Bonaire Boat Diving – Dive Sites

Some of the most beautiful sites are more suitable for boat diving.

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Most dive operators feature one-tank boat dives in the morning, late morning, and early afternoons, as well a night boat dive once or twice a week. Bonaire’s boat diving is among the least expensive in the Caribbean. This is partly due to the fact that almost all the dive sites are less than 15-20 minutes away by boat.

Some of the most beautiful sites are more suitable for boat diving. Underwater features such as reefs or sheer cliffs can offer excellent diving opportunities – but they can also be a barrier to further exploration.

Furthermore, boat diving provides both mobility and comfort – the range of the boats means your trip won’t be limited to a single region, and you’ll also be able to count on luxuries and amenities such as supplies, gear, electricity and a warm shower.

BOAT DIVING SITES

Playa Bengi – Located on the northwest coast of Washington Slagbaai, the experienced diver will be rewarded with some of the most pristine coral found on Bonaire. This site is also home to many of the larger fish species. Depth 15-100 feet (4-30 meters).

Playa Funchi – In depths of 15-100 feet (4-30 meters), horse-eye jacks can be seen out in blue water. The shallows are loaded with many of the smaller species that approach divers and snorkelers looking for a handout.

Bise Morto – The name means “dead deer.” Deep-water pelagics such as whale sharks, manta rays, and even spouting humpback shales have been spotted here. Depth 20-100 feet (6-30 meters).

Wayaca – Wayaca offers divers a new site where very little diving has been done in the past. Many times, dive sites in this area are visited by larger species of animals, so keep your eyes on the blue when you dive this site, and you might be lucky. Depth 30-100 feet (10-30 meters).

Boca Slagbaai – A place to look for the larger fish species. The shallows offer large, unusual coral formations, and the sandy bottom provides a habitat for rays and garden eels. Depth 20-80 feet (15-20 meters).

North Belnem – It is visited by large schools of blue tangs. Depth 20-100 feet (6-30 meters).

Punt Vierkant – Dutch for “square point.” Punt Vierkant marks the beginning of the double reef system. Many types of schooling fish can be found here. Depth 25-100 feet (8-30 meters).

The Lake  –The second of the double reef dives, Lake has beautiful gorgonians in the shallows and schools of circling reef fish. Depth 25-100 feet (8-30 meters).

Hilma Hooker – This internationally known wreck dive is located near the beginning of the double reef system. The top of the ship lies at 60 feet, the mast at 99. Shore divers will find the shallows full of fish. Boat divers will be limited to their bottom time due to the depth. This is a good place to see how corals have developed on an artificial site that was created with the sinking of the ship in 1984. It gives an idea of how long hard corals might take to recover from the damage due to storms. Depth 25-100 feet (8-30 meters).

Jeannie’s Glory – Lots of soft coral in the shallows and a sandy bottom for rays to hide. Turtles are often seen along these southern dive sites. Depth 30-100 feet (9-30 meters).

Salt City – This site is still part of the double reef system. There’s a good chance of seeing turtles and eagle rays here. Depth 30-90 feet (9-30 meters).

Invisables – This is one of the few places divers have a chance to see garden eels in shallow water. One of the last of the double reef dives. Depth 20-100 feet (6-30 meters).

Tori’s Reef – Located directly opposite the outflow from the salt works, the shore entry is fairly easy through a channel that comes onto the reef from under the highway. Divers will find strands of elkhorn coral on a sandy bottom. Be sure to check the aggregations of fire coral on your way out to the reef. Many rare fish and eels can be found hiding there. This is #2 in the Caribbean for fish diversity. Depth 20-100 feet (6-30 meters).

Pink Beach – Just off one of Bonaire’s most famous beaches, the current can be strong. Stingrays and bonefish are often seen along the shallow sandy bottom. The deep pink found imbedded in nearly every grain of sand is actually a creature called a foramins, which builds its nest from colored minerals, reddish in this case. Depth 25-90 feet (8-30 meters).

Margate Bay – Named for the margates found sleeping with other species of snapper among the gorgonian corals along the drop off, this is another place where turtles are commonly seen. Depth 20-100 feet (6-30 meters).

Angel City – One of the most interesting of the double reef dives. A sand channel separates the two distinct reef systems. Lots of friendly French angels and parrotfish here, and the channel is host to garden eels and stingrays. Depth 30-100 feet (9-30 meters).

Bachelor’s Beach – A convenient stairway provides access to the small beach here. This is another good place for the snorkel/novice diver to gain experience. Keep an eye out for turtles and rays. Depth 30-100 feet (9-30 meters).

Chez Hines – Also called South Belnam, this site and those further south tend to be a bit more challenging to the shore diver. Many turtles have been spotted here. Depth 30-100 feet (9-30 meters).

Cliff – Located in front of the Hamlet Villas, just north of Habitat. It is the site of Captain Don’s underwater Stone Memorial to the “divers who have gone before us”, which is marked with a plaque and a dive flag. A unique small partial cliff is another feature of this dive. It lies directly under the buoy. Depth 20-70 feet (6-23 meters).

Nukove – The experienced diver will be rewarded with some of the most pristine coral found on Bonaire. This site is also home to many of the larger fish species. Depth 15-100 feet (4-30 meters).

Red Slave – Located adjacent to the second set of slave huts, this site is definitely recommended for experienced divers only. Horse-eye jacks and turtles are seen here, also off shore schools of baitfish. Depth 20-80 feet (6-25 meters).

Karapata – Known for its good visibility and panoramic views, this site is great for wide-angle photographers. Models can pose by huge ship anchors embedded in the coral, or over branching colonies of elkhorn, which stretch from ten feet up to the surface. Depth 20-100 feet (6-30 meters).

Ol’ Blue – This site lies off a long stretch of coral beach just north of 1000 Steps. Friendly French angels and schooling fish abound. Keep an eye out to depths, as whale sharks have been seen here on occasion. When diving from shore, listen for the musical sound of coral rocks as they’re washed onto the beach. Depth 20-80 feet (6-25 meters).

1000 Steps – Located adjacent to the Radio Nederlands towers, this site was named for shore divers, who will find that the 64 steps leading from the road down to the beach seem like 1000 on the way back up. Immediately under the boat mooring are some outstanding formations of star coral. These have grown into high rising pagoda-like structures whose hollow cores provide homes for many reef creatures. Look inside for bluish patches of eggs guarded by the slate-colored male sergeant majors. These “pagodas” are found in few other places. Keep an eye out for hawksbill turtles and manta rays. Passing whale sharks have been spotted here. Depth 20-100 feet (6-30 meters).

Eighteen Palms – This site lies directly in front of the Lt. Governor’s house, which has at least 18 palms growing in the front yard. Access this site from the northwest entrance at Plaza Resort. A great place for beginning divers. Southern stingrays and spotted eagle rays are often seen on the sandy bottom. This is the first site as you travel south, where the reef separates into a “double reef”, one part running along the bottom at about 90 feet, the other across a sandy channel close to the shore at Plaza Resort. One of the few sites where tarpon have been seen sleeping during the day. Depth 29-80 feet (6-25 meters).

Windsock – A sandy beach with patches of shade provides a pleasant place to relax after diving; a favorite spot for picnics. Rays and turtles are often seen in the sandy shallows. Good for snorkelers and novice divers. Depth 20-80 feet (6-25 meters).

North Belnem – It is visited by large schools of blue tangs. Depth 20-100 feet (6-30 meters).

Bachelor’s Beach – A convenient stairway provides access to the small beach here. This is another good place for the snorkel/novice diver to gain experience. Keep an eye out for turtles and rays. Depth 30-100 feet (9-30 meters).

Lighthouse Point – Located on the southern part of the island, divers and snorkelers will find a sandy bottom with a chance of sighting rays in the shallows. Depth 30-100 feet (9-30 meters).

Weber’s Joy/Witches Hut – South of 1000 Steps, this is a delightful shore dive with lots of fish life: rock beauties, angels, and butterflies abound. A great spot for wide-angle photos. Look for a large lavender stovepipe sponge just south of the mooring. Depth 20-100 feet (6-30 meters).

Oil Slick Leap – Though recommended as a boat dive, the adventurous can find a steel ladder leading to the water from shore. Named Oil Slick Leap because this was the site originally proposed for the oil storage terminal. The area is, happily, still available to divers. Large schools of barracuda are often seen here. Depth 20-80 feet (6-25 meters).

Andrea I & II – Located about a half mile north of the desalination plant, these sites are ideal for beginning divers and snorkelers. There are many anemones and soft corals, which provide hiding places for both predator and prey. Seahorses have been found on both sites. Snorkelers will enjoy the shallows here where all three of the “big” parrotfish can be seen, each a different color and easy to indentify: the blue parrotfish, the midnight, and the rainbow, all over three feet in length. Depth 20-100 feet (6-30 meters).

Carel’s Vision – This new site in the Bonaire National Marine Park is similar to its neighboring site, Nukove. Divers who visit Carel’s Vision will delight in the wide expansive views and high-density hard coral cover. Photographers should use their wide-angle lenses. Depth 20-100 feet (6-30 meters).

La Dania’s Leap – Before boat diving became popular, this site was known for the practice of “leaping” off the ledge and drift diving to Karpata. La Dania’s is one of Bonaire’s few vertical walls, with numerous canyons and sand shoots. It is best as a first dive in order to fully enjoy the deeper parts of the site. Look for tiny juvenile sunshine fish (yellow on top, bright blue below) on the mid- to deep portions of the wall. Depth 15-100 feet (5-30 meters).

Rappel – One of Bonaire’s most popular dives. In the past, divers had to use ropes to rappel to this site! There are large sea fans and colorful gorgonians of all shapes and sizes in the shallows. The beautiful coral formations appear to have been planted and cared for by a conscientious, hardworking gardener. Depth 30-100 feet (18-30 meters).

Bloodlet – Though not recommended, this site can be reached from shore, but it’s tricky and sometimes painful, thus the name Bloodlet! There is a dense reef structure, home to schools of algae-eating blue tangs, and many yellow or green tube sponges. Sea turtles are often seen here. Depth 20-80 feet (6-25 meters).

Country Garden – To the north of Old Blue are three beautiful pillars, unique to Bonaire, which have broken from the cliff along shore and fallen to a depth of 30 feet. There is an abundant growth of hard corals, gorgonians and sponges on the face of each, which provides shelter for schoolmasters, grunts, and goatfish. These pillars give the site its alternate name: Mushroom City. Depth 20-80 feet (6-25 meters).

Bon Bini Cas – “Welcome home” in Papiamentu, this site lies just next to 1000 Steps and is a boat dive only. Schools of blue tangs and Creole wrasse are common here. Lavender stovepipe sponges appear in abundance and staghorn colonies grow on the shelf. The large overhanging cliff creates an interesting cave complex along the shore. Depth 20-100 feet (6-30 meters).

Something Special – While this site is pretty much devoid of coral near the marina entrance, it does have a lot of fish. This is the place to study what coral rubble and fish have for each other. The sandy bottom is a great place to see rays. Night divers favor this spot for its ease of entry. There are more unique sightings of fish here than at any other site, mainly because the marina attracts so many fish. Garden eels can be found at 55 feet. Depth 20-80 feet (6-25) meters).

Town Pier – One of the world’s most photographed dive sites! Divers need permission from the Harbormaster and must be accompanied by a local dive guide. Boat diving is almost always done at night with one of the island’s dive operators. This is a photographer’s dream, with hundreds of macro photo opportunities. Years of growth and the greatest variety in size and shape of sponges anywhere are found on the steel pilings. Many species can be found here that are seldom seen elsewhere. Depth 9-30 feet (3-10 meters).

Jeff Davis Memorial – The shallows on this site are covered with gorgonians. It’s a good place for spotting a turtle or sea horse. There are a number of large coral accumulations forming chutes that lead to a sandy bottom. Depth 20-100 feet (6-30 meters).

Kalli’s Reef – Named after a Bonaire National Marine Park Manager, this site is located between Jeff Davis Memorial and Oil Slick Leap, and is considered a very popular stretch of reef. Although only accessible as a boat dive, Kalli’s Reef also offers excellent snorkeling opportunities and is a good location for spotting seahorses and turtles. Depth 30-100 feet (10-30 meters).

Barcadera – This boat dive is located directly opposite the Bonaire National Marine Park Headquarters. The shallows are covered with elk horn coral and host schools of algae-eating blue tangs. Depth 30-100 feet (9-30 meters).

Small Wall – A vertical wall beginning at 20 feet will lead divers to a cave at 60 feet, which sometimes shelters a sleeping nurse shark. Small Wall has probably the calmest surface anywhere on Bonaire. Depth 20-60 feet (6-18 meters).

DIVE INFORMATION

DIVING SEASON: The island’s location in the south Caribbean gives it an arid climate with little rainfall; consequently, the waters are exceptionally clear of silt, calm, and diveable year round.

VISIBILITY: visibility averages over 100 feet (30m), and frequently reaches up to 150 feet (50m).

WATER TEMPERATURE: Water temperatures average a warm 78-84°F (25.6-28.9°C). Water temperatures are normally at their lowest in late December and January. By March and April, the water begins to warm up, usually peaking at its warmest from late August through November.

WEATHER: The weather is Tropical Marine with little seasonal temperature variation. “Rainy” season lasts from the last week of October to the end of January, but it is still relatively dry. During rainy season, late night and early morning rains are common, usually clearing shortly after sunrise. Summer temperatures average highs of 88F and lows of 80 F (31.7 to 26.7 C). Winter average highs are 85 F with lows of 76F (29.4 to 24.4 C)

SKILL LEVELS: For the most part, the diving on Bonaire is quite gentle and suitable for all levels of diver skills.

MARINE LIFE: Large sponges and sea-fans dominate the reef scape. There are a few shipwrecks and large tarpon are quite common as well as turtles, barracudas and few good size groupers. For macro and midrange subjects you’ll have plenty to choose from. Angelfish, butterfly fish, seahorses, crabs and shrimp are just a few of the many subjects that you can find.

 

More Information on BONAIRE

 

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