The diving grounds around the Caribbean island of Bonaire are among the best protected and most pristine in the world. The calm sea, the unique coral world, visibility up to 50 meters and colorful schools of tropical fish make every dive on Bonaire an unforgettable experience!
The fantastic coral reefs of Bonaire could develop undisturbed over the last decades to full splendor and are of course one of our top 10 sights of Bonaire. Efforts are being made to ensure that this remains the case, as diving tourism is one of the most important sources of income for the small Caribbean island.
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When to go diving in Bonaire?
With its tropical climate, Bonaire is a breathtaking diving destination all year round with visibility up to 40m. Together with the completely intact underwater world, the year-round warm temperatures between a good 30°C during the day and 25°C at night also attract visitors to dive and swim in the sea. By the way, its water temperature never drops below 27° all year round.
Tip: If you want to stay in the water for a long time, however, you should still take underwater clothing with you, because after half an hour the body cools down even in the almost 30°C warm water!
How do I find the best dive spots on Bonaire?
Finding Bonaire's dive spots is easy. Almost every few meters, a labeled yellow stone on the edge of the shore road indicates a dive site. Almost all of them can be reached easily from the beach. The car can easily be parked on the shore and the last part to the sea can be done on foot. 63 official dive sites are designated on Bonaire, most of them on the protected west coast of the island.
Hilma Hooker and Angel City
South of Kralendijk, when the houses and resorts on the coast have disappeared, the solitude of Bonaire's shores begins. Just a 10-minute drive from the capital is already one of Bonaire's most spectacular dive spots.
The 70m long freighter at the bottom of the sea was used for marijuana smuggling and sank in the tides off Bonaire's coast in 1984. Today, Bonaire's most famous wreck no longer houses drugs, but an incredible biodiversity of marine life.
The nearest official dive site just south of Hilma Hooker is Angel City. Its rock caves are swarmed by numerous angel fish, which can also be easily observed by snorkelers.
For breathtaking underwater photography and diving at night, the Salt Pier near Pekelmeer is recommended. The road from Pekelmeer north is still lined with salt fields for a good 10 kilometers, which flow into the salt pans called "Witte Pan".
Here also the Salt Pier, marked as a diving spot and at first sight not very inviting, juts into the sea. However, you should not be put off by the industrial look of the old salt loading station, because under water numerous fish and even stingrays, octopuses and turtles cavort between the piles!
Margate Bay on the west coast, where impressive soft corals thrive, also offers fantastic photos of the sea creatures, some of which are nocturnal. The calm seas provide crystal clear visibility of the schools of barracuda, mackerel and tuna. However, divers should already have experience, because Margate Bay owes its abundance of fish to strong currents, among other things.
Tip: Don't get too close to the surrounding bushes of Margate Bay - otherwise you will immediately be attacked by hundreds of bloodthirsty mosquitoes.
Passing the exceptionally sandy Pink Beach we continue to the dive spot called Red Slave almost at the southernmost point of Bonaire. It takes its name from the tiny red slave huts in which the slaves of Pekelmeer once lived under inhumane conditions. Far away from the shot, numerous tropical fish impress here in the midst of colorful coral gardens.
Mangrove forests near Lac Bay
Another unforgettable diving experience on Bonaire is to experience a mangrove forest under water. Guided tours take you by canoe into the middle of the bushes at Lac Bay in the southeast of Bonaire and finally under the surface of the water - where branches and leaves lie on the ground instead of pieces of coral and shells in a world all of its own.
You can see barracudas, mussels, sponges, parrotfish, boxfish, pufferfish and needlefish in the absolutely calm and crystal clear water. Absolutely fascinating are also the completely harmless mangrove jellyfish, which cover almost the entire sandy bottom lying with the umbrella down.
North of Kralendijk lies Bari Reef, which despite its proximity to the capital has an amazing biodiversity. Countless sea creatures cavort between the moored boats. Diving and snorkeling tours can reach from here to the dive spots Front Porch and Calabas Re ef, which are even closer to Kralendijk. All three dive spots have low currents and are therefore perfect for diving beginners.
Andrea I and Andrea II
About 5 minutes by car further north are the two diving spots Andrea I and II. Their fascinating underwater world of corals and rocks offers a home to colorful iridescent fish and the elegant sea turtles. With a little luck, even a majestic ray circles here.
Here, too, lies a sunken ship, the Andrea I. Anchors, funnels and various other remnants of the once proud Italian freighter are still clearly visible among the coral.
The water is also shallow and has little current at the 1000 Steps in Boka di Tolo to the north. Here the coast is one of the most beautiful places on Bonaire, even above water. The dreamlike beach can actually be reached by stairs, but there are not 1000 steps. The highlight under water is the star coral, an animal plant over 3 meters high, and are literally swarmed by sea turtles, rays and dolphins.
A bit further north at the country house of the same name, the dive spot at Karpata impresses with a 30m high wall. An absolutely unforgettable feeling to hover over the edge here and look into the dark depths together with turtles, angelfish, parrotfish and moray eels.
The mini-island west of the capital Kralendijk, which is only 6 square kilometers in size and 2 meters high, is separated from Bonaire by the Rede Kralendijk channel, which is about 850 meters wide and up to 1,400 meters deep. At first sight it seems dry, lifeless and inhospitable.
But it is not the island itself that attracts 50,000 tourists on countless excursion boats to Klein Bonaire every year, but its stunning underwater world, which is one of our top 10 sights of Bonaire.
Surrounding the island, which is only about 6 square kilometers, is one of the most spectacular coral reefs in the world, which can be explored in nearly 30 designated dive sites. At Ebo's Reef, adventurers can dive down a spectacular wall dotted with glowing orange sponges.
Numerous local operators offer excursions to the breathtaking diving paradise, which are suitable for beginners as well as for experienced divers and snorkelers. With different guides, the individual groups are led through the fantastic coral reef, who also know interesting facts about the marine life and its protection.
So if you've had your fill of Bonaire's underwater world, you should visit Klein Bonaire, because - believe it or not - the abundance of fish on the main island can actually be topped!
Strict nature protection by STINAPA
There is a good reason for Bonaire's intact coral gardens. Since 1979, a large part of Bonaire's incomparable underwater world has been protected by the Bonaire Marine Park. STINAPA ensures the observance of conservation measures here as well as in the Washington Slagbaai National Park. No fishing is allowed in the entire reef that lines the island, nor are large boats allowed to anchor.
The remarkably calm sea, the resulting crystal clear water with a temperature around 28°C and the colorful schools of tropical fish offer perfect diving and snorkeling conditions.
Due to the absolutely undisturbed underwater landscape, unclouded visibility of 30 to 40 meters is not uncommon in the dive spots, which are on average 60 meters deep. To see in the colorful marine world, there are, among others, angelfish, moray eels, snapper fish, wrasse, parrot fish, turtles and sometimes even rays and whale sharks, which make every dive an unforgettable experience.
Diving Permit for Bonaire
For those who have not dived in Bonaire within the last year, dive schools encourage you to attend an info session, usually held daily at 9 a.m., which educates the prospective diver on the rules of the marine park.
After that, you are entitled to buy the Marine Park tag, which is valid for one calendar year and is required to dive in Bonaire's territorial waters (although this is not strictly controlled, especially for snorkelers).
PICTURES: Diving and snorkeling on Bonaire