Bonaire is known as the Shore Dive Capital of the World. Even the car licence plates feature the slogan “divers paradise”. Many experienced divers we met here mentioned it the best diving destination they’ve ever been to.
Caribbean blue waters host a large variety of marine creatures. There are over 350 fish species around Bonaire and 57 different coral types, soft or stony. Large tarpons, turtles or barracudas are commonly seen here, together with colourful fishes, seahorses, crabs and many more. Add Hilma Hooker, the famous cargo ship found involved in drug-smuggling and sunk by the authorities, turned now into a popular diving location or the Salt Pier, where soft corrals and sponges embrace the supporting pillars. You have in Bonaire a fascinating underwater world waiting to be discovered!
Diving conditions are perfect in Bonaire all year round. Water temperature is almost constant, 26-28 degrees, with no significant currents. Arid island with very little rainfall, visibility is always great, 15-30 m, or even more around Klein Bonaire.
There are 86 diving sites on Bonaire and Klein Bonaire, more than half of the them allow for shore dive. The sites are nicely marked with yellow stones with the name written in black. They are easy to be spotted from the road so you’ll find your way even if you are here for the first time. Imagine just parking your car next to the beach, putting on your costume and diving into the sea. No need for more planning, long boat rides or crowded spots with many divers in one place. Of course there are diving sites accessible from boat, but the shore dive option to dive from shore is amazing and allows for lots of flexibility. Moreover, Bonaire is listed as top 5 worldwide destination for shore dive and it is constantly featured in the top 3 Caribbean locations in may categories in the Scuba Diving Magazine readers choice.
The waters surrounding Bonaire are protected under Bonaire National Marine Park, established in 1979. This was actually the first marine park established in the Caribbean region. Pioneer in marine conservation activities, Bonaire features one of the healthiest reefs in the world. Klein Boanire was added to the park in late ‘90s, making it one of the few terrestrial areas managed by a marine park. There is a very strict no anchoring policy in the marine park, but there are over 100 public moorings to be used. There is a Nature fee of 10-25 $ for diving and other water activities to be paid to STINAPA, the foundation commissioned to manage Bonaire National Marine Park. But this is a very small price to pay for what the nature has to offer here. It also allows you access in the Washington-Slagbaai National Park, another must see attraction of Bonaire.
If you are not a diver or not tried diving before, do not worry, Bonaire can still be the place for you. There are many diving schools around the island, for all styles and budgets, as most of the tourism here is organised around diving. You can opt just for a trial dive, to get a taste of the underwater world. If the sea fascinates you enough, you can enrol to one of the PADI courses. These are tailored from very beginners up to specialised for experienced divers. If scuba diving is already your thing, you can go further in Bonaire by taking Freediving courses from world-record holders. Or you can try night dive, which I heard to be extremely spectacular.
I just took a couple of trial dives, I am not that adventurous as I used to be before having a child. But still, I could spot countless colourful fishes, a moray and a small eagle ray on my dive near the marina. So you can imagine how magnificent underwater world is when diving at a famous site!
Andrei is more adventurous than I am. He took the first two certifications as PADI Open Water Diver. Each day he was more and more excited about what he discovered underwater and new skills he practiced. All the photos in this article are done during his dives. Just a few days of lessons and some evening study, this can easily be done during your vacation. PADI is the the world’s leading scuba diver training organisation. This means your PADI licence will be recognised all around the world. So, if you fancy a tropical learning vacation, Bonaire is your spot!
Did you ever tried scuba diving? What was the best location you practiced diving so far?
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