SnorkelingWith visibility of up to 90 feet, the waters around Aruba are excellent for snorkeling. You will find plenty to occupy your time, as many of the most popular sites, including some interesting shipwrecks, are found in shallow waters. Coral reefs covered with sensuously waving sea fans and eerie giant sponge tubes attract a colorful menagerie of sea life, including gliding manta rays, curious sea turtles, shy octopuses, and fish from grunts to groupers.
For a pretty good reef in shallow water, go down towards the lighthouse and look for where the snorkeling tour boats are anchored. This is Little Arrashi Beach. It is shallow and safe but, like most Caribbean reefs, the black spiny porcupine looking things in the rocks are sea urchins. Generally accepted Caribbean wisdom is, don't do things that will result in one of the black spines sticking in you. Since they don't come after you, you have to go out of your way to get stuck. Also don't stick your hands into any holes (for obvious reasons).
The snorkeling tours go to a number of places, so if you book one, don't book one that goes to Little Arrashi Beach, unless you just want the sailboat ride. The Tribuna snorkeling boat goes to a wonderful underwater coral garden and forest. Look them up in the phone book. You can also arrange a private motor boat snorkeling tour with Roberto's Private Snarling. firstname.lastname@example.org You can also swim to little Arrashi Beach from our house. The reef extends towards our house. Reefs are alive!! And the ecosystem around them is fragile. Please don't take anything off the reef or stand on it.
There is a sunken freighter about 1/2 mile off shore . When you look from our house to the ocean, on the right, you can see some of it poking out of the water. Unless you are a good swimmer, don't do it. If you are a great swimmer, or windsurf or sail there, it's a nice place to snorkel. 60 feet of clear water. Say hi to the big moray eel that lives in the freighter and the usual assortment of tropical fish. If you sail there, take a line to tie up the board to the buoys. Baby Beach, at the other end of the island near the town of St. Nicholas, has a nicer reef. It is a 20 mile drive. You can also go to the Sonesta Island by taking a boat from the Sonesta Hotel. There are plenty of other good snorkel spots.
Lastly, near our house are several very nice reefs. Don't even think about taking anything from them. It is our own private underwater park. If you rent, we will tell you the exact locations. To snorkel on your own, you can rent snorkel equipment from Red Sail Sports located in several of the high rise hotels. Better yet, bring your own or buy some at Price Rite (near Cha Sun Supermarket).
Here is a list of snorkel sites that are popular:
- Antilla wreck: A German freighter scuttled in 1941 when threatened by Allied forces, this wide-open ship allows divers to easily swim through it. One of the drawbacks is its popularity; lines sometimes form for photo opportunities. Nonetheless, you'll see a variety of sea life including octopi and eels. Love wreck diving? Click Here to visit our Wrecks Page!
- Malmok Reef: This reef is located just south of the Antilla. Lobsters and stingrays make great photos, while huge and brightly colored sponges are also nice to see. A 1992-sunk fuel barge called the Debbie II attracts fish and barracuda.
- Pedernales: This site contains all that is left of an American oil tanker torpedoed by a German submarine in 1942; much of the ship was hauled back to the U.S. for parts. However, cabins, washbasins, and other usually out-of-the-way sights are easy to see. Unusual sea life including squirrelfish and spotted eagle rays can often be seen, as well. This site is a favorite of novice divers and snorkelers at only 20 feet to 30 feet below.
- Harbor Reef: This reef is located off the coast of Oranjestad and abounds with plants and coral. Divers will find the pilot boat wreck and colorful fish nearby. A barracuda and a pair of green moray eels seem intent on keeping divers on their toes.
- Renaissance Island: Two sunken airplanes add a little mystery to this site because both are unclaimed drug runners and form an artificial reef. Both planes are intact and divers can sit in the cockpit - if they can make it past the eels, octopi, and crabs who jealously guard the seat. Snorkelers will have an easier time taking in the Beechcraft airplane, which is only 15 feet from the surface. To explore the Convair you'll need to dive to 40 feet. There is also a sunken barge at 12 feet under, just a little farther from shore. It is perfect for snorkelers who want to view colorful swarms of fish.
- Sponge Reef: You'll find this reef - and its incredible array of colorful sponges - near the sunken airplanes of Renaissance Island. Take in the sights of elephant ears, tubes, vases, and baskets in hues from yellow to purple. Coral is also found in this area.
- Barcadera Reef: Only a few miles from Oranjestad, this reef is unique because of its ability to accommodate both divers and snorkelers. It fluctuates between depths of 20 feet and 90 feet and is home to many types of coral, though there are plenty of brightly-colored fish as well.
- Jane Sea wreck: Sunk to form an artificial reef, this former Venezuelan cement freighter was caught carrying cocaine and is now encrusted in many different types of coral and sponges. A few safety warnings: Watch out for the stinging fire coral; keep an eye out for moray eels, barracuda, lobsters, tropicals, and gorgonians; and watch your head on low-lying doorways at the radio room and mess hall.
- De Palm Island: Although this is probably one of the most commercialized areas of Aruba, snorkelers can see plenty of colorful fish and even sleeping nurse sharks here. Water depths start at only 4 feet but drop off to 120 feet relatively quickly. Divers will likely reach this spot by boat, and may need to keep an eye out for barracuda.
- Mike's Reef: Close to De Palm Island, this is considered one of Aruba's best reef dives. Here, huge clusters of gorgonians, brain coral, flower coral, and star coral compose most of the environment, though brightly-colored sponges have also grabbed some space. It is especially popular with underwater macro photographers, who specialize in close-up and extreme close-up photos.
- Mangel Halto Reef: Off the coast of none other than Mangel Halto Beach, this reef has ledges and ridges that plunge to depths of 110 feet. You'll find plenty of marine life of just about every size, shape, and color. Sea turtles also pass by in early spring on their way to nearby beaches to lay eggs.
- Isla de Oro Reef: Near the old fishing village of Savaneta, not far from a shore lined with mangroves, this reef is most often swept by a current, keeping visibility high. At its deepest, the reef reaches 120 feet, and you'll find plenty of coral-covered ledges and cave hideaways.
- Commandeurs Reef: This sloping reef begins at about 40 feet and reaches depths of about 90 feet. The coral here attracts a lot of marine life, including snappers, groupers, and angelfish. Also keep an eye out for the occasional runner or barracuda.
SNUBAGo beyond snorkeling and try "SNUBA" (SNorkeling + scUBA). Air tanks float on rafts on the ocean and several 20 ft air hoses provide oxygen to the swimmer below the surface.
The hoses permit underwater explorers as young as eight years old to safely descend to a depth of 20 feet with the aid of a SNUBA-instructor, allowing for unique views of colorful fish and intriguing coral formations.