Bonaire Snorkeling Trip Report October 26 through November 10, 2012
by Tom & Jan Turner
Manta Ray, Playa Pabou, Bonaire
We wanted to share our Bonaire snorkeling trip report. On October 26th, my wife and I flew into Bonaire by way of Curacao. After picking up our reserved pick-up truck at AB Rental (a great place to rent a vehicle), we made it over to the apartment that we had rented for our first week on Bonaire. It was late, and the apartment manager suggested that we get barbecue at Bobbijans, which was just down the street from the apartment. It was great barbecue, and we ate there every weekend of our trip. Bobbijans is only open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and the prices are great. We highly recommend Bobbijans.
We were on Bonaire for 16 days, and we were able to snorkel 14 of them. We used Galen and Nicole's eBook for snorkeling Bonaire, and we never had a bad snorkel.
There was a calm for the first few days that we were there, so we took advantage of no wind and spent the first two days at Lac Bay. With no wind, there were no wind surfers, and we were able to access the snorkeling area with no conflict. What a way to start our trip. The coral is absolutely magnificent in Lac Bay, and the wildlife was tremendous. We saw really big queen parrot fish, the biggest french angelfish we have ever seen, two octopi, several eels (purplemouth and spotted), spotted file fish, many squid, two that were either fighting or mating (never saw that before), besides the huge abundance of reef fish that were present. It is really impossible to adequately describe the wonderful forest of soft coral, and the huge hard coral and really thick stands of staghorn coral that we swam around in at Lac Bay. If there are any calm days forecast while at Bonaire, spend it at Lac Bay.
The list of snorkel spots that we got to are as follows: Lac Bay, Karpata, Klein Bonaire (drift snorkel twice from the water taxi, and two drift snorkels in two different spots with Woodwind cruises. Woodwind cruise has a very reasonably priced snorkel outing with a very helpful and informative guide named Dee. Go on a day when there are no cruise ships.), Yellow Hut, Playa Pabou, Red Beryl North, Andrea 1, 18th Palm, Andrea 2, Margate Bay, Boca Slagbaai, Hidden Beach, Spice Beach, and the Salt Dock. Some places we went to twice.
We were able to night snorkel four times. Our first day on Bonaire, we went on a night snorkel with Renee at the Venezuelan Consulate. She is very helpful and informative. Then we went twice at the Divi Flamingo, and saw the biggest lobster that we have ever seen, besides all the other stuff like more eels than you really want to see. Then we went back to the Venezuelan Consulate on our own.
We were there during the rainy season. It rained once really hard during the day, and twice at night while we were asleep. We did have some murky water to deal with, and I assumed that it was mostly from the rain and runoff that occurred.
The worst spot that we snorkeled was 18th Palm. This was still a fine snorkel; the coral was pretty thin, but the fish and wildlife were wonderful. Saw a really big Barracuda, maybe 4 feet long. Spice Beach did not really have any coral to speak of, but there was tons of wildlife and a sunken sail boat. Saw a spotted eagle ray and a really big crevalle jack, more scorpion fish than we have ever seen (at least 12 different fish), and lots of the regular reef fish.
Some of the highlights of our trip, we saw turtles almost every day. We were up to about 25 turtles for the trip. We were able to get many good pictures of turtles. We saw several spotted eagle rays, all kinds of queen trigger fish, 2 big ocean trigger fish, file fish, parrot fish, coneys (saw a coney eat another fish), many eels, squid, damsel fish, trumpet fish, clouds of blue chromis, brown chromis and sergeant majors. Lots of black durgeons, schools of blue tang, trunk fish and cow fish, snook, lion fish, scorpion fish, barracuda, snapper, tarpon, crevalle jack, a big midnight parrot fish and a school of giant queen parrot fish at Andrea 1, margate and black margate, lots of porcupine and puffer fish, bonefish, bristleworms, red lip blenneys, palometas, got some good pictures inside of a bait ball, several spotted snake eels, many big barracuda around the salt dock, and the best of the trip was an eight foot manta ray that came by at Playa Pabou.
The captain of the Woodwind told us that Playa Pabou was a good spot to see a manta ray. We had already snorkeled there, but decided to go back on our last day to snorkel. Lo and behold, a manta ray came by and we got a pretty good picture of it. It was just cruising through, so we didn't get to see it for long, but it was great.
Some info for those who like to check out the local cuisine. We found lots of great seafood on the island. Some of it quite pricey, some of it very reasonable. We had fish and seafood every day and found it all to be very fresh, and never had a bad meal.
For local places that mostly cater to locals with very reasonable prices, we found four places: Bobbijans has a great barbecue, but the side dishes are lacking; the Rose Inn in Rincon, good food but very busy at lunch time; Divi Divi Bar and Restaurant (dividivibonaire.webs.com), good fish and good prices; and Mi Banana, one of the best fried snapper meals we had on the island, great prices and excellent food, not to be confused with My Banana.
For pricey spots that cater to tourists, Wils was very good, At Sea was one of the best meals we had on the island, It Rains Fishes was very good, Donna and Georgios was very good and a little different because of the Italian twist. Some places that were good and a little less expensive: Unbelievable had excellent fish, Kon Tiki had a good Fish and Chips, but they called it something Dutch, Paradise Moon was very good with a convenient location. We had pizza at the Buddy Dive Resort which was very good, but they do not have a good selection of toppings. We found the Sunset Grill, which had high recommendations, was closed for good.
We rented a pick up truck because of some of the bad roads to deal with, but found that the roads were fine except for Washington Slagbaai. The next time we go, we will rent a car, and if we decide to spend a day at Slagbaai, we will get a truck just for that day. Slagbaai is definitely worth seeing, but it does take all day and there is not a lot of time for snorkeling. If you want to snorkel in Slagbaai, I suggest using one day to see the park, and then going back and go directly to the snorkel spots. We saw a wild boar just outside of Slagbaai (which I guess is very rare to see one), many parrots, and, of course, lots of Flamingos.
We had a wonderful time at Bonaire. The snorkeling is as good as we have ever seen. We will definitely go back when the opportunity again arises. The only two downsides to our trip was the awkward way to travel there, and the way that you have to deal with the petty theft on the island. These are small items for the wonderful things there are to do at Bonaire.
Read Tom & Jan's 2015 Report