Southern Caribbean Snorkeling Cruise Report, April 2016

Green Sea Turtle at Grand Turk
Green Sea Turtle at Grand Turk

By Tom and Jan Turner – (Jamestown, PA)
I wanted to share my trip report about our southern Caribbean snorkeling cruise in April 2016. To begin with, my wife and I are more of the “stay at a single location and run around to different snorkeling spots” kind of people, not real big on cruising. But I must say, this cruise that we took had four ports of call, and we were able to find some pretty good snorkeling at each port.

The ports were, in order, Grand Turk, La Romana (Dominican Republic), Curacao, and Aruba. We have spent time in Aruba before, so we knew what we wanted to do in Aruba, but the other ports were all new to us.

At our first stop, Grand Turk, we were definitely surprised and pleased to find a great little snorkeling spot within walking distance of the port. It didn’t cost us a dime for the nice snorkeling we found just south of the port. Here is a map of the snorkeling area. There are three patches of reef within easy distance from shore at a deserted beach where there were only a few other folks around. We thoroughly enjoyed our day at the deserted beach, and this is the spot where we saw our only turtle of the trip. There are no facilities, so go prepared.

Brittle Stars at La Romana, Dominican Republic
Brittle Stars at La Romana, Dominican Republic

Our second stop was La Romana, Dominican Republic. This stop was probably the least enjoyable, but we made it work. I read of a place called Bayahibe Beach. We thought that we would get off of the ship and find a taxi over there and spend the day. When we got off, we found that the taxi would cost $90, and he would wait there for you, allowing you two hours at the beach, and then bring you back. That was way too expensive, and way too short. We spend two hours or better when we go in to snorkel.

We found out, from a lot of asking around, that if we got ten people together and all took the same van, it would be $15 each, and the driver would bring us back when we wanted. We just hung around at the taxi stand until we had 10 people who all wanted to go to Bayahibe Beach. The snorkeling here was OK, a lot of fish and some eels, but a lot of dead coral. It was fine because the alternative was less inviting.

Glassy Sweepers inside Tugboat, Curacao
Glassy Sweepers inside Tugboat, Curacao

The next stop, Curacao, we had a great time. We rented a car just off of the cruise port, and thanks to information provided by Galen and Nicole, we headed off to Tugboat, a great, quiet little snorkel spot maybe five or six miles from the cruise port. There is a little store/rental spot there, so drinks and snacks were available. We spent the entire afternoon, right up until dusk, snorkeling around the entire area. There were great abundances of fish and sea life to see around the area.

As you snorkeled off to the right from the beach area, there are great sections of coral, hard and soft, and plenty of great sights of the wonderful, natural beauty that abounds in a healthy reef. The Tugboat was very interesting and we spent a lot of time just viewing all of the fish and activity around the boat. The picture below was taken by swimming down to the Tugboat and sticking my hand inside a hole in the hull and snapping a shot. I knew there were a lot of fish inside, but was amazed at how many once we could look at the picture. Tugboat was a great day and we had a ball while we were there.

Caribbean Elkhorn Coral
Caribbean Elkhorn Coral

The last stop of our cruise was Aruba. We had already decided that we would rent a car and go to the Puerto Chiquito to Mangel Halto drift snorkel for the morning, and then go north of town to Arashi for the afternoon. It turned out that it was pretty rough that day, and decided it was too dicey to do the drift snorkel outside of the reef at Puerto Chiquito, so we went to Mangel Halto and snorkeled around this area for the morning.

Mangel Halto has some mangroves, and there are spots where there is hardly any current. This is the only place that we have ever found seahorses. Mangel Halto has great abundances of fish, good healthy coral, although it also has one of the largest stands of fire coral that we have seen, and lots to see around this area. Currents can be strong, so care must be taken as you get to the outside edges of the area. We had a lot of fun here and enjoyed the water, the sights, the wildlife, and the beauty.

In the afternoon, we headed north and decided to go to Catalina Cove instead of Arashi Beach because of the weather. We thought that Arashi would be too rough. Again, we had a great afternoon enjoying the world of water that all of us snorkel nuts pretty much live for. This area was not as nice or entertaining as Mangel Halto, but the water was great and it is always fun to watch the fish and look for something different.

In closing, we had so much fun on this cruise, that while we were heading back to Port Canaveral, we booked the same cruise with the same destinations for the fall of 2017. We still prefer to stay on an island and run around to different shore snorkeling spots, but we decided that this was worth doing again.

Coming up in the more immediate future, we will be floating around the Banda Sea in October, and then spending a week at a dive resort in Raja Ampat. Snorkel on!! (See Tom and Jan’s trip report from the Banda Sea and Raja Ampat Indonesia.)

Comments Moved From Previous System

Nicole and Galen – May 14, 2016 – Wonderful Report!

Hi Tom and Jan, as always it is a pleasure to read your trip reports and this one is no exception! I am sure our readers will find your Grand Turk and La Romana, Dominican Republic information very helpful. Thank you!

Ruth – May 14, 2016 – Wow!

Great pics Tom and Jan! I do wish there were more! Looking forward to joining you next year!

Anonymous – May 25, 2016 – Cruise Line

Hi there, what cruise line did you use? Thank you.

Tom Turner – May 25, 2016 – It Was Carnival

Carnival runs a southern Caribbean cruise that goes to the ports mentioned in the report. It departs from Port Canaveral and gives you pretty good opportunity to have sufficient time at each port to get in some good snorkeling. Curacao is probably the tightest schedule because it does not get into port until 1 PM. We had enough fun on this cruise that we decided to go again in the fall of 2017.

Anonymous – Oct 12, 2016 – Grand Turk

Hello, how long was the walk from the ship to the snorkel spot? Also would you consider this an easy snorkel spot, I will have my children, ages 10, 12, and 17.


Tom Turner – Oct 12, 2016 – The Walk

It is a short walk from the cruise ship dock to the snorkeling spot, half a mile at most. As long as the weather is nice, it would be an ideal spot for young children. It is a short swim to the coral, and it doesn’t get very deep. There were no currents to speak of the day we were there.

As you come out of the cruise ship dock, turn to the right and walk along the shore. If I remember correctly, there are some big rocks to climb over, but it should not be a problem. The shore does get a little rough to walk, but about this time, there is a path that goes into the island a little bit. Follow this down, and at the first or second intersection bear to the right.

As long as you are beyond the point of the island, but can still see the point, the reef will be just off shore. It is a relatively nice, undeveloped beach and you can spend the day. Have fun.

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