition of the ocean and reef around Bonaire, make it one of the world's best snorkelling sites.
Spectacular snorkelling - like snorkelling in an aquarium.

                         A small tropical island, "perfect weather" - beautiful pristine coral reef - close to shore
                       Hundreds of species of colourful tropical creatures - a huge variety of coral and sponges.
                                      Warm, clear water - easy and spectacular - all you have to do is float.
                                             Snorkelling doesn't get any easier - or any better than this !


You'll see hundreds of species of colourful reef creatures far too numerous to mention -  but some of the "favourites" we get asked about are: seahorses, frogfish, nurse sharks, various rays, dolphins, hawksbill / leatherback / loggerhead and rare green turtles, southern stingrays, octopus, peacock flounders, blue tang, long jaw squirrelfish, princess parrotfish, sergeant major fish, peppermint goby, tiger grouper, yellowtail snappers, red faced morays, spiny lobsters, barracuda, jacks, parrotfish, french angelfish and lots more. You'll see hard and soft corals, sponges of all shapes, sizes and colours, most typically: fire coral, elkhorn, grooved brain coral, mustard hill coral, boulder star coral, blade fire coral, yellow pencil coral.  Amongst other sponges you will see: green finger sponges, giant orange elephant ear sponges, rope sponges, lavender stove-pipe sponges and mustard yellow tube sponges. When you book with us we will send you a specially commissioned fish card showing the marine life you can expect to see. It is impossible to do justice to Bonaire's underwater world in words. You'll just have to come and explore it for yourself.

Bonaire's Fabulous Reef

The shelf that slopes gently towards the reef is packed with marine life and covered with coral outcrops like a tableau of marine life laid out on a sandy sea bed in perfectly clear water. The coral starts at low water mark - ankle deep - coral formations and fish (beautiful parrot fish etc.) can be seen in water as shallow as 60 cm. (2 feet).  Even non-swimmers, can stand in the water, put on a mask and see the coral and hundreds of colourful tropical fish. I have introduced more than one non-swimmer (one frightened of the ocean) to the joy of Bonaire's underwater world. The coral outcrops are home to various species of marine creature, delicate sea fans, brightly coloured sponges etc. The reef is around 25 -30 metres from shore in just 8 - 12 metres of warm clear water. With visibility of up to 40 metres, snorkellers get an excellent view of the reef and its diverse, colourful marine life and some wrecks - in some of the easiest ocean conditions you will ever experience. The coral reef is a parallel fringing reef. It runs, unbroken, for the entire length of this 22 mile long island. Very easy to navigate, light blue water one side, deep blue water the other and very close to shore.
Bonaire has a couple of small wrecks in shallow water - great for snorkellers. The Hilma Hooker and Our Confidence are the two best and are both close to shore. There are numerous small fishing boat wrecks. See the diving pages for more information.

The Caribbean Sea

Ocean conditions are perfect for snorkelling. The water is a wonderful 28c (82f) and the visibility up to 40 metres snorkellers get a fantastic view of the whole underwater world. For almost the entire length of the south-west coast there are little or no currents.  You will not "drift" up and down the coast or out to sea ! Exceptionally easy ocean conditions make Bonaire perfect for swimmers, snorkellers, divers, in fact anyone who wants to enjoy the wonderful Caribbean Sea.  As you approach the tips of the island, the open ocean has more affect, these areas will have some currents.
Photographers love the macro life on Bonaire as the sunshine provides excellent light in the clear shallow water. There are many photographic specialists who also run courses on the island. Cameras are available for hire.

Dive / Snorkelling Sites

Bonaire is a small island with over 80 recognised dive sites - so they are all nearby !
It is recognised as probably the best dive destination in the world. Its marine life and reef system are unique. You can snorkel pretty much wherever you can get into the water on Bonaire. However it is also famous for having over 51 shore entry sites. These are sites, with relatively easy entry into the ocean, which divers need. They are also close to shore, divers do not swim far. They are also internationally recognised as premium sites with interesting features and creatures - which receive awards and recommendations from dive magazines around the world - voted for by divers. They give divers a huge amount for freedom, to dive without needing a boat. All this makes the shore dive sites perfect for snorkellers. They are clearly marked, on island and on maps, and show snorkellers the best places to snorkel up and down the coast. All the shore entry sites are along the calm, south western coast. Snorkelling here is not about floating and hoping for the best. Snorkellers on Bonaire can enjoy the underwater world at some of the best underwater sites in the world - a rare treat. Snorkellers can also join the divers in their family or group, at the same sites and enjoy their holiday together. The accommodation we offer is along the calm south western coast you won't be far from the ocean and the wonderful snorkelling sites.

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On the island, each site has a yellow "milestone" marker on the side of the road so you won't have any trouble finding them. You can often park on the beach - if not you can park on the road - but you won't ever be much more than 50 metres from the ocean.  We recommend hiring a vehicle to give you the freedom to explore as you wish. You will find most sites deserted, there are no crowds on land or sea on Bonaire.  Some sites are accessed from a beach - some are down a few steps from a dock. Some sites, as you would expect on a coral island can be a little rocky - but with so many to choose from there is more than enough to keep you happy. However, with a little foot protection these sites will not be a problem.

The whole of the island of Klein Bonaire is a nature reserve and lies half a mile from the south west coast of Bonaire. You can catch the water taxi for a 10 minute ride and enjoy this uninhabited island and its wonderful snorkelling. Take some food and drink for a picnic unlike anywhere else in the world. See the diving pages above for more information and a map of the dive sites.
The reef is very close to shore so no need for lots of boat trips, but you might like to visit some of the harder-to-get-to bays - usually less than 15 minutes on a boat. There will be a dive operator at your resort or very close to your accommodation. Boats leave daily - so you have plenty of choice should you wish to join a boat trip. Dive operators welcome snorkellers for a small fee - usually around $10. Alternatively you can take one day/half day boat trip excursions along the coast, all of them stop at one or other of these bays to give people a chance to snorkel. Always take a towel and your swimming gear.

Bonaire's Marine and National Parks

In 1979 the islanders of Bonaire voted in a referendum to protect their environment and resist development - and the entire coast around Bonaire, from high water mark to a depth of 60m,  was designated the Bonaire Marine Park - and is legally protected. The islanders also decided to resist commercial over development further protecting the ocean and the reef and importantly the way of life on the island. Only 5% of Bonaire's land area is developed. No high rise hotels, theme parks, no mass tourism. The entire island of Klein Bonaire, close to the west coast, is a nature reserve. This all adds up to a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere in which to enjoy the spectacular marine life that thrives in the ocean around the island. Bonaire is famous around the world for its protection of its excellent coral reef. The Bonaire Marine park is now a model for many other Caribbean islands.

An important benefit to visitors of this opposition to mass tourism is that you can enjoy the island and the ocean in peace and quiet at your own pace. No rush - no fuss. You can completely relax and enjoy whatever it is you choose to do. Bonaire is a great place to enjoy a holiday. Many tourist guides will tell you the Bonaireans are very friendly, and it is refreshingly true. The whole atmosphere is very relaxed and friendly. You will be thrilled to find how easy it is to totally relax and unwind on Bonaire.
Bonaire depends on visitors that appreciate the natural world and that obviously includes divers and snorkellers. The island culture is to leave people alone, to do their own thing. But help and guidance are always available. The people on Bonaire are very approachable and endlessly helpful.

Bonaire - number 1

Bonaire is consistently voted by people around the world as the best scuba diving and snorkelling destination in the world. Readers of Scuba Diving Magazine voted Bonaire the number 1 destination for :
          *     Best Destination Overall
          *     Best Shore Diving (for the 19th consecutive year),
          *     Best Marine Life
          *     Best Macro
          *     Best Snorkelling
          *     Best Value for money
          *     Beginner Diving

"Scuba Diving" readers also vote for a Top 100 Gold List.   In 2012 the top 100 list included
No. 1    -  Best Dive Site ?                "Anywhere on Bonaire"
No.  4   -  Best Shore Dive ?             1,000 Steps, Bonaire
No. 22  -  Best Marine Park ?           STINAPA, Bonaire

Bonaire was designated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as having the healthiest reefs in the Caribbean (January 2008),   and as the "Favourite Dive Destination in the World"   by About.com (June, 2008).

Be warned - it is common for snorkellers to enjoy the easy conditions so much, they take a "try dive" and get the bug for diving!

We work closely with the hotels, dive centres, vehicle hire companies etc., on the island. If you want to take some boat trips, special courses or excursions, like cave snorkelling, you should book in advance. Boat trips and excursions are in small groups and can get booked up. Many divers hire vehicle so that they can visit various sites along the coast and explore the island. Hiring is not expensive and we have worked with a reliable hire company for over 10 years, and we have the best rates for vehicle hire. Booking your on-island services with us is a little cheaper and we can include that into your ATOL protected holiday itinerary.