Review Date AVG ShoreDiving Site
03/09/2009 3.36 Cabez Reef Aruba, ABC Islands
Cabez Reef is the holy grail of Aruban (shore) diving. Diving conditions are usually difficult because of the location of this dive site at the Southernmost tip of the Island. Currents are usually strong and at times simply brutal. At those times when the currents are very strong, divers get the exhilarating feeling of flying at high speeds over the reef. Entry is either at the South side of the island (also the exit point), over slippery rocks and through a heavy surf zone or off of a 15 feet cliff at the Eastern side of the island. The leap off of the cliff can be seen on this youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Sr9WVxkdx0. The leap off of the cliff makes for an easier dive as you drift with the current for most of the dive as opposed to fighting the current to get to the reef and then drifting back. The downside of the leap is the inherent danger such a leap poses and the fact that divers have no reasonable way to exit the water, should the current be pushing the wrong way i.e. pushing North instead of South. Make no mistake about it, this dive site has all the ingredients for disaster. That's why only strong divers should attempt this dive, and they should only do so under the guidance of an experienced Cabez Reef guide. As far as I know, JADS at Baby Beach is the only dive operator with extensive experience diving Cabez Reef (Jair is the undisputed King of Cabez). The reef itself is like nothing I've seen elsewhere. The reef is in pristine condition, lies at a depth of about 70/80 feet and is for the most part comprised of a lot of soft corals and sponges, growing on a rocky substrate. Esthetically this reef equals or surpasses anything I've seen in Bonaire. This reef is also known for the shark cave, where Nurse Sharks are often found resting. Eagle Rays are also often spotted here in large numbers (I can confirm a school of 9) as are (lone) Manta Rays a few times a year. All of this makes for a truly spectacular dive. The cuts, scrapes and bruises you sustain from the entry and exit, are quickly forgotten.
08/02/2007 4.02 Alice In Wonderland Bonaire South, ABC Islands
This was the best dive of my trip to Bonaire, which included dives at, among others, 1000 Steps, The Hilma Hooker, Monte's Divi (Klein Bonaire) and Town Pier. The entry/exit was a little rocky, but fairly easy because of a complete lack of any serious waves at the entry/exit point. The swim out to the buoy was again easy. The inner reef starts soon after the buoy. There is an almost vertical drop off to about 85 feet. The drop off is predominantly covered by tightly packed stony corals that seem to grow in flatter shapes the deeper you go. On this particular day, there was a very slight current going South along the reef. Down at about 85 feet, there is a sandy plain. The sand was very clean, with no corals or algae growing on it. I knew there was supposed to be an outer reef, but looking West I could not see it. Swimming West I started seeing the outer reef after just a few seconds, but I have to admit that these seconds felt like an eternity. Visibility was about 70 feet, so I estimate that the outer reef was about 100 feet from the inner reef, at the point where my buddy and I made the crossing. Further North however, there are some coral islands, connected to the outer reef, that come very close to the inner reef. The outer reef, also comprised of predominantly stony corals, rises from the sandy plain to about 65 feet. Some of the coral formations resembled large mushrooms. Going further West over the outer reef, my buddy and I encountered a massive drop off; the bottom was nowhere in sight. Looking down I got the curious feeling that I was about to float off the end of the Earth. Looking up I realized that we were about to swim into a school of Horse Eye Jacks. By this time we had been down there for 20 minutes. Sadly, it was time to go back to the inner reef and find the rest of our group. Of course, the crossing back to the inner reef seemed much shorter than before. Swimming back South along the inner reef, we soon encountered the rest of our group. They had missed the best part of the dive; at least, that is what I hoped.
10/09/2006 3.99 Baby Beach Reef Aruba, ABC Islands
I recommend you hire a guide if you've never done this dive before. The reason for this is that you might not find the reef if you go without one and more importantly, the exit is difficult if you don't know where exactly to exit. There's a dive shop near Baby Beach called JADS; there you can hire a guide. Here I'll give the same directions one of the guide's at JADS gave to my buddy and I before our first dive here without a guide: Swim out of the Baby Beach cove through either the small or the large channel, heading south; this swim out is exhausting as the waves push you back into the bay. When the depth is about 20 feet you should descend. There is not much to see in this area as it was devastated by storms. Now head further south and you'll find a small drop off; at the lowest point of the drop off the depth will be about 45/50 feet. Now you should swim heading west. There usually is a strong current down there, but luckily the current usually goes from east to west. At your left you should be seeing a sandy plane; at your right mostly Slimy Sea Plume Gorgonians and in the distance large Boulder Star Corals. In this area you should start searching for Southern Stingrays hiding in the sand. After a while swimming west you'll end up at something that looks like a mountain made of mostly Lobed Star Corals and some Boulder Brain Corals. This is the best part of the dive. In the late afternoon there are lots of fish here, including schools of Squirrelfish, Goatfish, Smooth Trunkfish, Blue Striped Grunts and Horse Eye Jacks. You'll also notice a curious pair of cables going over the reef. A short distance past these cables, there is a 10 feet tall metal cross; sometimes there's a Green Moray Eel in the base of the cross. When it's time to leave, just swim back (against the current!) to the cables and follow them over the reef and all the way to shore. The exit is over slippery rocks, but fairly easy if you exit where the cables come out of the water. I think you'll agree that this is a pretty nice dive. Anyway it's a sure bet that you'll get to see a few Southern Stingrays. Eagle Rays, Turtle's, huge Great Barracudas and Nurse Sharks also make impromptu appearances here.
07/22/2006 3.64 Catalina Cove Aruba, ABC Islands
I was very disappointed the first time I snorkeled this site. It is a popular snorkeling site and for some reason I was expecting to find a stunning coral reef, which was just not there. I left disappointed and vowed never to return. But I did return and I'm happy I did. This site has since become one of my favorite on the island. The reason for this is simple: the turtles. On my last 6 visits to this site I had 12 turtle sightings. I never enter the water at the place recommended on this site, because you have to walk out a bit (at least a few steps) and I'm afraid to step on sharp things. That's why I always enter the water at Boca Catalina. Boca Catalina is a nice small beach very close to Catalina Cove (there's a section on Boca Catalina on this web site). When in the water at Boca Catalina you can swim along the shore to Catalina Cove (standing with the beach to your back Catalina Cove will be to your right). From Boca Catalina you'll see some houses built almost on the beach. The entry for Catalina Cove shown on this web site is between the fourth and the fifth house. The area right at Boca Catalina is quite barren, but the fun starts in front of the first house. You'll see some dark rocks/boulders sticking out of the water; the whole area is covered with them. Underwater these rocks/boulders are covered with algae and sand. There are lots of fish in the entire area: Sergeant Majors, Small Mouth Grunts, French Grunts, Blue Striped Grunts, Parrot Fish (many in an initial phase), Blue Tang, Surgeon Fish, French Angel Fish, Banded Butterfly Fish, Needle Fish, Yellow Tail Snappers, Goat Fish, Blue Head Wrasses, Squirrel Fish, Smooth Trunkfish, Squid, Blue Spotted Cornet Fish (including a 4 foot one!), many different species of Eels, a few Porcupine Fish and I've even seen a Scrawled File fish here. At times there are millions of silversides here too. These are a few of the many species of fish you'll see here. Past the entry to Catalina Cove and thus past the fifth house, you'll see lots of dark rocks on the shore; the water will become pretty shallow (3 to 4 feet). In this shallow area you'll find the largest Green Moray as well as a medium sized Hawksbill Turtle. This turtle will allow you to pet its back if approached calmly. There is another Hawksbill that frequents the area as well as a Green Turtle. When looking for turtles you have to look out in front of you (instead of looking down), because they will usually see you first and try to swim away. Try snorkeling this site in the late afternoon and watch the sun set from the water. It is a beautiful experience. While I have seen divers here, I think you'll have a nicer time exploring this shallow site with just your snorkeling gear. Along the way you'll also see some Yellow Tube Sponges, some Star, Brain and Fire Corals as well as few Gorgonians and some Anemones, but make no mistake about it: this site is all about the turtles!
06/24/2006 3.44 Malmok Beach Aruba, ABC Islands
The entry is very easy here. This site can be entered from various locations that are all close to each other. There is hardly any surf or current at this site and visibility is usually great. The bottom is made up of beautiful white sand and farther out it is covered with algae. Snorkeling here is easy and comes down to swimming along the rocky coastline and staying close to it. Going far out into deeper water does not pay off: there you'll see many Cushion Sea Stars, a (very) few Yellow Tube Sponges and some (dead) Loggerhead Sponges, but that is about it. There is hardly any fish in the deeper part. Close to the coast line however, you'll see lots of fish. Most notably you'll see thousands of Silversides, large schools of Shortfin Sweepers, French Grunts, Squirrelfish, Bluehead Wrasses and the occasional Palometa Jack. There are also many Pelicans here! There is almost no coral at this site. This site is really good for inexperienced snorkelers. This is not a dive site, so don't come here with your scuba gear.
06/21/2006 2.81 Shallow Reef Aruba, ABC Islands
I snorkeled this reef 4 days ago with a friend after reading about it on this site. We entered the water at 8 AM. Conditions were better than usual as there were no waves or surf, which are common to this area of the island. The entry was simple, even though we did not enter at the area recommended on this web site. There was very little to see as we were swimming out looking for the reef. There were only algae and many dead Sea Fans lying flat on the bottom. Visibility was not great, but got better the farther out we swam. Then about 100/150 feet out, we hit upon the reef. All of it seemed to be dead. All of it, except for the many small Blue Crust Corals that seemed to be growing everywhere. There were a lot of fish though. We swam farther out and a few moments later we came across some 2 foot wide Brain Corals that looked healthy. At this point the depth was about 8/10 feet and visibility was pretty good. Next we spotted a turtle! After chasing the turtle for a few seconds we decided to swim farther out to see if there was a drop off. Swimming out we came across another turtle which was half the size of the first one. The farther out we went the nicer the reef became. There were Brain Corals lying in beautiful white sand with many Sea Fans and lots of fish. At a certain point the depth became about 20 feet and there were still a lot of Sea Fans but the bottom was covered with green algae and there was still no drop off. We decided to swim back as we realized that there was a strong current pulling us out. Swimming back in we headed toward the southern part of the reef. We again came across a part of the reef that was dead. This part looked like a field of rubble. At this point the water was about 4 feet deep. Then, to our surprise, we came across a part of the reef where we were surrounded by healthy Elkhorn Coral and Palometa Jacks. This was a magnificent sight. When leaving the Elkhorn area I realized that all the rubble we came across moments earlier, had been dead Elkhorn Coral. We were now heading back to where we intended to exit the water, but the reef still held a last surprise for us: a third turtle! This one was about 2.5 feet long and was larger than the first two we saw. When we finally made it to the car, we realized that we had been in the water for almost 2 hours. Both my friend and I agreed that this had been a great snorkeling experience. The bottom line on this reef is that a large part of it (the part closest to the shore) is dead. However this reef still shows flashes of brilliancy. One can only imagine how magnificent this reef must have been in its heyday. Snorkelers and divers should beware of the current pulling you out to sea. Inexperienced snorkelers should avoid this reef.
06/14/2006 3.16 Boca Catalina Aruba, ABC Islands
I live in Aruba and I snorkeled this site a few weeks ago. I entered the water at Catalina Cove and snorkeled to Arashi (heading roughly north) and then all the way back to Boca Catalina. The entry at Boca Catalina is much easier than at Catalina Cove as there are lots of rocks and pointy things you don't want to step on at Catalina Cove. The entry at Boca Catalina is just over white sand. Boca Catalina is a small but beautiful beach where visibility is usually pretty good. There are also no waves or current at this site. Sadly this is a bad snorkeling site as there is very little to see here. I went all the way out where the water was about 15/20 feet deep, but the only coral I could find were some dead tube sponges. There is a lot of seaweed at this site but not a lot of fish. On the positive side I saw a 4 foot long trumpet fish (I never knew they could get this large) and a 4 foot long eel. This site might be good for learning to snorkel, but experienced snorkelers should skip it. If you do decide to snorkel this site, don't forget to also head roughly north to Catalina Cove and Arashi (both are nearby and I consider these 3 sites one large site) where there is much more to see. I'm also a scuba diver and unless I missed something (and I don't think I have), this site is of no interest to the scuba diver.