Bermuda outer reef snorkeling is excellent, offering some of the healthiest reefs you can snorkel. If you look at the satellite map of Bermuda at right, you can see that its offshore reef is huge. Before our trip, looking at that picture made us very excited to get out there. And fortunately we were able to snorkel a number of the most popular spots on the outer reef.
You will have the opportunity to see bigger fish species in these areas, because of the tidal flow. Bait balls in early summer are not uncommon, and larger species feed on them like Tarpon, Jacks, Groupers, and others.
Note: This page is a sample from our popular Bermuda Snorkeling Guide eBook available here.
Along the south shore of Bermuda the reef is close enough in many areas to swim out to from a beach. But to the west and north, the reef is a few miles to seven miles out. So you will need to book a boat excursion to snorkel it. Just make sure the company you book with actually takes you to one of the better Bermuda outer reef snorkeling spots, because most of them don't. Unfortunately you cannot rent your own boat to access the best outer reefs.
There are also several popular shipwrecks at Western Blue Cut, and we explore them in detail on our Bermuda shipwreck snorkeling page.
Blue Hole Reef - If you want to visit the Blue Hole, probably the best Bermuda outer reef snorkeling spot for sea life, then we recommend you go with Hat-Trick Charters (see their ad at right). Captain Keith and his wife Gwen run a great excursion on their trimaran sailboat. Keith has been involved in the Bermuda snorkeling tour industry most of his life, is an experienced captain, and is even a skilled boat builder. He is tremendously knowledgeable about Bermuda history and sea life.
North Rock - There are a couple of companies that run out to North Rock (although not Hat-Trick). This excursion takes longer since it is seven miles from the east end and twenty from the west end. The companies leaving out of Castle Harbour or Flatts near the east end have a shorter boat trip out to the reef. We prefer Blue Hole, but North Rock is good also. We accessed North Rock with a boat that is not publicly available for this trip. So unfortunately we cannot recommend a company at this time.
There are innumerable reefs offshore of Bermuda you could snorkel. But the problem is getting out to them. Unless you have a friend with a boat, your options are limited.
While there are a number of snorkel boat tour companies in Bermuda, very few of them take snorkelers to the wonderful outer reefs. Instead most of them take people to some poor snorkel spots that are close to shore. It really got us wondering why, particularly after seeing how good the outer reef is.
After asking around this is what we found out. The cruise ship companies book the majority of the snorkel boat trips, and get a big portion of the fee. And for them, and the boats that choose to serve them, it seems it is mostly about money, not the quality of the snorkeling experience. As you can imagine, the offshore reefs are exposed to more weather, not being protected from winds by land. So naturally if the winds are up a company would need to cancel a trip, because the wavy conditions would make for miserable snorkeling. But if they do cancel a trip, the cruise ship won't book them next time. So the companies take snorkelers to spots that are protected from most weather and ones that are close to save fuel costs, like the spot below in Mangrove Bay.
Maybe this is for the best because it prevents the good healthy Bermuda outer reef snorkeling spots from being destroyed by crowds of visitors. But, if we were running trips, we would want everyone to experience a great reef. So, if you are on a cruise, book your own tour.
Ask, and a company should tell you where they are taking you, and if the weather is bad they should give you the opportunity to reschedule, or go with them to an alternative area if you desire. If they won't tell you, don't book with them.
There is a broad shallow shelf of inner waters inside this barrier reef. These waters are not refreshed often during the summer, unless there is a storm. So particularly in the summer months these waters tend to get cloudy and green from algae blooms, and because the cruise ships silt up the area with their big props. So the very best time to visit the outer reef spots is at high tide. The tide coming in creates much better underwater visibility because of the influx of clear ocean water. Although you may not have a choice depending on the tour company's schedule. But you can always check the tide table yourself and try to schedule your trip for a high tide if the option is available.
Caribbean Fishes ID eBook