Diving Our Faces Off in Bonaire

Tell a non-diver you're going to Bonaire, they'll say "Where's that?" Tell a diver, and they'll just nod with envy. Most people have never heard of the "B" of the "ABC" islands of the Netherlands Antilles—Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao—but almost every diver knows about this little slice of underwater paradise 50 miles off the Venezuelan coast.

Case in point: the Top 100 Readers' Choice awards in the January 2007 issue of Scuba Diving Magazine rated Bonaire #1 for Top Dive Destination, Top Beginner Diving, Top Shore Diving, Healthiest Marine Environment and Top Underwater Photography. I couldn't agree more. During a week spent once again with Oceanblue Divers, I managed to log 22 dives, including a single day in which I packed in six dives (I didn't surface until after midnight that day).

The health and diversity of the coral reefs—and the marine life in general—was what struck me most. On the very first dive of the trip, we found ourselves face to thousand faces with a gigantic "bait ball"—a school of fish so dense that it blocked out the light from above. We saw some sort of eel on just about every dive. And I can't even begin to count the number of different species of coral we saw. All this in 82-degree water and 100 feet of visibility.

Take a look at the pictures below, and you'll see what I mean. [Click on pictures for larger-size photos (images will come up in a new pop-up window). You can also watch underwater video clips from this trip.]


The "bait ball" on our first dive


Close encounters


Cassie plays ball


Banded butterfly fish


Green moray eel


Another eel


Hawksbill turtle


Seahorse


Sand diver


Cassie


Eric


Aquaman (me)


Annie, Grace & Lee


Chuck stands guard astern


Lil' Orphan Annie


Our boat for the week, the Harbour Lady


Hands Off, one of the dive sites on Klein Bonaire


I consult the map to choose our next dive site


Jang, Yian and Lee on a shore dive


I'm ready for my giant stride at Oil Slick


Finishing a dive at Ol' Blue


The reclusive Buttcrack Coral


Cassie makes a new friend


Buddy Dive's iguana mascot


The dock at Buddy Dive: look at that water!


Why Bonaire is so shore diving-friendly: a drive-thru air fill station


Oceanblue Divers took over Buddy Dive Resort


When we were done diving...


...it was time for...


...cave snorkeling!


Underwater stalactites


The Cavers


Our own private dock at Richard's Waterfront Dining


Some photos contributed by Cassie Craig

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Content, photography & design © 2001-2007 Michael Strickland
All photographs digitally watermarked
· Unauthorized use prohibited