Situated 50 miles (80km) north of Venezuela in the Southern Caribbean, are Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire, three Dutch islands and also called the ABC’s. They are part of the Dutch Antilles.
Bonaire’s pristine reefs and diverse marine life are unique to the Caribbean and makes this an excellent dive destination. Because the waters around Bonaire are designated as an official marine park, diving Bonaire is like diving the Caribbean the way it used to be – untouched and unspoiled.
Bonaire has wall diving, reef diving, a few wrecks and is particularly good for macro photography.
For more than 30 years the government has been active in protecting the marine reefs, by not allowing spear fishing, walking on, sitting on, touching or anchoring on the coral reefs. This also means the marine life is not as afraid of divers here and it is possible to get closer to the marine life than in other caribbean dive destinations.
Thoroughly organized dive industry, many excellent operators, lots of places to rent tanks or book boat dives. Smart divers rent a car to shore dive the island. The island’s location in the south Caribbean gives it an arid climate with little rainfall; consequently, the waters are exceptionally clear of silt, calm, and diveable year round. It is an ideal destination for underwater photographers.
Diving on Bonaire is mainly done on the western side of Banaire and around the small off shore island (1 km offshore) of Klien Bonaire. The diving in Bonaire is a wall divers paradise, with the drop off from fringing reefs very close to the shore. Caves and Caverns can be found in and around the reefs and the marine life to be found includes, calico crabs, flamingo tongue shells, finger print cowries, squirrel fish, black soldier fish, lizard fish and peacock flounders. Also worth diving is the wreck La Machaca a native built 45 foot fishing vessel which lies only 100 meters from shore.
Bonaire is a delight with its friendly marine life (due to marine park protection having existed for so long) to the fact that it caters well for snorkellers (15 sites), shore dives and boat dives all in one convenient place.
Water temperatures average a warm 78-84°F (26-29°C), with visibility often averaging over 100ft (30m), and frequently, up to 150ft (55m).
When to Visit Bonaire
Bonaire is a desert island, with a terrain and climate something like southern Arizona. Air temperatures are in the low to mid 70°F (28°C) at night, and the high 80s or low 90°F during the day. But with the trade winds and moderate humidity, it rarely feels as hot as it is.
Rainfall is usually scant, consisting of a few brief showers in the early morning, except during November and December, when occasionally it is overcast and rainy for a day or more. Total annual rainfall is about 20″, but every eight to ten years there’s a peak year, with total rainfall of two to three times the normal amount. Bonaire’s protected western coast offers almost ideal conditions 365 days a year – calm, warm, and clear water with gentle currents.
The tropical sun can get quite intense, especially in May, June, and September. Winds are always from the east at a brisk 15-20 mph from January through August. They slow the last four months of the year, with occasional calm days that permit diving on the island’s exposed eastern coast. This is an experience not to be missed if the rare opportunity presents itself to see the huge sponges, gorgonia, coral heads and fish of the northern and eastern coasts.
The water temperature in Bonaire ranges from 78-81°F (25-27°C). About three years out of every five, upwellings of cold, nutrient-rich water from the deep Atlantic spill into the Caribbean over the relatively shallow shelf that connects Trinidad with the Grenadines, and then it circulates westward to Bonaire. When this happens – usually during July – water temperature can drop into the low 70s°F (21°C) and visibility everywhere can fall to 30ft (10m) or less. These conditions can last from one or two days to a week or more. Sometimes this cold upwelling water doesn’t come all the way to the surface but is only encountered at depth as a murky thermocline.
The island of Bonaire is located 90km off the coast of venezuala and is part of the Dutch Antillies. It is only 3-7miles wide and 24 miles long, and unlike most caribbean islands has an arid and dry landscape. Most of the north part of the island is national park (13,500 acres). Bonaire also provides good restaurants (from its dutch influence), shopping, guided tours, and bird watching as shore time activities. The whole of the surrounding reef is a protected marine park and has been for many, many years. The capital of Bonaire is Kralendyk and the offical currency is the Netherland Antillies Guilder, although US dollars are freely accepted. Both dutch and english are spoken on Bonaire.