It might not have been your first thought, but the Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire is ideal for all levels of diving, including technical diving! Located close to Aruba and Curacao, Bonaire offers great diving conditions year round.
Bonaire is a small island (294 km2/113 mi2), located less than a hundred miles off the northern coast of South America, near western Venezuela. It was claimed by the Spaniards in 1499 by Alonso de Ojeda and Americo Vespucci. Its current status is as a special municipality of the Netherlands, and its resident population is around 21,000 people.
The island’s position just outside of the hurricane belt guarantees near-perfect diving conditions year round, with an average water temperature of 27°C/81°F and an average visibility of 30 m/100 ft. Diving conditions on the west side of the island are pretty much perfect — sometimes as good as “pool diving conditions.” Bonaire also has a sister island called Klein Bonaire (“Small Bonaire”) located half a mile away from the main island, and it’s been fully protected from development for almost 20 years.
For technical divers, there are a few sites in Bonaire that you simply can’t miss.
If you’re looking for endless walls, your search will end at ‘Karpata’ and ‘LaDania’s Leap’. Both of them are located in the North of the island and are easily accessible from shore. Dives of up to 150 m/500 ft have been done in this specific area.
When looking for unique underwater topography, you should try visiting the double reef system which starts at the ‘Lake’ and runs all the way to ‘Pink Beach.’ This unique formation provides two separate reefs divided by a sand channel with rare opportunities to spot eagle rays feeding in the sand, and technical divers will love the largely unexplored second reef.
If you love history and enjoy searching for old anchors, look no further than ‘Red Slave.’ At this dive site, you will find anchors from the 1700s and 1800s, most of them located between 40 to 60 m/130 to 200 ft—but some others as deep as 130 m/430 ft!
The island of Klein Bonaire offers a wide range of possibilities as well. Both the shallow and deep areas of ‘Forest’ offer some of the best diving on the island. ‘Monk’s Haven’ offers a practically untouched second deep reef, and ‘Just a Nice Dive’ offers a fine selection of recently discovered ancient anchors with a depth range from 50 to 80 m/165 to 265 ft.
Wrecks of Bonaire
Arguably, the most famous wreck on the island is the Hilma Hooker. IThe 72- m/235-ft-long cargo boat was transporting drugs when she experienced engine problems close to Bonaire in 1984. After some consultation with marine park and dive operators, authorities decided to use the contraband ship as an artificial wreck. She lies on her starboard side at 30 m/100 ft deep and is accessible from shore. Hilma Hooker is a great recreational wreck dive or technical decompression dive for those qualified to penetrate wrecks.
Now, if we want to talk about a wreck only accessible for technical divers, we would have to talk about the famous Wreck of the Windjammer or Mairi Bhan (Gaelic for “Bunny Mary”), a 72 m/239 ft square rigged-bark that was hit by a terrible storm the December 7, 1912 while passing Bonaire. She is located in the Northern part of the island and is lying on her starboard side at the depth of 60 m/200 ft with two of the masts (one with a crow’s nest attached) resting at the bottom slanting down and away in deeper water.
One hundred and five years ago, the Mari Bahn, a three-masted merchant vessel, was taking a full load of asphalt tar from Trinidad to Marseille, France, but never made it to her destination. Now all that asphalt lies on top of the sandy bottom creating a unique landscape. While it is true that the wreck is accessible by shore, divers need special permission to dive it. Penetration of the wreck is possible but poses a risk due to the level of deterioration of the ship.
There are some other smaller wrecks on the West side, and most of them are not marked, so take some expert advice from the local divers and visit them!
If you are looking for a place to stay in Bonaire with full technical diving support, check out Buddy Dive Resort and Buddy Dive Tek. Besides their Drive & Dive package that includes everything needed for a week of diving (accommodation, breakfast, unlimited air/nitrox, and vehicle rental), they can support a wide variety of technical diving needs: from GUE courses to all types of O2 and trimix blends, GUE standard gases, aluminum cylinders for CCR, bail-out tanks, sofnolime, sofnodive, and equipment for diving doubles or CCR.
Over the years, Buddy Dive Tek has built itself a reputation on Bonaire as the premier technical diving facility on the island.
Buddy Dive Resort offers full technical support throughout the year, but one event that is not to miss is the yearly returning Bonaire TeK event. A week fully dedicated to technical diving with special guests from several agencies and demo sessions from a variety of manufacturers.
Immerge yourself in the world of technical diving and join Bonaire TeK 2023 from September 30 – October 7, 2023.
For more information visit www.buddydive.com/tec.
Enabling a Permanent Human Presence Under the Oceans from 2027
London and Bristol 4 September 2023: DEEP, the ocean technology and exploration company whose purpose is to ‘Make Humans Aquatic’, announces ambition for a permanent human presence under the Oceans from 2027.
Steve Etherton, President, EMEA of DEEP, said: “We need to preserve the oceans. To do that we need to understand them. The oceans sit at the centre of many of the generational challenges the world is facing, and they also offer opportunities we have not even begun to comprehend. They are the source of at least every other breath1 we take. They influence the weather. They influence the climate. They influence us. Yet, this life-sustaining ecosystem remains surprisingly unknown. Through our innovative technology DEEP will enable scientists to operate at depth for extended periods of time and we hope, in some small way, will contribute to our understanding of this life-giving environment”.
The DEEP System comprises SentinelTM the underwater habitat, and a revolutionary range of submersibles, dive and scientific research equipment. All backed up by technical and human performance training and qualification programmes (DEEP Institute2), and a unique underwater R&D test and operations facility (DEEP Campus).
The Sentinel will be globally classed3 by DNV, the world’s leading classification society for underwater technology and will allow scientists to live underwater at depths of up to 200 meters for up to 28 days at a time. This will give extended access to most of the world’s continental shelves and importantly being able to descend to 200 meters allows access to the entirety of the Epipelagic, or “sunlight”, zone4. The lower limit of the Epipelagic zone is the deepest point at which sunlight penetrates into the ocean and it’s estimated that 90% of marine life is found in this zone. Being able to comprehensively explore the full extent of this part of the ocean rather than just performing incursions from the surface, will represent a step-change in the way scientists can observe, monitor, and understand the oceans.
Following two years of intensive and pioneering research into innovative manufacturing processes and materials science, DEEP is at the advanced stage of technical design and has commenced production. The DEEP system offers a radically more effective way to live and operate underwater than has existed before. Previously, underwater facilities have been temporary and fixed-location. DEEP’s habitat is modular, scalable, autonomous, recoverable, re-configurable and re-deployable.
Sean Wolpert, President, Americas of DEEP said: “Out of sight and out of mind – not having a better understanding of the oceans is no longer an option. DEEP is coming out of stealth mode now as we need to take others on this journey. We are already talking to potential international partners, and others with a long-term view of the needs of the planet, who recognise that the up-side for humanity in preserving and husbanding the oceans is now too great to ignore. Looking at the themes around the emerging new ocean/blue economy we hear of opportunity and solutions in pharmaceutical research, in carbon capture, in innovative medicines. This is about how we can cooperate and can begin to work with the oceans for generations to come. DEEP offer to partners a way to do this hitherto impossible.
The UK’s South West and Wales were selected as DEEP’s initial base because of the unique cluster of relevant marine engineering, diving, hyperbaric and submersible expertise, and links with the North Sea diving industry5. Together these provide the foundation for a new industrial and scientific ecosystem.
Mike Shackleford, President, Global Services of DEEP said: “We have made significant investments in advanced manufacturing processes, and will build one of the world’s leading fabrication facilities with innovative production methods which will reduce waste, enhance energy efficiency, offer bespoke design and shorten manufacturing timelines. DEEP’s facilities already house our prototyping and pre-production capabilities as well as advanced material testing infrastructure not found elsewhere in the UK, and this is just the beginning”.
Investment in DEEP Campus, will transform the old National Dive & Activity Centre, into a world-leading 600 meter long, 100 meter wide and 80 meter deep controlled water facility for training5, testing and research. DEEP Campus will become a core part of the regional ecosystem, hosting essential development exercises for DEEP as well as regional, national and international partners.
For further Information:
1. On “every breath we take”: How much oxygen comes from the ocean? (noaa.gov)
2. On Training: Complementing the tangible systems and taking a fully transparent approach with the UK Health & Safety Executive, DEEP is developing a training and operational programme to support Sentinel operational deployment, the DEEP Institute.
3. OnClassification: To engineer the Sentinel habitat systems DEEP is working closely with DNV, the world’s leading classification society for underwater technology, to jointly establishing the rule sets where, currently, none exist. DEEP has successfully achieved Approval in Principle of the Hull has established a route to approval through the remaining phases. Working with DNV to such levels of detail is essential to DEEP’s paramount commitment to safety in design and operation.
4. On the Epipelagic zone: Diagram and explanation: https://www.noaa.gov/jetstream/ocean/layers-of-ocean
5. On staff: DEEP’s world-class team comprises over 100 experts in marine engineering, naval architecture, materials science, specialised divers, and Includes representatives from technical, police, saturation, and special forces diving, as well as participants from the NATO submarine rescue programme.