And you thought you couldn’t jump when you were swimming 15 m (50 ft.) under the surface! But, when the sea is black and an eel darts from behind a rock and grabs a parrotfish right in front of your face, you can. The dive master I was with claimed he’d never seen anything like it in all of his dives—and here it happened during my first night dive at Bonaire. Aside from being a once in a lifetime experience, it was also good for numerous free rounds of drinks later that night at a local bar.
I love night diving, especially because you can establish neutral buoyancy and turn out your light. It’s a feeling like no other. Also, when you move your arms or legs you can watch the bioluminescence. It’s a whole different world at night with coral opening and many creatures that sleep during the day coming to life in the dark. If you’re lucky, you may find a large tarpon swimming with you. It’s not there to keep you company, but has learned that your light might temporarily stun its next meal and make it easy pickings. That said, I’ve not seen anything to fear in the way of finned creatures while night diving around Bonaire.
Depending on which location you choose, you can dive from a marked site on the shore or enter at about 2.5m (8 ft.), swim a short way (at which point I like to anchor a small strobe), and then head down. It’s an easy dive to drop to about 15m (50 ft.) on the way out and come back toward the shore at a depth of 9m (30 ft.). At these depths, there’s plenty to see to keep your adrenaline pumping.
The dive from the town pier is renowned, and you’ll hear about it all over the island. However, I found other dives to be more exciting. While there’s good yellow-orange coral, lots of eels, fish, crabs, and even sea horses, along with old tires and other garbage, the dive is shallow, requires a dive master for each four divers, is limited to a scheduled 1 hour, and is crowded with other divers. A better night dive option might be the Hilma Hooker wreck or one from the beach off the Sand Dollar Resort (see below). Discuss the options with your dive operator (for our recommendations, see below). They’ll surely be able to recommend a dive site that will meet your needs.
Bonaire is one of the top dive sites in the world. The water is warm (75°–84°F/24°–29°C), visibility is generally in the 30m (100-ft.) range, coral and other marine life is abundant, rain is scarce, and hurricanes usually miss the island.
Bonaire’s economy is tourism based and most of its visitors come to dive, snorkel, or just enjoy the water. The waters around the island are part of the Bonaire National Marine Park. There are numerous rules and regulations, such as the requirement for an orientation session before one can purchase ($25) the required tag for use of the park, so be sure to be accommodating.
Info Bonaire (www.infobonaire.com). Bonaire Talk (www.bonairetalk.com). Bonaire National Marine Park ( 599/717-8444; www.bmp.org).
Tour: Bonaire Dive and Adventure, Kaya Gobernador N. Debrot 77A ( 599-717-2229; www.bonairediveandadventure.com).
When to Go: Year-round.
$$ Sand Dollar Resort, Kaya Gobernador N. Debrot 79 ( 599/717-8738; divesanddollar.com). $$$$ Harbor Village Beach Club, Kaya Gobernador N. Debrot No. 71 ( 800/424-0004 in the U.S. and Canada, 599/717-7500; www.harbourvillage.com). $$–$$$ The Deep Blue View, Kaya Diamanta No. 50 ( 599/717-8073; www.deepblueview.com).