Travel is all about adventure and trying new things, so what better place and time to try snorkeling – for the first time – than on my first ever cruise and my first time around the Caribbean.
Two things had been keeping me from trying snorkeling till now; First and foremost the fact that I would have to wear my prescription glasses under the snorkeling gear, which I believe would be quite uncomfortable. And secondly, I was a little hesitant about breathing through a tube for a considerable amount of time.
Nevertheless, as we docked at Bonaire on our third day of the cruise, I along with my sister headed out to meet the representative of Woodwind Snorkel Sail.
One of the points that stood out about Woodwind during our search was the fact that they run a guided snorkel. It’s not just about taking you to a spot and dropping you off, but also about trained and learned guides helping you and informing you about the underwater flora and fauna.
As we made our way to the 37-foot trimaran, my nerves started to act. Thankfully, small diversions en route like the Tourist Tree – so named because it is “red and peeling”- and the beauty of Bonaire kept things at bay. Now, I’m a decent swimmer and not afraid of water, so the ride to Klein Bonaire on the boat was fun.
Things began to look up even more when Dee – the tour organiser/guide – came up and explained the whole process to us reassuring first timers and the professionals alike that the entire trip is exceptionally safe.
We found out that we will be doing “drift snorkeling” where we snorkel in a drift from point A to B making it easier for everyone, especially the beginners. Drift snorkeling allows the swimmer to go with the flow, literally, rather than working out a sweat. Thus, more time for everyone to enjoy the marvels of underwater life.
Once the drinks were served, keeping the food for after the snorkel, everyone was in a good mood and excited about discovering what Bonaire had to offer.
Klein Bonaire was already in sight by this time. A tiny uninhabited island off Bonaire, it has some of the most amazing views around it that are explored daily by snorkelers and divers. The island at one point was to be sold off to become a resort when the locals along with the government worked together to “buy” it and keep it in its natural state. Now it is a part of the Bonaire National Marine Park.
As stories about the history of Bonaire ended, Dee mentioned something that literally made me jump off into the sea with joy. They had prescription snorkeling gear. Plus, this is where things get much better; they had prescription gear for someone like me who has -5.0 eyesight.
Never did I expect that!
Photos by Zsuzsanna Pusztai of BonPhoto
But all good things must come to an end.
We reached our drop off point and were divided into three groups, each with a trained diver/guide. Being in the last group, I was handed over the gear freshly dipped in soapy water. Since there was time, I decided to try it out. Suddenly, a feeling of nausea took over me. I felt like throwing up and was thankful that I had had a very light breakfast.
Tears rolled down (not crying) as my breakfast eggs tried their best to come up and appreciate the view. It seemed that I was going to have to sit and wait on the boat. Nor did it help that a couple of people from the first two groups had returned as they were unable to snorkel for various reasons.
But, I kept trying. Sat down, took a few deep breaths, had a sip or two of water and low and behold finally started feeling better. Later, I realised that it might have been the soapy water the snorkel was washed in that caused sudden nausea. I came so close to missing out, it was not even funny.
Once I was in the water the beauty of the sea took over, and I forgot everything else. As Dee free-dived time and again to point out the fishes, the turtles, and the barracuda as we drifted along, it was a good 40 odd minutes that not only made me a fan of snorkeling but opened up a whole new world.
Zsuzsanna Pusztai of BonPhoto – a professional underwater photographer – accompanied the snorkelers taking various pictures of everyone and the flora and fauna which could be picked up later on the boat in the form of a CD. She has been kind enough to let me use some of her photographs in the blog because I feel the beauty of the Caribbean around Bonaire can only get justice this way and not from my underwater pictures taken with a cheap water-proof use-and-throw camera.
Our trip back to shore was filled with more drinks (they just kept asking if we wanted more), food, and stories of what we had seen.
Woodwind is a company I would strongly recommend for anyone going to Bonaire. Not only was the entire trip well organised, but they literally spoil you so much that other guided tours will feel lame in comparison.
Those were the ups and downs from my very first snorkeling experience and exploring the beautiful, tiny, Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire after the snorkel was the cherry on top.