Our second cruise stop was in Bonaire – the island I was probably most excited to visit. This largely untouched, undeveloped island has zero traffic lights & one of the most amazing reefs in all of the Caribbean. Protected since the late 1970s as part of the Bonaire National Marine Park, the coral reef off of Klein Bonaire is a snorkeler’s paradise, offering a variety of fish, coral & sea turtles.
I love booking through local tour operators for our days in port because the experience is usually as good as, if not better, than a cruiseline-provided tour & usually comes at a fraction of the cost. After doing a little research, we decided to book our snorkel trip with Woodwind, a local tour company with a serious passion for their home island. We took one of their tours specifically designed for cruise ship passengers. The meeting place for our tour was only a few minutes walk from the cruise terminal & super easy to find. Soon enough, everyone had assembled (on time – a miracle) & we made our way down to the Woodwind office, which is located inside the Divi Hotel. A snafu with one guest’s credit card slowed us down a bit (these were those people throughout our entire trip), but that certainly wasn’t Woodwind’s fault (note: always tell your bank you’re going to be traveling! It saves a lot of headaches during your trip) & soon enough we were on our way onto Woodwind’s bright blue catamaran. Many people have nightmares when you say “Caribbean catamaran excursion,” picturing a boat with 50+ people crammed onto it, loud music & overworked staff, but our trip with Woodwind couldn’t have been more different.
The crew were absolutely fantastic hosts – always making sure everyone was comfortable & having fun, needed more to drink, etc. In addition, the crew to guest ratio was great, with one crew member per 5 guests. As we motored our of the harbor, the crew hoisted the sails & we were calmly sailing across the cobalt waters. When it was time to hop in the water, Woodwind’s crew did two things I’ve never experienced before: they split the passengers up into small groups, so everyone got personalized attention, & they gave a thorough instruction on how to use a snorkel & mask properly, followed by individually fitting each guest with a mask & ensuring that everyone was comfortable.
Soon enough, our group of four was in the water & “swimming” along. Woodwind offers drift snorkeling tours, which means there’s actually very little swimming involved, you kind of just float along with the current (my kind of lazy snorkeling!). The view underwater was breathtaking: every inch of the reef covered in beautiful, colorful coral & hundreds of fish everywhere I looked. There were several times that entire schools of fish completely surrounded me, which was the coolest, calmest feeling! Dee, our snorkel guide, did an excellent job pointing out coral & fish. There was a little bit of a light chop to the water, but it wasn’t difficult at all & I was able to easily swim without any flotation. Dee (& the whole Woodwind crew) did an excellent job making B comfortable in the water, staying close-by & ensuring that he had plenty of buoyancy & didn’t miss out on anything since he’s not a strong swimmer (even swimming with him over to a school of fish he otherwise would have missed).
We made two snorkel stops: once to see fish & coral & once to see sea turtles. We only saw two turtles during our second stop, but it was still beautiful & thrilling (it’s important to remind yourself that this isn’t a zoo!). Once we were back on the boat after the second stop, the crew served a delicious lunch of rice noodles & chicken, along with local beer, rum punch & soda. As we ate lunch, we sailed along the Bonaire coastline, taking in the beautiful homes & even getting an up close & personal view of our ship.
Our day in Bonaire was brief (we were only docked from 8am – 1pm) but one of the best of our entire trip & the awesome crew on Woodwind had a lot to do with that. I’d not only recommend going to Bonaire to enjoy it’s unspoiled beauty, I’d recommend going just to snorkel with Woodwind – they’re worth the trip!
Know if you go…
– While we were snorkeling, a crew member who was an underwater photographer took photos of everyone (& the fishes!) & we were able to view them on an iPad & purchase them right on board. They gave us a little usb to take the digital files home, which of course I have since misplaced. Shout out to friends we made on the trip for sending us the digital files you see in this post (check out Alicia’s (very yummy) Bars!)
– Make sure you book early with Woodwind – they fill up fast! Dee & Ulf are a pleasure to deal with via email.
– As I mentioned, Bonaire was a quiet, relatively non-commercial island; however, the port area is nice & has a few shops. I really want to go back to Bonaire before it becomes too busy.
Note: This sounds like an endorsement of Woodwind & it absolutely is; however, I can assure you that we paid full price for our tour & they have absolutely no idea that I write this here bloggity blog.