Diving & Snorkeling: Bonaire

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Location: Northwest coast
Depth: 15-110ft (4-36m)
Access: Shore & boat
Expertise Rating: Novice

There are some very attractive pillarcorals here, hence the name — given bythe famous Capt Don — to a friend as a wedding gift. This is a lovely snorkeling site even though the park doesn't list it as so. This is not an easy entry or even easy to find, but it is easy going once in the water. The easiest way is to go by boat.

The shallows have stands of pillar corals and scatterings of other corals. Look for squid, queen and stoplight parrot-fish, as well as nice staghorn coral. The drop-off begins near the area where the buoy anchor eye is drilled in 20ft and slopes down deep to 140 ft. The slope is mostly hard corals and there are sometube sponges and rope sponges.

Location: Black Durgon Inn, northwest coast
Depth: 30-70ft (10-23m)
Access: Shore & boat
Expertise Rating: Novice

The mooring sits in 24ft of water at Small Wall and the dive is best in the 30ft to 60ft range. As you face shore, the small, vertical wall that highlights the site is to the right. The shallows have many small fish complimented by stoplight, red-band and princess parrotfish. Look for bristle worms in the gorgonians. There are also juvenile spotted drums in the protection of the corals here.

The little wall is a beautifully landscaped place with lots of sponge life, many small baitfish and trumpetfish roaming in and out of large growths of rope sponges. Macro critters like lettuce slugs and spotted cleaner shrimp on giant and corkscrew sea anemones make this a good place to narrow your focus. There are also spotted and golden morays in the various reef holes.Octopi are also common here.

There are some nice invertebrates here like flamingo tongues, Christmastree worms and brittle stars. Look for shoals of French grunts in the shallows.

Location: Hamlet Villas, northwest coast
Depth: 30-70ft (10-23m)
Access: Boat & hotel pier
Expertise Rating: Intermediate

This is the site of Capt. Don's underwater stone memorial that is dedicated to "divers who have gone before us." It is accessed from boat or shore with a shallow buoy in just 13ft of water. Snorkelers can enjoy the shallows here with some elkhorn coral and lots of Spanish hogfish picking their way through the white sandy shallows.

There are some healthy purple tube sponges and also some orange elephant ears with fairy basslets hanging around them.

This little wall is great to dive early in the morning. As fish wake up, begin moving along the reef and start cleaning at the cleaning station down thewall, the sun peaks over the wall topsand sends blue rays down through theclear Bonaire water.

Look for curious tarpon in this area. There are also lobsters found on this reef and a variety of moray eels.

Location: Washikemba coast, southeast coast
Depth: 25-140ft (7-44m)
Access: Boat (no buoy, not an official park site)
Expertise Rating: Intermediate to advanced

Spelonk is one of the few wall sites along the coast and it has plenty of action. A boat dive only, this is a pretty special trip and worth the extra travel time, as all kinds of blue water fish come in here. It is the easternmost tip of the island and it attracts many species.

This is a wonderfully fishy site, with wahoo, rainbow runners, yellowfin tuna, and mahi mahi all seen on dives here.The drift is normally done at about 70ft along the cliff line wall. The bottom is weedy but also has hard corals.This is one of the few places on Bonaire where queen and ocean triggerfish are common. Also, Nassau groupers are found here and are normally very big. Blacktip sharks are one of the attractions of Boka Spelonk and are usually seen on every dive.

There are some pieces of wrecks at 70ft to 80ft. These wrecks, located at the base of the now-defunct old Spelonk lighthouse, are considered the island's best shipwreck array. They lie near thecliffs that created their demise, with huge boulders and a sandy floor makinga brightly lit maze among the ships.There are tunnels and caves in the sheer of the cliff. Some dive shops will venture up here in the calm months. This is the best dive on Bonaire to see open-ocean fish. Mantas, hammerheads, and even tiger sharks are a possibility at this unique dive site.

The Wildside folks consider this oneof the better exploratory dives. They are also considering some exploratory diving at the north tip during calm season. The area of Malmok, the northernmost point on Bonaire, is nothing but blue water. Then there's ocean, uninterrupted for a thousand miles into the northernCaribbean. The possibility of diving with bull sharks and hammerheads, something that is becoming popular in the Bahamas and other Caribbean sites, is one of the goals of exploration in the far north.

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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