Best diving in the Caribbean? Look no further than Bonaire.
As a family of divers, we wanted to make the most of our Spring Break this year. With around 25 dives completed last year on our RTW adventure we had enjoyed a great start to recreational diving. We had visited many “bucket list” dive destinations, including Fiji, The Great Barrier Reef and Thailand. After returning home to Kentucky in May – almost 10 months had passed since we last strapped on the masks and fins. So as we planned for Spring Break this year we had several goals in mind. 1 – Go Scuba Diving and at the same time write the best scuba mask reviews, 2 – Dive someplace new and world class, 3 – Not spend days traveling to our destination.
After considerable research, Bonaire seemed a good choice. Located in the Dutch Caribbean – Bonaire is considered part of the “ABC islands” of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. Located off the coast of Venezuela, the island has a population of about 15,000 people and remains connected to the Netherlands. Bonaire is less developed than Aruba and Curacao and has a rustic casual charm that is perfect for divers. Flights arrive directly from Atlanta into the capitol of Kalendijk.
Diving on Bonaire
Diving on Bonaire is easy and excellent. The water is warm, the visibility is great, and the reefs and marine life are valued. Bonaire established a marine park in 1969 and has protected the waters, reefs and marine life ever since. All divers (and fishermen, yachtsmen, snorkelers, or windsurfers) must complete an orientation and purchase an annual admission tag. The tag costs $25.00 for divers ($10.00 for snorkelers) and is good for one year.
A unique aspect of Bonaire diving is the plentiful shore diving. There are dozens of dive sites running the entire length of (the west side of) the island. Most dive shops provide package deals with unlimited diving. We rented a 4 door truck that enabled us to drive to any of the scores of marked dives sites, gear up, wade in and descend to the reef. Although, it was initially a little different than what we had done before (mostly guided boat diving) it does not take long to grow confortable with this type of diving. It really is safe, convenient, and fun. The freedom to choose a dive site and immediately go try it out is nice. Additionally, you can easily dive as much as you want – stopping in quickly to swap out empty tanks on the fly. Feeling less ambitious? Just jump in to the water at the “home reef” of your accommodations. We were literally 20 steps from our condo to the shore and Bari Reef – which contains the largest variety of fish anywhere in the Caribbean – over 300 species.
Boat diving is also available and we used the dive shop at our condominium to schedule multiple boat dives. This enabled us to visit tiny Klein Bonaire – a small island off the coast of Bonaire that is surrounded by reef.
What to see underwater?
The diving in Bonaire is excellent. The reefs are healthy with hard and soft corals, abundant sponges and LOTS of marine life. Highlights included green and spotted moray eels, unusual frog fish, trumpet and trunk fish, and large tarpon and barracuda. There is a noted absence of sharks here. If you are very lucky you may spot a Manta Ray or even a Whale Shark. Turtles and Spotted Eagle Rays are more common.
You can’t spend all your time underwater and when you are dry, Bonaire does not disappoint. The food is good, the main street is charming, and there are other activities. You can visit the salt processing facility and see the large pink ponds created in the desalination process. There is a flamingo preserve and donkey rescue habitat. Kite beach is great for a relaxing afternoon watching kite surfers and enjoying a burger from a food truck. Windsurfing is the sport of choice on the east side of the island near Lac Bay and there is a large National Park dominating the north end of the island.
Overall, Bonaire is an excellent choice for divers of any skill level. In the water and on dry land there is plenty to see and do and your week will fly by.