Bonaire Shore Diving – Dive Sites

Bonaire’s unique geography has created miles of leeward coastline with easy shore access and almost perfect dive conditions.

Imagine being able to dive whenever you want to, on nobody’s schedule but your own. Instead of having to follow a dive leader, you can swim at your leisure and marvel in the sights of Bonaire!

There are nearly 60 shore dive sites for you to explore: steep walls, sloping drop-offs, exciting wrecks, and last, but not least, the double reef system will take your breath away.

To experience the glorious wonder of shore diving in Bonaire, just follow the yellow brick road.

Each dive site is marked with a yellow rock on shore and a buoy in the water that indicates where to descend, making self-guided diving relatively safe and easy—and ideally suited for beginners. Maps of the dive site locations (and yellow rock numbers) are available at dive shops, condo offices and many other dive related businesses around the island. Many condos and hotels include a small 4-person pick-up truck as part of the rental, so divers can haul their tanks and gear as they move around the island to shore dive.

SHORE DIVING SITES

Boca Bartol – Located in Washington Slagbaai National Park, this is the northernmost dive site on Bonaire and a good place to look for 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 (5-20 meters).

Playa Funchi – Located in Washington Slagbaai National Park. 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 whales have been spotted here. Depth 20-100 feet (6-30 meters).

Wayaca –  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 get lucky. Depth 30-100 feet (10-30 meters).

Boca Slagbaai – This is one of the northernmost dive sites–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).

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).

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 – 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).

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 – 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 identify: the blue parrotfish, the midnight, and the rainbow, all over three feet in length. Depth 20-100 feet (6-30 meters).

Petries Pillar – This is a shore dive only, good for the beginner. The terrain is much like that of Andrea I and II. It was named by Captain Don as a wedding gift for a friend. Depth 30-90 feet (9-30 meters).

Cliff – 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).

La Machaca – Located just off Habitat, this site gives the novice diver a chance to do a wreck dive in relatively shallow water. The 45-foot, locally built boat lies at 50 feet about 30 yards from the shore. It is the home of a large green moray eel that is quite accustomed to divers. Depth 20-70 feet (6-23 meters).

Reef Scientifico – This site was named for a grid system constructed to monitor the growth of algae on the reef. Conditions are much the same as at La Machaca. Night diving/snorkeling is good here. Free swimming morays and sleeping parrotfish are common after dark. Depth 40 feet (13 meters).

Buddy’s Reef – This site is perfect for beginners. Black crinoids can be found perched on coral heads in the shallows here. A resident tarpon greets most night divers. Depth 30-100 feet (9-30 meters).

Bari Reef – This site has been called the #1dive site in the entire Caribbean for fish diversity, with over 300 species sighted and surveyed here through REEF. Depth 30-100 feet (9-30 meters).

Front Porch – The wreck of a tugboat lies in 80 feet of water just off the old pier at Sunset. Inside its darkened recesses are schools of big tooth cardinal fish, seldom seen elsewhere. Depth 20-80 feet (6-25 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).

Calabas Reef – Lots of fish looking for a handout and an occasional turtle or ray. 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. 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 – Another easy dive, this site is sometimes called Dick’s Place. 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).

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).

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).

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).

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).

Alice in Wonderland – This dive offers a chance to really experience the double reef. Care should be taken to watch your depth gauge, especially when crossing from one reef to the other. Depth 30-100 feet (9-30 meters).

Aquarius – This is an easy dive for beginners. It has a sandy bottom and is home to many schooling species. Depth 30-100 feet (9-30 meters).

Larry’s Lair – Sandy bottom shallows offer an opportunity to see rays and turtles. Depth 30-100 feet (9-30 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 Pier – Please note: Permission must be obtained to dive this site. Have your dive shop make the necessary arrangements. Easy entry for novice divers and great for photography. The pillars here are fully encrusted with sponges and coral. Large schools of fish congregate in the shadows created by the salt terminal overhead. Depth 15-50 feet (4-15 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).

Invisibles – 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 has been called the #2 dive site 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 foramen, which builds its nest from colored minerals, reddish in this case. Depth 25-90 feet (8-30 meters).

White Slave – Divers enjoy this site, since turtles are nearly always seen. The site is named for the white pinnacle and slave huts that are on shore opposite the mooring. Depth 20-100 feet (6-30 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).

Red Beryl – Another good site for spotting turtles and rays. Schooling fish are often seen feeding near the surface. Depth 30-100 feet (9-30 meters).

Atlantis – Turtles and larger species of fish are seen here. There are Beautiful arrangements of hard and soft corals on the edge of the reef. Depth 30-100 feet (9-30 meters).

Sweet Dreams – There are many species of gorgonians in the shallows here. In deeper water, large sponges and coral heads contrast dramatically with the “sugar sand” bottom. Care should be taken here, as the sites in this area can be a challenge to even the strongest swimmers. Depth 30-100 feet (9-30 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. Detph 20-80 feet (6-25 meters).

Willemstoren Lighthouse – Located at the southern tip of the island; the strong currents here can make a rough entry for shore divers. Lots of schooling fish, lobsters hiding under the corals, and an occasional turtle or tarpon. Suggested for advanced divers only. Depth 20-80 feet (6-25 meters).

Blue Hole – More often called White Hole, this site lies off Lac Bay and requires a long walk in shallow water to the drop-off. Numerous tarpon are found here, as well as rays, and occasionally sharks. Depth 15-100 feet (4-30 meters).

Cai – Currents can be strong, unpredictable, and dangerous. Enter off the mouth of Lac Bay. Large species are often seen here. Depth 30-100 feet (9-30 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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