If you love to go scuba diving, but don't want to spend hours on a dive boat (especially in rough water) to reach the best coral, Bonaire, has more than 80 markers indicating places where you can walk off the shore and be in a coral garden within a few hundred feet. Bonaire is actually the peak of a submerged mountain, so deep sloping reefs surround much of the island. There are 86 divesites marked along the shoreline that indicate where divers can just walk off the shore and find spectacular coral within a few hundred yards. Image just walking off the shore swimming for three or four minutes and being in the middle of an underwater art museum, filled with colorful coral and surrounded by fish.
The reefs are in such good shape because Bonaire’s Marine Park was created more than 25 years ago to protect the environment from the high water mark to a depth of 200 feet. (Spearfishing, collecting coral and reef anchoring are prohibited.)
Bonaire is the most eastern of the Leeward Islands in the southwest Caribbean, lying about 50 miles north of Venezuela. The island is part of The Netherlands Antilles, an autonomous region of the Netherlands. Dutch is the official language.
Bonaire is all about diving. Divers Paradise is stamped on every license plate. The sport is the island’s biggest industry and attracts more than 30,000 divers every year. The reason that Bonaire has been so successful in attracting so many visitors lies in the fact that not only does it have some stunning dive sites with an abundance of marine life, but that a National Marine Park has been created. The marine park, which is 2,700 hectares in area, encompasses the fringing reefs that surround Bonaire.
This island is actually the submerged tip of an underwater mountain, so all you have to do is walk off the shore and within a few hundred yards, at depths of 40- to 60- feet you are viewing colorful coral and surrounded by fish.
Topside, Bonaire doesn’t have the beautiful beaches (although it has plenty of private sandy rocky coves) that characterize Aruba and is the least populated of the three islands, but the atmosphere is relaxed and peaceful and there are plenty of activities – such as yachting, fishing and windsurfing, and 1 casino – to keep you occupied during the topside intervals between your dives.
There are 86 marked dive sites along the shore where you can start, if you want to dive by yourself, plus offshore diving and diving around Klein Bonaire. Since diving is the major activity here there are several resorts that have excellent dive programs.
Both shore and boat diving are possible with shore diving being easy and the with the freedom of taking your time and choosing where and when you want to dive on the coast of Bonaire. Reefs tend to start at the water’s edge and then shelve at a depth of 10m. Depending on the dive site, the shelves vary in width, being narrower to the north of the island and wider to the south. As with Aruba, this is an area for seeing macro marine life – seahorses and frogfish are photographers’ favourites – and there is a wide range of fish. Again, turtles are often seen and the quality of the soft corals is high. Although macro life is the order of the day, nurse sharks, rays and dolphins are sometimes seen and if you’re very lucky whale sharks make the occasional appearance.
On a side note, Klien Bonaire is a perfect day (10 min by boat) trip for both divers and snorkelers.
The year-round average air and water temperature is 82 degrees, and it's out of the generally accepted hurricane routes.