Snorkelling in Sosua
Ready to snorkel in Sosua? Here's our guide to doing it safely and having fun:
Sosua Beach is a superb place for a holiday, the water is usually clear and calm and perfect for all the family but what’s to explore underneath the waves?
You really don’t need to be a competent swimmer to enjoy snorkelling at Sosua beach. Stand in a few feet of water and dig some sand around with your feet and you’ll probably notice the small fish that come to feed on the tiny creatures that you’ve dug up for them. You can literally sit in the water and watch the small fish and other marine life going about their business. All the pictures in this blog were taken by my friend Curt Erickson while I was with him on our snorkelling trips. The picture on the left was taken in just a few feet of water just in front of the beach. The little fish was quite determined to see off the crab and they spent several minutes “arguing” with one another while we watched on. That’s how easy it is to enjoy snorkelling at Sosua Beach.
There are places on the beach where you can hire masks and fins for just a few dollars, or you can buy basic equipment from the local Playero supermarket. If you think you are going to spend a lot of time underwater, or if you are considering scuba diving during your holiday you might want to consider bringing your own equipment with you. Whatever you decide to do you won't be disappointed.
There are a few important things to remember when snorkelling that are worth repeating:
Stay alert: - There are quite a few pleasure boats operating in the bay, so always keep an eye out for them. Regularly check to see how far you have gone from the shore line and always remember to save enough energy to swim back comfortably.
Take a Buddy: - If you are going to swim out beyond your depth then you must always go with someone else.
Build up gradually: - If you’re on holiday you might want to follow some more experienced snorkelers into deeper water. It takes a few days to get used to holding your breath and diving deeper, take your time and start in shallower water, there’s still a lot to see without going out too far. If time is short then book a snorkelling trip with a dive school, then you won’t exhaust yourself getting to the sites.
Don't stand on the reef: - You should never stand on the reef unless your very life is in danger. You will kill the coral or you could tread on an urchin and the spines are quite painful to remove. There are also stone fish that are by their nature incredibly well camouflaged and extremely dangerous
Don't feed the fish: - It's very tempting to take along bread or something similar but the ecosystem depends on all the fish doing their fishy things. If they get complacent in their roles within their ecosystem because they're getting fed by the divers then the system breaks down.
Be prepared: - You should wear sun block on your neck and back or wear a t-shirt.
Leave what you see where it belongs: - Don't take anything out of the water unless it's rubbish
So where to start? With a big beach to explore, I would recommend that you begin on the Sosua side close to the car park and along the side of the bay next to the hotel. It's quite shallow and in just a few feet of water you're likely to see quite a few interesting things. I've seen squid, plenty of small fish and a few anemones. The further out you go, the bigger the fish become. If you go too far you will turn the corner of the bay where there is a substantial drop off and the water becomes much more turbulent even on what you might think is a calm day. It will also get noticeably colder. From this point you can swim to the deep water drop off where the dive boats occasionally visit and then work your way back towards the shore, but if you want to do that I would recommend that you either swim directly there or go with a dive school.
About two thirds of the way along the beach from the car park side you will notice that the water in the bay is quite rough. sometimes you might even see rocks above the water line. This is the closest reef to the shore, is easy to reach and another good place to explore.
You'll see plenty of different fish species and probably be greeted by a shoal or two of hungry "sergeant majors" that really aren't at all shy and will come over to "inspect" you on the chance of getting some food (see above).
The back side of the reef is deeper and is where the bigger fish tend to gather, you'll probably also encounter a stone fish or two if you look really hard. Remember that these fish are very dangerous but tend to keep themselves to themselves (in fact I've only ever seen them motionless).
Following on from the first reef and out into deeper water you might spot a glass bottomed boat or snorkelling trip anchored in the bay. They are probably visiting the bigger reef that includes the swim-though.
This picture is of me looking like I left my hair back on the beach! This reef is best enjoyed on calmer days, it's quite a swim out to get there so perhaps it is better to swim directly there.
You are going to see some really nice fish, plenty of vibrantly coloured parrot fish cruise around along with pipe fish, jacks and the occasional angel fish.
This is a place for competent swimmers and definitely not a place for children. If you would like to go but don't feel confident enough to swim there (and back) then take a boat and you'll still be able to enjoy it.
Many thousands of people visit Sosua every year and enjoy the beach and everything it offers but few choose to take a closer look at what is right there under the water for them to enjoy.
I firmly believe that for many people snorkelling in Sosua Bay would be among the highlights of their holiday but so few people even know that it is there.
So finally let's look at deep water snorkelling:
I would recommend that you do this with a dive school. It's easier to get to the dive sites and you can spend a few hours while the scuba divers do their thing exploring the sites. You might even decide to take up scuba diving next time. There are quite a few to choose from but I would recommend Aqua Adventures or Superior Dive Just remember that these are scuba dive schools first and foremost so they will fit you in as and when they can.
Once out into the deep water things are a little different. Without practice you're probably not going to be able to dive down to the bottom and so the experience is quite different - almost peering down into another World, but it can be very rewarding when the shout goes up that someone has spotted a turtle.
This is Sosua's resident turtle and she'll quite happily let you follow her around as she gets on with whatever it is Turtles do.
You are also probably going to encounter Barracuda, Moray eels (if you can dive down safely) and possibly a pod of dolphins while on your way to the dive site.
Once again a big thank you to my snorkel hero buddies Curt Erickson for the photographs, Tay for dragging me off to a boat to hang on to while getting an attack of cramp and Tracy for keeping me company.