Bonaire's Easy Shore Diving
A huge reef system within easy swimming distance of shore.
In most places, divers have to be ferried offshore to reach the nearest sites. That means everything about a dive--such as when the boat leaves, where it goes and the number of people piled aboard it--is left up to someone else.
Except on Bonaire. This is one of the few places where divers can even sleep in and still go where they want, when they want. On Bonaire, divers control their own schedule, diving at anytime, day or night. It's true dive freedom, just as advertised.
Bonaire's topography is unusual in that its reefs begin just offshore. Situated in the Dutch ABCs just off the coast of Venezuela, Bonaire essentially is a mountain top jutting up from the deep ocean floor.
One side of the 26-mile long island is always in the lee of the constant 16mph trade winds, so the surface close to shore is normally as placid as a swimming pool.
These features combine to offer what is undoubtedly the best easy shore diving in the Caribbean. All that's required to take advantage of it is a rental car and tanks.
Almost every one of Bonaire's major dive sites, including the "Hilma Hooker," "Angel City," "1,000 Steps" and the deep reefs at Washington-Slagbaai National Park, can be dived from shore.
And they're all conspicuously marked, by either a large concrete pyramid or small yellow painted rocks placed at the side of the road. Mooring buoys also mark the precise dive location so locating the right spot once in the water is never a problem.
The one thing missing from the normal dive boat experience is a guide. Divers familiar with Bonaire who want to control the pace and direction of their dives often prefer not to have their hands held. With the reefs running parallel to shore and current absent most of the time, experienced divers have little need for a guide or boat support.
Serious underwater photographers, accompanied only by a model or a buddy, especially like this kind of freedom. It permits them to work without having to worry about stray air bubbles or someone's flipper ruining the background.
Night dives, easily the best time for most critter pictures, tend to be major undertakings on many islands. As a result, excursions after dark may be limited to only once or twice a week. On Bonaire, you can literally dive all night long in the shallows as long as you have the air and the stamina.