Diving in Bonaire
Bonaire is located 50 miles north of Venezuela and 86 miles east of Aruba, well outside of the hurricane belt. It is part of the A-B-C (Aruba - Bonaire - Curacao) island chain. Itâ€™s pristine reefs and diverse marine life are unique to the Caribbean. Because the waters around the island are designated as an official marine park, diving Bonaire is like diving the Caribbean the way it used to be - untouched and unspoiled. The island's location in the south Caribbean gives it an arid climate with little rainfall; consequently, the waters are exceptionally clear of silt, calm, and divable year round. It is an ideal destination for underwater photographers.
Water temperatures average a warm 78-84°F , with visibility often averaging between 100-150 feet. If you are planning a trip to Bonaire and have a dive/hotel package you will be given a thorough dive orientation and briefing before your first dive on the island. One of the Bonaire Marine Park Regulations is for all visitors to do a check-out dive as part of the briefing process before taking off on their own to shore dive or going on a dive boat. The main reasons for this are to have each diver check buoyancy so that damage to the reef is minimized or eliminated and also to check out their dive equipment, whether it be rented or owned.
Also, every diver on Bonaire must purchase a Marine Park Tag for $25 (payable to the dive shop), which is valid for one calendar year. Orientation procedures vary from dive center to dive center, so it's a good idea to check in early. The license plates may read Diver's Paradise but it would be a mistake to think that great diving and snorkeling are the only activities for which this island is famous. People who visit solely for the Marine Park may be surprised to find themselves caught up in Bonaire's world-renowned windsurfing. Other popular topside activities include: birdwatching, sea kayaking, mountain biking, cave snorkeling, sailing or horseback riding. Bonaireâ€™s dive site.
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: US and Canadian citizens must have a valid Passport and a return or ongoing ticket. EXIT REQUIREMENTS: The departure tax is USD $32.00 per person, payable in cash or debit/credit card (MC, Visa, Discover, Maestro, Kompa Leon all accepted, but American Express is not) at the airport prior to check-in. Departure tax to Curacao and Aruba are lower. Additionally, effective January 1, 2008 there is a Security Fee of USD $1.40 due for each person departing Bonaire International Airport (Flamingo Airport).
No vaccinations or preventative medications are recommended for travel to Bonaire. Yellow Fever and Malaria are not a problem here. Check with the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for travel at cdc.gov
Culture and Customs
Bonaire was claimed by Spain in 1499. In 1636 the Dutch took possession and in the late 1600’s African slaves were brought to work on the island. In the early 1800’s Bonaire was occupied by various countries due to changing European politics and in 1816 returned back to the Dutch. Bonaire was a member of the Netherlands Antilles islands. On 10-10-2010 The Netherlands Antilles dissolved and Bonaire is part of the Netherlands. Bonaire is part of the BES islands which forms part of the Dutch Caribbean.
This melting pot of history can be seen on the faces of Bonaire’s locals, representing dozens of ethnic and racial influences. The culture recognizes many religious and holiday celebrations. Many traditions include origins from African homelands, European Harvest and Fest days. There are local dances and music unique to Bonaire.
Electricity, Telephone and Internet Access
Electricity is 127 volt, 50 cycle. 220 volt is also available at some resorts. Most U.S. appliances will work, however a bit hotter. Dive shops and resorts have stations for guest use for charging camera batteries, etc. Itâ€™s recommended that you use them to avoid damage to delicate equipment.
Cyber Cafes and wireless Internet services are available in numerous locations, as well as several hotels and resorts. Bonaireâ€™s country code is and direct dialing service is fast and clear.
The water is desalinated from seawater and is perfectly safe to drink.
Language & Currency
Papiamentu is the local language, but Dutch, English and Spanish are all widely spoken and understood. Papiamentu is a form of Creole indigenous particularly to Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba, where it is considered the national language. You'll sound like a pro if you say 'Bon Dia' (Good Morning) to the locals!
As of January 1, 2011, the US Dollar will become the official currency in Bonaire. For cash only payments, guilder banknotes (official exchange rate of Naf 1.79 to USD $1) will be accepted until February 1, 2011, after which the guilder will no longer be legal tender on Bonaire. Traveler's checks and credit cards are widely accepted. Be sure to have your passport or positive ID when changing traveler's cheques at banks.
Bonaire observes Atlantic Standard Time (-4 hours GMT). They do not utilize daylight savings time.
History, Art, and Culture
With a comfortably dry climate and steady trade winds (the very conditions that have made it a windsurfing mecca), Bonaire has long been recognized as an ideal locale for the production of salt. For over three centuries, the island's culture and prosperity was dependent upon this most important of the world's spices. Salt is still produced on Bonaire, though the stunning salt beds of Pekelmeer are also home to one of the hemisphere's great populations of flamingoes. Bonaire's first inhabitants were the Caiquetios, a branch of the Arawak Indians who sailed across from what is now Venezuela around 1000 AD. Traces of Caiquetio culture are visible at a number of archaeological sites, including those at Lac Bay and northeast of Kralendijk. Rock paintings and petroglyphs have survived at the caves at Spelonk, Onima, Ceru Pungi, and Ceru Crita-Cabai. The Caiquetios were apparently a very tall people, for the Spanish dubbed the Leeward Islands 'las Islas de los Gigantes' (the islands of the giants). The name the Caiquetios given to their island was adapted into Spanish as 'Boynay.' Read more here.
The population of Bonaire is 17,408 (2013).