If you are looking for objective information on Bonaire scuba diving, go ahead and look somewhere else. Because we love the scuba diving here, and we love living on Bonaire. So it is impossible for us to be objective because its just so beautiful here!
Bonaire is known for its pioneering role in the preservation of the marine environment. Many visitors in the months of August, September or October are pleased and surprised to find they are on Bonaire during spawning activities of corals and other invertebrates. Other visitors plan their trips to Bonaire specifically for the chance to glimpse this unique Bonaire scuba diving event.
For over 30 years, the entire fringing reef system around Bonaire is a national park, protected from the high water level to a depth of 200 feet/ 60 meters. The Bonaire National Marine Park protects it in different ways.
First, all Bonaire scuba divers have to attend a Bonaire National Marine Park Orientation prior to their first scuba dive on the island. These orientation sessions are usually held at around 9AM the morning after you arrive on Bonaire, and you are required to attend and to obtain your Marine Park tag, valid for one calendar year, if you want to legally scuba dive here. The cost of the tag is US$25, and the proceeds help to support park management and services.
Another of the Bonaire Marine Park Regulations is for all visitors to do a check-out scuba dive before taking off on their own to shore dive or going on a dive boat. The main reasons for this are to have each scuba diver check her (or his) buoyancy so that damage to the reef is limited or - even better - eliminated. It also gives you an excellent opportunity to check your dive gear before you go. Check in early and ask your Bonaire scuba dive center for more info on their orientation.
After the check out dive you are ready to go. The waters on the leeward Western side of Bonaire are exceptionally calm, clear of silt, and you can scuba dive year round. It is an ideal destination for underwater photographers. Bonaire’s reefs contain virtually every single macro critter from the Reef Fish: Caribbean ID book and the fish — which have enjoyed protected status since 1978 — get up close and personal. Water temperatures average a lukewarm 78-84°F (25.6-28.9°C), with visibility averaging over 100 feet (30m), and frequently reaching up to 150 feet (50m) On the leeward coast, there are many places where it is easy to just walk in the water from the shore and scuba dive, or snorkel! The East Coast is the windward side. Scuba diving there is completely different, and not recommended without an experienced local guide. Take a car rental to get there from Kralendijk.
In case of a scuba diving accident or emergency, Bonaire has one of the Caribbean's best staffed, recompression chambers. The state of the art chamber is located opposite to the San Francisco Hospital Emergency Room, and people in need of treatment must go to the hospital to gain access to the chamber. It is the most comfortable recompression chamber of the Caribbean: highly recommended! The treatments are long, boring and expensive though, so maybe you better watch your scuba diving limits.
By Wietze Koopman owner of Bonaire Seaview Apartments