Located on the east coast of Hook Island, Mackeral Bay is one of the most popular snorkeling spots in the Whitsunday Islands. Devastated by a cyclone a few years ago, the bay’s coral reef has partially recovered. Amidst the soft corals, you can see groupers, angelfish, butterflyfish, and sometimes rays or turtles. Underwater visibility, variable in the Whitsundays, can however sometimes spoil your snorkeling.

Maxima clam in Saba Bay
Many small clams are living on the reef.

How to go snorkeling Saba Bay?

Saba Bay is located on Hook Island, the second largest island in the Whitsundays archipelago. It sits just south of Mackeral Bay, where snorkeling is good too. To visit the archipelago, you can choose from dozens of day tours or multi-day cruises departing from Airlie Beach (starting from $105pp.). Day trips typically include a visit to Hill Inlet Lookout (the most famous viewpoint in the Whitsundays) and famous Whitehaven Beach, as well as one or more snorkeling stops around the islands. Saba Bay is a spot often visited by tours, but it is sometimes difficult to be confirmed the locations of snorkeling stops when booking. These are often chosen at the last moment, depending on the sea conditions. All boats to the Whitsundays depart from Abell Point Marina at Airlie Beach.

Saba Bay snorkeling map, Whitsunday Islands

Water entrance for snorkeling Saba Bay

On this spot, you get in the water directly from a boat, on the edge of the reef.

Saba Bay snorkeling exploration tips

The bay is bordered by a shallow reef (↕3-10ft/1-3m), which measures between 50 and 150m wide depending on the location. Beyond the reef, the reef plunges steeply to the depths (↕15-25ft/5-8m). On this spot, the corals were severely damaged by Cyclone Debbie in 2017, and are gradually recovering. It is now mainly soft corals (especially leather corals) that cover the reef flat. There are also beautiful beds of fast-growing corals, such as fire coral. In places, the reef remains sadly bare, without corals.

Bluespotted stingray in Saba Bay
Bluespotted stingrays are occasionally seen on Saba Bay’s reef flat.

Small clams, some fluorescent blue, are embedded in the reef. Sometimes you can see about fifteen of them on less than 1 square meter. Gigas clams, which can reach 5ft long, are much rarer. Some of the most commonly seen fish in Saba Bay include the cooperband butterflyfish, sixbar angelfish, and longfin grouper. Many Whitley’s sergeant and scissortail sergeant also live near the surface. With any luck, you might also see a bluespotted stingray, which is quite common in the bay.

Soft coral reef at Saba Bay
A nice soft coral cover can be found in some parts of the reef.

As everywhere in the Whitsundays, the underwater visibility is sometimes bad at this location.

Restaurants and accommodation nearby

Day trips to the Whitsundays usually include lunch on the boat. Inquire when you book.

 

  • Level required Intermediary
  • Maximum depth10ft/3m on the reef flat
  • Water entranceFrom a boat
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersLow to medium
  • Access costsSnorkeling tour to the Whitsunday Islands (from $105pp.)
  • Restaurants nearbyNo

MAP Spot

These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.