Diving & Snorkeling: Bonaire

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The island of Bonaire is one of thoseplaces that claims to be a diver's paradise.It even says so on the license plates. This may seem to be too broad of a claim, but divers are seen at just about every venue on the island at anytime of the day.

One of the true environmental success stories. not only in the diving world but internationally, the entire reefsystem around the island and satellite island Klein Bonaire is a national park. Everything on the reef is protected and every effort is made to keep the reefs healthy. The people of Bonaire have been stewarding the reefs for decades and they have become a source of national pride.

Part of the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao, this island hastried to keep an individual identity in the southern Caribbean. Inhabited by residents who have a rough history first as slaves and then as farmers in an arid land, they are an independent lot, happy to be on their own and awayfrom the political squabbles in the more populous Curaçao. Voting to remain part of the Netherlands while its neighbors break away, the people of Bonaire maintain an unhurried pace, courting tourism but not becoming enraptured to the trappings that come with unbridled growth.

In the cultural stronghold of Rincon, fiestas celebrate the local prideand traditions. Coastal accommodations are built to favor the aesthetic,with few buildings over three storeys.The national park and flamingo nesting grounds cover perhaps a quarter of the island, giving the natural world on land its due. The only concession tomass tourism may be the weekly visit of a cruise ship. But it will leave the same day, blasting its horn as the sun sets and leaving Bonaire to keep to itself.

This book will introduce you to the island's most revered resources: the coral reefs. It takes a look at remote northern shore dives in the Washington Slagbaai National Park, then makes a run down the coast looking at the combination of shore and boat dives that bring the diver into the lush world of dense corals and odd creatures like frogfish and seahorses. The turtle-nesting sanctuary at the offshore island of Klein Bonaire has stunning steep slopes and coral gardens with dive sites circling the island.The book also looks at the famous Bonaire pier dives, its famous Hilma Hooker shipwreck and the many shore dives opposite the island's saltpans in the south. The guide also has a sampling of the wildside, the windswept east coast that offers an opportunity tosee a whole undersea world where few dare to go.

Bonaire probably has even more sites than are listed in this book. Plus, the unique wildlife, like its flamingoes and wild donkeys, make it a special place to spend some time. You will see why many divers come back year after year,enjoying the old familiar sites and discovering some new ones. It is truly a diver's paradise.


1. Boca Slagbaai: a favorite of snorkelers and divers with some history (and flamingoes) thrown in.

2. Karpata: great undersea terrain with a good chance of seeing sea turtles and lots of other stuff.

3. 1000 Steps: beautiful retreat for snorkelers and divers alike with anice variety of marine life in a serenesetting.

4. Reef Scientifico: this house reef in front of Captain Don's has a smallshipwreck, big sponges and a resident barracuda.

5. Town Pier: colorful sponges and great macro make this a superb day or night dive.

6. Jerry's Reef: a great place to see big sponges, black coral, and other offerings of Klein Bonaire.

7. Hilma Hooker: signature dive for Bonaire wreckies, this ship is funto explore and has good marine growth.

8. Angel City: explore the double reef here to see big eels and, yes,angelfish.

9. Salt Pier: a must-dive, this shallow maze is great for a long relaxed dive through shoals of fish.

10. White Hole: the best dive on the "wildside" with schooling tarpon and pretty sea fans.

Reproduced with permission from D &S Bonaire 2, 2006, Lonely Planet Publications.

Note: This text contains standard British spelling.

Published: 15 Jan 2007 | Last Updated: 21 Dec 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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