Diving in Bonaire
This beautiful and clean Dutch island is only 50 miles to the north of Venezuela. More importantly, this island is south of the area of the Caribbean that is most affected by hurricane activity. It is also one of the Dutch “ABC islands” along with Aruba and Curaçao. This island touts year-round sunny skies and very few hurricane events. This fantastic Dutch island has also been deemed one of the world’s most eminent and excellent, kid-friendly locations, a tropical paradise which is excellent for water sports, windsurfing, and, of course, diving and snorkeling.
Most of the many dive sites are available right from the coastline. One can drop straight into these sandy terraces and sloped walls, teeming with life. Sheltered areas provide perfect spots for divers. There are also 400-plus species of fish as well as turtles, octopuses, and seahorses to see.
What are the attractions on Bonaire?
This little island located in the south Caribbean is considered a unique tourist destination. The good news? This small island seemed to be created just for lovers of scuba diving and snorkeling because you can start your excursion from almost any point on the island coastline.
Bonaire is like no other dive destination in the Caribbean because of the many unlimited shore dives, including wall dives, amazing shipwrecks, and the double reef providing some breathtaking underwater views.
For 20 plus years, the island has striven to uphold the natural beauty and habitat in this part of the Dutch Caribbean. The Government of Bonaire has declared the clear, enticing waters surrounding it a submerged marine park for all visitors to enjoy as a vacation destination.
What makes Bonaire’s National Park so unique?
Founded in 1979 to preserve and oversee the island’s cultural, natural, and historical resources. The National Park is nearly 200 ft (60 meters) in-depth and covers approximately 6672 acres.
Before diving in Bonaire, all visitors must purchase a park tag before entering the water you can get these at all the island dive companies sell them. Most dive companies have you attach a tag to the snorkel gear or other items that you carry into the sea with you.
Completing the marine park application form is a requirement before diving in Bonaire.
There are over 40 dive sites on Bonaire and the sister Island Klein Bonaire, some of the most well-known are listed below
Alice in Wonderland
Another popular dive site, this site offers a chance to really experience the double reef. the reef drops to 100 ft so special attention must be paid to your depth. Depth 30-100 feet (10-30 meters)
One Thousand Steps
Possibly Bonaire’s most popular dive site and well worth taking steps down to the rocky beach, at the water’s edge you will see the remains of an old jetty where you can gain access to the reef which is literally at the water’s edge. Huge coral heads brains corals and turtles can be seen here
Bari Reef is an easy dive that is usually very calm with no current. This site is the number one in the entire Caribbean for the fish diversity with over 310 species surveyed. Depth 30-100 feet (10-30 meters)
The Hilma Hooker Wreck
The Hilma Hooker wreck is a short 5 minute surface swim to either the stern or bow marker buoy. The wreck sits in 100 ft of water at the bottom of the reef, you cannot swim inside of the wreck, however the hull is in good shape with the propeller still intact and you are able to see inside of the cargo holds. Her you can see tarpon, crabs and small brightly colored damsel fish protecting their small area of the ships hull. This ship lies at 60-100 feet (18-30 meters)
Great visibility, look for elkhorn coral, large coral heads, and the ships anchor embedded in the coral reef. Karpata is another shore dive with steps down to the beach.
Depth 20-100 feet (6-30 meters)
Salt pier is exactly what it says, a “Salt Pier”. It is another shore dive and the surf can sometimes be very strong, entry to the water at the water’s edge is rocky so care should be taken when entering the water. . and although the dive site is a working pier and thus not the “prettiest” of dive sites on the island the structure of the pilings can make for an incredible photo opportunity if the light conditions are good. Depth range is 40 to 70 feet (12-21 meters)
Bonaire East Coast Diving
For those willing to take the short 30 – 40 minute journey to get to the East Coast of Bonaire excitement awaits, here the local Dive Operator “East Coast Diving” will take up to 10 divers in their specially outfitted rigid hull inflatable to dive on Funchi Reef and Turtle City. The trip from shore takes is through swells of up to 12-15 ft, once at the dive site conditions do not allow the crew to anchor so it is a “hot drop” water entry. Divers are given a number and instructed to gear up and sit in position on the sides of the hull, the crew then backs the boat up slowly and divers roll backwards into the into the surf when their number is called one after the other.
Larger marine life can be seen here, sharks, eagle rays and of course turtles in abundance at the cleaning station at Turtle City. Funchi Reef lies in 70-80 ft and Turtle City between 30-55 ft
What If I Am Traveling From the U.S. or Canada to the Dutch Caribbean?
If you are heading to the Caribbean islands from the U.S., a passport booklet or passport card is required. Direct flights to the Dutch Caribbean island or cruise packages from Florida are popular ways to get there. There are also pre-destination processes with paperwork when preparing the transit from Aruba to U.S. and back. If you are a Canadian resident, choosing an itinerary from Florida to the Caribbean is a wise decision based on the logistics and ease of these travel plans. Best to check with travel companies or cruise ship companies beforehand about best practices for paperwork to enter this lovely Dutch island.
What course are available for me to be a certified diver?
For those who want to learn to dive, completing an open water course is a must. Learning to dive through an open water course is an enjoyable way to learn — it is also an instructive course. There is a PADI Diver course available on the island. This is by far, the most popular scuba certification course in the world. Gaining the knowledge to safely and adequately dive involves the development of knowledge (theory, academics) and step-by-step training methods, skills, and diving techniques. The PADI instruction entails three full days of schooling. In some cases, the fourth day of this course may be required. Once the diving requirements have been completed, you can congratulate yourself by knowing that you are a certified diver. You and a mate will be allowed to dive to a maximum depth of 60 feet below the surface in the Caribbean Sea.
What should non-divers who travel with me do during this time?
For those who are not interested in shore diving, but are visiting with people who want to dive off this fantastic, clean island, there is never a lack of activities and things to do there! You should feel free to check out more activities about this beautiful, nature-filled island to choose your next fun excursion.
Whichever excursions you choose to enjoy on this welcoming Dutch island, make sure to have fun and enjoy the continual sun, water, and pristine beaches.