Bonaire – more than just a divers’ paradise

When preparing my trip to Aruba & Curacao, I came across some information and diving photos from Bonaire that caught my attention and immediately decided to include Bonaire on my trip.

I was not a diver at that time but I was attracted by the idea of getting into deep and discover the underwater world, a whole new experience that I am now in love with.

120And in what a place I got to have my first open water experience…

Bonaire is considered a true divers’ paradise with more than 80 diving sites, but I would say it is much more than just a diving destination.

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Now I will just mention the Flamingos – the island is full of lakes inhabited by Flamingos living free in knee deep lakes – all protected areas.

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DSC_7633What can be better than having some dives in the morning, in the afternoon relaxing by just following the slow moves of Flamingos in their natural, tranquil habitat and ending the day with nice dinner and some drinks at a restaurant overlooking the sea? Well, you can have all this in Bonaire.

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108The entire island is a marine park and everything is protected, but it is also an island where you can have all comfort: great restaurants, plenty and different type of accommodation, infrastructure that allows you to move easily. You are not allowed to touch anything in the water and you cannot take any corals or shells with you, focus being put on protecting the environment.

Bonaire is part of the ABC islands and attracts mainly divers thanks to the clear waters full of collars and tropical fish.

Its capital, Kralendijk is more a big village than a town but is full with colorful colonial houses, restaurants, diving sites and places to stay. The main street runs parallel to the sea and is full with nice restaurants & bars where you can enjoy the amazing sunset while having a great drink.

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105You can eat really well on the island so don’t worry as there are numerous restaurants serving fresh fish or anything else you would like. In the centre I found even the best ice-cream I had on the ABC islands – you might like to have a stop at Gio’s Gelateria & Caffe.

135Coming back to the main attraction, Bonaire’s marine park houses some of the most extraordinary dive sites that are easily accessible by car or by a short boat trip. Note to be made that Bonaire’s reef starts immediately as you enter the water – so no effort in reaching it considering also that the water is calm.

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Next to Big Bonaire, there is a small island – Klein Bonaire that is also a top diving destination where you can go by booking a boat dive at one of the diving centers.

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Being a junior in diving (I got my open water certificate just before this trip), I had my dives prepared in advance via email with Dive Friends Bonaire and they offered top services. I had no equipment, so I rented everything from them. Pay attention and book in advance the boat trips as they are normally full.

The underwater world is just spectacular, high visibility and so many corals and fishes of different colours, lots of nurseries. I even got the chance to swim with a turtle… My photos do not do justice to what I have seen there…

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Besides diving, there are lots to dos. There are kitesurfing and windsurfing areas. I didn’t go to the beaches but there are also beaches on the island should you want to enjoy some sun.

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Numerous lakes full with birds but mainly with my darlings, the Flamingos. Maybe that is why I enjoyed so much the island. You will also encounter at each step iguanas, lizards, donkeys and goats.

DSC_8115DSC_8061Donkeys walk freely everywhere on the island, including on the capital’s street and for that you have to pay attention when driving.

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The climate is dry so the only vegetation comes from cacti and mangroves.

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DSC_7756DSC_7798In Bonaire they are even making liqueur from cacti and in Rincon (another town on the island) you can find the Cadushy Distillery where you can try and find out how they make the Cadushy liqueur. Quite nice…

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DSC_8169DSC_8153134There are also reminders of the island’s past, where slaves worked at the saltpans and were living in small houses, if you can call them houses…

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116IMG_5509The saltpans also offered the greatest view during sunset, just admiring the pink of the water with the crystal white of the salt.

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DSC_7515The Washington Slagbaai National Park is worth a visit and you need a truck for that. There are beaches, diving sites, hills and lakes where you can watch the birds.

153The vegetation is formed by cacti. There are two routes to be followed and you need 2 hours of drive just to follow the short route.

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133What I loved most? The tranquility of the island and the contact you can have with nature… just divine…

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Practical info:

  1. Getting there:

There is an international airport that gets flights from all over the world, mainly through a stop in Curacao. Main visitors are from US and Netherlands and normally diving lovers. European travellers can easily fly KLM directly to Bonaire or to Curacao and then take a 30 minute InselAir connecting flight.

InselAir gives you the possibility to travel around the Caribbean at good prices but be aware that they change the flights without proper notification or excuses. So, always check your flights and read well the emails you receive from them (if you receiveL).

For EU citizens, there are no visa requirements but you need a valid passport with 3 month validity term after the estimated return date.

  1. Transportation

There is no public transportation and only way to move on the island is by renting a car. Being a diving destination, you will see only pickup trucks, they are fit for carrying the diving equipment – so it makes sense, even though I prefer small cars. The renting is about 50$ per day. Being a novice in diving, I did not use the car for going to different sites but to discover the other spectacular places the island has.

If you stay in Kralendijk and just want to dive in an organized manner, there is no need for a car although you would miss some amazing places.

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  1. Accommodation

There are various types of accommodation, from luxurious small hotels having their own diving sites to private homes and apartments.

I rented an apartment at Divers Paradise Bonaire Apartments and I just loved it. It had everything I needed and the host helped us with everything- renting a car, best suggestions on what to do on the island. You can really feel like home.

  1. Foodie part

Delicious dishes, especially freshly caught fish and nice drinks. My choices: Cuba Compagnie, Sonia Home, Karel’s Beach Bar. At Between 2 buns you can have some nice sandwiches after a diving trip.

I had not such a fortunate experience at It Rains Fishes.

  1. Others

Languages: Various languages are spoken on the island: English, Dutch and Spanish.

Payment: US Dollars and cards – with POs to be found everywhere.

Shopping: Not a shopping destination but there are some diving shops, so you can buy diving equipment.

Don’t forget to take with you mosquito repellant as you will need it and prepare in advance your diving sessions.

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