Bermuda Outer Reef Snorkeling – Select the Right Boat Tour

Bermuda outer reef snorkeling is excellent, offering some of the healthiest reefs you can snorkel. If you look at the satellite map of Bermuda below, 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.

Satellite view of Bermuda's outer reefs.

You will have the opportunity to see bigger fish species in the Bermuda outer reef snorkeling 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.

Bermuda outer reef snorkeling, showing healthy hard and soft corals.

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.

Which Snorkel Spots Should You Visit?

Blue Hole Reef – Blue Hole is a fantastic snorkel spot, probably the best Bermuda outer reef snorkeling spot for sea life. The corals are far healthier and more abundant than most beach spots. There are also good amounts of fish. It has fun topography to explore with the possibility of spotting some larger fish too.

North Rock – This spot is part of the the North Shore Coral Reef preserve and is some seven miles out. We found this to be a good snorkel spot. There is some topography along with fish and corals, but the life is not as abundant as Blue Hole.

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North Rock, with corals and fish.

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.

Why Don’t More Boats Offer Bermuda Outer Reef Snorkeling Excursions?

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 Bermuda outer reef 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.

Snorkeling Sunburns Suck!

Check out the snorkeling rash guards, wetsuits, and reef safe sunscreen we use to protect ourselves and to protect fish and coral from sunscreen chemicals.

Bermuda inshore snorkel boat tour

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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.

You can read reviews of Bermuda snorkel boat tour companies on TripAdvisor.

Try to Go at High Tide

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 for Bermuda outer reef snorkeling 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.

More Bermuda Snorkeling Tips