Category Archives: Watersports

Is Your Sunscreen Harming Bonaire’s Reefs?

The Jury is In–Chemical Sunscreens Are Guilty of Harming the Reefs.

It was just two years ago when scientists began increased discussions about the possibility of chemical sunscreens harming reef environments. Always at the forefront of reef preservation, the island of Bonaire, coordinated by STINAPA and funded by the island and national governments and WWF, commissioned research to further investigate this potential threat to reefs.
Dr. Diana Slijkerman of the Wageningen Marine Research Unit, in the European Netherlands, presented her findings at a recent Connecting People with Nature presentation by STINAPA. The use of chemical sunscreens is just one more threat to reef habitats around the world.

Reefs around the world are already stressed. They are dealing with many different threats, including:

Now humans are adding chemical sunscreens to the world’s already burdened reefs.

There are two main types of sunscreen.

Chemical Sunscreens.

Bonaire sunscreen awareness program.The popular ones used today are chemical-based. They might have, as their active ingredient, one (or possibly a combination) of these chemicals:

  • Oxybenzone
  • Avobenzone
  • Octisalate
  • Octocrylene
  • Homosalate
  • Octinoxate
  • Helioplex
  • Parsol 1789
  • 4-MBC
  • Mexoryl SX and XL
  • Tinosorb S and M
  • Uvinul T 150
  • Uvinul A Plus

Note these chemicals may be found under other names as well.

These chemicals do not block the sun’s rays like physical sunscreens, but instead, they allow the skin to absorb the UV rays, transforming them into non-damaging wavelengths of light or heat.

Physical Sunscreens.

Physical sunscreens prevent UV rays from hitting the skin at all, by creating a reflective barrier using naturally occurring minerals. (Remember the days when lifeguards smeared white-colored zinc oxide over their noses?) These reflective barriers simply bounce UV rays away, so no sunlight is penetrating into the skin:

  • Zinc Oxide
  • Titanium Oxide

Different strokes for different folks–various regions use different chemicals in their sunscreens.

Dr. Slijkerman’s research uncovered an unusual fact. By sampling water in Lac Bay–which is somewhat contained by the barrier reef and not constantly getting refreshed by ocean currents as occurs on the coastlines or at Klein Bonaire–she tested for the presence of chemical sunscreens. Surprisingly, she could determine the origin of the people using Lac Bay at the time of sampling, simply by identifying which chemical was prevalent in the water.

Chemical sunscreens manufactured in the EU often use octocrylene for the active ingredient. Chemical sunscreens manufactured in the United States generally tend to use oxybenzone as the most popular active ingredient. Since oxybenzone was also the one chemical originally cited as having potentially deleterious effects on the reef, this is the chemical upon which high focus was given during the research.

Oxybenzone, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Actually, there is nothing good about oxybenzone.

Read the label on your sunscreen to see if it is chemical based.Oxybenzone acts as an endocrine disrupter.

Relative to reef environments, oxybenzone harms or kills coral larvae by inducing deformities.

Remember that with chemical sunscreens your skin absorbs all the ingredients as well–just imagine what the endocrine disrupters do to your body!

With many chemical sunscreens, the chemicals stay intact and are eliminated from your body via fluid waste after passing through major organs. That means, even if you are just sitting on the beach, the chemicals from your sunscreen are still added to the environment via wastewater.  Or, simply taking a shower at the end of the day washes additional contaminants into the ecosystem. Entering the ocean slathered with chemical sunscreens is causing real environmental damage.

Oxybenzone induces DNA damage and viral infections of corals.

Viruses live on coral reefs, just like they do in any terrestrial environment. The recent research has indicated that viral infections of corals are on the rise, and a correlation has been established between oxybenzone and increased infections.

Oxybenzone bio-accumulates in the tissues.

Oxybenzone may increase coral bleaching.

A 2008 study indicated that coral bleaching was exacerbated by viral infections (Danovero, Robert, et al.  “Sunscreens Cause Coral Bleaching by Promoting Viral Infections.” Environmental Health Perspectives 116.4 (2008) 441-447.)

A further study in 2016 indicated that the endocrine disrupters affected corals (as well as fish, mammals, algae, crustaceans, and humans) with

  • reduced neurological function
  • development disruption
  • cell/cancer proliferation
  • DNA damage
  • coral bleaching
  • oxidative stress in the presence of sunlight

(Downs, C.A., Kramarsky-Winter, E., Segal, R. et al.  Arch Environ Contam Toxicol (2016) 70. 265.)

How much is too much?

  • Effects on corals were reported at oxybenzone concentrations of 72 ng/Liter.
  • Bonaire’s water samples taken from Lac Bay contained an oxybenzone concentration of 1,54 ng/Liter.  (ng=nanogram)

What if my sunscreen doesn’t list oxybenzone?

It is possible that the ingredients in your sunscreen use different chemicals, or they might use a different name for oxybenzone.

Furthermore, just because your particular sunscreen uses another chemical to provide sun protection, it still can be causing harm. There simply is not enough data yet on all the various chemicals used by sunscreen manufacturers to be sure.

How can I check if my sunscreen is chemical-based?

If either titanium or zinc oxides are listed, the sunscreen is good to go!The best way is to read the active ingredients on the label. If you see titanium or zinc oxides as the active ingredients, you are good to go!

If you see anything else, it’s best to search for another alternative.

A very simple test (although not foolproof) is to read the instructions for use: If your sunscreen says to apply it 15 to 20 minutes before sun exposure, then chances are it is a chemical-based sunscreen, and it’s best to find a natural alternative utilizing zinc and titanium oxides as physical barriers.

What can I do for sun protection while visiting Bonaire?

There are a number of methods visitors can employ to reduce the effects of hazardous chemicals in the ocean, while still having proper sun protection.

Choose your sun protection wisely.

  • Never use sunscreens which list oxybenzone or benzophenone-3.
  • It’s probably best to avoid sunscreens which list the other chemicals mentioned above, as there is not enough known about the potential for damage to corals.

  • Do use sunscreen products using natural minerals as a physical barrier to UV rays (zinc or titanium) such as the sunscreen produced by the local Bonaire company, Tropical Nature. Their sunscreen product provides SPF 40, and UV protection of 98%. It’s non-toxic to the environment and rich with essential oils and natural emollients. The Tropical Nature sunscreen, along with their other health and wellness products, can be found at MultiShop at the Sand Dollar Shopping Mall in Hato as well as at the MG Store on Kaya Grandi in Kralendijk.

Be aware of false marketing claims and read the ingredients.

Many sunscreen manufacturers these days use marketing ploys to make you think their products are environmentally friendly. Use of the phrases “all natural” or “safe for the reef” might be true. And then again, they might not. Read the labels.

If engaging in any watersport, wear sun protective clothing.

If swimming, diving, or snorkeling, wear a full-body skin or wetsuit, such as the ones sold at Carib Inn. A thin, lycra hood will also avoid sunburn to the neck. Utilizing such items will drastically reduce the amount of sunscreen needed and you’ll enjoy excellent sun protection, without worrying about sunburns ruining your vacation.

If you’re lounging on the beach, remember it’s not healthy anymore to have that nice tanned look, so check out SPF clothing. If you are not yet familiar with SPF or UPF clothing, there is a great guide to finding the right sun protection clothing.

Wear hats to avoid using chemical sunscreen when in tropical reef environments.Wear a hat.

Wearing a hat significantly reduces the amount of sun that can reach your face. Floppy, broad-rimmed beach hats are always in vogue for the ladies, while what guy wouldn’t want to wear a tropic-weight version of a Crocodile Dundee hat, complete with optional neck protection?

Help Bonaire keep our reefs the healthiest in the Caribbean.

So, if you only take away a few thoughts from this information, let them be these:
  • Read the label of your sunscreen. If it lists any of the chemicals noted above or requires that you apply it prior to sun exposure, it is most likely chemical-based and is probably harming Bonaire’s reefs.
  • Buy natural sunscreen products. These use a physical barrier of zinc oxide or titanium oxide to provide complete, immediate protection (no need to apply 15 to 20 minutes prior to sun exposure).
  • Plan to wear sun protective clothing and hats, or wetsuits or skins, to reduce your skin’s sun exposure instead of using sunscreen.

(Source:  Bonaire Insider Reporter)

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. 




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)

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. 

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)

View other Bonaire videos


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.


Bonaire’s Salt Pier Temporarily Closed for Diving Due to Scheduled Repairs

Salt Pier is temporarily closed for diving during repairs.

Cargill has announced that repairs are scheduled to be made to Bonaire’s Salt Pier.  These repairs will be conducted between April 3 and May 15, 2017.

Bonaire's Salt Pier on the premises of CargillRestrictions on activity at the pier during renovations.

During this time-frame, no ships will be docked at the pier, but also, for their own safety, divers will not be allowed under the pier while renovations are taking place.

Find other shore diving options.

Divers need not despair, there are plenty of other shore diving locations along the leeward shore.  Check out the dive and snorkel site map.

(Source:  Cargill)


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.


Carib Inn Expands Retail Store

Carib Inn augments their selection of quality dive equipment on Bonaire with the expansion of their retail store.

The retail store at Bruce Bowker’s Carib Inn has always been well known on Bonaire for great prices on quality dive and snorkel equipment.  The store is entirely staffed by PADI instructors, insuring that shoppers will receive a perfect fit or advice on best equipment for their own personal needs.

Knocking out walls leads to more space and display areas.

Now, Carib Inn has expanded their retail store, so there is even more opportunity to have great dive gear stocked on Bonaire at good prices.  After spending quite some time on calculating how to expand the store, it was finally decided to tear down a wall.  It took a few days of planning, and a few evenings of work, so as not disrupt daily services, but it is done and is looking spiffy.  The biggest challenge was keeping the dust contained when breaking the concrete wall, but all went well.

Wetsuits are featured in the new alcove.

The store now has a much more open feeling and a lot more space. The new area features all the wetsuits and related items with women’s on the left side and men’s on the right. When I visited recently, I was informed that additional new displays and lighting are ordered and on their way to Bonaire.

We found a great value on booties!

While in the store, we found a really great value, and so we want to share it with our Bonaire Insider readers.  Currently, Carib Inn has booties for snorkeling or diving at only $39.00, but with a buy one, get two special. Different sizes can be purchased on this special, effectively making the price $19.50 per pair! If you are on Bonaire, and need some foot protection for shore diving or shore snorkeling, check out the thick-soled booties at Carib Inn. Be sure to bring your fins to check the fit.

Carib Inn is conveniently located at J. A. Abraham Blvd 46, with ample parking.

(Source:  Bonaire Insider Reporter)


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.


Precautionary Advisory for Jellies (Jellyfish) on Bonaire

The season of jellyfish on Bonaire–take precautionary measures in the coming weeks.

March and April are normally the months when more jellies (also commonly referred to as jellyfish, although they are not fish) can be encountered in the waters surrounding Bonaire. This year, it appears the season of jellies is starting earlier than normal.

Why are jellies more prevalent at this time of year?

Recently, through a combination of plankton blooms, which attracts jellies, and light wind reversals, large numbers of jellies washed up on Bonaire’s leeward (west) coast, including some that have painful and nasty stings. Luckily, plankton blooms are rare and short-lived and they mainly occur in colonies on the South American coast. Due to recent reversal of winds, they have been swept toward the ABC islands. The good news is that plankton and jellies are favorite foods for many turtles, rays, and whale sharks.

Jellies which can be found on Bonaire during jelly season.

Portuguese Man-of-War.

In mid-February, a Portuguese Man-of-War was spotted on the beach at Sorobon. It is a cnidarian with a float of up to 9″/25 cm, filled with a gas. This “float”catches the wind to “sail.” These jellies have very thin, very long tentacles which can reach quite deep. Usually the Portuguese Man-of-War lives in colonies far out to sea. During wind reversals they can be swept in closer to the coastline. A sting is extremely painful.

Bonaire Banded Box Jelly.

In February, the full moon occurred in conjunction with a plankton bloom and slight wind reversals, and these coinciding events hearkened the mating period of the box jelly, Tamoya Ohboya. These jellies mate in the evening near the coast, and swimming is not recommended during these times. Tamoya Ohboya is a translucent “balloon” swimming sideways. The sting is very painful and can be dangerous. Each month, during the first 10 days after the full moon, a few of these box jellies spotted on Bonaire.

Comb Jellies.

But it is not all bad news!  Comb jellies are oval-shaped jellies with a brightly striped “comb” which is used to propel themselves.  These jellies do not sting and they are favorite food for sea turtles! The spot winged comb jelly glows in the dark when something moves–just wave your hand in the water when you see them. A beautiful sight!

Avoiding stings from jellies.

Be aware of the jelly season, and try to avoid being in the water during prime mating time (in the evening hours ten days after a full moon).  When diving or snorkeling, be sure to wear a wet suit or skin. If you observe any Portuguese Man-of-War or any box jelly, do exit the water as soon as possible.

Medical assistance and first-aid for jelly stings.

If you do receive a sting from a jelly, first-aid procedures may include immersing the area in hot salt water or dousing with vinegar (although this is not recommended for the sting of the Portuguese Man-of-War).  Many dive shops also have Sting No More available in their retail stores.  Do not use urine or fresh water, and do not scratch or rub the afflicted area.

The San Francisco Hospital on Bonaire (telephone: (+599) 715-8900) also has protocols in place for bites and stings, including those of jellies.  If necessary, do report to the emergency room at the hospital for treatment and assistance.

(Source:  STINAPA)



Reef Collapse at Keepsake Dive Site, Klein Bonaire

Keepsake dive site at Klein Bonaire experienced an underwater collapse in January, 2017.

At Keepsake on the southern side of Klein Bonaire, a large section of the reef recently collapsed in an underwater landslide. On the morning of January 20th, 2017, STINAPA personnel investigated the site and made their assessment.

Precautions should be taken when diving and snorkeling at Keepsake.

The site is unstable and STINAPA advises that divers and snorkelers stay away from the area both to protect people as well as prevent further collapse of the reef.

underwater avalanche at Keepsake, Klein Bonaire dive siteDetails of the underwater landslide.

The collapsed area is approximately 65″/20m southwest of the mooring buoy, starting at a depth of 40″/12m. The collapsed zone extends to a depth of at least 130″/40m. The total length of the collapsed zone is at least 100″/30m, if not longer. The width of the collapse is approximately 52″/16m near the top, and 92″/28m wide at a depth of 75″/23m, widening further at deeper depths.

Unfortunately, there were very few living corals left within the affected area. STINAPA personnel attempted to right a few toppled corals that remained, but deemed that the area was too unstable to work safely, as there is a risk of further reef collapse.

Reasons why reefs may collapse.

These types of reef collapses on steep slopes are a natural occurrence on such sloping reefs as at Keepsake, and they are most likely caused by reef bio-erosion. Living organisms such as sponges, worms, urchins and fish break down coral structures by boring, drilling, rasping and scraping the reef. There is speculation that sound waves from large passing ships may exacerbate this reef instability and trigger the collapse. However, there is no evidence to support this claim at the moment. Another attributing factor could be a 4.8 magnitude earthquake that occurred east of the ABCs on December 28th, 2016 at a depth of .27 mile/440m, which may have played a role in destabilizing the reef shelf. At the moment there is no singular, clear cause of this collapse.

Specific measurements of collapsed area.

The collapse begins at depths ranging from 40-43″/12 to 13m, and extends beyond 131″/40m. There is an outcrop of coral that divides the start of the collapsed zone; the northwest side is 20″/6m wide, the dividing coral ledge is 13″/4m wide, and the southeast side is also 20″/6m wide (these measurements were taken at a depth of between 42-46″/13 and 14m). STINAPA personnel measured the width of the collapsed area at 60″/18m where the collapsed zone was 85″/26m wide, and at 92″/28m where the collapsed zone was 75″/23m wide.

Once again, the reef at Keepsake dive site at Klein Bonaire is not considered stable at this time due to the collapse.  For their own safety, as well as the reef area, it is recommended that divers and snorkelers avoid this dive site for the time-being.

(Source:  STINAPA)




Upcoming Nature Events with Washington Park Hike and Reef Fish Identification

Washington Park Hike and Reef Fish Identification Course offer fun and education.

Hiking in Washington Park on Sunday, February 26th, 2017.

Join STINAPA on Sunday February 26th at 7:00 AM for a Mondi Sùit Hike in Washington Slagbaai National Park. Participants will meet at the park entrance at 7:00 AM.

What will I see?

Hiking in Washington Park, Bonaire

Hiking in Washington Park

This will be a hike of approximately 6 km/3.75 mile, and is rated as an easy hike. It’s also a hotspot for bird-watching. During the hike, participants will have a view of Boka Chikitu and Seru Grandi. You will also pass alongside Saliña Matijs, which many times provides views of Bonaire’s flamingos.

How do I register?

If you would like to participate, please call STINAPA at 717-8444 to reserve your spot. There is space for only 25 people and the participation fee is $10.00 per person. Remember to wear good hiking shoes and a hat, wear sunscreen, and bring your water bottle.

Reef Fish Identification at CIEE on March 6th, 13th, 20th, and 27th, 2017.

Each year, CIEE offers a fun and educational lecture series on Reef Fish Identification, and it is especially suited for divers and snorkelers who want to gain a better knowledge of all those fish they see while enjoying Bonaire’s reefs.

Reef Fish Identification Course

Slender File Fish

This is a four-part lecture series taking place at 6:30 PM on March 6th, 13th, 20th, and March 27, 2017. CIEE lectures are held at their headquarters at Kaya Gobernador N. Debrot #26. All presentations are free, and many fill up quickly, so be sure to arrive with plenty of time.

Bonaire's Calendar of Events

(Source:  STINAPA and CIEE)



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