Snorkel the Fish-Filled Reefs of Bonaire

Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles
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THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS: Threespot damselfish in Bonaire's azure Caribbean waters (Bonaire)
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Scores of treasured sites for snorkeling and diving line Bonaire's sheltered, west-facing coastline like ants in a picnic procession. And because the reefs begin right offshore, kids new to masks and fins can test their skills in shallow water, while the more experienced can explore rich coral formations after just a short boat ride.

Even if you're experienced snorkelers, I'd recommend signing up for a fascinating Sea & Discover session led by marine biologist Caren Eckrich (+599-717-5322, This will help you get the most from your time above the teeming, colorful reefs fringing the main beaches north of Kralendijk. At Andrea I, a spot within an easy swim of the shoreline, Caren explained fish mating behavior, told us why a big chubb hovers over a coral head (to be cleaned by juvenile fish), and pointed out hard-to-spot flounder, sponges, squid, and other critters. After our instructive, in-the-water session, we were primed to see more on our later underwater expeditions to such noted island snorkel and dive sites as Klein Bonaire, 1000 Steps, and Cliff, known for its elkhorn formations.

Bonaire is one of the Caribbean's most accessible dive locales if you're ready to take the plunge from snorkel to respirator, too. Introductory, PADI-certified dive courses abound, including kid-focused introductory Seal Team courses at the Buddy Beach & Dive Resort (1-866-GO-BUDDY, Families looking to spend more of their time underwater than on the beach should consider the Dive & Drive package here, combining one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments with a rental vehicle, unlimited air for shore diving, and daily breakfast buffets. Children 12 and under can sleep on a rollaway or share a room with adults for free.

For more: 1-800-BONAIRE,'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 15 Sep 2006 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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