Scuba Diving in Bonaire Marine National Park

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A small island located close to Aruba and Curacao in the Caribbean, Bonaire is a top diving destination thanks to the dedicated Bonaire National Marine Park that surrounds the island.

 

Bonaire National Marine Park

With a total of 80 to 90 dive sites, including 50 shore entrances, Bonaire is indeed a diving paradise. Most of the dives happen on the leeward side of the island where the sea conditions are usually calmer.

The east side of Bonaire offers fantastic opportunities as well, though the waters tend to be more challenging and reserved for the more experienced divers. The tiny island of Klein Bonaire off Kralendijk is accessible for boat dives.

Thanks to the conversation program, the coral reefs are healthy and the marine life abundant. Around 300 species can be found, from octopuses, turtles, seahorses, tarpons, rockfishes, moray eels, to tarpons, barracudas, and groupers.

Lionfish are also present, but initiatives have been put in place by the marine park to hunt and reduce the invasive species.

Related article: The Best Scuba Diving in the world

 

Top Bonaire Dive Sites

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With such a large number of dive sites, choosing where to go might be hard.

However, a few dive sites are highly recommended, including Salt Pier, Angel City, The Invisibles, 1,000 Steps, and Hilma Hooker for wreck divers.

The visibility averages 60 to 100 feet (20 to 30 m), with depth usually from 30 to 90 feet (10 to 30 m).

Other recommendations would list Something Specials, The Cliff, Oil Slick Leap, Windstock, Playa Bengé, Red Slave, Captain Don’s Reef, Leonora’s Reef, Sampler, Bari Reef, and Karpata.

Bonaire Salt Pier

By far the most famous dive site on Bonaire, the pillars of the pier create an incredible playground for schools of tarpons and yellowtail snappers. The coral hosts a vibrant marine life including turtles and octopuses. With almost no current and a relatively shallow depth of 15-60 feet (5-20 meters), Salt Pier is perfect for beginners and experienced divers alike.

Hilma Hooker

The 230-feet (70-meter) Hilma Hooker is resting on a sandy area by Angel City at around 60-100 feet (18-30 meters) through diving depth varies from20 to 130 feet (6 – 40 meters). Its abundant marine life makes the Hilma Hooker a favorite wreck dive.

1,000 Steps

Though there aren’t 1,000 steps to reach the dive site, it may feel that way when you carry your diving gear. Star coral reefs, turtles, sergeant majors, and manta rays can be regularly seen on this site. Depth is around 20-100 feet (6-30 meters) with moderate current.

Something Special

Even though the coral is impacted by the boat mooring, the dive site is teeming with marine life. Given the marina access, mild current, and a relatively shallow depth of 20 to 80 feet (6 – 24 meters), Something Special is a good place for night dives.

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The Cliff

The wall dive sees abundant fish, even frogfish, and seahorses. The moderate current, the shallow depth of 26-120 feet (8 – 36 meters ) and the marine life makes for another excellent site for day and night dives alike.

The Invisibles

One of the double reef dives on Bonaire, you can see “islands” of coral between sand chutes, and the possibility of watching garden eels. The second reefs can be hard to find, ask your dive shop for guidance. Watch for the depth as the site goes down from 20 to 150 feet (6 – 50 meters) in mild to moderate current.

Klein Bonaire

Klein Bonaire is a boat dive destination and features healthy reef with abundant marine life. Among 24 sites to choose from, see a short list of Klein Bonaire’s recommendations:

Ebo’s Special

The most popular place on Klein Bonaire, the coral is fantastic, and marine life includes lobsters, octopuses, and nurse sharks. The current is moderate, and dive depth varies from 20 to 130 feet (6 – 40 meters).

Forest

If you like black coral and elephant ear sponges, that’s your dive site. Turtles occasionally roam the site as well, which you can explore between 20 to 160 feet (6 – 49 m) in moderate current.

Monte’s Divi Tree

Little current and depth from 15 to 100 feet (5-30 meters) make for good conditions to admire staghorn coral and search for seahorses, green moray, flounders, and lionfish.

When on Klein Bonaire, you might also want to check sites like Ebo’s Reef or Rock Pile.

East Coast

Conditions on the East Coast are rougher, with strong waves and current. Itis recommended for experienced divers going with knowledgeable dive shops. Top sites include White Hole, Boka Onima, Boka Spelonk, and Boka Washikemba.

Lobsters, sharks, and tarpons, can be seen roaming the churning waters.

Bonaire Weather & Conditions

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Given its pleasant weather all year-round, there is no wrong time to go diving in Bonaire. However, the hurricane season from June to November may bring extreme conditions.

Air temperatures are usually around 85°F to 95°F (29°C-33°C), and water temperatures vary from 78°F to 85°F (25°C to 30°C),

Bonaire Travel

  • lights connect the US to Bonaire’s Flamingo International Airport via Houston, and from Amsterdam in the Netherlands on a regular basis.
  • Once on the island, it is preferable to rent a car for maximum flexibilitydue to the island’s limited infrastructure and public transportation.
  • Given the importance of scuba-diving on Bonaire, several dive resorts are available at different budget levels.
  • For non-diving days, Bonaire offers many outdoor activities such as horseback riding, hiking in Washington-Slagbaai National Park, kayaking in Lac Bay Lagoon, or kiteboarding in Atlantis Beach. A visit to Rincon and the slave huts is also an excellent way to learn about the island’s history.
  • A pass must be purchased to enjoy the marine national park. Snorkelers, kayakers, kiteboarders, windsurfers, swimmers, or any other water sports enthusiast, must buy a US$10 tag and carry it with them at all time. Costs for divers is US$ 25 per person.

Also read: Guide to Scuba Diving Bahamas & 62 Best Cenotes in Mexico

 

About the author:

Bruno and Patricia are the French-American couple behind Ze Wandering Frogs’ adventure travel blog. They traveled to 50+ countries and are currently on a long-term world trip, exploring new destinations through thrilling outdoor activities: diving in Papua Raja Ampat, kiteboarding in Sri Lanka, horseback riding in Mongolia, trekking in the Himalayas, dog sledding Huskies in the Arctic, meeting with the Tsaatan reindeer herders in Mongolia, bowhunting with the Hadzabe tribe in Tanzania, attending Crocodile ceremonies in Papua New Guinea, and sitting with gorillas in Rwanda. Ze Wandering Frogs’ work has been published on National Geographic Daily Dozen, Dave’s Travel Corner, Activity Fan, Viator Travel Blog, and Huffington Post.

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