Best Saba Island Snorkeling: It’s Not All About the Divers
The tiny Caribbean island of Saba is well-known among divers to have world-class diving at its unspoiled reefs. But, it’s not all about the divers. Snorkelers can also enjoy this pristine underwater beauty. To enjoy some of the best Saba Island snorkeling, you will need a boat. Read on to find out what it’s like to snorkel around what is known as the “Unspoiled Queen.”
My Snorkel Rating of Saba Island
My Saba Island Snorkeling Rating: 3 out of 5 snorkels
Each of my snorkeling blog posts will have my personal snorkel rating of the site. Please see the key below.
Snorkel Rating Key
Map & How to Get There
It seems like quite a few of the top snorkeling destinations take a little effort to get there. For example, in the Maldives, you have to take a seaplane or speedboat from Male to your resort. Bora Bora requires an extra plane ride from Tahiti. To get to Shark Ray Alley in Belize, you must take a small plane ride from Belize City to Ambergris Caye.
And Saba Island is no exception.
To get there, you fly into St. Maarten in the Caribbean first. Then you take a 12-minute hair-raising plane ride and land on one of the shortest commercial runways in the world. This experience alone is worth coming to Saba!
St Maarten to Saba via 15 minute plane ride
Saba airport runway
Alternatively, you could take a 90-minute ferry across potentially bumpy seas. No thank you. Take the plane ride!
There are only a handful of accommodations on this beautiful volcanic island. We chose to stay at the Queen’s Garden Resort (see our full hotel review here), which offered incredible panoramic views of the valley below.
View from Queen’s Garden Resort in Saba
A 6-minute taxi ride + a 5 minute-boat ride is all that is needed to experience Saba’s stunning reef system.
How to get to Tent Reef for snorkeling in Saba
Which Company to Pick for Your Saba Island Snorkeling Tour
Shore access is limited, so you’re going to need a boat to explore some of Saba’s healthy reefs.
Which tour operator to pick?
This will be an easy choice because as of right now, there is only one option … Sea Saba. There used to be two options, but Saba Divers is temporarily closed.
Rest assured though, Sea Saba is an awesome diving tour operator and has been around since 1985!
They were responsive to my emails and arranged a taxi for pick up/drop off at our hotel. Sea Saba’s snorkeling tours are scheduled daily at 1 pm in the afternoon. Our taxi dropped us off at Fort Bay Harbor, the starting point of our snorkeling tour.
The cost was $42 USD per person plus $5 USD per person for the taxi roundtrip.
Fort Bay Harbor welcome center in Saba
Fort Bay Harbor in Saba
Sea Saba’s 40’ Delta boats felt safe and sturdy. You are on the boat with divers, but I still felt they were accommodating to those of us who snorkeled. There were 4 snorkelers (including my husband and I) and 5 divers on the day we went. They take 10 people max daily, so there’s plenty of room to spread out.
They also had a nice platform and t-ladder at the back of the boat, which allowed for easy entry and exit. I always felt safe, and the staff was super friendly and helpful.
Sea Saba 40′ boat at Fort Bay Harbor
There are quite a few dive sites. I believe 30 to be exact.
The location we were taken to was Tent Reef. I would consider this a “deep snorkel.” The reef was about 40’ below. Visibility was fairly good on the day we went. Although shallow depths are going to be ideal for snorkelers, we were still able to see some interesting marine life.
Saba Island Snorkeling Tour Experience: Tent Reef
Now on to the fun stuff. What marine life will you see? Here’s our full snorkeling trip report to Tent Reef.
TURTLES, SO MANY TURTLES
I seriously lost count of how many turtles I saw. They were everywhere. It reminded me of when we were snorkeling in Francis Bay in St. John USVI. Even though I’ve seen quite a few turtles now over the many years of snorkeling around the world, I still get excited when I see them!
Most of the time when you swim next to the sea turtles, they quickly swim away. This turtle actually deliberately turned direction to swim back towards me to check me out. I have never had this happen, and it was incredible!
Turtle turning towards me at Tent Reef in Saba
Turtle coming up for breath at Tent Reef in Saba
Closeup of sea turtle at Tent Reef in Saba
We saw two stingrays from afar. They are incredibly graceful as they maneuver around the water trying to find food. You can see the white underside of the pectoral fin in the photo below.
Stingray at Tent Reef in Saba Island
Awe, I love these little “puppy dogs of the sea.” This was the third time I had seen a nurse shark. The first time was at Waterlemon Cay in St. John USVI. The second time was at Shark Ray Alley in Belize, which should be a top bucket list item for any snorkeler!
Nurse sharks are usually harmless, minding their own business as they hang out under coral reefs during the day.
I almost didn’t see the nurse shark while snorkeling at Tent Reef. My husband, who has an incredible eye, pointed it out to me. The color of the shark practically blended into the bottom below.
Nurse shark at Tent Reef in Saba Island
Snorkeling with a nurse shark at Tent Reef in Saba
Nurse shark swimming along Tent Reef in Saba
Fascinated with sharks? We also had the opportunity to go cage diving with great white sharks in South Africa! That was incredibly intense and exhilarating. I’m glad we didn’t see any of those guys while in Saba.
I was told the most common sharks seen in Saba are nurse sharks, Caribbean Reef, and Blacktip sharks. Occasionally, you will see a hammerhead.
We also came across some black triggerfish intermixed with large schools of these white/silver-looking fish. The black triggerfish looks like a blimp with white lines running along the fins. They are the least aggressive type of triggerfish.
The first time we encountered a triggerfish was in the Maldives when we ran into a titan triggerfish. Luckily, it was from a safe distance. This fish can be quite aggressive and will bite you if you tick them off.
I also saw a pair of French angelfish, but they were too far away to get a decent photo. The soft and hard coral also seemed to be in pretty good shape. We also saw plenty of sea fans waving away in the current.
Black triggerfish at Tent Reef in Saba
Other Saba Island Snorkeling Spots
We were only on Saba for 3 nights/4 days, so we didn’t get the opportunity to explore other snorkeling sites. I understand Wells Bay/Torrens Point, Cove Bay, and Ladder Bay are also worth checking out if sea conditions permit.
If you snorkeled here, please let me know in the comments below! I would love to know what the snorkeling was like in those locations.
Saba Island Snorkeling Spots
What Snorkeling Gear to Bring
My husband and I have snorkeled quite a few amazing locations around the world, so we invested in good equipment a long time ago.
I can’t emphasize enough how much properly fitted equipment will make a difference in your underwater experience. If interested, check out what travel snorkeling equipment I bring on every “snorkeling” vacation.
My Snorkeling Gear. Photo taken at Isaacs Bay, St. Croix USVI.
Final Thoughts on Saba Island Snorkeling
Saba Island attracts a specific type of tourist. There are no permanent beaches or all-inclusive hotels. No big cruise ships. What it does offer is pristine rugged natural beauty on both land and sea.
The diving is known for being top-notch, but I wouldn’t say the snorkeling here is world-class (based on the location we went to). However, the snorkeling is still worth exploring especially if you love turtles. I highly recommend allowing Sea Saba to show you this beautiful underwater world.
Welcome to Saba sign at Fort Bay Harbor
Have you experienced Saba as a snorkeler? What were your impressions? Any favorite sites?
Let me know in the comments below!