Help Me Choose - Snorkeling Bonaire, Fiji or Bali Trip?

by Finny
(California, US)

I'm trying to decide between Bonaire, Fiji and Bali for a snorkeling two week trip alone (I'm a woman.)

I have traveled all over snorkeling. Here are some of my favorites:

Hol Chan, Belize - boat trip out and back. Better is the 3 day Ragamuffin Cruise with secluded spots the entire time. You get big animals like manatees and rays, and lovely reefs.

Koh Lipi, Thailand - OMG. Walk off the beach and meet the cast of Nemo, and more.

Koh Tao & Koh Nang Yuan -Thailand (Koh Tao no longer as good, because of algae growth, but there are spots.) Koh Nang Yuan still rocking.

Akumal, Mexico - great starter spot. Turtles, Rays and a tiny healthy reef.

Red Sea in Eilat - small, but wow! So clear and magical! A fairly land.

Cabo Pulmo - only reef on the west coast of Mexico. Be sure to swim with Whale Sharks.

I prefer reef over big animals, if I have to choose... any advice?

Thank you.

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May 18, 2017
Question to your question
by: Kimberly

Hi Finny,

I wish I could give you an answer to help with your decision, but I've not been to any of those locations. I hope you don't mind but I'd love to ask you about the ones that you've been too, though?

I'm specifically interested in Thailand but keep hearing comments here and there about the reef suffering, but not sure exactly where it's been so damaged that it wouldn't be nice to see. How long ago was it that you went to Koh Lipe?

Thank you!

Jun 03, 2017
Been to 2 out of 3 of those destinations
by: Andy

Have not been to Bonaire (yet) but have been to both Fiji and Bali for snorkeling.

Fiji: we stayed at 2 spots - one was unfortunately destroyed during Cyclone Winston, Namena and is in the process of being rebuilt, the other was on Taveuni.

On Taveuni, we snorkeled both from shore. We were on the north end and in Somosomo Strait. Namena was fantastic, mostly healthy coral, lots of fish, all sites are inside the fringing atoll. Some of the best stuff is a bit deep, but there is plenty at shallower depths as well. Shore based was OK, Somosomo Strait was pretty fantastic. Spots we visited were fairly shallow, lots of fish and coral. Lots of pretty soft corals. Did not visit the western islands.

Bali - snorkeled off the north side of the island from a boat, plus shore. Shore was generally poor - jellyfish and plastic debris, dead coral. Off the northern tip there is a big park, here the snorkeling was pretty good, with a good amount of fish and healthy coral.

As an overall destination, both are great. Fiji, Namena in particular was pretty special, given that it's a small island dedicated to divers/snorkelers and is a marine park. Bali was overall perhaps prettier and definitely more exotic. There are other great options in Indonesia - if you make it to Bali, Komodo supposedly has fantastic snorkeling and could be easily added on.

Hope this helps.

Jun 03, 2017
I Would Opt for Bali
by: Evie

I have been to all 3 places. I went to Navini Island in Fiji. I saw about 150 species. It was lovely, as I could snorkel right off the island, but far better was Wakatobi in Indonesia. It was stunning. Totally stunning. The snorkeling just off the beach is amazing because there is a wall and there are so many fish you can't believe it. I saw 246 species. Bonaire - I found very disappointing as did another close friend of mine. Another friend likes Bonaire, but I was there after the hurricane, and mainly I just saw the rubble.

Jun 03, 2017
Bonaire
by: Spanish Bill

I have no experience on Fiji. I really liked Bonaire especially since it offers abundant walk out snorkeling. It is far cheaper to incorporate a trip to Aruba with your trip. Flying to Aruba and then Bonaire is about 1/3 the cost flying to Bonaire from the U.S.

Jun 03, 2017
All Three Have Merit
by: Steve Catlin

I have made trips to all three places, including snorkeling at each.

1) Bonaire -- I did this in 2001. They had just had a hurricane and much shallow coral was broken, but I'm sure there's been new growth by now. Snorkeled twice a day for a week. Tried most of the bays. Good fish sightings, two turtles, but mostly wrecked coral. Logistically an easy place to go.

2) Bali -- exotic, a good trip overall. As far as snorkeling I don't remember much that was exciting around Bali itself, but we crossed by boat to the small Gili Islands in the channel between Bali and Lomboc. This was awesome: dozens of turtles, essentially infinite clarity. Did drift snorkeling (fairly strong currents).

3) Fiji -- this was a disappointment. Went during June because books said the weather would be good. It actually was windy and wavy with crummy visibility. Locals said "Why are you here now? You should have come in August." Did see a nice octopus. Did some good snorkeling on boat outings but out front of the resort it was all murky. This was out on the small islands west of Nadi.

One issue, overall, for me: the Caribbean has only about 300 species of reef fish, Fiji has more like 1000, and Indonesia has the most anywhere, on the order of 1500. After a few days we were seeing nothing new in Bonaire.

One of the reviews before mine is correct. The best snorkeling I have ever done was in Indonesia, but not at Bali. Rather, off west Flores (Komodo area, see the dragons too) and at Bunaken near Manado, Sulawesi. I flew to Flores from Bali. I went to Sulawesi from Singapore, but perhaps it can be reached from Bali.

A woman alone? All three places felt safe to me. Fiji people were quite friendly. Bonaire is easy. Indonesia varies. Bali is Hindu and generally seems safe. West Flores is mainly Christian. I can say that women alone get some grief in Muslim places, but these parts of Indonesia are not like Sumatra or Java. Generally Indonesia is a bit 3rd world. How adventurous are you?

Jun 04, 2017
Is Money No Object ?
by: Tony

Is money no object? If it isn't, then I'd rank your choices as follows:
1. Bali
2. Fiji
3. Bonaire

If it is (like for most of us) I'd rank it this way:
1. Bonaire - the only choice that's reasonably affordable.
2. Fiji - because the overall area is the ultimate paradise.
3. Bali - best sea life, but very costly & some areas are scary.

Jun 06, 2017
Fiji
by: Kathy

I have only been to Fiji from your list. We stayed on Kadavu Island for a week. Snorkeling was fun right off the beach, beautiful soft corals of all kinds and a lot of fish. When we went with the dive boat I was awe struck at the huge coral formations surrounded by fish - it was the most beautiful site I'd ever seen. After reading the other comments I think I'll drop Bonaire from my list.

Jun 06, 2017
Our Two Cents About Bonaire
by: Nicole & Galen

While Bonaire might not compare with some other destinations for fish count, etc. we really found some great snorkeling there. We have some pages on the website about it and we wrote an eBook guide to finding the great snorkeling there. Our visits have all been since those big damaging storms.

Jun 06, 2017
My Personal Choice
by: Barbra

I have been to all three and Fiji is best in my opinion. I enjoyed Bonaire, but no desire to return. Did shore snorkeling in several places along with 2 day trips out in boat. All was about the same. Nice program for getting the coral to grow back in places.

Bali was filthy water unless you go to the little island, small boat ride, stay there and take a day trip boat... and then it was so-so. Bali just disappointing overall.

Fiji has several excellent reefs in different locations; so you can stay in different places and enjoy that a lot more.

Jun 06, 2017
Fabulous Fiji
by: Anonymous

Fiji's reef is outstanding. We have made trips to Fiji's Yasawa Islands the past 2 years. The Fijians are the friendliest, stress-free people you ever want to meet. You are greeted at each resort with a song and sent off with another. Most of the resorts have accommodations that range from dormitories to rooms with en suites and outdoor shower. We like to spend 3 nights on an island and then move to a different resort. And the reefs are off the beach and the variety and quantity of reef life is outstanding. Look up Awesome Adventures Fiji to get an idea of what is available. Our favorite resort is Manta Ray.

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