West of Bonaire, the uninhabited cay of Klein Bonaire has several excellent snorkeling dive sites. Klein Bonaire is located just west offshore of Kralendijk and has no services on-site. It is accessed by private boat or by water taxi. It is protected as part of the Bonaire Marine Park and its reefs are known for excellent water visibility. In the waters up to 10 feet deep, it is common to encounter sea turtles, angelfish, bonefish, butterfish, blue chromis, parrotfish, trumpetfish and trunkfish. The snorkeling on Klein Bonaire is known for its numerous reefs, which include brain coral, staghorn coral, elkhorn coral, and fire coral.
Keep in mind that there are no services at all on Klein Bonaire, so make sure to pack along plenty of food, water and gear. The Good Return Bonaire ferry service runs up to three daily trips out to Klein Bonaire from a pier Kralendijk. The boat ride is about 0.5 miles from pier to island and takes about 25 minutes to the north side of the small island. The ferry service runs to No Name Beach near mooring Buoy #A, which is known as a big barren sand flat with very little to see while snorkeling. Occasionally, you can pay an extra fee for the water taxi to drop off on the east side at Buoy #B at Ebo's Reef, and use the gentle currents to drift dive back to Buoy #A at No Name Beach. Alternately, you can walk from No Name Beach south about 20 minutes until you see orange Buoy #B and then enter the water (the water is very deep directly under the buoy). Since Ebo's Reef can be shallow, it is best to enter the water from shore as high-tide is waning to avoid walking on fire coral. It takes about an hour to drift dive back to Buoy #A where the water taxi will pickup. When drift diving from Buoy #B back to Buoy #A, you'll want to stay right along the shallow edge of the wall where the seafloor descends rapidly. There is fantastic coral growth and the highest density of marine life to be found on Bonaire. This is unquestionably the best snorkeling dive around Bonaire. Even better would be to get the ferry to drop you beyond Buoy #B, almost at Buoy #C, for a drift dive back to Buoy #A. Along the way, you'll be treated to hawksbill turtles, stingrays, large parrotfish, green moray eels, black durgen, french angelfish, trumpetfish and porcupine pufferfish.
If you rent a boat or use a charter service, you must use one of the mooring buoys surrounding Klein Bonaire that are marked with letters A to Z. Keep in mind that the southern and western dive sites from Buoy #D to Buoy #S all require low waves and low wind to be enjoyable -- typically that means the months of May-June and September-October.
On the south side of the island, Buoy #H marks the Monte's Divi where snorkelers may encounter sea horses in the shallow stands of staghorn coral. The dive site is named after the lone divi-divi tree onshore of the buoy. The waters range from 15 feet out to 100 feet. Buoy #I marks the Rock Pile snorkeling dive site offshore of a pile of rocks. There is a large group of staghorn coral that provides habitat for diverse reef fish populations including snapper, grunts and moray eels in waters from 20 feet to 100 feet deep.
Off the southwestern point, Buoy #N marks the Forest snorkeling dive site that is named for the large growth of black coral in 25 foot deep waters.
Off the western coast, Buoy #Q marks the Twixt snorkeling dive site which is known to have good snorkeling. Buoy #R marks the Sharons Serenity snorkeling dive site that is pretty close to shore in shallow waters. It is known for good staghorn coral, elkhorn coral and other soft corals. There is a large colony of starfish as well.
Back on the north shore west of No Name Beach, the Buoy #X marks the Leonora's Reef snorkeling dive site that has plenty of pencil coral and elkhorn coral which provide habitat for abundant marine life. Some of the coral formations are known to be over 75 years old. Buoy #Y marks the Knife snorkeling dive site where the shallows provide habitat for rainbow parrotfish, midnight parrotfish and hawksbill turtles. Both Buoy #X and Buoy #Y snorkeling dives are a long, rocky walk from No Name Beach. Buoy #Z marks the Sampler snorkeling dive site which is accessible from No Name Beach. The site is known for its angelfish population in the barren sand flat shallows and good coral formations further offshore in 20 foot deep waters, which may be too deep for snorkelers to really enjoy. The local marine life tends to be pretty friendly since they are used to being fed. The marine life includes bennies, jawfish and sand divers. For all the Buoy #X-Z dives, if you enter from shore, make sure to get your mask on quick to look around for the plentiful fire coral!
While snorkeling off Bonaire, it is important to remember that there was a significant tropical storm in the region in 2008. Many of the brief locally printed snorkeling dive site descriptions were written prior to the tropical storm. During Tropical Storm Omar in October 2008, Bonaire's shallow water reefs lost a significant portion of the adult coral population, especially along the west and northwest facing shortlines. The effects of this storm, along with occasional bleaching events, have left many of the snorkeling dive sites not appearing as they had in past photos. There are some large, older coral formation remnamnts that give clues to the size of the past reefs. And, you may notice some small new growth occuring along the sand flats where new coral is taking hold in the cemented coral rubble, especially quick growing fire coral.
All of the offshore water of Bonaire has been long protected as part of the Bonaire National Marine Park. For several decades, the waters off Bonaire have been guarded to produce a pristine underwater environment offering a unique experience for snorkelen. With water visibility up to 100 feet, Bonaire snorkelers are treated to numerous varieties of coral and abundant marine life. The marine park has dozens of snorkeling dive sites marked by small yellow boulders along the road side and yellow or orange buoys offshore. The marine park requires all snorkelers in Bonaire waters to have an annual snorkeling license visible on their mask with the fees collected to continue protecting the waters (the fee can be paid at any dive shop). Should you happen to spot an lionfish, the Bonaire National Marine Park requests that you report any sightings of the invasive fish by calling them at (599) 717-8444.
TIP: The Good Return Ferry service offers a half-price fare for kids and also will drop you at Buoy #B for a drift dive back to Buoy #A at no extra charge!
Overall, Klein Bonaire is the 1st most popular snorkel dive spot of all 20 snorkeling dives in Bonaire.