With over 63 official diving sites, Bonaire is one of the best places to go diving in the Caribbean Sea. In fact, this Caribbean island was recently recognized as the number one Shore Diving Destination in the Caribbean/Atlantic in Scuba Diving Magazine’s Annual Readers’ Choice Awards, for the 24th consecutive year. In addition, it took first place for Beginner Diving and Macro Diving.
Historically, Bonaire has constantly sought to protect the flora and fauna that grace its ocean waters. The Bonaire National Marine Park manages and protects Bonaire’s natural resources and environment. This means that there is plenty of coral and sea life to see.
Bonaire National Marine Park
Established in 1979, this park is now world famous. And rightly so, since it has over 6,700 acres of thriving coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangroves.
The coral reefs begin at the water’s edge, making it even easier for divers to reach them. The reefs extend out into the sea for about 984 feet.
Incredibly, Bonaire National Marine Park stretches completely around the entire island, as seen in the map below:
The park contains an amazing variety of marine life. You can find more than 340 species of fish there. In addition, the mangroves are home to pelicans, flamingoes, and many other birds, including the endangered osprey. For divers and explorers, it doesn’t get much better than that!
Bonaire works with the Coral Restoration Foundation(CRF) to preserve the islands coral reefs. They are also working to cultivate new coral in order to conserve biodiversity, and allow residents and visitors to enjoy the reef for many years to come.
An unspoiled paradise
Perhaps the fact that Bonaire is not so well-known is exactly what makes it a diver’s paradise. Although it is certainly visitor-friendly, it is largely unspoiled by tourists. In fact, there’s a tiny uninhabited island off it’s coast called Klein Bonaire where you can truly escape from humanity.
Of course, one of the main reasons why nature and wildlife here are so untouched is because of Bonaire’s dedication to conservation. Stichting Nationale Parken Bonaire (STINAPA Bonaire) is a non-profit organization commissioned by the government to make sure that “the conservation of these natural resources is given the highest priority in all public decision-making processes.”
Bonaire is the perfect place to experience night diving, even if you’ve never done it before. Dive Friends Bonaire offers guided night diving tours, plus diving gear and snorkeling gear rentals.
Night diving is a completely different world from day diving– the fish look quite different at night. Also, some of the most unique creatures are nocturnal, so diving at night will be your only chance to see them.
UV light diving
There’s also the option to dive with an ultraviolet light. Some marine creatures actually glow when you shine it on them!
“Fireflies” of the sea
In addition, the waters around Bonaire are full of ostracods, tiny creatures that shimmer and glow in the dark water while mating. These crustaceans normally produce this bioluminescent light show a few days after a full moon. If you take a night dive to see them, you’ll feel like you’re surrounded by thousands of tiny fireflies dancing in the sea.
Clear-bottom kayaks are like windows to the sea. As you drift along, you’ll be able to see the colorful fish swimming right beneath you.
One famous place to rent these kayaks or book a tour is at Lac Cai beach in Bonaire. You’ll get to explore the mangroves and stop to snorkel in the crystal-clear waters.
You can also find glass-bottom boat tours there. Some trips will even take you out to the uninhabited island of Klein Bonaire, known for its excellent variety of fish and coral to see while snorkeling or diving.
Something for everyone
Diving in Bonaire accommodates every skill level. 63 diving locations means that you’ll find everything from easy to difficult, plus boat dives and on shore dives.
Take a look at a complete map and guide to Bonaire’s diving sites here.
If you’re not a diver, it’s a great place to learn. You can take courses and classes in many locations around the island.
And if diving’s your jam, you’ll be in your element. Here are a few of the most notable sites:
With over 300 species of fish in one area, this dive site is ranked #1 in the entire Caribbean for fish diversity. It’s up to 100 feet deep.
Named for the 64 steps (that seem like 1000) that lead down to the beach from a nearby road, this dive site features pagoda-like structures made by star coral. Creatures routinely spotted here are handbill turtles, sergeant major fish, manta rays, and even a whale shark from time to time.
Make your way through giant salt pillars covered in sponges and coral at this easy-access diving site. You can swim to a depth of about 50 feet.
This shallow site is great for diving beginners and snorkelers. There’s easy access from the beach. The deepest part is 80 feet, and rays and turtles frequent these waters.
Monte’s Divi Tree
Depths here go from 15 to 100 feet. Shallow areas are filled with staghorn coral. However, the big attraction here is the seahorse colonies.
Want to explore a real shipwreck? A ship sunk at this internationally-recognized site in 1984, creating a unique home for fish and coral. Explore the top of the ship at 60 feet, and its mast at 99 feet.
Staying in Bonaire
You may think that since Bonaire’s such a tiny island, accommodations will be hard to come by. This couldn’t be further from the truth! You can even find luxury villas with a view of Klein Bonaire.
Worried about traveling with your diving or snorkeling gear? You can certainly leave it behind– there’s a plethora of places to rent equipment on Bonaire, the diver’s paradise.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab your ticket, pack your suitcase, and get ready for a Caribbean adventure in Bonaire!
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