North of Kralendijk on Bonaire, the snorkeling at Karpata is known for good visibility with plenty of elkhorn coral formations. During Karpata snorkeling, you may encounter porcupine pufferfish, bandit fish, parrotfish, blue tangs and the occasional manta ray further out. There are good stands of fire coral, brain coral, staghorn coral, sea fans and tube sponges. The water depths range from 3 to 20 feet deep out at the wall edge. The water visibility is very good averaging 75 feet. The Karpata dive site is accessible from shore or by boat at Buoy #9.
To reach the Karpata snorkeling dive site from the Kralendijk town center, head north on Kaya Grandi, which becomes Kaya Gobernador Nicholas Debrot. The road passes through a traffic circle and eventually jogs to the right around a large development and the Bonaire National Marine Park headquarters before coming back to the water. Back along the coastline, the road changes name to Queens Highway (though it is unsigned). After travelling a distance of 13.1km from the center of Kralendijk, there are a few roadside parking spots along the cliff above the coast at the Karpata dive site, which has a roadside yellow marker. Keep in mind that Queens Highway is a one-way road from 1000 Steps northbound to Karpata. There is parking for 8 vehicles. From the parking area, there are 20 steps down to the rocky cove.
Before snorkelen off Bonaire, it is important to remember that there have been two recent (relative to coral growth rates) storms. In 1999, Hurricane Lenny passed near the island resulting in the first big waves in over 100 years. This wave action over a 24 hour period had a severe effect on the shallow water corals on west-facing coastlines. There was significant toppling of the massive coral colonies, along with bleaching and smothering. Similarly, in 2008, Tropical Storm Omar passed near the island producing heavy wave action along west-facing coastlines. The effects of these storm, along with occasional bleaching events, have left many of the snorkeling dive sites not appearing as they had in past photos nor seeming as described in the brief locally printed snorkeling dive descriptions, which tend to be older. While snorkeling off Bonaire, you'll occasionally encounter 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 snorkeling. 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.
Overall, Karpata is the 12th most popular snorkel dive spot of all 20 snorkeling dives in Bonaire.