There are more than 350 species of fish and sixty species of coral living in Bonaire's reef.
Bonaire – Been There

There's always another day to dive

Photo by Vilainecrevette

Bonaire – Been There There's always another day to dive

The western ‘ear’ of the Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire is the deserted island of Klein Bonaire, which is part of the National Marine Park and sports the kind of pristine white sand beaches the rest of the island lacks.

Daphne Huineman
Daphne Huineman Travel Writer

In the 1970s, Bonaire made the both clever and progressive decision to give a large part of its underwater world protected status. The island now welcomes more than 60,000 tourists every year. I’m staying at the first diving center on the island, the renowned Captain Don’s Habitat, alias the home of diving freedom.

After checking in and being checked out for my certification, I am soon ready for my first dive amid the familiar ritual: the struggle to find hired gear that fits comfortably, the banging of metal tanks, the checking of airlines and buoyancy aids, the spitting into masks. Then the plunge into the deep blue sea, a welcome shiver of deep ocean chill after the hot, sweaty day. The first nervous breaths of metallic air through the regulator, the popping of ears, the descent into another world where you realize you are an alien invader. I work to calm my breathing, too loud in my ears, and settle back into the reassuring routine.

However, down here, disappointment awaits: much of the coral has been damaged in recent years due to the many hurricanes that have gone off-course. Is this really one of the best diving destinations in the western hemisphere?

That same evening in City Café I meet a group of experienced divers just back from the sites at Karpata and 1000 Steps. Stories of barracudas, sea turtles, swarms of jellyfish and sea horses abound. “You just had bad luck,” says Ben, a portly Canadian. “Bonaire has hundreds of dive sites, half of which are great, and certainly ten of which belong to the absolute top.” I can’t hide my disappointment. To console me he shouts “Hey, have a beer!” and tosses me a blue can. I look at the half-naked lady in the seductive pose – which is printed all over the can – and quench my thirst.

Tomorrow is another day. Now it’s time to chill.

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