Our Bonaire 2020 Snorkeling Report
by Palmetto State Man
(Greenville, NC USA)
School of Barracuda we saw while snorkeling Bonaire.
First off, thanks to the Tropical Snorkeling Bonaire Guide and all the great advice and information.
Day 1: Arrival and settling in
Day 2: Klein Bonaire from a boat
We are not keen on group activities while vacationing, but since to get to Klein Bonaire took at least a water taxi we decided to use the Woodwind boat tour instead of a taxi.
We entered through the Divi Resort main entrance. Because we read about some difficulty in locating them we scouted the place out the day before. The Divi staff said we could park inside their gate, which we did. When you get there walk through the open air registration area straight ahead to the sign post. Turn left and go past the pool and the ice machine and look for the Woodwind sign and gate.
We headed out around 9 and Mrs. PSM and I grabbed a spot on the bow netting. Maria was in charge along with three mates, David and two young ladies one of which is a photographer. First off you travel around a bit under full sail which is quite nice, I really enjoy the sailing part as well as the other stuff. The staff served drinks while we sailed. I would estimate that we sailed for 45 minutes or so until the buoy they wanted freed up. They split us up into three groups, ours was lead by Maria.
Bonaire is a windy place and the winds today according to Maria were about five mph higher than usual which gave the sea a little chop and two foot swells.
The trip included three snorkeling stops. First, we did a drift snorkel for a good 45+ minutes at Knife (Y buoy) and Leonora’s Reef (X buoy). We saw lots healthy corals and marine life including a sea turtle. Maria would dive down 10-15 feet and point out interesting fish or corals.
Second, we did a shorter drift snorkel at Jerry’s (C buoy) and Ebo’s Reef (B buoy) and again saw lots of fish and corals. Lastly, we did a longer drift snorkel at Just A Nice Dive (D buoy) and again saw lots of fish and corals and our second turtle of the day.
All in all we had three stops and saw a large amount of the usual array of fish and very healthy corals plus a couple turtles and multiple barracuda.
The Woodwind team did a good job of leading and looking after the group. It was noted on a previous report that they did not group by experience, I think this is so one leader does not have to look after six inexperienced guests.
Following the snorkeling stops we had beer and rum punch plus an Asian style lunch that was filling and tasty.
My overall impressions are:
This is a really good value, five and a half hours, three snorkel stops, drinks, snacks and lunch for $65/per person.
The staff are incredibly hard working between guiding the snorkeling, serving us guests and constantly washing dishes. They maintained an excellent attitude and demeanor.
They are very organized and conscious of the health and safety of the guest, offering sun screen, t-shirts and hats to protect against the sun.
We recommend this trip.
Day 3: Close to home
Following two busy and draining days we decided to sleep in and hang around our condo and snorkel locally in front of the Plaza Resort near 18th Palm, although looking at the map we did not quite make it that far. We stayed on the south side of the harbor channel at Port Bonaire so we back paddled across in order to keep an eye out for boats, boat traffic is limited mid-morning and mid-afternoon and there was a good amount of divers and snorkelers crossing the channel and the boat channel is well marked. From there we went around the point and headed north for about 45 minutes and went past the Plaza Restaurant and “beach”. We saw a limited amount of coral although some looked very healthy, but we did see a good number of fish including some large what I think were Coney fish, about a dozen barracuda and a large school of needlefish. Our swim was about 75 minutes and following that we decided to hang out at the pool for the rest of the day.
Day 4 Exploring the north
Well it happens from time to time that conditions are just not suitable for snorkeling. With the winds between 25-30mph we decided to explore the northern side of the island.
Day 5 Snorkeling in town
With the winds still higher than usual we decided to try in town. Since we are good swimmers and the Buddy Dive dock has a ladder into the water that is free to use we started there and planned to go all the way up to the Cliff snorkel location. We got in and headed north there is not much to see initially there are a few fish under the dock and Buddy Dive has a pretty extensive coral reclamation project going on. The area is about 100 square feet and some of the coral growth is over a foot long. There were a lot of fish hanging out in the coral plantation.
Not much else to see at Buddy Dive so we moved to Captain Don’s. On the way there was a bunch of needlefish plus a dozen or so silver Palometas swimming past in the sandy area. Captain Don's dock had a lot of fish under it and just north of the dock there were a few coral heads.
From there we were on toward the Cliff. About 100 yards north of Captain Don’s dock the coral field began with Elkhorn and Staghorn hard corals as well as soft corals, this kept up on and off until 50 yards or so north of Cliff. In this area there is a large number of fish of all types and sizes. After a while hanging out there we started back south along the drop-off. We had spent about 75 minutes on our trek north and now turning south the wind/current shifted and we had to kick pretty hard for 30 minutes to get back to Buddy Dive. Mrs. PSM saw a massive 5-6 silver fish, she knows tarpon and barracuda it was not one of them. Oh well, it is a mystery for now. The best area on this swim was the Cliff area. I am not sure about the entry there since it is rocky. The other two sites were just average.
Day 6: The unexpected
Wrapping up our first week we stayed close to home base and snorkeled off of our condo ladder at Port Bonaire for the second time but this time we went south taking in Te Amo Beach down past the fuel pier to Donkey Beach. Starting out it was a little cloudy in our channel until we got out near the point. We kept pretty close to shore and watched for boat traffic. It was mid-morning so there were very few boats coming and going. Once we turned the corner past the point and headed south there was a good bit of coral about twenty yards offshore and a lot of fish mostly of the same variety we had been used to seeing. There were a few beach snorkelers to navigate around and away from so now and then we went out to the drop-off to see fish coming and going from the deep.
We kept going south to the fuel pier, fortunately we experienced none of the fuel smell issues, and the area under the pier had a lot of fish as you would expect. Continuing on about 100 yards south of the pier Mrs. PSM pointed to a conch shell near some coral that was moving. Popping up she said OCTOPUS!! Sure enough there was an octopus wrapped around the conch shell trying to get a tasty lunch. In all of our swims over the past 12 years this is only the third one we have seen. We got to watch for about 10 minutes or so as the octopus eventually was totally wrapped around the shell and pulled the conch under the coral into the shadows, what a sight.
Since there was still coral to the south we continued on and just then I spotted a green turtle coming up from the bottom, it was about two feet long and appeared to have an injured right rear foot. Still the graceful creature glided along in front of us out to sea, so beautiful. All in all it turned out to be an unexpectedly impressive snorkel in an area that is considered to be just average, you never know what you will come across.
Day 7: Klein Bonaire part two
Since there were not any cruise ships in port, we decided to take a water taxi back to Klein Bonaire. We figured that our trip with Woodwind while it had three stops did not include the drift to no name beach. We chose Epic Tours for the taxi and Dennis was our captain, good choice. The journey out to Klein was nice and Dennis filled us in on a few facts about Klein and the channel between the islands. The boat stopped at the beach and we dropped our stuff off, the boat has a nice ramp that lowers so it is easy to get on and off from the sand. Then the boat took us to the drop off location and we jumped in and started our drift. We stayed just outside the reef near the drop-off and we saw a tremendous array of all types of corals and fish. Some of the fish of note were different kinds of jacks, barracuda, porcupinefish, grouper, all types of angelfish and a few scorpionfish and eels plus others. The corals were very colorful and healthy. We stayed in the water the whole time between taxi stops about an hour and 45 minutes. We did not want to spend a full two hours on the beach so we got back on the taxi without any beach time. Klein Bonaire is definitely worth both an excursion and a water taxi trip.
(Report continues in the comments below.)