Bonaire Marine Park – Bonaire, Lesser Antilles (Netherlands Antilles)
Famous Underwater Forests of Coral Reefs and 24-Hour Diving
An island almost completely surrounded by teeming coral reefs, Bonaire is one big dive site. More than eighty diving spots are scattered off the 24-mile shoreline, and no other island boasts so many first-rate sites so close to shore (just walk in!) nor such a conservation-sensitive dive industry and enlightened, forward-thinking government.
The latter’s unprecedented creation of the island-encircling Bonaire Marine Park in 1979 has resulted in some of the world’s finest, and healthiest, hard-and soft-coral reef diving, with 80-plus kinds of colorful coral and more than 355 species of fish at last count.
Since spear guns were replaced by underwater cameras in the 1970s, the fish here have become among the most numerous and friendly in the Caribbean. Bonaire is an exceptionally dry island, with minimal freshwater runoff, so that underwater visibility is among the Caribbean’s clearest—the diving is great year-round.
Captain Don’s Habitat is the nerve center for visiting scuba divers. Californian Captain Don is a salty island legend and was instrumented in the dive industry’s early days of conservation. His 1970s pit-stop beachfront bungalows have evolved into some of the island’s best accommodations, and his five-star, full-service PADI diving center is considered the finest in the Caribbean.