This is — salty tear — my very last post from Bonaire. The good news? I saved the best for last. Man am I going to miss blogging about this beautiful, lesser-known Caribbean isle!
But back to that salty tear bit. Salt and scuba go hand in hand on Bonaire. Salt is the island’s primary export, while scuba is the main draw for tourism imports. Nowhere do the two collide more epically than at Salt Pier, one of Bonaire’s most beloved dive sites.
The Salt Pier is — big reveal here — an active salt pier privately owned and operated by the Cargill Salt Company. Hence, you can only submerge when the dock is ship-free. Luckily, the day we set our sights there was all clear of big boats. Otherworldly landscapes, on the other hand? They were as far as the eye could see.
This was our second of two dives with my favorite dive outfit on the island, VIP Diving. Our dive butler Steven spoiled us again by setting up our gear and helping us enter the water as gracefully as a bunch of tank-strapped and wetsuit-clad young ladies could hope for.
We weren’t underwater more than a few moments before we simultaneously started frantically signaling “turtle!” to each other. He was a cutie, and in the shallow, clear waters, we got a great look for our swim together.
Talk about starting things off on the right fin! Still, nothing could have prepared me for the life that was waiting for us under the long steel octopus legs of the pier itself. If you narrowed your focus, tiny creatures burst alive from every cranny of coral. If you sat back to take it all in, infinity schools of yellowtail snapper pulsed slowly in all directions.
Normally I focus pretty heavily on shooting close up macro shots when I’m underwater. But Salt Pier begged for some wide angle attention. Still, old habits die hard, and I couldn’t stop myself from taking a closer look at some of what was below us.
the trumpetfish shot on the left is possibly my favorite photo from all of Bonaire
Following the theme of all things small, I even spotted a baby lionfish! An invasive species in the Atlantic, many believe lionfish were introduced to this side of the world by aquarium hobbyists in South Florida who tired of their trade — another popular theory blames Hurricane Andrew, which reportedly smashed several shorefront aquariums (yup, also in Florida) containing the venomous predators. Genetically the DNA from lionfish from Rhode Island to Argentina ties back to just six lionfish!
Isn’t science wild? Unfortunately, in this case, it’s also tragic — the lionfish invasion is widely believed to be the worst environmental disaster the Atlantic will ever face, and one of the top threats to biodiversity in the entire planet. In Bonaire, as in many Caribbean destinations, the dive industry is playing an active role in reducing the lionfish population. At VIP Diving, you can actually enroll in a Lionfish Hunting Course which includes a classroom session, practice time using marine park authorized spears, and two stab-happy training dives. At the end of the day, you’ll be handed a PADI Lion Fish Hunter specialty card and your catches — you might consider packing The Lionfish Cookbook for a few ideas on how to prepare them.
Oh, Salt Pier! I’m a creature of habit, and when I return to Bonaire someday, I think I will have a hard time pulling myself away from simply diving Salt Pier every single afternoon.
Because Salt Pier is a nice shallow dive, it was also our longest of the week. And good thing it was — I would not have been happy to call this one short due to air consumption.
Honestly, I’m not sure how to describe my emotions on this dive other than to just type like a billion exclamation points with a few disbelief-indicating question marks thrown in for good measure.
When it was finally fine to return topside, we swam slowly back towards shore. I can’t say I was ready for the dive to be over (or, you know, to leave Bonaire!) but an omen quickly appeared to remind me I’d be back someday. Another turtle — I like to think he was the buddy of the first one we hung out with — came over to say goodbye, accompanied by a little boxfish friend. The dive came full circle, just like I hope to do with this destination someday.
Back on land, we were fired up! How could we not be? We’d just spent an hour being blown away by Bonaire. And we did it together. I couldn’t have asked for better dive buddies than this crew of witty, hilarious and talented women — in fact, you can read Angie’s account of this dive here, and Kristin’s version here. And while I had to bid ayo to Bonaire, luckily I still had a few days to stave off separation anxiety from my girls.
Because next, we were saying bon bini to Aruba!
So, who’s planning a trip to Bonaire?
All underwater photos in this post were taken with the Canon PowerShot G7X and its Canon Waterproof Housing. See a full list of my photography gear here. Many thanks to Bonaire Tourism for hosting me. As always, you receive my honest thoughts, full opinions and poorly written jokes regardless of who is footing the bill.