We enjoyed snorkeling Tolo on our last visit to Bonaire. There is some good shallow snorkeling to the right with corals and some fish to see. This spot is also known as Ol’ Blue.
Tolo is a bit exposed and often has rough water conditions so expect some waves with entry and exit and while in the water.
This spot is on the one-way section of road and requires you to drive the long way through Rincon to get back to town, so plan your day accordingly.
Water Entrance for Snorkeling Tolo
There are steps in the short fossilized coral cliff down to the beach which is made of rock and coral rubble, not much sand. The entrance is pretty easy for snorkeling Tolo, but like everywhere in Bonaire, watch for ankle twisting rocks. Shoes are a good idea for the coral rubble in the sand, and once you are floating, change into your fins. Make sure to time your entrance and exit with the waves.
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Where to Snorkel
The best area for snorkeling Tolo is to the right of the entrance. Swimming that direction in the shallows you will see a few fish over a mostly sandy bottom, but once you get closer to the rocky point you will start to see a decent amount of fish and some sea plumes and sea rods, Mustard-Hill, fire, star, brain, Staghorn, Elkhorn, and Pillar corals, along with some sponges. In this area we also got to see a curious Green Sea Turtle, who came to check us out quite closely.
You can swim in this shallow reef area for a long ways to the right, just make sure you can swim back to the entrance against any wind or current.
The depths in the shallows are 1-15 feet and the visibility was good, but will likely vary based on conditions.
Once you have gone as far to the right as you want while snorkeling Tolo, you can swim back over the drop-off, which is quite close to shore at the rocky point. The reef on the drop-off was mostly star corals with soft corals including sea fans, some Yellow Pencil Coral, some starlet corals, and some sponges, along with some fish in nice variety. We even saw a large school of Bar Jacks darting around and breaching the surface numerous times.
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The top of the drop-off is about 20 feet deep and drops off steeply from there. The visibility varies depending on conditions, but was decent when we last snorkeled Tolo.
You can keep swimming over the drop-off to the left of the entrance, against the prevailing wind, waves and current, and you will have an easy return. But the corals are not as healthy, the reef is deeper, and the visibility decreased, so we don’t really recommend it.
While snorkeling Tolo we unfortunately saw that the some of the corals were diseased, some were actively bleaching, and we saw effects of past bleaching events too.
What We Saw
We saw a decent amount of fish while snorkeling Tolo in a nice variety. We saw: parrotfish, wrasse, chromis, damselfish, angelfish, butterflyfish, soldierfish, hogfish, surgeonfish and tang, Trumpetfish, grouper, schools of grunts, snappers, needlefish, goatfish, Chubs, Tarpon, moray eel, filefish, flounder, and lizardfish.
The list of corals we saw while snorkeling Tolo are listed in the Where to Snorkel section above.
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- Drive north out of Kralendijk on the main road, Kaya Grandi. The name of this road changes to Kaya Gobernador N. Debrot when it turns a little left at Kaya Neerlandia.
- Take your second right in the traffic circle on the north end of town and keep heading north.
- The road will turn to the right away from the water and then turn left to parallel it again. And it turns a couple more times to be next to the water again.
- Continue driving north along this narrow two way waterfront road. You will see a number of yellow painted boulders marking other dive sites.
- You will pass a wall that is on both sides of the road that has a green sign that says Karpata. This is also where this road becomes one way from here to Karpata. It is marked by a blue and white arrow sign. We saw people driving the wrong way on this road so be careful.
- There are two dirt road turns into Tolo with yellow rocks. We recommend you turn into the second one, past the huge black and white striped cone on the left. It’s closer to where you enter the water and easier to drive.
- To get back to Kralendijk you have to take the long route through Rincon, or add on a sightseeing trip to Goto Meer to see the flamingos.