The unspoiled reef systems of Bonaire and its marine park lie waiting in the sunshine and warm waters – just for you and your scuba gear….
Bonaire is located in the South Caribbean Sea and is a renowned scuba dive vacation destination.
The climate in that part of the world tends to be on the dry side and as well as being out of the hurricane prone area, is generally calm. This means calm, clear, silt free waters and so…… great visibility!
The area around Bonaire is a marine park and has been for 30 years although the conservation of sea life has been a priority since around 1961 when programmes to protect turtles and their nesting sites were initiated, between then and 1979 various measures tightening the protection of this scuba diving vacation ‘mecca’, like banning spearfishing and then the sale of coral reef products, were put into action.
The topography of the reefs is such that they start within 10m of the shore’s edge and the majority of dive sites are accessed from the shore. The reefs are anything from 10 meters wide up to as much as 200 meters wide.
Corals to be seen in this area of the reef are Elkhorn, Staghorn and Fire coral. There are significant stands of soft corals with accompanying shoals of diverse species of fish life.
The reef the drops off from 10 – 12m into an stretch of reef dominated by star coral covered structures forming boulder shapes, pillars and the other outcrops.
There are several wreck dives – most notably the ‘Hilma Hooker’ being the most popular.
Most dive sites are accessed from the shore, there are several excellent dive sites around the small island of Klein (small in Dutch) Bonaire.
Species to be seen are – Tarpon, Turtles – there are Seahorses here which is a bonus – you may see Nurse sharks, Whale Sharks, Rays and Dolphins.
The more common fish life include Sergeant Majors, various Angels, buttefly fish, many varieties of wrasse, tangs, morays, snappers, parrot fish and frog fish.
In all over 450 different species are on hand making the Bonaire marine park a beautiful scuba dive vacation spot.
The waters here are virtually unspoilt due to their long protected status – if a reef shows any signs of stress due to human activity, it is closed to diving until such time as it has recovered, there will be reefs you will find to have been closed due to the strict monitoring by park officials. This is not likely to be an issue for scuba divers as there are at least 89 listed dive sites – to get through those in one scuba vacation, you would have to be diving about four dives a day for a month!
The park is managed by industry professionals, under the organisation STINAPA, a non-profit, non-governmental entity consisting of full time employees. There is also involvement from volunteers in terms of feedback, surveys and fish counts.
There are a few regulations naturally, which it would be an idea to acquaint yourselves with before diving, many of these are common sense to most of the scuba diving fraternity.
Diving with gloves is prohibited, cylume sticks for night diving are prohibited and collecting of ‘souvenirs’ from the reefs is obviously a no-no….
Every scuba diver is required to buy a marine park tag for USD25.00 and display it on your cylinder – this is valid for one year.
All divers are required by Bonaire law to undergo orientation lecture and dive, at the start of their scuba vacation, before being allowed to undertake any other dives. These are carried out at all dive centres.
This is always a good idea wherever you are diving – local regulations and conditions are an important part of safety and the opportunity to check your scuba gear, buoyancy and familiarity with underwater should be welcome.
Some essential information:
The water temperature is an average 26C - so always great!
3mm shorty is probably fine for most people.
The visibility in this scuba diving vacation spot is almost always excellent - 30 metres.
Types of Diving:
Reef Diving, Wall diving, wreck diving.
Access to dive sites is from shore as well as boat (Klein Bonaire)
Depths from less than 10m through to 40m on the dive sites.
Scuba diving is available all year round, there are high and low seasons which are as a result of outside factors not related to weather in Bonaire particularly. 'winter' air temperatures are around 26 C.
The average temperature is 28C (82F). Summer temperatures "peak" to around 30C (86F).
Winter temperatures drop to about 26C (79F).
Bonaire is out of the Hurricane path so not significantly affected by that weather pattern.
Scuba diving in Bonaire will be an enjoyable experience for you, the variety of sea life, sheer quantity of dive sites and ease of access would challenge the most discerning amongst us to find fault.
For details on the individual dive sites, regulations, conservation efforts and any other details you may need, STINAPA have a web site -
click here to go to the Bonaire STINAPA website.
For some valuable information on Scuba travel insurance, to make sure you really ARE covered, click here!