Are you tired
of traveling to destinations where it seems that the dive
industry is merely an afterthought? Where getting to and
from the best dive sites requires a boat trip that is longer
than the actual dive? Where a divemaster half your age dictates
when, where, and how often you can dive? If you answered
"yes" to any of these questions and want to experience the
alternative, than you should seriously consider a dive trip
there are numerous islands and occasionally regions of countries
throughout the Caribbean (and the world, for that matter)
whose dominant industry is diving. But there are few places
in the world where the entire country is dedicated to making
sure you have the best dive vacation that is humanly possible!
Bonaire is one of these places.
with sister islands Aruba and Curacao, make up the ABC Islands
which are located approximately 50 miles north of Venezuela.
Part of the Netherlands Antilles, Bonaire sits outside the
Caribbean's hurricane belt and therefore offers some of
the most consistently blue skies you are likely to ever
encounter. Because of this lack of rain, Bonaire very much
resembles a desert in the middle of the Caribbean.
is in the Caribbean, it cannot match the marine diversity
that can be found in the Pacific Ocean. This is not to say,
however, that there are not plenty of impressive things
to see in Bonaire. Due to the fact that it was one of the
first countries in the world to declare all its reefs a
protected national marine park, Bonaire's reefs are in excellent
condition and the reef's inhabitants tend to be larger than
their counterparts found elsewhere and ofte, quite uninhibited.
Among these large,
friendly creatures you are likely to encounter are 5+ ft.
Tarpon (Megalops atlanticus), Black Grouper (Mycteroperca
bonaci), Tiger Grouper (Mycteroperca tigris),
Great Barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda), and some of
the largest Green Morays (Gymnothorax funebris) I've
seen anywhere. I also came into contact with the biggest
lobster, in this case a Caribbean Spiny Lobster (Panulirus
argus), that I've ever seen. It was easily in excess
of 12 lbs!
My most memorable
dive while in Bonaire was undoubtedly under the Town Pier
with Dee Scarr's "Touch the Sea" program. Over the years,
Dee has spent hundreds of dives at particular locations,
hand-feeding animals such as Chain Morays (Echidna catenata),
Goldentail Morays (Gymnothorax miliaris), and French
Angelfish (Pomacanthus paru). Now, when Dee takes
divers down, it seems as if virtually all the creatures
recognize her and come out of their holes to greet her,
and hopefully get a bite to eat. Not only is it an extremely
fun experience, but it's also educational, as Dee gives
a 45-minute-long talk on Bonaire's aquatic life before the
dive and answers any questions you may have.
I've mentioned, diving in Bonaire, (and the Caribbean, in
general) in many ways cannot compare to that in the Pacific,
there are a number of reasons why Bonaire is an excellent
choice for many divers. Proximity and affordability are
near the top of the list. Getting to Bonaire is not only
relatively cheap, it is also quite painless as there are
numerous non-stops offered from the U.S.
Also, the diving
Bonaire offers is ideal for someone new to the sport. This
is a great place to find out if diving is for you. Strong
currents are virtually non-existant on the lee side of the
island, and the site profiles are anything but tricky. Simply
swim out about 25 yards, submerge, and explore the wall
that usually bottoms out at about 130 ft. If there is such
a thing as the ideal place to experience much of the magic
that diving has to offer without paying the price of strong
currents, cold water, or bad visibility, then Bonaire is
that almost certainly that place!