Bonaire, “the divers’ paradise,” is located about 113 kilometres/70 miles off the coast of Venezuela. Thirty-eight kilometres/twenty-four miles long and between about 4.8 kilometres/3 miles and eight kilometres/five miles wide, Bonaire is mostly flat with its highest point just under 245 metres/800 feet. As it was originally part of a vast reef chain, you can see visible coral skeletons all around the island.
Commonly ranked one of the Caribbean's top dive destinations, Bonaire is the exposed top of a submerged mountain, with world-class diving 200 metres/yards from shore. Considered the world’s premier shore diving location, you can access 53 of Bonaire’s 86 dive sites without a boat. Less than 1.6 kilometres/1 mile west of the island is Klein (Little) Bonaire, a small islet whose dive sites are only accessible by boat. Klein Bonaire also shelters much of Bonaire’s western shore, affording lake-like surface conditions for some sites most of the year.
Bonaire has been a leader in marine protection since 1961, when it passed legislation to protect turtles. Spearfishing has been banned since 1971 and no anchoring on coral reefs is allowed. In 1979, the Bonaire National Marine Park (BNMP) was established. The park’s mission is to protect everything - living or dead - from the high water mark to a depth of 60 metres/200 feet while facilitating responsible use. To help support its protection mission, all users, including tourists, are required to purchase an annual nature tag ($25 US for diving and $10 US for all other uses). Another reason that Bonaire’s reefs are in such excellent condition is that all divers who visit are required to attend a briefing, followed by a “check-out” dive to demonstrate their buoyancy control before being allowed board a dive boat or dive from shore on their own.
The variety and abundance of marine life is staggering. More than 470 fish species are found in Bonaire’s waters – angel fish, parrot fish, groupers grunts and blue tangs are everywhere. Don’t be surprised to see frog fish, sea turtles or eagle rays. If you are especially lucky, dolphins, manta rays or even a whale shark may swim by.
PADI Dive Shops and Resorts
Find contact information for all the PADI Dive Shops and Resorts on Bonaire.
Most Famous Dive Site
With so many great dives available, it is virtually impossible to choose one as the best or most famous site. Many spots are cited by divers as their personal favorites - 1000 Steps, Hilma Hooker wreck, Sampler at Klein Bonaire . . . the list goes on and on. However, the dive on everyone’s list is “the best night dive in the Caribbean” at the Town Pier. A macro-paradise populated with seahorses, octopi and moray eels, as well as colorful sponges and corals, a Town Pier night dive is sure to rank on your list of all-time favorite dives. Although currently closed to diving, it is reported that the Town Pier will again become accessible to divers sometime in 2010.
Recommended PADI Courses:
AWARE – Fish Identification
Peak Performance Buoyancy
If you decide to take a break from looking at the marine life, you’ll find the wildlife viewing on land equally impressive. The famed 54-hectare/135-acre Flamingo Sanctuary is one of the largest flamingo breeding grounds in the western hemisphere, visited by huge flocks of flamingos (40,000-50,000) each year. While the sanctuary is off-limits to tourists, a good pair of binoculars will allow you to have memorable views of flamingos feeding in the Pekelmeer salt pans on the south end of the island. Seeking out the more than 80 bird species found on Bonaire is a popular topside activity.
The north end of Bonaire features the Washington-Slagbaai National Park, a nature sanctuary for parrots, iguanas and many other species of birds and reptiles. Among the most important aspects of the park are the nesting grounds for all four species of sea turtles found in the Caribbean.
Language: Dutch is the official language of Bonaire, with English spoken widely; Papiamento is the most prominent language. While its origin is unknown and disputed, Papiamento is believed to have originated from Spanish or Portuguese.
Currency: Netherlands Antilles Guilder. US dollars are widely accepted, but expect to receive change in guilders.
Tipping: 10-15% is typical and may already be added to your bill.
Transportation: If you plan to tour the island, be sure to rent a pick-up truck to handle the rugged terrain. If your activity plans center solely around diving, renting a car or other motor vehicle isn’t typically necessary.
Links to visa requirements: http://www.infobonaire.com/entryrequirements.html
Links to weather http://www.bonairewebcams.com/CurrentWeather.php
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