Mangel Halto is supposed to be the best snorkeling area in Aruba. Last year when we were here, I was not able to find this "awesome" snorkeling area. However, after doing a snorkeling excursion with ARUBA BOB, I now know that was I in the wrong area and needed to head "out" toward the open water.
However, this area past the rocky/coral wall can be very dangerous due to the current, boats, open water and rougher waves. I no intention on going out that far but knew that if I got close, I would be able to see some awesome things in the area.
Mangel Halto is kind of an "odd" beach. The sand and beachy area that you stay at is kind of in the middle of lush mangroves and trees and you really don't see much of the water from the middle. You have to go down into the water, between the mangroves to get out to the open area. They do have some palapas there to use, but there's not many and they are usually occupied by families that obviously get there pretty early.
We picked our area to put our things and it was one of the entrances to the open water between the mangroves. It's nice and shady in those areas and you are right on the water. There are thousands of small minow type fishes everywhere you look. There were also some pelicans diving for fish as well.
We also had several bird visitors that would fly down to the mangroves and hop along them. They were so cute and pretty.
I immediately grabbed my snorkeling gear and headed out. This time I was on a mission to see this beautiful reef on my own and be able to get pictures. (The ArubaBob snorkeling did not allow you to bring your own camera and he takes pictures for you...I feel naked without my camera).
I immediately found a huge school of caribbean reef squid. There were a lot of them. It's so funny to watch them. They have a purple color to them and when they get scared, they turn white.
There are plenty of parrot fish, damsels and blue tangs/surgeon fish.
I started seeing more and more coral. Then I spotted a yellow trunkfish. I have only seen one of these once before.
There's one thing I love to see and that is large schools of surgeon fish following each other and synchronizing their swimming together. In this case it was a school of black tangs with orange fins. I could just follow and watch them forever.
Then I started seeing a lot of beautiful coral with hundreds of polyps on them. I love these because up close, they look like little flowers. I love to take close up pictures of them.
There's one thing that I did learn from the snorkeling with ARUBA BOB and that is the little goby fish that live in the holes of (usually) brain coral. I never noticed that before he took a picture of them. Now I was seeing them everywhere. It did provide to be very challenging to capture them before they scurried back into the hole because I got to close.
Look at his little yellow lips puckering out. Isn't it the cutest thing ever???
Then I seen it...some candy cane coral. They look like little bubbles. I have some in my saltwater tank at home and absolutely love them. Mine are a baby blue and florescent green. These were orange and I have never seen them while snorkeling before. I was so fascinated by them.
Also, there seemed to be a lot of babies in the area this time around. Tons and tons of them (as you'll see in the pictures below). There are also a lot of four-eyed butterflyfish, banded butterfly fish and spotted trunk fish. They are so cute.
A black goby with orange fins. How cool. I also have gobies at home in the aquarium. They are so much fun to watch. Always staying busy.
Then I spotted a fireworm...nasty nasty stings (both Sakari and I have had). They look like cute little catepilars...but cute fuzzy animals they are not.
I started heading back and toward the side. Back to the tons of little schools of fish everywhere you look. Sometimes it was actually hard to see past them because they were just so thick.
I did spot my first lizard fish here (then I would continue to see more after this one.)
I did spot an anemon as well. I kinda get excited when I see one because you really don't see them often when snorkeling but when you do, it seems like they are in very shallow water.
I also came across an area that had quite a few conch (and it was a grassy area)
Then I decided to go back. I came across an area that was grassy around it and then all of a sudden there was a small clearing with just a sandy bottom and a small dip in it. Usually this is the place I will see a lion fish hanging out at, so I'm usually careful and aware of my surroundings.
However, I sat there for a minute. I wasn't really sure why. Then I spotted it...my very first STONE FISH!! I have only seen these in aquarium stores and never in "real life" while snorkeling. I was so excited but yet very scared. I really wanted to get good pictures but didn't want to piss it off. Their stings are very dangerous, painful and can be deadly. They camouflage themselves and they appear to look just like a stone. Like seriously after seeing this one, it really did look just like a stone in the water.
However...I spotted the eyes and what really caught my attention was the gills/fins. At first I thought it was some type of neat shell...until I got closer.
Can you see the head, gills/fins, mouth here in the picture?
Here is a picture of it from the side (it is out in the open from this direction and up against the rock)
I made it back out to check on the family and decided to head "down the beach" to the other area that is open to the water. But this area (although has a beach against the water) isn't really a swimmable area. The area that comes up to this beach is very shallow...like VERY shallow (ankle deep) and rocky in areas.
Here's the area the hubby sat at and we put our things for the day.
The next picture is a shot of where I planned on heading to snorkel next (which would be the area I went to last time I was here). Although I knew this area wouldn't be as promising as the last, I still wanted to check it out. I have found that areas like this may not provide a lot of coral and such, but I always manage to find the most interesting things in these areas and sometimes a lot of "first".
So off I went....plenty of parrot fish, grunts, christmas tree worms on coral and feather dusters, sea urchins, then I spotted a sea cucumber.
I spotted some scuba divers doing a discover scuba course. This was one of the scuba companies that I had tried to contact to do a dive here. I got a response back when I was still at home but after contacting them again to see if they had any availability, they never replied.
Then I caught a glimpse of.....AN EEL! YES! I knew I would find something interesting if I went this way! I told ya!
I followed and watched this big guy for quite some time. He was not scared nor bothered by me and was on a hunt for food. Very entertaining.
It wasn't much longer that I would find another eel...although he was a little shy and hiding, I did spot him hanging out.
I continued in the direction on down and ended up by what used to be some type of pier. At this point, I was pretty far away and explored a little and decided to head back because it was quite the swim back.
There were quite a few seagulls hanging out.
On the way back, I would encounter more lizard fish (one was really big...biggest one I had ever seen before), more soft coral, squirrel fish, and a bunch of squid again, octopus and schools of fish.
After a very long and tiring swim back, I told the hubby about my finds and espeically the eel and showed him the video. I was tired and hungry. We ate our packed lunch and then I suggested us gathering our things and moving to a new location down the road. I had told him about making it all the way to the pier down the road and wanted to explore a little further down but didn't want to swim all the way there and back. He was game and we packed our things and headed to the car and drove to the next site.
You can find the continuation of this area here ----->