© 2012; 2007 Connecting: Solo Travel Network & Daniel Otero. Information.
Note: This article is reproduced here for inspirational value alone and will not normally be updated.
Therefore, all facts, figures, and author's opinions are subject to change as time goes on.

Bonaire: Dive, Dive, Dive! – A Solo Travel Report

By Daniel Otero
Assisted by Gladeline Lergier

Bon Bini Bonaire! That cheerful greeting, in the local papiamentu language, Diver among the coral.comes from Bonaire's mixed heritage. One of the Netherlands Antilles group near the coast of Venezuela, Bonaire has a long and storied past rooted in Spanish, Portuguese, French, English, and Dutch influences, not to forget the original Arawak inhabitants, and the Africans who were forced to work the island's salt mines. Bonaire's allure is in this vibrant mix of cultures alongside its relaxing lifestyle, tropical climate, sandy beaches, and exotic bird life. But its real treasure lies underwater. Bonaire is the place for great scuba diving action.

The quality and quantity of its coral reefs and sunken wrecks consistently rate Bonaire among the top dive destinations in the world. There are over 80 sites to explore with drop-offs from 6 to 37 meters (20 to 120 feet). Easy to tough, day or night, from shore or boat, there are ample options and choices for divers of all ability levels.

During three past trips I have only completed 36 sites. I think diving should be savored slowly, time and again, like red wine or any of life's pleasures, so I revisit certain sites at different times in the day merely to experience the beauty in a new light. I expect to make at least four more trips to see all of Bonaire's diving wonders.

Diving Buddy Needed

Of course, for safety's sake, diving should be done with a partner, but when alone, any sociable human being can easily hook-up with other divers. How? Simply arrive at any dive site, look about, and just ask. Usually people willing to form a group are hanging around in the vicinity.

One thing is always guaranteed, the build-up of excitement as you get ready then drop-off into an amazing underwater world. The coral walls come to life in colors of red, brown, and black highlighted with sponges of yellow. You find yourself swimming among schools of tropical fishes just as if you were a member of the group. You have front seat tickets as angelfish, barracudas, parrot fish, trumpets, and so many other brilliant characters dart and dance about the fantastically shaped corals.

Top secret: sergeant majors enjoy bananas. If you have one in your BC pocket you'll get some great pictures.

Over 80 Popular Dive Sites

A popular dive site to the south of the island is Hilma Hooker. Here, a cargo ship that was originally sunk in 27 to 37 meters of water, incredibly, was moved by hurricane Lenny in 2003. Now, it lies draped against the colorful reef between 18 and 27 meters. With snappers, jacks, and tarpon flitting about, it looks as if a decorative painting has come to life.

Several other wrecks are close by, including La Machaca or Front Porch, but it would be silly to focus on sunken vessels and windjammers. Dozens of splendid opportunities await the sport diver between Washington Slagbaai National Park in the north to Willemstoren Lighthouse in the south. Then, the small off-island of Klein Bonaire is a diver's paradise in itself with more than 20 sites to explore.

Red Slave comes with painted huts dotting the beach as a reminder of the island's less than pleasant past.

Andrea I and II are good for beginners, even offering a wreck, but I think their rocky and murky entrances suck.

Oh so clear Oil Slick Leap is definitely one of my favorites. But the surprise is getting up that damn slippery ladder. Just when one feels exhausted, along comes old Blue Angel begging for food and feeling playful. That's enough inspiration to keep me hanging around a bit longer. Less than 15 meters away is a buoy with a drop-off that is easy for first timers as well as those who have been practicing the sport for years.

The hardest dives are on the southern portion of the island where the currents are stronger. Currents can create problems, so it's common sense to start a dive against them, and be sure to leave air in the tank for those long swims.

The Lake is a great dive, but you can end up on Punt Vierkant when the currents are strong. However, the place is worth the effort to see the richly formed brain coral and schools of fish that feed on it.

Eighteen Palms, located right in front of the Lieutenant Governor's house, is an easy dive to repeat at night with a main flashlight and back-up. Here, there is a double reef with one part running along the bottom and the other near the shore at the Plaza Resort.

Finally, I must share a cautionary word learned from my own recent experience. On two occasions my dive buddy had a mild form of the "chokes," nothing grave enough for a decompression chamber, but it was a painful lesson needing a rest-out, which adversely impacted our dive time. Scuba diving can be enchanting to a dangerous degree. In a deepwater environment we must keep within our limitations. We must pay close attention to tables that indicate stops required to avoid decompression sickness, or an even better idea is to wear a dive computer. It's also very smart to learn when to say enough is enough for one day.

DO & GL

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