This past September I had the good fortune to go diving in Bonaire, a small island close to Aruba in the Caribbean close to Venezuela. Bonaire is part of the dutch Antilles which means it’s part of Kingdom of the Netherlands and it’s famous for it’s beautiful and easily accessible shore diving
I travelled to Bonaire from São Paulo, Brazil with a large group of Brazilian divers from the Bellsub dive shop and stayed at the Buddy Dive resort. I liked the Buddy Dive resort, it is well run and a fairly beautiful resort, with a good and affordable bar/restaurant and a pool. There is a more expensive fancy restaurant as well, which I did not eat at, but I overheard that it can be expensive. Buddy Dive also has it’s own reef, with dive shop, gear station, cylinder stops and pier. You can do unlimited dives on the house reef, and also do a few night dives here.
The way it works in Bonaire is you hire a small pickup truck, load it with cylinders at the fill station and head out to dive at the numerous dive sites of the island which are marked by yellow stones the road and buoys in the water. Most divers here use Nitrox and I would highly recommend a Nitrox certification because of the depths and repetitive nature of the dives. I did 3 to four dives a day while on Bonaire, all of them below 20 meters so Nitrox really helps with safety and to give you that extra bottom time. One cool thing about Bonaire is it’s the only place I’ve ever been that actually recognizes your Padi cert card as a form of ID!
Bonaire is one of the hottest places I’ve ever been, it’s a dry place with almost no rain, but at the same time it’s incredibly humid and the temperature feels like it’s well over 40 C as a result.
Sunblock and water are essential at all times around here in order to avoid the mother of all sunburns!
There are 86 different official dive sites to choose from, as well as a national park to visit where you can see some cool old dutch fishing houses, small cliffs with coral beaches and salt pan lagoons, which act as home to dozens of flamingos and other water birds.
The diving conditions were always easy and excellent , with warm, calm clear water. September has the warmest water(30C+), while January is a bit cooler (27C). The conditions were always calm, with walk in conditions. One or two of the sites can be a little trick if you have never done a shore entry, but generally I would rate all the shore entries as easy. You can pay extra to go to the Klein Bonaire (Small Bonaire) island, just off the coast of bonaire to do boat dives, but there is really no need in my opinion to spend all the extra cash.
The national park is also worth a visit, with some interesting little cliffs, rocky beaches, old Dutch cottages and salt lagoons full of Flamingos and other birds.
Some Dive sites worth mentioning are:
Salt pier – a system of about 5 different underwater pier supports spread over a large area, which support a pier system to transport salt.(Salt is one of Bonaire’s main exports). This site has a wide variety of fish and range of different depths.
Hilma Hooker – A deep wreck dive, pretty impressive looking wreck with a max depth of about 40 meters on the sand.This ship lies on it’s side with the shallow side sitting at about 15 meters. It has a lot of interesting holes to look into and overhangs.
1000 Steps – A great reef dive, done from the beach and reached by walking down some steps. The walk down is fairly steep, but the name is an exaggeration, there are nowhere near 1000 steps. You can see a lot of different corals and fish here and it ranks as Bonaire’s most popular site.
Bonaire offers very relaxing , independent diving at your own pace, without the pressure of early morning boat launches and it’s a great place to rack up a lot of dives . The sites all have a range of depths down the sloping reef and are also easy to Navigate. If you want to do a lot of diving, without distraction and in optimal conditions, I can recommend Bonaire!