Scuba Diving in Bonaire: The Dive Site & Travel Guide

Bonaire is a Caribbean Island, whose capital is Kralendijk. Together with Aruba and Curacao, it is considered part of the ABC islands. In order for you to visit Bonaire, you need to make your way to South America’s north coast, near western Venezuela. It also consists of an uninhabited islet called Klein Bonaire.

At the last count, Bonaire had fewer than 18,000 souls inhabiting the island of 294km². That means there are miles upon miles of beautiful blue waters, just for your use. This is also the main reason there are major diving centers, like the Buddy Dive Resort. This is part of what makes the Caribbean Island so popular among water lovers. Scuba diving in Bonaire would be a great experience for you and your buddy.

History and Culture of Bonaire

Bonaire used to be part of Netherlands Antilles. In 2010, a dissolution was passed. After that, the Caribbean island became a special municipality of the Netherlands. As such, a Lieutenant Governor heads Bonaire.

The earliest know natives of Bonaire were the Caquetio Indians who were supposedly gigantic. Upon the invasion of the island by Europeans, the natives were deported and enslaved. The Spanish brought a few back, and the Dutch left some of their Spanish and Portuguese prisoners when they arrived at the Island. African slaves were then brought by the Dutch to work the land. The British later came and some settled the island.

You will find that the people of Bonaire have all the influences stemming from the races and nationalities that set up camp on the island from different moments in their history.

English: Scuba diver at the top of "1000 ... English: Scuba diver at the top of “1000 Steps” beach and dive site on Bonaire. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scuba Diving in Bonaire

Tourism is the main revenue for Bonaire, with scuba diving being one of the most popular activities. In fact, the island is considered one of the best when it comes to spectacular diving sites. Some of them include Karpata, Sweet Dreams, Blue Hole, Hilma Hooker, Hands Off and many more. There are over 80 diving sites in Bonaire, which means there is something for everyone.

1. Hilma Hooker

Hilma Hooker is a paradise for fans of shipwrecks. Scuba diving in Bonaire is not complete until you have visited this site, which consists of what was once was a cargo ship. That cargo ship now lies on its side and is home to orange coral.

When you scuba dive within the site, you will be able to see barracudas and eels as well as tarpons.

With a diving depth of 10-20 meters, experienced divers will best enjoy Hilma Hooker. You can access this particular site by either shore or boat.

2. 1000 Steps

1000 steps is a diving site found on the Northern side of Bonaire. While you do not need to walk 1000 steps to access the site, you will feel like you have done so by the time you will feel after your dive is complete. This is because you will be in your full diving gear, which is not very easy to walk in or carry.

1000 steps can be accessed via the shore or boat. You can access the site even as a novice because the currents within are quite light.

Some of the sea creatures that you will see include graysby, manta, and hawksbill turtles.

 3. Karpata

If you are looking for a spectacular experience, then Karpata is a scuba diving site in Bonaire that you must visit. The site is very popular. Because it has a depth of 6-30 meters, even beginner and intermediate divers can access the site.

The current in Karpata is usually light and at times moderate. The visibility is great, which allows for wide-angle photography of the marine landscape. Several huge ship anchors are embedded in the coral. You can also tour underwater caves.

The large formations of Elkhorn coral are beautiful to behold. You will also get to see parrotfish, emperor fish, triggerfish, and snappers.

Karpata can be accessed from both the shore and by boat.

4. Bari Reef

If you are looking for variety, then the Bari Reef site may be the best place to find it. You can observe over 300 species of fish if you are lucky. With diving depths of 9-18 meters, Bari Reef is appropriate for all levels of divers and can be accessed from the shore. You can even snorkel in this location. Night dives are also allowed.

You will see feather gorgons and sponges at the site. You can also see groupers, angelfish, parrotfish, and flounder.

The queen angelfish rules... (Holacanthus cili... The queen angelfish rules… (Holacanthus ciliaris). Bonaire, Netherland Antilles. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When to go Scuba Diving in Bonaire

For the devoted fans of scuba diving, any season of the year is diving season in Bonaire, which explains the presence of large diving centers. The area is below the hurricane belt so most rains fall in November and December and are mild. Water temperatures in the winter are 78 degrees F and 84 degrees F in summer. Off peak season is between April-December and packages are cheaper.

Diving shops in Bonaire

You should only book scuba diving in Bonaire using reputable dive shops on the island. These include:

– Buddy Dive Resort

· Dive Friends Bonaire

· Tours by Locals that will provide local guides for diving and other activities

· Bonaire Pros

· PADI Dive Shops for when you are also looking for certification for diving

Where to Stay in Bonaire

Bonaire has a number of great accommodations for scuba divers. You should stay in any of the reputable resorts located near the sea. The capital Kralendijk provides you with a number of options in this regard.

Some of the places you can stay in Bonaire include Buddy Dive Resort, Harbor Village Beach Resort, Coral Paradise Resort, Caribbean Club Bonaire and many more.

Other Attractions in Bonaire

If scuba diving in Bonaire is not the only thing you want to do on the Island, then snorkeling or kite boarding is a good change of pace. Windsurfing and sea kayaking are also great options offered. Deep-sea fishing and sailing will also keep you close to water but out of it.

If you want to stay on land, then consider bird watching activities and mountain biking on the various local trails. You can also visit the Washington Slagbaai National Park, a wildlife beutiful sanctuary.

There are plenty of restaurants offering local and international cuisine. The nightlife in Bonaire is also worth exploring.

English: Sunset in Bonaire, Netherlands Antill... English: Sunset in Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles (southern Caribbean), at Captain Don’s Habitat (scuba resort) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Trip Summary

Shallowest dive site depth: Around 6 meters

Deepest dive site depth: Around 30 meters

Dive site visibility (how clear the water is): Varied according to dive site

Dive site currents: Some light, others moderate, others strong

Dive site conditions: Mostly decent, odd storms here and there

Common types if animals at dive sites: angelfish, parrotfish, eels, hawksbill turtles

Number of dive sites in the area:  Official ones – 86; counting unofficial ones – over 100 sites

Recommended diving experience levels:  some for novices, others intermediate, others advanced

Water temperature range during peak season:  78-84 degrees Fahrenheit

Nearest airport: Flamingo International Airport at Kralendijk