Category Archives: Scuba Diving

5 Tips To Get Your Kid Ready For Diving on Bonaire

Checklist for ensuring your kid is ready to SCUBA dive on Bonaire!

How To Get Your Kid Ready For DivingMany families flock to Bonaire over the year-end holidays, so now is the perfect time to take a few moments and go over these five tips to ensure your child has a wonderful experience SCUBA diving.

Kids and SCUBA.

It’s very important for all new divers, and even more so for kids who want to learn to dive, that they have easy and fun experiences on their first initial dives.  By having fun while learning, it practically ensures they will continue to dive and will have a new hobby for life.

On the other hand, your child shouldn’t be pushed into it, if they are not yet ready.

So how can I tell if my kid is ready to learn to dive?


  • Card him or her. All certifying agencies offer an adult open-water certification at age 15, and a junior open-water card at age 10, which usually requires the child to dive with a certified adult. There are also introductory experiences starting at age 8, such as PADI’s Bubblemaker program. Most of Bonaire’s dive facilities can provide these courses for your kids.
  • Be honest. Does your child have the strength and coordination necessary for scuba diving? Will your child pay attention to the training and follow the safety rules? If your child isn’t quite coordinated yet or isn’t disciplined or focused in other educational settings, wait a bit longer. There are plenty of other kid-friendly activities to do on Bonaire!
  • Keep it fun. Remember the ultimate goal: for your child to enjoy sharing a sport you love. Offer plenty of praise and leave the training to qualified instructors. Bonaire’s dive industry is fully developed with instructors who give quality and careful instruction.
  • Get the right stuff. It’s important to get gear that fits your child. Ill-fitting gear that is uncomfortable and hard to use will make learning difficult — and possibly dangerous.  Any Bonaire dive facility can assist you with getting the right gear for your child.
  • Consider an alternative. Don’t push a child into diving if he or she isn’t ready to take that first giant stride — they should be as interested in the underwater realm as you are. Start with snorkeling, and let him or her set the pace to make the experience fun.  Windsurfing or kayaking are other good activities to enjoy on Bonaire with your kids!

Bonaire Watersports Programs for Kids.

Kids get ready to take the plunge on Bonaire.

Several of Bonaire’s resorts or watersports operators have special programs just for kids. If you are thinking of introducing your child to any watersport while on Bonaire, get in touch with these providers of children’s programs.

Recommended Providers
For Children's Activities: *


(Source:  Sport Diver Magazine)

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Susan Davis, Bonaire InsiderSusan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing for The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog. 




Scuba Diving Magazine’s 2018 Readers’ Choice Awards Feature Bonaire Top and Center

Bonaire Receives 11 Awards in the 2018 Readers’ Choice Awards from Scuba Diving Magazine.

Each year, Scuba Diving Magazine collects reader input and then shares the results with the world. Bonaire has once again placed at the top of its region in the Caribbean and Atlantic, racking up an impressive list of 11 awards for 2018, including these very notable First, Second, and Third Place Awards.
Bonaire is awarded the Scuba Diving Magazine Readers Choice Awards for 2018.

First Place Awards.

  • Best Healthy Marine Environment
  • Best Macro Diving
  • Best Shore Diving
  • Best Beginner Diving
  • Best Freediving

Second Place Awards.

  • Best Visibility
  • Best Advanced Diving
  • Best Snorkeling
  • Best for Underwater Photography

Third Place Awards.

  • Best Overall Dive Destination
  • Best Technical Diving

Bonaire offers the Caribbean’s Healthiest Marine Environment.

A brain coral spawns on Bonaire.

A brain coral spawns on Bonaire.

The reefs around Bonaire form a narrow fringing reef, which begins practically at the shoreline and extends to a maximum of 984 feet (300m) offshore. This natural resource has been managed for many decades now by the Bonaire National Marine Park (BNMP) whose mission is to protect and manage the island’s natural, cultural and historical resources, while allowing ecologically sustainable use, for the benefit of future generations.

Early protection has been a key component to Bonaire’s healthy marine environment. Nearly 60 species of coral can be found on the reefs, but they do vary by habitat.

Bonaire offers the Best Macro Diving in the Caribbean.

Of course! Bonaire has been known for many years as one of the best places to view little creatures!

A pink frogfish awaits its dinner on a Bonaire reef.

A pink frogfish awaits its dinner on a Bonaire reef.

Underwater, we have an array of fun little critters to make you smile, like our famous frogfish. Frogfish are about 4 or 5 inches long but can be much smaller, and come in a rainbow of colors including bright yellow, red, green, white, black, and even pink. These little guys usually rest on sponges and move around by hopping along on finned feet. Ask your dive master where to look for one, and remember: Don’t touch the marine life!

Bonaire offers the Best Shore Diving in the Caribbean.

Another easy one, since Bonaire enjoys over 50 dive sites where you just pull up in your tank-laden truck, gear up, and walk into the water. It doesn’t get much easier than that. Nearly all dive operators offer drive-through tank service, so pick up a few tanks and head north or south for a day of diving.

Bonaire offers the Best Beginner Diving in the Caribbean.

Conditions couldn’t be more like an aquarium. Water temperatures average a warm 78-84°F (25.6-28.9°C), with visibility averaging over 100 feet (30m), and occasionally reaching up to 150 feet (50m). Water temperatures do vary widely by season and location.

Water temperatures are normally at their lowest in late December and January. By March and April, the water begins to warm up, usually peaking at its warmest from late August through November.

With a shallow shelf just a minute’s swim from your entry, there is no need to dive deep, and the shallows around Bonaire provide many opportunities for beginner divers to see a variety of marine animals.

Video Courtesy of Bonaire Vision Films

Bonaire offers the Best Freediving in the Caribbean.

With world-champion freediver, Carlos Coste, residing on Bonaire, freedivers can be assured of many events and competitions. Or, for those who want to give it a try, training in this specialized form of diving can be arranged.

We here on Bonaire are thrilled once again to receive so many honors, but those who have been visiting Bonaire for years know that none of these accolades are secret.  It’s the reason we love diving on Bonaire and continue to return again and again to enjoy Bonaire’s healthy reefs, with easy diving, at your own pace, with frequent animal encounters.

(Source:  Scuba Diving Magazine, images by Ellen Muller, video by Bonaire Vision Films)

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Susan Davis, Bonaire InsiderSusan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing for The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog. 




Underwater Photography on Bonaire Through the Lens of Michael McDonald

Michael McDonald, a long-time visitor to Bonaire, shares his tips on how to perfect your underwater photography.

For decades, Bonaire has been a mecca for underwater photographers. The island’s teeming reefs, along with its marine inhabitants, offer the visiting diver myriad opportunities for excellent underwater images.

Michael McDonald is one such underwater photographer, completing his 13th annual visit to Bonaire with a three-week dive vacation in June 2017. Michael has been diving since 1971 when he was certified at the age of 15, and he has been accompanied on his dives by his camera ever since then. He learned his craft with the original Nikonos underwater camera produced by Nikon way before the era of “point-and-shoot.”

Photographing the Wreck of the Hilma Hooker from a different perspective.

The Wreck of the Hilma Hooker is one of Bonaire’s most popular dive sites and is always a favorite with underwater photographers (learn more about this wreck’s history). Many divers who visit the dive site via shore, versus those arriving via boat, zoom right over the reef to the wreck. However, the reef, part of Bonaire’s double-reef system, offers plentiful opportunities for creativity.

Finding a fresh perspective on an often-photographed iconic wreck is difficult, but Michael found a new way to interpret the Hilma Hooker. He answers some key questions about how he got this shot!

Divers swim between an orange elephant ear sponge and the wreck of the Hilma Hooker, on Bonaire.

Q: What camera setup was used?

In this excellent image, Michael used his standard camera setup, a Canon 5D in a Subal CD5 housing with a Subal Wide Angle port. His lens of choice was a Sigma 15mm 1:2.8 EXDG Fisheye. His dual strobe setup is with Sea&Sea YS-D2s on 6- and 9-inch arms (15-23 cm) per side, which help to give a naturally illuminated look to close objects.

Q: How did the divers manage to pose so well?

Michael’s main “model” closest to the camera is an underwater photographer herself, and she very graciously poses for his images. Having a knowledge of underwater photography assists models with getting themselves positioned properly. Michael’s buddy is amazingly neutrally buoyant.  What he commonly does is to look ahead of where she is swimming, to identify potential subjects. He then moves forward quickly, ahead of her, to compose the shot highlighting the closer features of the image–in this case, the orange elephant ear sponge–keeping in mind a clean, uncluttered background. He then waits for her to swim into the image.

Based on Michael’s position, his model knows where to position herself and then Michael starts shooting, moving his model up/down/in-out/left-right with finger pointing. The other two divers in the group “just happened” into this image, as generally, they tended to be more in front of the group.

Q:  How was the light balanced properly, getting the light-absorbing orange sponge beautifully illuminated, but also with a rich, blue background and the wreck in ambient light?

As soon as Michael is in place, he tries to immediately get about five or six shots of the main subject, the orange sponge. This allows him to quickly rearrange the strobes, if necessary, to eliminate shadows and give the complete presentation of the main subject.

At this point, he can check the “blueness” of the water and the background, to ascertain if he needs to change the f-stop to make it lighter or darker. Since the light of his strobes will only reach as far as the sponge, it is the f-stop of his camera which will determine how cool or warm the water will appear.  Shutter speed is mostly irrelevant because the use of underwater strobes will freeze any action.

Q:  What are the camera settings used to get this photograph?

The camera setting was ISO 160 with f/5.6 at 1/60 speed. Michael’s strobes are generally set to a mid-range, unless there is a really light background, such as sand, or if it’s very dark, like the underneath of the wreck. The dual strobes were fairly equally spaced apart and behind the lens port, which provide full illumination without harsh shadows. With the full-frame feature of the Canon 5D coupled with the 15 mm wide-angle lens, Michael estimates he was about eight to ten inches (20-25 cm) away from the sponge. One can see the incredible wide angle it provided!  This manner of shooting is called “close focus wide angle” because it focuses upon a subject very close to the len, but yet offers sweeping views.

Of course, it goes without saying that any underwater photographer who gets close to the reef must employ excellent buoyancy skills to avoid harming any of corals, sponges, or marine creatures living within them. Michael’s years of diving experience have taught him how to do so without causing harm. Less experienced underwater photographers should not attempt such shots until they have attained the proper buoyancy skills.

Q: Is the time of day a factor in getting stellar images?

Bonaire's Salt Pier is a popular dive site.The time of day could be a factor, especially for wide-angle photography. On Bonaire, if one wants to shoot a wide-angle image with the sun in the background, such as with the images of Salt Pier, it’s imperative that the dive be done in the afternoon, which is best between 2:00 and 5:00 PM, after the sun has moved to a western position in the sky. This allows a photographer to get the sun bloom but still shoot with an upward angle, which always helps to keep the background uncluttered.

For the Hilma Hooker, Michael was at about 45 feet/14 meters of depth (the wreck sits in about 100 feet/30 meters of water) and shooting with an upward angle. The key for timing this shot actually is less sun-related. It is more important to get to the dive site early–Michael suggests by 7:30 AM at the latest–to beat the crowds that can come later. The visibility will always decrease with additional divers in the water, so to get this type of visibility into an image, shoot early.

Q:  Why return year after year to dive and photograph Bonaire’s reefs?

Michael tells us why he returns so often to Bonaire:

“There are two huge draws for me to Bonaire. The first is the amazing reef life – I so love the macro life (which, unfortunately, I’m not sure many people see as they go blazing across the reef).

“The second is the shore diving – I’m diving with people I know and trust in a very small group at our own schedule. I don’t know of any other place that has that combination.”

— Michael McDonald

About Michael McDonald.

Mike McDonald, returning Bonaire visitor and underwater photographer.

Michael’s professional life was with the United States Air Force and as a Montana Air National Guard officer. He flew an F16 for 28 years and was an instructor pilot for over twenty years.

Michael retired in 2012 after 38 years as a Colonel. But he certainly still keeps busy, as currently, he is a full-time graduate student, working on his second Master’s Degree in history.  He hopes to be accepted into a Ph.D. program soon.

Michael has about 1000 dives under his weight belt; he holds his basic certification along with nitrox certification.  Although he has never gone further with his diving education, he says he tends to be the leader in many of the group’s dives–perhaps a throwback to his military training?

View more of Michael McDonald’s underwater photography from his recent Bonaire visit.


We hope that you are inspired by Michael’s beautiful underwater photography and that it helps to realize that every diver can aspire to do the same!  Be sure to ask your favorite dive operator on Bonaire for tips and assistance when you are next on Bonaire.

(Source:  Bonaire Insider Reporter)

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Susan Davis, Bonaire InsiderSusan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing for The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog. 




The 2018 Calendars are Here Featuring Bonaire’s Underwater and Avian Worlds

This year’s calendars feature Bonaire’s underwater world, as well as the avian world of birds.


It’s September, and that means it is time to start thinking of 2018!  For Bonaire Insider readers, or their Bonairephyle friends, who wish to keep Bonaire in their hearts all year long, there is no better way than to display one of these nature-related Bonaire 2018 wall calendars.  These calendars make the best stocking-stuffers!

Ellen Muller’s Underwater Bonaire 2018.

For those who just can’t get enough of Bonaire’s marine creatures, InfoBonaire is highlighting Ellen Muller’s Underwater Bonaire 2018 Calendar.  Ellen not only takes stunning underwater images, but she manages to find the un-findable!  These calendars actually become collector’s items, because the images are just too wonderful to throw out at the end of the year.

Learn how to order your copy of Ellen’s Underwater Bonaire 2018 Calendar.

The Pure Bonaire 2018 Calendar

To celebrate Bonaire’s membership in the Caribbean Birding Trail, the 2018 Pure Bonaire Calendar is featuring the wide diversity of birds that can be discovered on Bonaire. Most of the various birds illustrated throughout the calendar can be easily seen when traveling around the island.

The Pure Bonaire 2018 Calendar can be ordered individually or in any quantity online, and the calendar normally ships within five business days of placing an order.

Buy the Pure Bonaire 2018 Calendar now.

(Source:  Ellen Muller, Pure Bonaire)

Subscribe to the free Bonaire Insider newsletter:

Susan Davis, Bonaire InsiderSusan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing for The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog. 



Chasing Bonaire’s Corals–Four Tactics to Help Bonaire’s Corals Survive the Coming Heat

With warmer sea temperatures in the coming months, Bonaire’s corals needs some special help from divers.

The third-ever global coral bleaching event.

The good news out of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is that there are indications that the third-ever global coral bleaching, which began in 2015 in all three ocean basins–Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian–is likely slowing or no longer occurring. This is very good news for all divers, as some reefs have been particularly effected by this long ocean-warming-coral-bleaching event.

Scientists will closely monitor sea surface temperatures and bleaching over the next six months to confirm the event’s end. NOAA declared the beginning of the third-ever global coral bleaching event in 2015. Since then, all tropical coral reefs around the world have seen above-normal temperatures, and more than 70 percent experienced prolonged high temperatures that can cause bleaching. U.S. coral reefs were hit hardest, with two years of severe bleaching in Florida and Hawaii, three in the Commonwealth of the Mariana Islands, and four in Guam.

The first global bleaching event was in 1998, during a strong El Nino that was followed by an equally very strong La Nina. A second one occurred in 2010.

“This global coral bleaching event has been the most widespread, longest and perhaps the most damaging on record,” said C. Mark Eakin, NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch Coordinator. “NOAA is working with scientists, resource managers and communities around the world to determine what the true impacts of this event will be on coral reefs.”

Read the entire article: Global coral bleaching event likely ending.

Another great source of information about coral bleaching is the newly released Chasing Corals, available on Netflix.

NOAA's Infographic on how to help corals.


Warmer sea temperatures on Bonaire are coming in the next months.

We here on Bonaire have been particularly lucky during this global event, with only minimal bleaching on an interim basis, and many corals recovering.  But while indications show that the global event is lessening, Bonaire is going into its hottest months of the year, and this is a time when corals can become stressed.

When corals become stressed for any reason, high temperatures of seawater being a prime factor, the corals expel the symbiotic zooxanthellae, single-celled dinoflagellates, that live within them. These little microscopic bits of algae actually provide the color to the corals, but when they are expelled due to the coral’s stress, the coral becomes white, or “bleached.”

On August 21st, 2017, NOAA upgraded the status of Bonaire’s reefs from “Watch” to “Warning” which means that thermal stress is accumulating.  There are two more dire statuses:  Alert Level 1 (bleaching is expected) and Alert Level 2 (significant bleaching expected; mortality likely).

Four tactics for divers to help Bonaire’s corals get through the season of warm sea temperatures.

Divers can assist by employing the following best practices to keep contact with the corals at a minimum.

Use proper buoyance techniques when diving on Bonaire's reefs.

Excellent buoyancy skills!

1.  Employ proper buoyancy.

It’s critical now in the coming months that incidental touches to coral be minimized. Err on the side of caution and put a larger buffer between you and the reef. Breathe regularly to avoid an “up and down” motion that could occur from particularly deep breaths. Divers always need to maintain proper buoyancy, and don’t be bashful about asking for help and tips from your dive guides.

Be sure you are properly weighted for scuba diving.2.  Employ proper weighting.

If you are under-weighted, you will be struggling your entire dive. If you are over-weighted, you will sink to the bottom substrate and be kicking around in the corals. Divers need to be optimally weighted to enjoy their dives to the maximum. Again, check with your dive facility for tips; all those who work in Bonaire’s dive industry want to help you get properly weighted!

Keep a mental image of where your fin tips are. Don't be this diver with his fins in the sand.

This diver’s fin placement is not something to emulate!

3.  Keep a mental image of your fin tips.

Don’t get so enthralled with what is in front of your eyes, that you forget about what your fin tips are doing! Don’t be the diver in this image, with his fins in the sand. Here on Bonaire, there are many organisms that live in the sand as well as on the coral reefs, so keep their well being in mind, and have a mental image of where your entire body is–including all gear–in relation to the reef and/or bottom.

Stay well above the reef when shooting images or video.

This photographer is using good judgment and keeping a good buffer zone between the reef and her camera.

4.  If shooting with a camera, add in a buffer zone and use your zoom.

Sometimes underwater photographers get a bad rap, but many times it is deserved!  If you are shooting either still images or video on your dives, be sure to keep a little larger buffer zone between you and the reefs in the coming months, and use your camera’s zoom capabilities.

For another perspective, Bruce Bowker of Carib Inn has published an excellent post that encompasses all of these main points.

Recent research on Bonaire has indicated that Bonaire might just have one of the world’s most resilient reefs, as recovery from stressful events has far out-paced mortality, when compared with other reef ecosystems.  Let’s help our reefs stay resilient in the coming months as they endure warmer sea temperatures.


Susan Davis, Bonaire InsiderSusan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing for The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog. 

Why Scuba Dive? 12 Reasons Women Should Learn to Dive

Why Women Should Learn to Dive.

As a member of the female gender myself, and also a member of the world’s SCUBA diving community for over thirty years, I can say I wholeheartedly agree with Melinda Crow’s reasons listed below as to why women should dive. Read on!

Why Scuba Dive? 12 Reasons Women Should Learn to DiveI can’t imagine my life without scuba diving. I have seen and experienced things far beyond my original expectations, and I never want it to end. Last year we met a woman in her eighties diving in Florida. She was diving with her daughter, who carried her gear for her. The daughter told us that she only carried the gear because her mom had had hip replacement surgery the year before. Seeing them made my heart sing!

Worldwide scuba certification agency PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors), cites that only 36% of all divers are women. I was actually a bit surprised by that number. I would have guessed the number was lower, at least among U.S. divers. I frequently see higher numbers of European women divers when we dive on Bonaire.

Woman diving on BonaireAnd now, with some background information provided, here’s my favorite five reasons from the list of 12 as to why women should learn to dive:

1. There are no phones.

The ability to escape the demands and chaos of the digital world for an hour at a time is my favorite reason for diving.

This is one of my personal favorites. Being able to “disconnect” for an hour or so is certainly a luxury these days!

2.  We are actually better at it than most guys.

Most guys that scuba dive frequently with women will tell you that women divers are better at buoyancy control and at air consumption than men. Gary used to think my air gauges were wrong because I always have more air left in my tank than he does. After I easily outlasted a seasoned dive master on an 80-minute shallow dive with plenty of air left in my tank he realized that I simply breath more efficiently than most guys.

Well, I will probably take a little flack for including this one, but after actively teaching both men and women to dive for many years, I can agree that women “get” the whole issue of buoyancy much more quickly than men!Red seahorse on a rope sponge on Bonaire.

3.  Seahorses.

This is actually a reason for anybody to want to dive. What’s not to love about a seahorse?

Can’t think of anyone who will disagree with this one, or the one following! Seahorses, turtles, and all the other wonderful marine life are the reasons we dive!

4.  Turtles.

I have been known to laugh out loud underwater (yes, that’s possible) at the leisurely antics of sea turtles. I think it may have been the deciding factor for my sister-in-law to start diving. After encountering them while snorkeling in Hawaii, she made the plunge to have a deeper look beneath the waves.

5.  Guys can’t save the oceans by themselves.

Getting beneath the waves for a first-hand look at trash accumulations, coral bleaching, and damage caused by ships is the best way to realize that the oceans need all the help we can all muster.

People protect what they love. The more people who find a love for the oceans and the world’s coral reefs, the better off the oceans and reefs will be!

Read the entire article and the remaining 7 reasons Why Women Should Learn to Dive


How to get certified on Bonaire?

In case this piques the interest of women who snorkel while on Bonaire, think about upgrading and joining the men-folk on their dives!  Nearly all of Bonaire’s fine dive centers have female instructors on staff, who can assist with the special considerations for women.

Come on, gals, try it out and get certified!  You’ll only regret not doing it!


Susan Davis, Bonaire InsiderSusan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing for The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog. 

2017 Coral Spawning Schedule–Making Baby Corals in the Old-Fashioned Way and the New!

2017 Coral Spawning Predictions for Bonaire.

It is always this time of year when the thoughts of all divers on Bonaire (including those who have plans to visit shortly) turn to making babies. Baby corals, that is! August, September, and October are prime months to witness this miracle of undersea life as many invertebrates are spawning.

Spawning timetable for corals and other invertebrates.

Thanks again to Carmabi, and many years of divers providing eye-witness research, there is now a fairly accurate timetable which can assist with predicting when corals and other invertebrates will spawn in the southern Caribbean.

Download the 2017 predictions for coral spawning, available in PDF.

To see the spawning, and witness baby corals being made in the old-fashioned way, it is recommended to plan on spending lots of time underwater during prime spawning forecasts.  STINAPA has specified these dates as being “hotspots” of potential spawning activity:

Most of our star corals spawn 6-8 nights after the full moon in September and/or October (when the sea surface temperature is the highest). Since the full moon falls on the evenings of September 5th (actually early morning on the 6th) and October 5th, the spawn will occur one week later. Those who have always wanted to see coral spawning for themselves, this October will be a good time to visit, and especially the night of October 12th! Both months will probably have spawning corals and different corals spawn at different times.

Coral gardening makes babies with new technology.

But luckily for the world’s coral reefs, making babies in the old-fashioned way is not the only manner anymore! Bonaire has been at the forefront of testing new technology which allows coral gardening with its Coral Restoration Foundation.

2017 Coral Spawning Schedule--Making Baby Corals in the Old-Fashioned Way and the New!

A new study from the University of Miami finds coral restoration efforts are beneficial.

According to a new study from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, coral gardening, the process of replanting laboratory-raised coral fragments to restore coral populations, is proving to be a benefit for Caribbean reefs. An article from CaribJournal recently cited the study:

The school said the research had important implications for the long-term survival of reefs worldwide, which have been in global decline. “Our study showed that current restoration methods are very effective,” said UM Rosenstiel school coral biologist Stephanie Schopmeyer, the lead author of the study.

According to the findings, “current restoration methods are not causing excess damage to donor colonies as a result of removing coral tissue to propagate new coral in the lab, and that once outplanted, corals behave just as wild colonies do.”

This was the first study to collect baseline coral restoration survival and productivity data at regional scales.

So, it really doesn’t matter if new corals are produced in the eons-old manner, or if they are propagated using today’s technology, the end result will be healthier reefs for the world, including Bonaire.

(Sources: Carmabi, CaribJournal, STINAPA)

Susan Davis, Bonaire InsiderSusan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing for The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog. 

History of Bonaire’s Hilma Hooker Shipwreck

Bonaire's famous shipwreck and dive site, The Hilma Hooker.

The Hilma Hooker became part of Bonaire’s diving history over 30 years ago.

We enjoyed this recent retelling of the history of Bonaire’s Hilma Hooker dive site, by Scuba Diving Magazine.  We hope you like it as much as we did!

The origins of this popular dive site are the stuff of diving folklore — you’ll never hear the whole tale the same way twice. Read on to find out how this drug-smuggling vessel caught up in red-tape and legal limbo found its way to the ocean floor and the hearts of Bonaire’s divers.

History of Bonaire\'s Hilma Hooker Shipwreck


The Hilma Hooker is a 236-foot Dutch freighter built in Krimpen aan den IJssel, the Netherlands. It was originally christened the Midsland on May 20, 1951.  This ship would change hands — and names — multiple times over the next two decades.

One of the most in-depth accounts of the Hooker’s troubled months prior to sinking comes from Bruce Bowker, of Bruce Bowker’s Carib Inn. According to Bowker, local dive operators were quick to recognize the gift that the tide had left on their doorstep and appealed to the government to use the ship to create a new dive site. Despite an outpouring of public support, nothing could be done. The Hilma Hooker was evidence in an active case for the Attorney General’s office of the Netherland Antilles. And if the owners were found not guilty, the ship would need to be returned in the same condition as when the authorities confiscated it — something that would be hard to do if the ship was sitting on the sea floor.

On September 12, 1984, the ship began taking on water. Its pumps had failed, and the Hilma Hooker began to sink. At 9:08 a.m. she rolled over onto her starboard side and slipped beneath the surface two minutes later.

(Source:  Scuba Diving Magazine)


Susan Davis, Bonaire InsiderSusan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing for The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog. 

Cargill and STINAPA Collaborate to Protect Corals Under Bonaire’s Salt Pier

Relocating corals under Bonaire’s Salt Pier.

Salt Pier’s temporary closing.

Late in March, the Bonaire Insider informed its readers of the then-impending closure of Bonaire’s Salt Pier dive site for a temporary period while Cargill made renovations to the pier.

Last week, STINAPA and a group of assistants dove tirelessly under Bonaire’s Salt Pier in an effort to mitigate potential damage to the corals in that location.

Old anchor chains were scheduled for removal, but were encrusted with live corals.

As part of the renovations for the major pier repairs, two huge 40-year-old anchor chains, both encrusted with living corals, were to be removed. Cargill requested STINAPA’s advice as to how to minimize damage, and they agreed to leave most of the old chains in place, but instead lay the new chains next to them.  In order to clear a path for the new chains, live corals and sponges had to be relocated to a safe area nearby.

Corals and sponges were relocated to nearby areas or to coral nurseries.

STINAPA relocates corals at Bonaire's Salt PierWith the expertise of Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire and the help of number of volunteers, the STINAPA Junior Rangers, and many private sector divers, STINAPA proceeded to relocate a large number of hard corals, soft corals, and sponges, which would otherwise have faced certain death. The live corals were moved by hand while on SCUBA to nearby safe zones. For moving the larger colonies, the marine park rangers used lift bags.

A few of the corals were transported by boat to coral restoration sites at Buddy Dive and Harbour Village. In the coming months STINAPA will be monitoring the survival rate of the corals and sponges that were relocated.

(Source:  STINAPA)


Susan Davis, Bonaire InsiderSusan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing on The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog. 

Mating Seahorse Videos–A Once in a Lifetime Experience?

Is shooting video of mating seahorses a once-in-a-lifetime experience?

Not so, if you are on Bonaire!

Seahorses are high on the bucket list of most Bonaire diving visitors, right along with frogfish, turtles, rays, and other elusive sea creatures. Many are happy to be shown a seahorse by their dive guides, but they are truly delighted when they stumble across one on their own, as the creatures are usually very camouflaged.

So, you can imagine the happiness when your dive takes you to an area of the reef where there are two seahorses! Eureka, you have hit pay dirt! But wait, it gets better, way better, when the two seahorses start the dance of love right before your eyes.

Coming across two mating seahorses.

mating seahorses, image by Ron WilseyThis is exactly what occurred to Ron and Nancy Wilsey back in early November, 2016, at a dive site on the southern leeward side (location has been intentionally omitted to protect the privacy of these seahorses). Nancy first located a yellow seahorse, and, while Ron set up to film it, she found a second seahorse in the area.

A few days later they returned to see if they could find the couple once again, and found the seahorses involved in extreme courtship! The female wrapped her tail around the male and appeared to open his pouch.

Just a few moments later, they met in mid-water, where they went belly-to-belly and eggs were exchanged.

An amazing experience, and one which you’d think could never be repeated again! But not so for Ron and Nancy! Later in the month, friends of theirs shared their find of seahorses at another southern dive site, so off Ron and Nancy went to see if they could find them.

Finding a second set of amorous seahorses.

But this time, it was Ron who found the yellow seahorse. Not to be outdone, Nancy continued to look for a second seahorse, knowing that many times there are two in close proximity. Sure enough, a second, rust-colored seahorse was found. After a wonderful vacation, Ron and Nancy returned to their El Paso, Illinois (USA) home for the holidays, with many memories of wonderful dives on Bonaire.

Returning to find yet more mating seahorses.

But the story doesn’t end there. The Wilseys own a vacation home on Bonaire, which allowed them to return in early 2017 for an extended visit, getting them away from the cold and snow of winter in Illinois.

They quickly set out to check on their two sets of loving seahorses, and unfortunately, the first set had relocated and was not to be found anywhere.

However, Ron and Nancy were delighted to find their second set of seahorses was still in the same area, and, on February 19, 2017, engaged once again in some lovemaking which Ron was able to catch on video!

The chances of seeing this happen once in your lifetime are small. But Ron and Nancy seem to swim upon lots of sex in the sea; we might need to start calling them the Seahorse Whisperers.

But it still doesn’t end there. Yet again, Bonaire’s Seahorse Whisperers said a final farewell to the loving couple with this video of “almost” mating behavior, filmed a few weeks before their departure from Bonaire. At the risk of being anthropomorphic, we can only imagine their communications: “Honey, can we just cuddle today?”

With so much procreation activity happening under the sea, it’s comforting to know there will be many baby seahorses populating the reefs around Bonaire.

Ron and Nancy Wilsey, long-time repeat visitors to Bonaire.

This most recent visit was Ron and Nancy Wilsey’s 29th visit to Bonaire, and they are two-time Bonaire ambassadors. On this season’s visit, Ron and Nancy logged 120 dives together, and they completed a landmark dive, their 830th dive just here on Bonaire.

“You can be accepted and blend with nature if you are patient and approach on nature’s terms.”

— Ron Wilsey

The two work as a team–Nancy is normally scouting for critters, while Ron is filming. Ron uses a Canon G16 with a Fantasea housing. The excellent zoom capability allows Ron to keep his distance so as to not interrupt behaviors or alarm the creatures, but still provide fantastic close-up viewing. With any underwater photography or videography, excellent diving buoyancy skills are necessary.

So, are you going to find your own seahorse couple on your next Bonaire vacation? Sound in on the comment section below!

(Source:  Bonaire Insider Reporter, image and videos by Ron and Nancy Wilsey, used with permission)

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Susan Davis, Bonaire InsiderSusan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer.  She also enjoys writing on The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog.


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