Read these 12 Diving in Bonaire Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Scuba Diving tips and hundreds of other topics.
While scuba diving in Bonaire is offered all year round, due to its more southerly location, Bonaire's weather is a bit different from Cozumel or the Cayman Islands. January through May, the water temperature around Bonaire is a few degrees cooler than that of the northern Caribbean. But beginning in July the water warms, and the period June through December is a good window, with the late summer and fall months being a sweet time to travel to Bonaire.
Bonaire beckons visitors to share warm year round sunshine and a tranquil lifestyle. And the island life is truly unhurried, uncrowded and peaceful. Many experienced scuba divers consider Bonaire to be one of the most consistently spectacular dive destinations in the world. And for good reason, as there are almost no "non-diving" days in Bonaire, and that goes for night diving, too.
Diving Highlights: Visibility averages 100 feet and Bonaire's reefs enjoy the highest diversity of reef fish in the Caribbean. In addition to over 350 different species of reef fish you may see hawksbill and green sea turtles, rays, tarpon, reef sharks, seahorses, frogfish, and even the occasional whaleshark. Bonaire's extensive reef system also hosts a prolific number of both soft and hard corals and sponges.
Bonaire Weather: The northeast trade winds are constant year-round. Located well south of the hurricane belt and out of harm's way, the island enjoys ideal weather with less than 20 feet of annual rainfall. Sunny skies and cool breezes are the norm.
Average Bonaire Air Temperature:
Day: 82° F Night: 75° F
Bonaire Water Temperature:
78° - 84° F
Diving in Bonaire is characterized by clear water and a gently sloping reef structure. Often there are both inner and outer coral formations separated by a narrow band of pure white sand. The reef top, generally in only 20 feet of water, is lushly populated with gorgonians, sea fans, and waving soft coral trees. The population of reef fishes is good, and unique creatures like sea horses and frogfish are relatively common.
Because of its renown diving destinations, there are many fine dive resorts in Bonaire. Captain Don's Habitat and Divi Flamingo Resort were two of the first, where many now-common modern dive practices were originally developed. More contemporary of the top quality dive hotels in Bonaire include Plaza Resort Bonaire, Buddy Dive Resort, and the newest, Portofino Hotel and Yacht Club. In addition to hotel and resort style properties, there are apartments and condominiums to provide all the services a dive traveler might wish for when scuba diving in Bonaire.
While Bonaire scuba diving and Bonaire wind surfing are the major activities to do, a number of other interesting outdoor and watersports activities are available. Because of the shallow reef structure, Bonaire offers great snorkeling right off the beach. Organized snorkel tours are offered to more distant sites and to specialty areas such as the mangroves of Lac Bay. Water skiing and parasailing are enjoyed, while those in search of more exercise will find Bonaire is also a great place for hiking and off-road bicycling.
There is some excellent easy shore diving in Bonaire, one of the greatest attractions to scuba divers. Most of Bonaire's dive resorts have good diving right off their own beaches, while a small pickup truck and full scuba tanks allow access to dozens of Bonaire's dive sites up and down the coast. The Bonaire National Marine Park publishes an excellent map detailing both boat and beach dive sites.
While scuba divers may have put Bonaire on the map, it is now also a well-known windsurfing Mecca. Lac Bay, on the east side of the island, enjoys consistent on shore winds of 10-20 miles per hour. The Bay's shallow water makes re-boarding safe and easy. As a result, windsurfers travel to Bonaire from around the world to make use of top quality windsurfing rental gear and instruction.
For a dedicated diver, a good dive package in Bonaire would include two daily boat dives plus unlimited shore diving in Bonaire. Boat dive sites are arrayed north and south of the city of Kralendijk. Most Bonaire dive sites can be reached in a boat ride of only 15 to 45 minutes. The dive plan is generally a duration of one hour, with a 100-foot depth maximum on first dives, and 60-foot maximum depth on second dives. While the boat dives off the island of Klein, Bonaire can only be accessed via boat, and many of the dives around on the main island may also be accessed right off the beach.
Due to the foresight of Captain Don Stewart, Bonaire was the first island in the Caribbean to denote its precious coral reefs as Bonaire's National Marine Park. Rather than allow anchoring to destroy the delicate corals, Captain Don began the ongoing project of installing permanent mooring buoys at every scuba dive site in Bonaire. Only one boat at a time is permitted on each mooring, so the diving pressure is spread out, and diver impact minimized. Scuba divers are required to pay an annual fee of USD $10 to dive in the National Marine Park and the rules are carefully enforced. Divers are strongly encouraged to watch their buoyancy and avoid reef damage. To keep divers from grabbing the living corals, the use of dive gloves is forbidden. The result of these efforts is a reef environment in more pristine condition than other areas that are not so lovingly protected.
The island of Bonaire is in the far S.E. edge of the Caribbean, just north of the coast of Venezuela. Combined with its sister islands of Aruba and Curacao, the three compose a group known as the ABC Islands. Arid and flat with scant annual rainfall, Bonaire looks more like "Arizona by the sea" than a typical tropical island. But this lack of rainfall makes for good visibility underwater and as a result Bonaire is known for its consistently good diving.
A Caribbean island colonized by the Dutch, Bonaire enjoys a rich cultural heritage. Spoken languages in Bonaire include as many as four languages: Dutch, English, Spanish, and the unique local tongue called Papamiento. There are also influences from Latin American and South America. The result is an interesting mix of European, North American, Latin American, and island cultures where all people are welcomed equally.
Bonaire is famous as the shore diving capital of the Caribbean. But most diving is done on the calm, sheltered, west coast of Bonaire. Due to rougher conditions and the need for specialized boats, there is very little diving done on the east coast.
The east coast has much more wind and wave action. Typical dive boats won't function well in these conditions, and entry from the beach for shore diving isn’t possible. Bonaire East Coast Diving is the only dive operator who currently has the specially designed Zodiac boat that can handle the conditions. They limit the size and number of excursions to protect the unspoiled nature of these dive sites. These dives are not recommended for absolute beginners, as divers use the backward roll method to enter the water, and reentering the boat can be a little challenging in rough seas. But while you are in the water, it is well worth the effort.
Scuba diving off the east coast is a completely different experience from the calm, easy dives on the west coast. Different geography, coral formations and sea life make for a unique dive experience. With so much activity on the west, most of the larger sea life has moved to the east side of the island. Sea turtles, eagle rays, sharks and large moray eels are constantly sighted. To see what made Bonaire so famous in past decades, reserve a spot on one of the east coast dive excursions.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|