Bonaire Scuba Diving Travel Report
Article and Photos by Jeni Smith June 2008
Warm tropical waters, hundreds of species of fish, pristine corals; its no wonder that Bonaire is known as a diving paradise. Located 50 miles north of Venezuela in the Caribbean, Bonaire is part of the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao). Most of Bonaire’s western coast line is flat and protected with easy access to the water, which makes it easy to find a spot to pull off the road, grab your gear and get in. Just look for one of the painted yellow rocks on the side of the road and you’ve found a dive site. With more then 60 marked dive locations on the main island and 26 on Klein Bonaire it’s hard to pick favorites. Here is a short run down on a few of the sites I visited while on my vacation to Bonaire.
Boka Slagbaai, (Pronounced slay-bay, meaning slaughter because of the cattle that used to be slaughtered in the park), a marked dive site located with in Washington Slagbaai park it is the southern most dive site in the park. The majority of the sites in the park are for the more advanced diver (like Boka Bartol pictured aside) with stronger currents, larger waves and unstable rubble entries, but this one can be done by just about anyone. Boka Slagbaai has picnic tables, many trees and a sandy white beach. This spot is not only great for divers but snorkeling, sun bathing and kayaking as well. There are old white and orange buildings that date back to 1869 here, inside the buildings bathrooms are available to the public, be aware the water is non potable. You have to begin your dive before 2:30 pm as the gates to the park close promptly at 5 and getting back to the gate takes some time on unpaved windy dirt roads. The entry into the water is easy with little rocks, just watch your footing getting in. It’s a fairly long swim out to the mooring buoys over sand and coral. My dive alert proved helpful in keeping in touch with my dive buddy, especially since he's a speed demon. Keep your eyes on the sea floor as you swim out because you might be blessed with a Spotted Eagle Ray or Southern Sting Ray resting or feeding in the shallows. Once at the drop off point you can chose to head north or south. Soft and hard corals a plenty here and of course hundreds of small fish. Barracuda like to frequent the area as well.
Oil Slick Leap
Oil Slick Leap is south of the park and marked with one of Bonaire’s famous yellow dive marker rocks. Nothing to fear about the name though, there’s no oil in the water, but you can jump in at several different places. The flat spot to the right of the platform is a little closer to the water then the one further north. Remember to hold onto your mask as you do your giant stride. There is a ladder for exiting, and you can use this for entry as well if you don’t care to take the leap. The mooring buoy is a short swim out at 34 feet and the drop off begins soon after. Lots of gorgonian, brain coral, basket sponge and stag horn corals are here and of course the hazardous fire coral. There are many sandy patches, rays and turtles can be found here, as well as the possible passing pelagic. The fish life is abundant with parrotfish, tangs, queen triggerfish, butterfly fish, and gobies to name a few.
Buddy’s Reef is a resort as well as a wonderful dive site. They have an open dock policy, just stop at the gear locker to let them know you’d like to use their facility if you aren’t staying at the resort. It’s ok to drive your truck to the stairs that lead down to the pier, drop off your gear and then park your truck back in the lot. Here there are stairs or you can do a giant stride off the dock into the water. It’s a short swim to the marker buoy where the reef starts at 35 feet and drops off to a sand bottom at 110 feet. The slope is a myriad of color with soft and hard corals and many sponges. There are many critters here that have made Buddy’s Reef their home. A few things you should not miss are Frog fish, green and spotted moray’s, a resident turtle and even a sea horse. Just ask the dive master for directions to where these animals hang out; photo opportunities galore present themselves at Buddy’s. Once a week a pod of dolphins cruise by the resort, so keep your eyes to the blue and your ears open for this rare treat. Be sure to take a trip to Buddy’s at night where a few Tarpon like to hang out. One is especially large and has been nicknamed "Charlie." He’s very used to divers and knows to follow your dive light to a nice meal, listen for the snap of his jaws when he strikes. It’s very exciting. Even in this warm water my 3mm full wetsuit made my dives so much more enjoyable, both for warmth and protection from coral.
Eden Beach is located behind Wannadive’s Resort just south of Buddy’s Reef. The current can be a little stronger here, so be careful. There are several highlights to Eden Beach. Under the pier is a web cam, be sure to tell your friends when you plan on being at this site and they can get some photos of you. You can find the link to the web cam at BonaireWebcams.com. As you descend at 30 feet there is an enormous round mooring. Heading south at 60 feet is the sail boat Bakanal which is abundant with fish. Lantern bass, yellow jaw-fish, sea snakes and more have made her their home. To the north in 45 feet of water is the wreck Our Confidence. The bow faces north in 57 feet on sand and rubble, her masts have fallen and wood worms have weakened the structure, so be careful.
Above Water Highlights
Bonaire is of course known for it’s diving, but there are a few things that you should be sure not to miss. Take a trip inland to the petroglyphs of the Caiquito Indians, and if you’re not claustrophobic be sure to look into cave and mangrove snorkeling. Be sure to head to the southern end of the island and take some photos of the slave huts with the slat flats the slaves used to tend in the back ground. There is also kayaking, wind surfing and kite surfing available on the island. And of course don’t miss the flamingos.
Any of the dive sites in Bonaire are just as wonderful as the ones above, but remember, you’re on Island time and you’re on vacation. It’s a small island and while each area is unique they do sort of blend into each other after you’ve seen a lot of them. So pack your bags, visit Scuba.com for all your scuba diving gear and don’t push yourself to see all the dive sites at once; besides it makes for a great excuse to go back.