Diving in Bonaire: “Bon Bini”
Talking about this destination is a bit like taking you to a little piece of paradise because, let’s face it, diving in Bonaire is just amazing.
So nice that you’d want to keep the information just for yourself. But as I like to share it with you, I can’t help but tell you all about this amazing place, kingdom of scuba diving.
Bonaire is an island where I enjoyed diving during my two stays there. The first time at the end of April to discover it. The second time at the end of September, a little over a year later, because I already missed it.
That’s the way it is. Once you’ve tasted the joys of diving in Bonaire, it’s hard to do without it.
A few words about Bonaire
A small island of volcanic origin in the Caribbean Sea less than 100 km from Venezuela, Bonaire is part of the Leeward Islands. Otherwise called the ABC to designate Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.
A Dutch municipality with a special status, it is part of the Netherlands and yet even Dutch nationals must carry a passport to get there. Although the official language is Dutch, you will hear the locals chatting to each other in papiamento (local Creole). But don’t worry, If you don’t speak the language of Vondel, you can easily make yourself understood in English.
Indeed, you can find a lot of Americans people in Bonaire, the cost of living is soft and the official currency is the dollar.
Bonaire Advantage: Located off the road of hurricanes, the island has a pleasant climate all year round even though in September and October it can be very hot. In my opinion, it is better to prefer the months of May and June when the water is already very warm (28°C) and the air breathable.
The island of flamingos…
If you dream of seeing flamingos in the wild, go to Bonaire immediately.
Upon arrival, Flamingo-Bonaire International Airport sets the tone. Decorated in pink, it proudly displays the pink flamingo as an invitation to meet these unique birds.
And that’s not only a promise. Whether in the North in Washington Slagbaai National Park or in the southern saltponds, many colonies find refuge in Bonaire. It’s amazing to be able to observe them. Don’t forget your binoculars!
… and wild donkeys
Another curiosity are the wild donkeys who roam freely on the island. Once used as a “cheap labour” they have long been released into the wild and sometimes taken care of by an association that provides care.
You’ll come across them at random from the paths, drive safely.
Diving in Bonaire: “diver’s paradise”
This is Bonaire’s motto: the paradise for divers.
And nothing is less true. Here everything is set up to make life easier for divers and to encourage diving. A hundred spots are listed.
A dream environment for diving
If the island is rather arid, underwater, it is quite different.
Colorful corals are colonized by a multitude of fish. A wreck named Hilma Hooker, very nice, easy and peaceful especially when you have the chance to dive when there are no other teams. An easy access to diving for all. Warm water all year round and an extraordinary visibility.
Certainly, Bonaire has assets that I like right away.
In Bonaire the spots are listed by stones painted yellow and put on the side of the road to indicate where you are.
Maps of diving spots are available free of charge everywhere. (In hotels, dive clubs, car rental agencies, …)
Three ways for diving in Bonaire
Diving in Bonaire from the shore (with a pick up truck)
Of course, I more than often dive from the shore especially when I go to Zealand. And so I’m naturally used to this type of dive.
But here in Bonaire it’s just UNBELIEVABLE!
It’s THE favorite way for people to dive in Bonaire. (And mine too)
In the morning, you leave your accommodation with your pick up and all your diving gear and the number of tanks you have reserved. You will freely, at the time you want, dive on the spot that tempts you that day. Depending on your mood, your desire.
Are there too many people there already? Don’t worry, drive a few hundred meters and you’ll have another less frequented spot. When you come back later, chances are you’ll have plenty of time to dive to the place of your first choice.
With the exception of dives on Klein Bonaire, almost all dives are accessible from the shore.
But we have to be careful. Those in the far north and the far south can be difficult to access. In addition, these sites may also be subject to strong currents. This was the case for a team of three divers who were swept away by the current and had to make a rather complicated exit. Our help to get them out of the stones while I stopped to take pictures was apparently welcome.
If this is your first visit to the island, it’s probably wise to stick to the spots from Karpata to Pink Beach. Also including some spots in Washington Slagbaai National Park. I am thinking in particular of those between Playa Funchi and Boka Slagbaai. But for these, you’ll have to drive longer. Plan to leave early and spend the day in the park.
Finally, keep in mind that’s not always easy to get into the water: pebbles, waves, slope, … Some require a considerable effort as at the 1000 steps especially for the ascent.
Don’t forget to take your booties with you. A sprain or other injury is common if you are not careful.
Diving from a boat
Diving clubs organise daily boat trips.
This is the opportunity to go and dive on Klein Bonaire. But also to have fun looking at the island from the sea.
Of course, I appreciated this solution. Especially when, equipped with heavy and fragile underwater photo equipment, I reached the spot of 1000 steps. I could not see myself diving from the shore with all this weight in my hands.
Some will say that the dives from the boat to Bonaire are heresy and/or tourists traps. I saw the possibility of a dive open to all: Children, people in less physical condition, person suffering from back pain, person with a disability, older people, … But also photographers equipped with heavy, bulky and expensive equipment.
Personally I also enjoyed this formula which allowed me to talk with other friendly people.
Diving from the shore from your hotel
If you are staying at the hotel and a dive club is integrated, it is a great pleasure to be able, for example, to do night dives directly from the beach a few steps from your room. Some hotels offer wheelbarrows to carry your diving gear from the clubhouse to the beach where your tanks are waiting for you.
I loved to dive for real night dives after 10pm.
5 sites where I enjoy diving in Bonaire
At the foot of the pilars supporting the conveyor belt that bring salt from the salt pond to the boats, is one of the most famous sites on the island.
Fish, rays, tarpons, moray eels, … create the atmosphere in the impressive world of Salt Pier.
This is my favorite spot for the atmosphere that gives these huge pilars and the light games that result from it. And I’m not alone in loving it. The site is often very busy.
A little further south, a beach bordered by a coconut tree driveway. This beach is a real postcard scenary. A wonderful dive with huge schools of fish in a varied environment.
The white sand that makes you want to go swimming after the dive contrasts with the azure blue of the sea. On the other side of the road, the salt ponds are adorned with pink color… Just splendid.
The 1000 steps
It is impossible to dive in Bonaire without going to this spot at least once. The 1000 steps take their name not from the number of steps you have to walk to get there fortunately but from the particular landscape of the seabed at this precise place that look like stairs. Located further north of the island, the 1000 steps spot is also often very busy.
The Hilma Hooker Wreck
To get there, prefer the early morning or noon time (when boats bring their customers back to the dive club). As it is almost the only shipwreck on the island, it is again a very busy spot.
You don’t see it right away. After swimming for a few moments from the beach, you can then see it in front of you. This is not a small wreck. I thought I’d see a smaller wreck like the SS Kathryn in Jamaica. But the Hilma Hooker is a beautiful 70m long wreck laid on its side on a bottom of -30 meters (the top of the wreck starts at -20m. You can observe fishes defending their eggs but also be surprised to see tarpons coming out of its holds with a keen eye.
To discover the diving spots scattered around this tiny uninhabited island, you will have to dive from a boat. Take the opportunity to enjoy the view of Bonaire and to feel the warm, salty wind coming to caress your face.
During my two stays on the island, I did some dives at Klein Bonaire and I liked the site of Carl’s Hill on which I found myself surrounded by thousands of small fish in tight schools. I love it.
Diving in Bonaire for whom? For what?
Those looking for very technical or deep dives will probably not like it. Nor do those who swear by dives surrounded by dolphins, sharks and other great marine animals.
Here, the dives are beautiful from the surface and the biggest fish are the tarpons and eagle rays that pass peacefully.
From my experience, apart from when sometimes it’s complicate to get in the water on some spots, diving in Bonaire is above all the incredible pleasure of a very cool immersion in warm and clear water. Accessible to all, the dives are wonderful. The observation of thousands of fish coming and going as the waves go, the evolution in magnificent colorful corals and the immense feeling of freedom… participate in the pleasure of diving on this island at the end of the world.
What to do in Bonaire when you can’t dive?
I have to be honest with you: if you like sightseeing and other tourist attractions, you may be disappointed. The tour of the island can easily be done in one day.
However, you can discover two cities. The capital, Kralendijk, where you can stroll through the small tourist centre and admire the colorful facades unless you prefer to observe the huge cruise ships that occasionally dump their flood of holidaymakers for the day. Or Rincon, an authentic little town in the North on the way to Washington Slagbaai National Park.
On the other hand, if you like outdoor and/or aquatic activities, you’ll love it. If you enjoy the fun atmosphere and/or want to learn windsurfing or Kite Surfing, head to Atlantis Beach in the wide bay. Between Ocean and Mangrove, you can indulge in the pleasure of surfing. I like to go for a drink while admiring the pros evolving with ease on this azure lagoon.
And I promise myself that next time, I will try the experience of windsurf.
Finally, I can only encourage you to visit Washington Slagbaai National Park. You will discover breathtaking views and will be surprised by the force of the sea that comes to beat the East Coast. Take the time to stop and watch birds.
Other activities are possible on the island: snorkeling, paddle, kayaking, mountain biking, bird watching, BBQ on Klein Bonaire,… More info can be read on the island’s official website.
Bonaire, a dream destination?
I discovered diving in Bonaire in 2018 and I must admit that it was a real crush. Little frequented and/or known by French divers (language barrier?), for me, diving in Bonaire is like immersing myself in my little Caribbean paradise.
Do you know Bonaire? Have you been there before?
Tell me in a comment below. It will be a pleasure to exchange together.
And above all… don’t forget to be happy 🤗
Do you like to travel? You’ll like these destinations:
- Senegal: Diving in the cemetery of wrecks of Mbao
- Mexico: Extraordinary diving experience in ancient sites
- Diving in Iceland: go to Silfra
Book : reef smart guide to Bonaire