by Palmetto State Man – (Greenville, NC USA)
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 sunscreen, 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 weather 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 and 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 foot long 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 Sea 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.
Day 8: A windy day at Lac Bay
Well we used the Windguru app to help us plan our activities since the wind plays such a large role in shore snorkeling. Well a few days previous our day 7 and 8 was supposed to be lower winds. This did not turn out to be the case. We probably should not have tried the Lac Bay snorkeling that day but at this point we were not sure that any other day would be better so we started out from the old fishing shack, recommended by fellow snorkelers on the island, and walked in knee high water out toward the middle of the reef for about 20+ minutes. The winds were about 20 knots and the current was extremely stiff. After we put on our fins we swam hard for 20 minutes to reach the coral beds. It is without a doubt some of the most dense Staghorn Coral we have ever seen and there was also an abundance of other corals. The winds and currents made it tough to stay in one place to closely view the formations and the associated fish so we had to view on the move while weaving in and out of the corals. At one point I was able to find a place to drift and look at a few things and in no time I was 100 yards away from Mrs. PSM. After about an hour we decided to head back in. With our time on the island winding down we are glad we did this snorkel although we wish the wind was much lighter, maybe on our next trip.
Day 9: Pool day since the winds were still up
Day 10: Karpata
Wow day 10, our trip was winding down and we were trying to squeeze in as many top spots as we could. Next we headed north to Karpata along the one way road. When we got there the surf was a little high and we skipped on to the platform in between the waves. Once on the platform we sat on the end and did our masks and put our flippers on and jumped in. We swam out to the mooring buoy and headed south into the current along the drop-off. It was obvious from the get-go that there is a tremendous amount of undamaged coral at this location. On the way south we saw a large barracuda and a turtle along with the tons of other reef fish.
We just got to the La Dania’s Leap mooring buoy to the south of Karpata and were talking about turning back when I saw a shadow moving through the water. I put my head under and I could not believe it. It was a six foot Manta Ray!!! It was unbelievably graceful and smooth as it quickly moved beyond our vision in the slightly cloudy water. Mrs. PSM got a little bit of video of it, I still can’t believe it. We surfaced and just stared at one another for a few moments, what an experience.
We swam back in the shallower water the coral was very vibrant and there were lots of fish and even a turtle. We made it back to the concrete platform where we entered. Now the waves were washing over the platform and it looked to be difficult to get out. We read about getting along the platform on the north side and hopping up on to it. I thought I would give that a try and swam toward the north side. I was in about two feet of water still with my fins on when I got hit by a wave and body surfed the whole way to the rocky shore turned around and sat on a mossy rock, wow. Mrs. PSM could not believe it; there I was on shore and she had to work her way up the side of the platform. Well fortunately I made it look easy, my turn for a difficult exit would soon come.
Following our swim we relaxed at the concrete picnic tables and had snacks and some water. Mrs. PSM hung her wetsuit hoody on a nearby branch to start to dry. We eventually left and stopped by to look at the flamingos and drove home. Once home we realized that we forgot the hoody! Crap, I thought $85 down the drain, not totally giving up hope I turned around and headed back to Karpata. You know that a lot is written about how petty theft is such a big problem on the island and this case is just one case. It was a full two hours from when we drove off without the hoody and when I returned it was still there, amen!
Day 11: What starts out easy can get hard
Well our last day of snorkeling, since we are strong swimmers and the current goes south to north on the southern sites we decided to get in at Margate Bay, which is considered an easier entry than Red Beryl, and swim into the current along the drop-off, which is about 100 yards offshore here, south to near Red Beryl and come back up north in the more shallow areas.
The entry was rocky with a 12 inch ledge but there really were not any waves so it was a pretty easy entry. We thought looking from shore that the drop-off would be at the mooring buoy. We swam to the buoy and in reality the drop-off is about 30 yards or so out past the buoy. The water here is about 25-30 feet deep and the visibility was a little below average on that day, there seemed to be a lot of particulate matter in the water and it was 50% cloud cover. The coral in this area is in really good condition, there are a lot of fish and we also saw a couple of turtles.
Once we made the turn back going north with the current and moved into shallower 5-10 feet water the clarity improved quite a bit. It was enjoyable to see the detail and also to view the smaller fish within the coral formations. We had a great swim for a couple of hours and all we had to do was get back on land.
It seems that while we were out things changed, there was now quite a bit of surf, at least two foot waves hitting the shore. Because of that 12 inch coral ledge coming out of the water I could not do my now patented body surfing exit. So, balancing my way along the very uneven bottom I think I stepped in a hole and got hit by a wave at the same time and down goes PSM. And another wave boom. I ended up sticking my hand into a hole with a sea urchin ouch!!! Well now I know how that feels. This is a great site but watch the surf and the winds.
Well that is a wrap on our trip. It was really great and Mrs. PSM and I thoroughly enjoyed our time on Bonaire even though the winds were 5-10 mph higher than normal according to many island regulars.
Hopefully some folks who are thinking about coming to visit will glean a little info from this report.
I think on our second trip to Bonaire we will look seriously at the early fall when the winds should be about half of what they were on our trip.
Comments Moved From Previous System
Nicole & Galen – Mar 26, 2020 – Thank You!
Hello PSM, thanks so much for taking the time to write and share your Bonaire snorkeling trip report from 2020! So nice to hear that the corals and creatures are still in abundance on the island.
PalmettoStateMan – Mar 26, 2020 – Thanks Again to TropicalSnorkeling
Nicole and Galen, I just wanted to thank you two again for all you do for the snorkeling community and thanks for posting my report!
It’s hard to believe that we’ve been at it for 12 years, Grand Cayman (four trips), the Florida Keys, Maui, Aruba, Curacao and this time Bonaire. For each available location we have used your eBooks and they have been super helpful.
Keep it up!
Bill – Feb 7, 2021 – Snorkel Trip
We have used the Sea Cow snorkel tour. Two drift snorkels around Klein Bonaire. A guide goes with and it is very safe. Rum punch and snacks. Very friendly crew and multi-lingual.