Snorkeling is putting a mask on your face, a tube in your mouth (that’s the snorkel) and taking a look at the water surface. With your face down and not too deep, the snorkel pipe will be above the water, and you can breathe. Do it carefully, if you move your face sideways, you start breathing water, which is not comfortable! The ultimate guide to snorkeling can be found here.
More than half of Bonaire staying guests are non-divers. Most of them enjoy the beauty of the Marine Park snorkeling. Worldwide snorkelers outnumber divers by a wide margin. Bonaire snorkeling is great entertainment for all members of the family, no matter what age. Be sure to protect yourself against the sun by using a waterproof sunblock, especially on your shoulders and the back of your legs. A wetsuit is also very good sun protection. If you use a sunblock, please use it wisely. Thereby reducing the number of chemicals entering the water such as Oxybenzone. You can follow these steps to make sure you use the right sunblock:
Choose Oxybenzone free products
Prefer sunscreens based on Zinc oxide or Titanium dioxide (non-nano)
Avoid aerosol sprays
Wear protective clothing
Put on sunscreen at least 30 minutes before entering the water
Do not use a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) above 50
Check this website for a nature-friendly sunblock
Bonaire's snorkeling spots consist of narrow fringing coral reefs, which start at the shoreline and continue with a drop off slightly further out in the sea. Bonaire has one some of the most interesting depth variation for snorkelers, around the coastline you have very shallow waters with plenty of visibility perfect for snorkeling and easy access meaning like the diving you have all the freedom to snorkel at your own convenience without boat trips etc. However, if you swim out between 30 and 100 feet you will suddenly be out of the familiar shallows and come face to face with the unknown mysteries of the deep blue Caribbean sea, which creates a great contrast in your snorkeling experience.
What makes Bonaire one of the most attractive options for snorkeling in the Caribbean is visibility. Being one of the dry or arid islands in the Caribbean means it doesn't have plenty river run off from the island into the coastal sea, which also means that the coastal waters aren't murky with river sediment creating great visibility for snorkeling! Most of the snorkeling sites are situated on the west coast of Bonaire, as the east coast of the island gets hit directly by the winds making the waters more dangerous to enter. The west coast is sheltered from this and has more visibility due to the calmer waters.
Underwater life in Bonaire's waters
With no less than 469 species of fish and 55 species of coral being documented as seen in the waters in Bonaire, there is truly a large spectum of underwater colors waiting to be seen in your snorkel. There is nothing in Bonaire's water that is dangerous, but be careful not to touch anything, because you may harm it. Stony Coral looks pretty sturdy, but in fact, it consists of thousands of delicate tiny animals. If you touch it, they'll die. And besides, although not dangerous, some of these critters can give you annoying stings.
Bonaire is known for its pioneering role in the preservation of the marine environment. For over 30 years, the entire fringing reef system around Bonaire has been a national park, protected from the high water level to a depth of 200 feet/ 60 meters. The Bonaire National Marine Park protects it in different ways.
Marine tag Bonaire
All who want to legally be in the waters around Bonaire are required to obtain a Marine Park tag, valid for one calendar year. The cost of the tag for non-divers is US$10, and the proceeds help to support park management and services.
One of the most successful programs that Bonaire has to offer is the unique Bonaire Guided Snorkel. Ask for it in the dive shops. A number of sites have been chosen, representing a cross-section of Bonaire's reef life. Most of the sites are accessed from shore, while some involve short boat trips. Whichever suits you, they all begin with an informative presentation, providing an overview and introduction to that particular snorkel site. After the orientation, a trained guide leads the group on a guided snorkel, pointing out all sorts of marine life and behaviors.
Once your guide has taught you all about the species it is much more fun to snorkel on your own. Once you recognize a few, you will see other species that you did not notice before.
Best snorkeling sites on Bonaire:
Klein Bonaire - No Name Beach - The little island off the west coast of Bonaire is called Klein Bonaire. It has a spectacular beach called No Name Beach. At the beach itself the bottom is sandy, but when you go South-East there is the best shallow area coral like Elkhorn- and all kinds of Blade Fire Corals. You stand a good chance of seeing Hawksbill Turtle here. There are also many other snorkel spots around Klein Bonaire that you can only access by boat that are worth exploring.
Bari Reef - This spot is great for fish, and when the winds are up it tends to have calm conditions.
A 1000 steps - The 1000 steps on the Northern tourist road is gorgeous but sometimes choppy. Go there on a windless day or go there early in the morning when the wind has not picked up yet. The terrace has big old Boulder Star Coral formations in the deeper part, and lots of Gorgonians too.
Andrea II - In the area of Sabadeco is another good one. Do be careful, there are a lot of thieves around there. There is a nice very shallow coral terrace there and you can swim around it to see tons of juvenile fish.