September 24, 2022

Snorkelling is a breeze for underwater sightseers: Part 2

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Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 12.47.04 PM By Melanie Reffes From The Suburban

All it takes is a mask and a tube, pair of fins, inflatable life vest and a sense of adventure. Unlike scuba diving that requires more gear and more courage, snorkelling is a breeze for underwater sightseers worth his (or her) sea salt.

Easy to master and too much fun not to try, floating near the surface of the water — while spying spectacular submerged landscapes, the occasional shipwreck and schools of crayon-coloured tropical — is so breathtakingly mesmerizing that it may morph your island vacation into an island staycation. In Part 1 I wrote about The Bahamas, Curacao and Jamaica. Here are three more spots well worth the trip.


On the opposite side of the island from the capital city of St. John’s, Cades Reef is a two-mile-long barrier reef teeming with undersea marvels. On the southwestern coast, the show is spellbinding with pink-hued coral, brilliant blue and yellow fish and starfish that nuzzle the ocean floor. Reef sharks make periodic appearances, nurse sharks take shelter under the coral overhangs and spiny lobsters, noisy parrotfish, slippery moral eels and agile barracuda also call the reef home.

Super easy for snorkelers to navigate, there is little or no current, water temperatures average 80 degrees Fahrenheit and underwater visibility ranges from 50 to 140 feet. You can explore on your own or book a tour like Island Routes ‘Sail and Snorkel’ that includes lunch and plenty of rum punch —

Tours with Tropical Adventures include snorkel gear — —and Treasure Island Cruises add entertainment on the boat to the snorkel mix. —

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 12.47.26 PMCayman Islands

In Grand Cayman’s capital city of George Town, Wreck of the Cali is hauntingly beautiful and stunningly perfect for kids who like to explore old freighters and the fish that now call the wreck home. During the 1940s, while carrying 30,000 bags of rice, the hull sprung a leak, which caused the rice inside to expand blowing the boat in half. Today it rests in shallow water close to shore where sea urchins, eels and octopus cavort among the rusty ruins.

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 12.48.00 PMWith a name that will make junior snorkelers smile, Cheeseburger Reef (named for its proximity to a fast food joint) is teeming with sea turtles, snapper and butterfly fish swimming in 10 feet of water close to shore. With a sandy walk-in, it’s easy for snorkelers of all ages to frolic with the undersea critters who are seemingly not scared of their human admirers.

Crazy busy with tourists but worth a look-see, Stingray City in Grand Cayman is easy snorkelling just offshore. People-friendly stingrays glide through the warm waters posing for snaps and foraging for food. For those curious about secretive snorkelling sites, check out the East End of Grand Cayman where the reefs by the Tortuga Club host schools of conch, sea fans, tarpons and lobster. You can venture out on your own or join day trips, excursions to Stingray City and night snorkelling adventures offered by Don Foster’s Dive. —

U.S. Virgin Islands

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 12.48.18 PMScreen Shot 2016-07-06 at 12.48.40 PMMecca for those who take their snorkelling seriously, Trunk Bay in St. John (the smallest of the three Virgins) is a 673-foot-long self-guided snorkel trail with underwater signs noting the various species of coral and critters that play no deeper than 20 feet below the surface. Less touristy, Haulover North, on the east end of the small island, borders the Virgin Islands National Park and is the top pick of snorkel-savvy locals. —

In St. Thomas, the largest of the Virgins, colourful fish and oddly shaped coral take a back seat to snorkelling in search of a bottle of Cruzan Rum. At the Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, the not-to-be-missed Snorkel Booze Hunt has been a weekly tradition every Thursday afternoon for the last three decades. Donning snorkel gear, the brazen (and the thirsty) comb the waters for hidden bottles of Cruzan Rum distilled on next door St. Croix. The winners bring their bottle bounty to Iggies Beach Bar where the bartenders mix up the resort’s signature VooDoo Juice, a mighty blend of five flavoured rums served icy cold in a bucket. —

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