Updated: Jun 12, 2022
Bonaire’s reputation as a diver’s paradise continues to dominate the scuba scene as the island secured 12 different awards in the 2022 Scuba Diving magazine Reader’s Choice Awards, including seven number one ratings. For the 29th consecutive year, Bonaire has maintained its reign as the number one Shore Diving Destination in the Caribbean/Atlantic region. The island also achieved first place in six other regional categories including Best Overall Dive Destination, Best Beginning Diving, Best Macro Life, Best Snorkelling, Best Health of Marine Environment, and Best Underwater Photography. There is no doubt that Bonaire is really a special place when it comes to scuba diving, and it is not surprising that it is loved by scuba divers from all over the world.
I have been visiting Bonaire for more than two decades and over the years have witnessed the changes that have taken place, some definitely for the better and unfortunately some for the worse. The island breathes and lives scuba diving. However, with increased interest from non-scuba diving public visiting the island, there are some behaviours and activities creeping into this diving paradise that directly threaten the divers and the environment.
Enough has been said about cruise ships visiting Bonaire and offloading thousands of people nearly every day putting pressure on the island’s infrastructure as well as on the sensitive and unique ecosystem. The reasons for allowing cruise ships to dock at Bonaire are based on economic arguments that cruise ships bring income to the island. One could see some justification and rationale in those claims.
What is perhaps more difficult to defend in terms of benefits for the island is the increased number of small leisure boats that are rented to the public. During my last visit to Bonaire, I observed on numerous occasions these boats cruising inside areas clearly designated by buoys for divers and snorkellers. There were a couple of instances where I personally experienced boats riding right above me, even when underwater inside one of these areas. It seems it is only a matter of time before a serious accident happens for renters of these boats to stick to the rules and stay outside of the buoys. Even then, will they, I wonder? Are they even aware of how dangerous they are?
However, the most annoying and perhaps more dangerous watercraft are jet skis. It is completely beyond me why these incredibly noisy and very fast vessels are allowed on Bonaire at all. Surely, the economic benefits to the island from jet skis operations are minimal, while the damage to the environment is not. Noise pollution is irritating for all, and a very real threat to marine life.
None of this above will stop me from returning to Bonaire, but an accident might. Certain changes would certainly increase the safety of the divers and snorkellers, and protect the environment which draws them to that beautiful place.