Diving is big in Bonaire – the best part about it? You just grab tanks and go diving pretty much anywhere you want! It might seem too good to be true, but Bonaire is just as perfect as it sounds. The divers' island was on my list for a long time, and when we finally booked our tickets to go there I was beyond happy. It was so amazing that I can't wait to go back and stay longer than one week in Bonaire.
Even my boyfriend, who is a newbie but passionate diver, asked me when we'll be back again. He didn't ask that after the week we've spent there but after the very first dive. That's the kind of commitment I like!
But let me tell you, how you can spend one week in Bonaire, where to stay and what we did during our time on the island:
Day 1 – Arrival, rental car & accommodation
When we arrived at the tiny airport in Bonaire that felt more like a bigger living room than an international airport, got our arrival stamps with a flamingo on them in our passports and waited for our luggage to arrive, we were excited. Too excited to wait for the next day to start diving, but since we didn't bring our own equipment diving had to wait until the next day.
We picked up our rental car at AB Car Rental and quickly stopped at the supermarket to get some food for the week. I was overwhelmed by the selection of different cheeses and yummy brown bread – especially after having lived in Colombia where it seems that white bread is the only they know. Well, let's get back to the great selection: looking at the labels most of the food has been imported from the Netherlands.
Shortly after, we arrived at our hotel a little outside of Kralendijk. When we checked in at Bellafonte my heart made a jump: we not only had an apartment with a balcony but also ocean view! What else? The sound of the ocean was omnipresent – that's my idea of luxury. Bellafonte is labelled a hotel, but don't get confused: it is a building with beautiful apartments, a reception and a wooden pier where you can enjoy the sun in comfy sun chairs (but no breakfast buffet).
At this point, I should tell you, that I prefer apartments over hotels. I enjoy preparing my breakfast – or let Jörg prepare it for us – and I love eating in my pyjamas on the balcony with the ocean at my feet.
After having been shown the most important things at the hotel by the lovely receptionist, we couldn't wait any longer and jump into the sea.
Day 2 to day 6 – diving, diving, diving
Before we headed to Bonaire, I did some research on what kind of diving we could do on the island. And I was surprised to learn that there are so many courses to take and so much to do!
First dive in Bonaire – guided dive with VIP Diving
Since we don't own much equipment (yet) and were eager to start diving as soon as possible, we headed over to VIP Diving to go through paperwork, learn about the marine park and get our rental gear for the week.
Every diver is required to buy a marine park tag for 25 US$ and sign a form agreeing to stick to the rules in the marine park (which are quite basic, no touching of marine life, etc.). Additionally to learning about the rules in Bonaire you are required to take a guided dive before you venture off on your own.
When diving in Bonaire you always have to carry the marine park tag with you. We decided to put them on our dive computers so we would never forget them. The amazing instructor that was assigned to take us out that day was Danielle. She's a passionate diver and loves the island and the ocean as much as a person can love something. She also tells us to always keep the receipt in the car in case we lose our tags.
The amazing instructor that was assigned to take us out that day was Danielle. She's a passionate diver and loves the island and the ocean as much as a person can love something. She also told us to always keep the receipt in the car in case we lose our tags.
When Danielle handed us the rental dive gear, she started telling us about the dive site that she wanted to show us. Salt Pier is one of her favourite dive sites and she enjoys taking other divers there a lot. While she talked about the dive site, in my head I was already in the water.
With one of VIP Diving's trucks, we drove to the salt pier. There were no waves and when we started our dive I was fascinated by the lights and shadows underneath the pier. Fierce looking tarpons came to check us out while I looked for tiny nudibranchs.
We kept on diving for more than an hour, and when we got out Danielle told me that on some days big ships dock at the pier and load salt. On those days it's not permitted to dive at this site.
Self-guided diving with a buddy
After our guided dive with Danielle we took off without her and explored two more dive sites that day. And on the other days, we dove at least four times a day and took full advantage of the unlimited air package at our hotel Bellafonte. Each morning we loaded as many tanks as we wanted in the truck (plus a spare one), looked at the map with all dive sites on the island and picked some and that's what we did every day! Most dive sites are accessible from the shore, so you just drive there, get ready and dive!
We dove Oil Slick Leep, Cliff, Buddy's Reef, Bari's Reef, Something Special, Windsock, Bachelor's Beach, Hilma Hooker, Invisibles and some other dive site on our own.
Bonaire has completely changed my diving. I'm spoilt! I enjoy this way of diving so much more than boat dives with big(ger) groups. In Bonaire, it was just the two of us and we decided where we wanted to go, how long we wanted to stay down and how fast/slow we wanted to dive. I don't think I ever want to dive from a boat again – it's both fun and what really matters, in the end, is the fact that you are diving!
Coral Restoration with CRF Bonaire
Learn more about the Coral Restoration Foundation in Bonaire at Buddy Dive Resort every Tuesday night. The project started back in 2007 and does research on coral bleach, coral deaths and how to restore corals.
The Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) is farming corals on Bonaire. Corals are planted onto trees and are grown there before putting them back in damaged reefs. CRF has more than 11,000 corals in their nurseries and more than 500 people from more than 20 countries volunteered so far.
We were curious so we signed up for it. We spent one afternoon at Buddy Dive learning how to cut, hang and clean corals. After a theoretical introduction, we took out dive gear and went to the nurseries.
The nurseries are located two minutes from Buddy Dive's pier. Our first assignment was to clean the trees and wires with a wire brush. I'm working on another article that will go into more details about the work that CRF does.
Klein Bonaire with Dive Friends Bonaire
While we enjoyed the boat-free diving on Bonaire a lot, the little island off Bonaire called Klein Bonaire caught our attention a couple of times. Klein Bonaire has as many dive sites as the alphabet has letters and can only be reached by boat. And boat means diving in groups. While we were able to dive just the two of us, here we were required to stay in a group.
Which isn't bad, it's just different. And we enjoyed the dives on Klein Bonaire just as much as we did the ones on Bonaire.
There are several dive shops offering trips to Klein Bonaire and we chose to go with Dive Friends Bonaire. Both our guides know so much about both islands and shared some stories about the lionfish problems and how they try to fight them (aka. hunting and eating them).
Underwater Scooter with Buddy Dive
I don't remember where I first saw a video about underwater scooters, but I knew that I wanted to try that. When I found out that some dive shops rent scooters, I knew I had to try it. I wrote another article how it feels like flying over reefs.
Speciality Courses in Bonaire
I didn't take any speciality courses this time, but I'll take at least two the next time I get to Bonaire. There are so many to chose from Fish ID, Nitrox, Lionfish (+ hunt those beasts), coral restoration, …
Day 7 – Road trip across the island and departure
The last day of any dive trip is always the saddest one: first no more diving and second having to say goodbye. I would have loved to cancel the flight, get gear and go for more dives. But we had to jump on the plane, so we did some non-diving activities in Bonaire:
Activities for a couple of hours that don't have anything to do with diving
- join a kayak and snorkel trip and explore the mangroves in Lay Bay
- Go hiking in Washington Slagbaai National Park, or simply enjoy the off-road drive and go for a swim
- drive by the pink salt mine in the South of Bonaire
- hop on a water taxi and walk along the beach of Klein Bonaire
- look for wild donkeys
If you are looking for more non-diving activities read this one here 🙂
Have you been to Bonaire? How long did you stay? What's your favourite dive site there?