Our Autumn Snorkeling Trip to Aruba
by Tom & Jan Turner
Christmas Tree Worms on Brain Coral
We arrived for our autumn snorkeling trip to Aruba late in the day on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, and promptly found out that our car rental company abandoned us. Fortunately, there was another rental company with about the same rate that came to our rescue. We got to the cabana that we rented too late to get in the water that day, and it turned out to be too rough on Sunday to get in.
Finally, on Monday it was calm enough to get in. We snorkeled Malmok in the morning, and Arashi in the afternoon. Saw all kinds of fish, huge schools of grunts; scores, maybe hundreds of various color cushion starfish; a huge school of silversides; the largest Steelerfish (Rock Beauty) that we've ever seen; counted 35 squid in one school(?); and three eels. The buoy that Galen & Nicole use as a marker for the coral at Arashi is gone, so we swam around a bit before we found it.
In effect, we had nine days on the island. We snorkeled twice a day, morning and afternoon, on seven of the days. We snorkeled at all of the sites that Galen & Nicole document in their Aruba section. The water was various stages of murky the whole time we were there. Some days clearer than others.
We had a tremendous time with wildlife. We saw all kinds of fish and critters every time we went in. Only saw turtles once, but we saw seven different ones all in the same swim. Two were pretty big, maybe three feet across. We saw a blue spotted Cornetfish, and got to watch a Flying Gurnard for quite a while, four or five octopi during the week; eels and eels and eels, Chain Moray, Green Moray, Goldentail Moray, Spotted Moray, Sharptail Eel, and two Red Faced Morays, which are supposed to be pretty rare. We saw several kinds of urchins, including Rock Boring and many brittle stars.
We snorkeled from Puerto Chiquito to Mangel Halto four times. Great coral, great numbers of fish and critters, tremendous Elkhorn Coral to the left at Puerto Chiquito, and found several small stands of Staghorn Coral.
The Antilla shipwreck is certainly worthwhile. It is a really big ship and has been in the water long enough to really develop sponge and coral growth, and there are all kinds of fish. Saw a huge snapper while there.
We went to a few spots that Galen & Nicole don't mention. The No Name Wreck, which can be seen standing out of the water just before Malmok. It was shallow and no coral, but lots of fish. Saw some eels and an octopus. We accidentally left a back door open on our car when we went in. Someone rifled through the car while we were out. They went through everything, but took nothing. There was nothing of value.
We went to Savaneta Beach. It is a long swim through shallow water before you finally get to deeper water. Lots and lots of big, dead, Elkhorn Coral. Some live coral, not a lot. Kind of sparse for wildlife, also. The water was nice.
On Saturday, we walked to the Natural Pool. It is not a snorkel site, but it is definitely very interesting. We did see slate pencil urchins for the first time at the Natural Pool, and there are a lot of reef fish coming and going at the pool. The real draw is the huge waves that break over the rocks and spill into the pool.
We did one night snorkel at Mangel Halto and saw many different things. We saw what we were told are pencil worms, an 18" long critter that we think was a Medusa Worm, several eels, an octopus, and many Giant Eye Squid. They are golden colored and only about two inches long. I have never seen them during the day.
In effect, Aruba is not a great snorkel destination, but it can be an inexpensive trip if you plan it out right. Apparently there is enough competition to help keep things affordable.
The coral is pretty good in a few spots, but you have to know where to look. There is plenty of fish and wildlife to keep you entertained, and the island has some unique spots that are worth visiting.
Of all the places we have been over the years, Aruba is the only place that we have had any trouble. We had our car stolen the first time we were there, and this trip we were stranded by a rental company and had our car rifled through. Also, it is the most crowded island that we go to. We will go back to Aruba as a low budget destination, but my next trip to the southern Caribbean will be to Bonaire.