Shore diving on Bonaire

On my last visit in Soma Bay a dinner conversation sparked a new idea. Even though it might be boring to talk about diving when you have been doing exactly that the whole day, this talk was interesting and inspiring. The gentleman probably had me and my dive buddy at “dive-drive-through”. Simply picking up tanks, drive to one of the many divespots of the island and get underwater seemed seducing. And is definitely is.

So I gathered a bunch of friends and lured them into the Caribbean!

Spotted moray eel peeking out of a cave on the coral reef of tropical Bonaire Island
Spotted moray eel peeking out of a cave on the coral reef of tropical Bonaire Island

Bonaire has over 60 official dive spots!
Here is a map with the divespots highlights made by the Bonaire tourist office. From that list we did 1000 Steps, Alice in Wonderland, Tory’s Reef, the Hilma Hooker and the Salt Pier. Of which the last three are my favourites of Bonaire.
But we started the diving at the house reef of Captain Don’s Habitat, in order to acclimatize first. By diving at Captain Don you can cover three divespots: Cliff (Nr. 26), La Machaca (Nr. 27) and Buddy’s Reef (Nr. 29)
The Numbers indicate the offical Bonairian divespot number, which can be found on maps you can get all over the island or by googling “bonaire dive map“.
These three spots are interesting, but not spectacular, they can be easily accessed by piers with stairs or you just jump in. The tarpons are definitely a highlight here, especially when you can observe another diver being scared off, while experiencing one of these 1-2 m long silver darts suddenly emerging out of the dark for the first time…
La Machaca is a small boat sunk as artificial reef keel side up right in front of Captain Don’s.

After two days we got our rental car and started the shore diving!

Spotted drum fish
Spotted drum fish swimming on the coral reef surrounding the tropical island bonaire

This works like this:
You get a dive package for a couple of days, get some tanks, throw them on your pickup truck and go diving! When ever you want, where ever you want!
This is awesome as it rids you of all obligations, no get up early to catch the boat, no quit breakfast as the briefing starts… You go diving when you want!
Just make sure you’ve enough full bottles on the truck.
So here’s the catch, in order to avoid people hoarding tanks, there is just one rule: Only two tanks per person!
But that’s cool, you do two dives, get new bottles before 5 o’clock (usually the dive bases close then) have dinner, do a night dive and you still have bottles for the first dive in the morning!
You can also do three dives until afternoon and do a night dive as you have an air or nitrox flatrate, it is just awesome – a divers dream!
\o/

Diving ship in the sunset
Diving ship in the sunset

We had gotten our bottles at divefriendsbonaire.com they had good prices, several tank pickup stations and were super friendly, I only can recommend them.

A big grouper swimming in the pelagic sea with a fish swarm
A big grouper swimming in the pelagic sea with a fish swarm in the background above the reef of the tropical island Bonaire
The queen angel fish is shy and timid as all angel fish
The queen angel fish is shy and timid as all angel fish and thus hard to photograph
A tiny red striped shrimp or banded coral shrimp
A tiny red striped shrimp or banded coral shrimp hiding in a crack in the coral reef of tropical island Bonaire in the caribbean
A real cute baby box cautiously exploring the reef
A real cute baby box fish cautiously exploring the reef

One of the diving spots that really emerged out of the wide spread of beautiful spots on Bonaire was the Salt Pier. Eventhough it does not look like a diving spot first. As the name implies you dive at a more man made place than a natural reef, but it is an excellent muck diving spot.
It is a conveyor belt on pillars leading to some docks for large cargo ships, which transport the salt into the world.
Between these pillars many fishes and corals found a new home and the colums resemble to a forsaken forrest, which is flooded by sunlight. All together this makes up a supreme muck diving spot!

A single tarpon swimming below the pillars of the Salt Pier
A single tarpon swimming below the pillars of the Salt Pier
A queen angel fish and a french angelfish at the Salt Pier
A queen angel fish and a french angelfish at the Salt Pier
A barracuda, it was very camera friendly and by far not as grumpy as it looks
A barracuda, it was very camera friendly and by far not as grumpy as it looks

The yellow stones along the road, sometimes featuring number or name, mark the divespots, in the ocean there is also a buoy marking the exact spot (mostly).
You will notice a lot of spots are called “Do not enter”, then the stones either mark a mangrove swamp or a animal sanctuary, By entering the first you might be dead and for the second one you are definitely dumb. Don’t be either of them!

Bonaire is really a divers paradise! You can easily rent gear, get tanks and a rental car and dive so you won’t get dry the whole day!!!
Accomodations can be found from high priced Hotels, villas and resorts to really fair rooms to rent. I would recommend oceanviewvillas.com (cool & helpful owner) for small groups of 2 – 4 people and “The Pelicans Nest” for the larger bunch…
Both really hold what the images promise, are clean and tidy and I personnally made a good experience with both.

So get Bonaire on your next diving trips list!

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