Snorkeling in Bermuda
- Places to Explore
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- Fodor's Choice
The clarity of the water, the stunning array of coral reefs, and the shallow resting places of several wrecks make snorkeling in the waters around Bermuda—both inshore and offshore—particularly worthwhile. You can snorkel year-round, although a wet suit is advisable for anyone planning to spend a long time in the water in winter, when the water temperature can dip into the 60s. The water also tends to be rougher in winter, often restricting snorkeling to the protected areas of Harrington Sound and Castle Harbour. Underwater caves, grottoes, coral formations, and schools of small fish are the highlights of these areas.
Some of the best snorkeling sites are accessible only by boat. As the number of wrecks attests, navigating around Bermuda's reef-strewn waters is no simple task, especially for inexperienced boaters. If you rent a boat yourself, stick to the protected waters of the sounds, harbors, and bays, and be sure to ask for an ocean-navigation chart. These charts point out shallow waters, rocks, and hidden reefs.
For trips to the reefs, let someone else do the navigating—a charter-boat skipper or one of the snorkeling-cruise operators. Some of the best reefs for snorkeling, complete with shallow-water wrecks, are to the west, but where the tour guide or skipper goes often depends on the tide, weather, and water conditions. For snorkelers who demand privacy and freedom of movement, a boat charter (complete with captain) is the only answer, but the cost is considerable—$650 a day for a party of 18. By comparison, half a day of snorkeling on a regularly scheduled cruise generally costs $65 to $85, including equipment and instruction.
Church Bay. When Bermudians are asked to name a favorite snorkeling spot, they invariably rank Church Bay in Southampton (at the western end of the south-shore beaches) at, or near, the top of the list. A small cove cut out of the coral cliffs, the bay is full of nooks and crannies, and the reefs are relatively close to shore. Snorkelers should exercise caution here (as you should everywhere along the south shore), as the water can be rough. Bring your own snorkeling equipment, underwater camera, and fish food with you.
John Smith's Bay. This popular snorkeling spot off the south shore of Smith's Parish has several reefs close to the shore as well as the added safety of a lifeguard overseeing the beach. Beware, this site occasionally experiences rip currents. Smith's Parish.
Tobacco Bay. This beautiful bay is tucked in a cove near historic Fort St. Catherine's beach. Tobacco Bay offers wonderful snorkeling, public facilities, and equipment rentals, and there's a snack bar near the shore. This site is the most popular in St. George's and can get crowded. St. George's.
Warwick Long Bay. On South Shore in Warwick, this ½-mi of beach is usually secluded and quiet. It's the perfect spot to check out Bermuda's underwater life without bumping into any other snorkelers. You'll have plenty of room to explore, and there's an inner reef very close to the shore. Warwick Parish, WK08.
West Whale Bay. Tiny West Whale Bay, off the western shore near the Port Royal Golf Course in Southampton, is quiet and usually uncrowded. The beach disappears during high tide, though, so check tide times first. Whale Bay Rd., Southampton.
Snorkeling cruises, offered from April to November, are a less expensive albeit less personal way to experience the underwater world. Some boats carry up to 40 passengers to snorkeling sites but focus mostly on their music and bars (complimentary beverages are usually served on the trip back from the reefs). Smaller boats, which limit capacity to 10 to 16 passengers, offer more personal attention and focus more on the beautiful snorkeling areas themselves. Guides on such tours often relate interesting historical and ecological information about the island. To make sure you choose a boat that's right for you, ask for details before booking. Most companies can easily arrange private charters for groups.
Jessie James Cruises. Prepare for three memorable hours with Jessie James Cruises. You'll sail between two different shipwrecks and pass over a third, peering through a glass-bottom on the 31-foot Pisces. Snorkeling equipment, masks, and vests are provided. Pisces, which holds up to 17 people, typically departs from Hamilton, although a complimentary pick-up from Dockyard is available upon request. 11 Clarence St., St. George's, GE05. 441/236–4804. www.jessiejames.bm. Half-day trips, $65.
Restless Native Tours. Captain Kirk Ward has regularly scheduled sailing and snorkeling trips to the outer reefs on a 50-by-30-foot catamaran. With breezy hammocks, a shady cabin, plus fresh cookies on board, it's hard to resist this popular outfitter. The tours depart from wharfs all over the island—prepare for a crash course in Bermuda's marine life! 441/531–8149. www.restlessnative.bm.
Snorkeling Equipment Rentals
Snorkeling equipment and sometimes underwater cameras are available for rent at most major hotels and at several marinas, as well as from the snorkeling concession stand at Warwick Long Bay. The Grotto Bay Beach Hotel & Tennis Club and Fairmont Southampton have dive operators on-site. A deposit or credit-card number is usually required when renting equipment.
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