Bonaire, Like Curaçao, is a part of the ABC Islands (formerly known as the Lesser Antilles).
Unlike Curaçao, however (which is now an independent state within the Kingdom of the Netherlands), the island of Bonaire recently became identified internationally as a “public body” and specifically a part of the Netherlands. Effectively, it’s an overseas territory of the European Union. One of the key attractions for many previous visitors to Bonaire, (particularly Dutch travelers) has been the ease of entry. It’s not clear yet (and working restrictions have not yet eased for EU citizens), but many Europeans are waiting with bated breath to see if travel, immigration and working on the island becomes a lot easier.
Bonaire has a small population, much of it centred around the main town of Rincon.
Let’s look at the history of the island for a brief moment. The ascension of the Dutch on the island reads similarly to that of Curaçao. While Curaçao was a slave centre for the Dutch West India Company, however, Bonaire was used mainly as a plantation and to supply water, meat and wood on inter-continental shipping routes.
Even though the island itself was not a centre for slavery, it’s plantation workers certainly were. Mementos of its repressive history are still visible in low-lying slave huts dotted across the island (apparently most readily apparent around the main port of Rincon). It’s almost disturbing that slavery, in fact, continued on the island until 1862!!
All that to say … there is a bit of history to peruse about the island, although not as much as on Curaçao. Outside of the history (and of course the diving!), there are a few other attractions, such as a donkey sanctuary (donkeys, as well as goats and pigs, have been running wild on parts of the main island since being introduced by the Dutch in the 16th Century), areas where flamingo flocks gather (apparently drawn by shrimp-infested spots of brackish water) and windsurfing (Bonaire is actually quite reputed as a windsurfing hotspot … in 2004, two of the top-five freestyle windsurfers in the world came from Bonaire).
But let’s get to the diving …
Bonaire, like Curaçao, is a fairly small island (Bonaire is 294 Km２ and Curaçao is 444 Km２), but unlike it’s slightly larger cousin, the populations are significantly different. Curaçao has a population of just over 140,000, whereas Bonaire has just under 16,000 people.
What does this mean for diving? It means that there is a lot less activity going on throughout the island in general and, reportedly, as a result, the diving environment is much better preserved. This is even more improved by the fact that ENTIRE coastline of the island has been declared a marine sanctuary, significantly reducing man’s impact so prevalent elsewhere. On top of all of this, Bonaire is also known for having a lot less diver traffic in general.
What do a lot of divers like? Coral reefs are likely high on the list for many divers and Bonaire has that in abundance. There are, in fact, two islands in the area known as Bonaire, the main island, as well as Klein Bonaire, both of which are totally ringed by coral reef. The reef surrounding Klein Bonaire is actually considered even more pristinely preserved.
What is also particularly unique about Bonaire is that a HUGE portion of the diving enjoyed on Bonaire is accessed by shore dives. There are few dive operators on the island and even fewer boat dive outings. Even more so than Curaçao, this is truly an island where you grab your gear, jump in a truck and head to the beach!
Diving is definitely part of the lifestyle here….I read one phrase that is now calling me strongly to get there soon …. “Bonaire is where divers go to vacation. Curaçao is where vacationers go to dive.” You can literally dive from anywhere on the entire island.
There is an amazing biodiversity going on under water…..lots and lots of macro life, mixed in with a very healthy bout of larger pelagic life. Add to that a bunch of cool octopi and eels. Here, take a look:
The only negative I can see is that there has been a little bleaching sighted, as well as the ubiquitous lionfish….STOP BLOODY KILLING SHARKS!
Talking of which … and explaining the prevalence of lionfish in places they shouldn’t be … I’m going to depart from the dive spot tour for a posting in my next blog posting, because I want to focus on sharks for a moment.