Bonaire is one of the top dive locations in the Caribbean due to its marine park which has protected the waters for many years. It is mostly out of the hurricane belt, but it still can have close calls in hits. Most dives are shore dives but there are boat dives available on Klein Bonaire and the windward side.
Scuba Vacation Review of Bonaire and Buddy Dive
Bonaire is one of the top destinations in the Caribbean due to the health of its reef. Bonaire’s reefs have large amounts of large seafans and gorgonians and it is one of the few destinations where you can see Staghorn and Elk Horn Corals.
Bonaire has large schools of fish
Diving is plentiful and cheap.
Bonaire has a problem with theft from Vehicles
Buddy dive is slightly worn
The island of Bonaire
Bonaire is a very dry island with lots of cactus plants
The main town of Kralendijk, Bonaire is a colorful town with many restaurants and shops
There are many nice restaurants with decent food.
Security and theft
I visited Bonaire about 15 years ago and I never returned until now. The main reason for not returning was for the reputation of the thieves breaking into vehicles while someone is diving. This was and still is a problem in Bonaire. The Bonaire locals try to downplay the problem by saying it is just kids. Regardless, the government of Bonaire should do something about this problem as I found it unpleasant to drive around with nothing in the vehicle.
On one remote site, Karpata, we were doing our surface interval. A father and 2 kids showed up. The father had the keys to small stand at Karpata so I assumed he was the owner. A few minutes later an island security guard showed up. While they were there we entered the water. When we returned from the dive the divers car parked next to us was broken into. Sunglasses and their bottled water was stolen. This site is fairly remote and these 4 individuals were the only ones around when we entered. It is hard to imagine that the father and/or security guard stood by and watched this happen…..
Buddy Dive is a very popular resort that has a large number of rooms and to a certain degree is a cattle processing operation. Upon arrival they will put your luggage in a truck for transport to the hotel and you board a bus with about 20 other guests. If you are the last to get off the bus it could take 30 minutes or more to check in due to the volume of people being process.
You are not allowed to dive on Bonaire until you go through a mandatory dive briefing that will occur the next morning. I found the time inconvenient as they are only offered 2 times a day and they are before major flights arrive. You lose a day of diving waiting for this briefing. A fair amount of the briefing is the photo shop doing a sales pitch for cameras, courses and driftwood art.
The rooms at Buddy Dive are a bit run down but were clean and there was plenty of space. Repairs are needed on the furniture and various other hardware around the room.
Buddy Dives rooms had a kitchen, a living room, bedroom and a porch.
The bathroom as fairly clean and large, but the drains were very slow.
The grounds of Buddy Dive are quite large. There are 2 pools, volley ball courts and lots of very nice landscaping. The pool by the poolside bar was not very nice.
Buddy Dive does not have a beach. There are cement bulk heads or rock the full length of the resort. There is an area with sand and beach chairs, but this is not an area you can stroll into the water from the sand.
Mosquitos and no see ums at Buddy Dive were bad. Bring DEET and use it at night.
Buddy Dive has lots of Mandatory add ons that quickly increases the price. Car insurance, Internet fee, Marine Park Fees etc. You must put down a deposit for extra keys and for the safe key. Personally I think that these should be added into the package so you know the full cost of your trip before you show up.
Buddy Dive is surrounded by cactus walls and razor wire. Nothing say’s “we have a crime problem” better than razor wire!
Buddy Dive has 2 scuba tank refill areas and 3 large boats. That combined with the drive through air station creates an environment where you can do a lot of diving.
Personally I did not think the boat dives were worth it. These were cattle boats with close to 20 people. The dive guides did a quick tour down the reef and back. With that many divers there was no time for the guides to point out critters. Our package came with 6 boat dives. We skipped the last 2. I would have thought all the boat dives go to areas not accessible by car. This was not the case. They frequently go to the same sites you can visit as a shore dive.
Buddy Dive’s Drive Through air station is well thought out and efficient. It has rinse stations for gear and cameras. There is also a gear storage room.
Buddy Dives Rental Trucks have manual tranmissions and AC. They are fairly new, but they have a rough life with constantly wet drivers and wet gear.
Scuba diving in Bonaire
The scuba diving in Bonaire is excellent. I was very concerned about the amount of divers on the island and how crowded the sites would be. I was pleasantly surprised to find many of the sites with no other divers or more common is you would be exiting as another group is entering. I rarely saw any other divers underwater during our 1 week stay in Bonaire.
The reefs are in good shape. Bonaire has lots of large gorgonians and seafans that are 4 to 6 feet tall. Many areas resemble forests of coral. Very impressive!
Bonaire still has a fair amount of large brain corals and other hard corals. While many of these corals have damage from white band and black band disease, they seem to be recovering. Bonaire has some of the healthiest corals I have seen in the Caribbean in recent years. There were areas with Elk Horn and Stag Horn Coral. I have not seen these in the Caribbean in this amount for quite some time.
Bonaire has large numbers of fish. Huge schools of tangs were seen on several dives.
Bonaire has a fair amount of critters such as lettuce sea slugs, cryptic tear drop crabs, star eyed hermits to keep a macro photography busy.
Bonaire has plenty of larger creatures to keep those with bad eyes interested as well. Bonaire has lots of turtles, eagle rays, eels and other large fish and creatures.
Our package also included 2 dives with Larrys Wildside Diving.
The dive guide and boat crew were a bit rude and the briefings were not clear. The boat is a bit cramped but the ride is very short. our first dive was to about 75 feet. We cruised about 50 to 75 feet off the bottom while we looked for rays, sharks and other large creatures. If you do see anything it will be from the distance since we were so far off the bottom. We say 1 Eagle Ray that was 75 feet of more below us. The first dive a gamble that you may see something. Personally for me it was a waste.
The second dive was to the Blue hole or white hole. This dive had a large school of tarpon, a large turtle and a huge school of snappers. On the way back to the boat we swam over a huge area of large sea fans looking for turtles. The second dive made up for what the second dive lacked.
The boat for Larry’s wild side diving is brought in on a trailer. There is no shop or any facilities. There are some public bathrooms that were clean when we were there, but the crew warn us before we entered as it can be a bit rough. They recommended using the bay instead.