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“Bonaire Scuba Diving”

Bonaire National Marine Park
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US$25.00*
and up
Admission to Bonaire National Marine Park
Ranked #2 of 17 things to do in Kralendijk
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: Popular area that boasts countless dive sites, many reachable from shore, and more than 70 sites with boat moorings.
Reviewed 23 April 2012

We dove for 2 weeks, boat diving many sites around Bonaire and Klein Bonaire. Winds were quite high the whole time. Visibility was 30' - 60', but in one small area dropped to around 10'. There is a healthy fish population, although we saw fewer number of species than other places in the Caribbean. Very few sponges, and most not very healthy, so color was minimal. Corals are in very bad shape. Other than some small brain corals that are healthy, most corals were largely dead, with some live patches. Algae growth was generally light on the dead corals. None of the colorful sea fans that characterize the Caribbean, except remnants of a few long dead fans. Bonaire does not compare favorably with the Bahamas, Caymans, Houduras, etc.

Bonaire is known for shore diving and indeed there are many dive sites that can be accessed from shore. However, entry and exit with your dive gear is very hazardous. There may be sand visible above water but in the light surf, it's very slick with smooth, slippery rocks with holes. After one experience with shore diving, we stuck to boat diving, much easier and safer. Boats have access to essentially all the same sites as shore diving, plus to Klein Bonaire on which there is no shore diving.

We enjoyed the Klein Bonaire and Salt Pier dives best.

Date of experience: February 2012
5  Thank Mimor
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 23 April 2012

Marine park is the whole fringing reef. Corals in great condition and greatly varied diving.

Date of experience: April 2012
Thank Chris C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 18 April 2012

Visited Bonaire Marine Park April 2012. This was my third trip to Bonaire. There are plenty of reviews about what you'll see while diving, so this review focuses on everything else you might want to know... FYI - I’m 5’7”, 145lb female, fairly fit, but with bad knees… So use the following information as you will. Your results may vary.

Essential Dive Gear: Dive booties with sturdy soles are essential for entry/exit over loose coral, very sharp “iron shore”, and boring urchins. Don’t even think about diving here barefoot with full-foot fins unless you will only boat-dive. Despite the latitude, the water felt chilly. Air temp in the mid to upper 80’s. Water temp 79 F. In Cozumel (84 F water) I dive with a lycra and a 3mm shortie. This trip I wore a lycra and a 2.5mm full suit and still felt the chill on overcast days or multiple dives. You'll want a waterproof bag for carrying keys, cash and ID with you during the dive. Bring drinks and food to eliminate the need to return to Kralendijk for lunch.

Leave at Home: Dive gloves are forbidden unless you have a recent doctor’s declaration. Glow sticks/cyalume sticks are forbidden. Don't bring fancy watches, jewelry or designer sunglasses.

Avoiding Theft: It’s really easy to spot a diver’s vehicle and know that there’s a generous length of time to dig through it for things to steal… Don’t leave ANYthing you value in the vehicle. The bad guys want cash, credit cards, and electronics. Therefore they’ll take things that *might* contain valuables. Shorts with pockets, purses, opaque bags or boxes, camera/phone/sunglass cases are all best left open and scattered over the car seat so no one feels a need to take it in the hopes that it contains something valuable. Don’t bundle everything into an easily removed bag… just throw it everywhere (loop the seatbelt through light-weight stuff that could blow away). Leave your windows open and doors unlocked so you don’t have to file a broken glass insurance claim. Rent a pickup rather than a car… it’s much easier for diving. Leave your land camera at the hotel during the dive day, and plan a photo safari for a time when you can return to your hotel for the camera, shoot, and safely secure it in the rooom again. [sorry, I don't mean to make it sound like the place is crawling with thieves... but there are definitely a few opportunists out there who will ruin your day if you let them).

Selecting/Finding a dive site: This is easy… ask a dive shop for recommendations for the day based upon wind/current conditions (*shameless plug* - stay at Villa Safir and pick dive sites with your hosts during breakfast!). It’s extremely easy to find the yellow rocks which mark each dive site. Just pick one! They’re all great. Once there, walk to the shore to decide on your best entry and exit. If you’re not sure you can manage it, just move on to another site.

At the Site: We would get our gear set-up, lay it down so it wouldn’t blow over. Get our suits on. Put the tank/bc/reg on the open tailgate, sit on the tailgate and scootch into the bc, then just walk to the shoreline. It’s very helpful to bring several 2 liter bottles of water along for post-dive rinsing (the water will be nice and warm from the sun).

ENTRY / EXIT NOTES

In general: Entry and exit is easy but some require more caution or effort than others. Plan your entry and exit before you commit. There are often other people (divers or snorklers) around, so if you need a hand getting in or out, ask someone! The loose coral stones shift a lot in the surge, so make sure of your footing before taking a step. Some sites have round stones, small boulders, small ledges, or other obstacles that are invisible in the sandy surge. It’s often prudent to hold hands/forearms as you enter and exit, and shuffle your feet to avoid unexpected ledges, drops, or stones. Once underwater, look for some markers to indicate where you will exit. You can’t really get lost (unless you’re way at the points of the island, which are advanced dives), worst case go to the shallows and surface. But if you weren’t paying attention you might have a long swim to your car. Watch the soft corals for indication of a current and start into the current so you can coast back.

Bari Reef – We prefer to park closest to the pier/hotel, gear up, and walk down the short path to the beach. It's an easy walk-in although the sand slopes down. Put fins on once you’re in the water.

Oil Slick – Gear up in the parking area, pick your way carefully over the ironshore to the one of the flat cement take-off points along the cliff. Use your buddy as a pillar as you put your fins on (and reciprocate for your buddy), then jump! The highest point is actually the easiest entry. To exit, swim to the wide ladder (you can probably put one foot down on the large rock to the right to control yourself in the surge), get a solid grip and remove your fins, then climb out. The first rung was missing during our trip and required a bit of effort, but the rest of the climb was easy.

1000 Steps: Gear up in the parking area, hold the hand rail and walk down the steps (very rough, non-slippery). Take your time and it’s not physically taxing. Choose your entry based upon the direction of the surge and walk in carefully. Put on fins in the water. Upon exit, pick your way out carefully onto the beach. The coral stones shift under your feet. At the base of the steps I asked a bystander to help me make the first step up from the beach onto the stairway, which he graciously did.

Salt Pier: You do not need permission to dive here, however you cannot dive here if a ship is at the pier. Also, you are not allowed to enter under the pier itself. Park in the lot to the south of the pier/stone hut. Gear up, ease in, take your bearings carefully and make your way on the surface or underwater to the pier.

Hilma Hooker: You’ll set down off a short coral ledge full of boring urchins to enter. It’s only 6-8 inches high but if you don’t notice it, you’re in for a jarring, unexpected step. There are two bouys. The bow is under the left one as you look at to sea, the stern to the right. The ship is on her side facing out to sea. To conserve bottom time, swim near the surface until you see her looming under you. Save some air to enjoy a leisurely dive back to the shallows. Carefully step back onto that little ledge to exit.

Tori’s Reef: Park on the north side of the bridge over the salt pond inlet canal. Walk to the roadside and follow the canal toward the beach until you find the flat slabs that create two large steps down (or pick your own entry if you prefer). Gear up and step down into the canal. You could spend all day in the canal. It’s full of fish and critters! For me the exit required removing my fins and climbing up onto the rocks (using my hands to help). It wasn’t too hard, but I personally can’t stand up if I squat too deeply with dive gear on, so I had to avoid tall steps.

Bachelor’s Beach: There’s a ladder down to the beach where you can ease down the sand dune like entry. It’s easier than it looks! Exiting was actually harder because you must make a couple steps up the shifting sand dune to get out. Remove your fins and start walking out. Once you get to the base of the slope, plan your steps so that the surge will push you forward/upward as you take a step, then plant your feet and wait for the next push.

Karpata: Much easier than it looks. Step out onto the cement slab. With your buddy’s help, sit down on the edge, put on your fins (and mask and reg), puff some air into your bcd and flop off the edge. Kick out to give your buddy room to enter and avoid getting pushed back into the slab. After considering several exit plans, we went with the simplest one, and it worked fine. Go to the leeward side of the slab to get out of the surge as much as possible and grab the slab with one hand. Work your way in until you get your feet on the ground and work your fins off. If water isn’t wooshing over the slab, you can toss them up and retrieve them later, but I choose to run my hand through the straps and carry them out. Holding onto the slab, carefully walk out through the rocks and up onto the shore.

Angel City: Maybe I was just tired when we did this last dive of the trip, but I found the footing here to be very tricky. There were lots of slippery round stones invisible under the sandy surge, so shuffling along didn’t work. I had to get solid footing then step up and over and down and feel around for a solid place to put that foot, before shifting my weight off the planted foot. The dive was well worth it though :)

ENJOY!

Date of experience: April 2012
19  Thank Lauren B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 12 April 2012

Bonaire does it right. But cruise ships are degrading the marine environment, and efforts to fight lionfish are hampered by the restriction on who can kill those invaders.

Date of experience: March 2012
3  Thank Jeff C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 7 April 2012

We chose Bonaire specifically so we could snorkel off shore and we weren't disappointed. The yellow painted stones with the dive site and name was an inspired idea as It makes it so much easier to know where you can get in the water. We snorkelled a number of different sites but the Bari reef to Eden hotel had the most different species we had ever seen.

Date of experience: March 2012
1  Thank suelees
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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