Bonaire has been known as a diver's
paradise for decades. Year after year, diving enthusiasts from
around the world flock to the protected waters surrounding this
Netherlands Antilles island.
With more than 80
dive and snorkel sites, as well as 24 dive shops, scattered across
Bonaire, diving is available day and night, whether from the shore
or by boat.
has been a protected marine park since 1979, so snorkelers and
divers must pay usage fees -- $10 and $25, respectively -- to enter
with divers include the Sand Dollar Condominium Resort, Captain
Don's Habitat and the Buddy Dive Resort. The three properties
welcome thousands of divers each year, all of whom want to get in
as many dives as possible during their stay.
My stay at the Sand
Dollar proved comfortable. Although guest units are
situated to best catch trade winds, bedrooms are air-conditioned
nonetheless. And guest kitchens come fully equipped, but an on-site
restaurant serves three meals a day.
The diving and
snorkeling right offshore was excellent; the Sand Dollar is
adjacent to the Bari Reef, which is home to more than 300 species
Shore dives to the
reef are one of the main selling points of the resort.
Andre Nahr, owner
and director of the Bonaire Dive & Adventure dive shop at the
Sand Dollar, said he sees many repeat divers.
"The divers like
Bonaire very much," he said. "They like the people of Bonaire and
the ease of diving here. Any place they enter the water, they can
experience a beautiful dive."
The Sand Dollar
offers Ocean's Classroom, a discovery program for kids that
combines snorkeling with hands-on lessons about the ocean and its
flora and fauna.
What's on, onshore
visitors to Bonaire are increasingly interested in what's offered
onshore, as well. In terms of accommodations, the island -- even
with just eight hotels and a ninth, an all-inclusive Divi resort,
to be built in 2009 -- can fit most budgets, from backpacker to
Visitors can bike,
hike and drive across the diverse island. Activities include tours
of the 13,500-acre Washington Slagbaai National Park wildlife
sanctuary, where birds, lizards, goats, donkeys and iguanas can be
viewed in their natural habitats, as well as windsurfing at Lac
Bay, beach horseback rides, sea kayaking and
Bonaire's capital and largest town, home to historical buildings
and a growing nightlife scene, is a magnet for visitors, especially
when a festival is on.
A boom in
cruise-ship calls is boosting both Bonaire's economy and its
leisure travel market visibility. For the coming 2007-2008 tourism
high season, local tourism officials are forecasting more than
160,000 cruise passenger arrivals.
growth, especially with cruise ship calls, is essential, according
to Ronella Croes, Bonaire's tourism director.
important that Bonaire not be taken over by the large cruise
ships," she said. "We are marketing to the smaller ships from 100
to 300 passengers in size."
That said, Croes
acknowledged that many jobs will be created by the tourism boom
over the next few years, but training locals on its importance, and
in the service culture, will also be key.
professional people greet and serve our visitors is the most
important thing we can do," she said.
information or reservations at the Sand Dollar, call (800) 288-4773
or visit www.divesanddollar.com. For more on Bonaire, visit www.infobonaire.com.
contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to [email protected].