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.

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

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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.

Jan 19, 2018
Fiji
by: Julia

I went to Fiji last May and had a fantastic time. Previously, I'd only ever been to Hawaii and it still holds a special place in my heart as that is where I developed my love of snorkeling. But, I absolutely loved Fiji. The people are fantastic and friendly.

I stayed at a resort on Taveuni called Nakia. It's owned by a lovely retired couple from Northern California. It's an all inclusive resort and the food is fantastic. Robin, the wife is a mother hen and will totally take care of you. She loves it when people eat well.

Their daughter runs the dive shop. If you tell them you are there for snorkeling, they will send one of their dive masters out with you to make sure you're safe. While you might go on the boat with the divers, they will drop them off for the diving and take the snorkelers to others spots that are better for snorkeling.

It was a totally enjoyable experience. It was also very economical since food is included, in fact, I had expected to pay more but learned after getting there that most prices posted are in Fiji dollars which is 2 to 1 US.

The only thing about Fiji is that the mosquitoes are fierce. Or maybe because we have little in the way of mosquitoes in N. California from spraying due to West Nile Virus. In any case, if you go, bring LOTS of mosquito repellent.

Also, no individual tipping in Fiji. It's not part of their culture. You can leave a "tip" in their Christmas Fund box at the end of your stay. It pays for a year end party that is shared by all of the staff.

I can't say enough about the warmth and welcome from the Fiji people. Safety is not even an issue.

Jan 22, 2018
Question for Julia
by: Nicole & Galen

Hi Julia,

We were wondering if there is a house reef at Nakia and if so how is it for snorkeling?

Thanks.

Jan 22, 2018
My opinion on the 3
by: BC

I have been to all 3 and I would forget Bonaire.
Fiji has some of the best soft corals in the world and I would select Paradise Taveuni Resort, Rainbow Reef Resort, and Beqa Lagoon Resort. I was highly disappointed with Bali as a whole.

Jan 23, 2018
Question for BC
by: Nicole & Galen

Hi BC,

Thanks for your comment. It looks like Rainbow Reef Resort is closed...? And have you been to those resorts since Cyclone Winston in 2016?

Jan 28, 2018
Bonaire, Fiji or Bali Trip?
by: Coniatthebeach

I have been to Fiji and Bonaire many times. I would suggest Fiji. Bonaire is really nice if you like Caribbean fish. Good variety although the coral on the reefs has suffered from the storms.

Fiji has incredible coral and the fish in that area are so interesting. We have been to Navini Island Resort twice and the snorkeling from shore is really great. The staff will also take you to areas for manta rays, etc.

I have never been to Bali.

Jan 28, 2018
Fiji
by: Kaye Van Valkenburg

I have also been to all three. I imagine Finny is no longer choosing, but I would also recommend Fiji. I will add that the snorkeling in Fiji is resort-based, and so more difficult to sample a large variety of places. There are a couple of small ship companies that go on six night trips to the Yasawas. Snorkeling is on mid-ocean reefs, accessed on small boats and always accompanied by staff. This might be easier for a person traveling alone.

Jan 29, 2018
Boat Based Trip in Fiji
by: Penny

Hi, I've never been to Bali but Fiji beats Bonaire in a million ways. As serious snorkelers, my husband and I have traveled to quite a few places and Fiji ties with the Galapagos for great snorkeling.

We spent a week on the Tui Tai, a wonderful experience that included twice daily snorkels and many cultural adventures on different islands. The staff was amazing and I think you would feel very, very safe there. We spent another week in the Yasawas which was fun but not nearly as good as the Rainbow Reef and other great spots from the TuiTai.

Raja Ampat is on my list but for those who are serious nature lovers, the Galapagos should be on your list!

Safe Travels, Clear Waters.

Jan 29, 2018
Tui Tai Closed?
by: Nicole & Galen

Hi Penny, thanks for your comment. We heard that the Tui Tai has closed for business. Do you know if this true? Thanks.

Jan 29, 2018
Fiji
by: DK

As a single female I snorkeled in Fiji in June 2015 as a 60th birthday gift to myself. I recommend it over Bonaire where I am right now. I spent one week on a Blue Lagoon cruise to the Yasawa Islands and did off boat or off shore snorkeling. I spent one week at Paradise Resort on Taveuni Island. The snorkeling off the boat mooring pier is superb. Boat trips to Rainbow reef are available to view colorful coral and sponges. The best coral gardens I've seen are in Fiji.

I also really liked Roatan, Honduras in February 2017, especially the reef right in front of Infinity Bay Resort. I saw fish there that I had not seen before.

Jan 30, 2018
Fiji December 2017
by: Ray R (NZ)

I spent 8 days in Fiji early December 2017, thoroughly enjoyed it and generally agree with most of the comments above.

I went by myself (male 59) and stayed at the Sheraton on Tokoriki Island in the Mamanucas. The only other place on the island is the high end Tokoriki Island Resort.

I typically spent half the day on the house reef/island reef and the other half on boat snorkeling trips to various other Mamanuca Islands (Monuriki "Castaway", Monu, Modiki, Matamanoa and Nukumana sandbar). All the trips were good to very good with an interesting range of fish and hard coral with a sprinkling of soft coral. I saw turtles on every trip and a couple of rays. The house reef was also very good with the addition of reef sharks in the afternoon most days and a nice surprise of a very close turtle encounter in the sea grass one day.

The fish variety was very good on the house reef especially once you understood the hiding spots and best times for viewing.

The only negative was that the reefs were just a bit too deep in most places so you were always looking down on the fish and didn't swim with them much.

As other people have said the people were great and the whole feeling was fantastic, terrific food (but a bit pricey!!).

I hope to explore some of the other Fiji areas on a later trip.

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