Located just north of Venezuela, Bonaire is the middle part of the A-B-C (Aruba - Bonaire - Curacao) island chain. The island has an arid climate with little rainfall, which makes the surrounding sea exceptionally clear, and the desert landscape unique for a tropical island. But, it's not just the visibility that makes Bonaire a diver's paradise it's the fact that the island's marine resources have been protected for more than 30 years. Marine life abounds in this untouched and unspoiled underwater kingdom. And, you access some great dive sites right from shore - step off the dock and you're there. Of course, dive boats can get you to the outer reef. It is an ideal destination for underwater photographers. Topside, you can explore the protected wildlife areas counting iguanas or watching pink flamingos. .
Bonaire Dive Orientation:
All divers on Bonaire must undergo a checkout dive to ensure your buoyancy skills are sufficient to avoid damaging the reefs, and each diver must purchase a Marine Park Tag in order to dive on the island. The entire reef surrounding Bonaire has been designated as a marine park since 1979. The lack of fishing in the area, and the vetting of divers, help preserve the abundant marine life here.
When to go:
Because it's safely south of the hurricane belt, Bonaire can be a reliable dive destination year-round. The "off season" (determined by tourist-traffic, not weather) runs from April to December, so a prospective diver can often find good deals.
When to Get the Best Deals:
April to December.
What to Pack:
3/2 mm wetsuit, sunscreen, insect repellent is especially necessary here for the no-see-ums, booties for shore diving are a must, DAN card, lightweight clothing.
Seasonal averages: 25°C/78°F in winter and 29°C/84°F in summer.
Seasonal averages: 28°C/84°F in winter and 31°C/89°F in summer.
US Dollar. Credit cards are widely accepted.
Valid passport; check with local immigration office for visa requirements.
Included in your airfare.
What to Eat:
Although you'll find culinary styles from around the world (much of which focuses on seafood), creole flavors dominate the local food of Bonaire. Kabrito stoba (goat stew), sopi di pisca (fish soup), fungi (corn-meal mush) and pika siboyo (a sauce made with onions, vinegar and hot peppers) are just a few local specialties. Desserts are usually delicious concoctions of involving coconut, bananas and peanuts.
What to Drink:
There are many great places to relax on the water after a dive stocked with Dutch beers as well as a few brewed on the surrounding Caribbean islands. For a refreshing change, try Cadushy of Bonaire Liqueur, which is part cactus, part lime and part secret and is best served chilled or mixed up in a cocktail.
Kiteboarding, cave snorkeling, kayaking the mangroves, explore the slave huts, mountain bike, hike or join a nature tour for bird watching through Washington Slagbaii Park.
Customs and Culture:
Bonaire is a Dutch island, but most of the local culture is based upon the sea, sun and 24/7 dive mentality.
Mascarada, January; Simidan, February to April.
Electricity and Internet:
127 volt, 50 Hz. 220 volts is also available at some resorts. Internet is generally available at the resorts.
Drink the water?
Water is safe to drink.
Dutch is the official language; Papiamentu, Spanish and English are widely spoken.
Amazing Marine Life
Hawksbill, loggerhead and green turtles can be found swimming in leisurely fashion or napping under ledges on most reefs.
These predatory pelagic fish are often seen on the reefs. They can swim at incredible speeds and can grow up to six feet in length.
Most often found in holes, caves, and wrecks, moray eels sometimes venture out so divers can see their entire snakelike length.
Giant Sea Anemone:
Growing up to 30-centimeters/one foot in diameter, the waving tentacles use stinging cells to stun small prey, but some fishes manage to dart among the protection of the tentacles, sheltering from larger, mobile predators.
With their curling tails and iconic chess-piece profiles, seahorses are not prolific, but can be spotted by the watchful Bonaire diver.
Named for its effect rather than its appearance, fire coral sculpts the underwater landscape and protects itself from predators (including, perhaps, the careless diver) with toxins. Look but don't touch; a brush with fire coral will probably result in a need for medical attention.
Roughly the size of a diver's hand, these black fish are outlined in brilliant electric blue.
True to its name, the tube sponge spouts clusters of tubes in vivid colors.
These tear-drop-shaped fish are eye-catching with their yellow backs and black-stripes, but never more so when a whole school shimmies by at once.
If a handful of pink and purple and yellow crayons melted into a fish-shaped mold, it would look precisely like a Creole wrasse - -a striking form against any background.
Top Dive Spots
This double reef with clear visibility offers opportunities for multiple dives. Look for garden eels, porcupine fish, spotted moray, trumpet fish, arrow crabs and queen angels.
On the sand between two reefs lies the wreckage of this 72-meter/240-foot freighter, encrusted with growths and encircled by reef and pelagic fish. The ship itself rests in 18-30 meters/60-100 feet. Watch for tarpon, creole wrasse, juvenile tobacco fish and drum fish.
True to its name, this reef harbors a myriad of angel fish, as well as tarpon, trunkfish, schools of silverfish and black durgeons, scrawl tilefish, scorpion fish and green morays.
Alice in Wonderland:
Possibly named for the oversized mushrooms of Alice's acquaintance, the large coral heads here do indeed form a wonderland topography.
Swim across staghorn to the buoy marking the drop-off at the buoy, then let the current take you on a drift dive. Look for spotted drum, green morays, turtles, porcupine fish, tarpon, barracuda, green moray eels, sharptailed eel and spotted moray eels.
Explore the coral formations and ridges and keep an eye out for yellow snappers, sharp-pointed eel, cowfish, squid, tarpon, lobster, jellyfish, porcupine fish - and anchors.
Infamous for the long climb down to the beach, this site is still well worth the steps (and no, there aren't really a thousand, , just 64 - it just feels that way). Fantastic coral formations, barracudas, turtle, a turtle cleaning station, sergeant majors, porcupinefish, black durgeons, tarpons, cowfish and French angels.
A painted yellow boulder marks the entry point to this site, where you may see parrotfish, turtle, tarpon, sea cucumbers, French angels, bar jack, scrawled filefish, red banded shrimp, and spotted moray.
REEF names this reef as the one with the largest number of fish species in the Caribbean. Among others, look for tarpon, flounder, eels, French angels, queen angel, yellowtails, triggerfish, trumpetfish, sand diver, and parrotfish.
Knife, Klein Bonaire:
Outstanding coral formations at this site shelter horse-eyed jacks, porcupine-fish, brittle stars, and squid. If you swim around the point, where you'll feel the temperature drop, be cautious of the current.