Bonaire Marine Park was established in 1979, and ever since the early days, it has been responsible for protecting Bonaire's beautiful marine environment. Officially known as the Bonaire National Marine Park, this protected area starts at the high water mark and extends out to where the depths reach 200 feet. The total area that it covers is 6,672 acres, and this area is home to an array of reefs and a variety of fascinating marine life. The reefs and sea creatures are thriving just off the Bonaire coast, thanks largely in part to the Bonaire Marine Park, and as a result the scuba diving is excellent.
The Bonaire National Marine Park surrounds the island of Bonaire and the smaller, neighboring island of Klein Bonaire. The coral reefs and the ecosystem that these reefs have helped to create are protected by the park, and penalties are in place for those who don't abide by the sensible rules. When diving in Bonaire Marine Park, visitors are not allowed to step on or sit on the coral reefs, as corals are quite delicate and easy to destroy. Taking corals or anything else that you happen upon is also illegal, and boats are not permitted to drop anchor within the park boundaries. Since the waters that surround Bonaire are so vigorously protected, spearfishing isn't one of the things that you can hope to add to your Bonaire travel itinerary. Line fishing, on the other hand, is permitted within the park boundaries.
Bonaireans are serious about protecting their environment, both on land and in the water, and as long as visitors follow the rules that are in place, diving in Bonaire Marine Park can be extremely rewarding. In fact, there may be no finer place to dive in the world, save for Australia's Great Barrier Reef perhaps. For Bonaire visitors who are unfamiliar with the island's spectacular diving possibilities, the Bonaire Marine Park boasts an information center near the popular dive site in Karpata. At the Karpata Ecological Center, visitors can learn all about the Bonaire National Marine Park through various exhibitions, films, and other presentations.
The Bonaire Marine Park is home to a number of tantalizing dive sites, and they include 1000 Steps and the Hilma Hooker Shipwreck. These dive sites can be found off Bonaire's west coast, or leeward coast as it is also known. The bulk of the diving in Bonaire Marine Park is done off the west coast of Bonaire and off the coast of Klein Bonaire. The waters that are found in this area are calmer than the waters on the windward side, and divers usually don't have to deal with currents or surges. As a result of the calm conditions on the leeward side, the water is especially clear, making for excellent visibility. Even if you prefer snorkeling to scuba diving, the clarity of the water will often allow you to admire the many submerged reefs and shipwrecks of Bonaire Marine Park from the water's surface.