Inexperienced Snorkelers Really Enjoyed Mangel Halto
It seems it’s been a while since anyone posted about snorkeling Aruba. My husband and I rented a place near Mangel Halto and snorkeled each of the 7 days we were there, 1-2.5 hrs/day.
We brought our own gear (thanks for the recommendations on this site) and had a wonderful time! Our previous experiences have been in Cozumel, Hawaii, and Roatan. Each of them marginal as we really didn’t make it much of a focus of the trip, and didn’t prioritize our time and lodging around snorkeling. This time was much better.
Days 1-3 we went out with a guide: Day 1 the drift from Puerto Chiquito, Day 2 out to the reef from one of the ladders in the lagoon, Day 3 the drift again. Each time we used the dock platform as a place to rest. The winds were 18-22 mph each day; not what I would call calm. The visibility varied according to the wind and sun, but we found it to be enjoyable each day.
Days 4-7 we went on our own. One day we entered from Mangel Halto Beach. Based on the currents we experienced, this was the easiest way to enter and drift over to the reef. We were able to access the outside of the reef from there pretty easily even with the currents.
Another day we entered from the dock in the corner of the bay. This was a little challenging as we had to swim against the current more. But we could still access the outside of the reef.
If you do access the outside of the reef, please be aware that the current is strong coming back towards the reef cut and dock platform. We found it challenging but doable, especially after three guided snorkels. We are in our 40s, active and comfortable swimmers.
The reef inside the bay is OK. Very novice snorkelers or individuals who are not confident swimmers should find plenty to see and be happy with.
The reef outside is much healthier, although some areas close to the dock platform were damaged. There were tour guides there most days so it seems to get regular use. If you are willing to swim outside the reef about 50-200 feet (south/southeast of the dock platform so you can use the current to assist your swim back to the platform), there is a lot of beautiful coral and a huge variety of fish.
You must keep an eye on the platform though as that will be your home base, a place to catch your breath and assess if you are ready for more swimming or not. I overshot it by 20 feet or so to the west one day and it was a very active swim back to the ladder.
The swim back to shore is also quite active so save some energy for that. There are several places along the north shoreline of the bay to access a ladder and get back up if you can’t make it back to the beach or to the platform in the northeast corner. The key is to be aware at all times of the currents, your energy levels and boat activity in the water. We started between 7:45 and 9 am each day and had no issue. Most tours come through in the mid-morning and afternoon.
We considered going north to Arashi Beach one day but couldn’t justify it given the wonderful experience we had at Mangel Halto. I would post about the varieties of coral and fish, but we neglected to pack our reef ID book. :(
A word about gear... We did purchase snorkeling vests and found those to be really useful while floating over the reef and especially during the active swims back to the platform or the shore. Also, as an inexperienced snorkeler I felt more secure in a vest.
Also, we are both fair skinned (a curse for water babies like me!). I was already onto the idea of a long sleeved rash guard, but your idea of swim tights was awesome. I felt like a big weirdo out there, but didn’t burn on my arms, shoulders, or legs.
Also, my husband was happy using neoprene socks inside his fins, but my preference was to wear my water shoes and open foot fins on top of those. This was really functional for me to walk over the rocky bottoms at the start and finish and I didn’t have to carry anything with me once swimming.
Overall a great trip! The information here was invaluable!!!