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Are you tired of traveling to destinations where it seems that the dive industry is merely an afterthought? Where getting to and from the best dive sites requires a boat trip that is longer than the actual dive? Where a divemaster half your age dictates when, where, and how often you can dive? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions and want to experience the alternative, than you should seriously consider a dive trip to Bonaire.

Undoubtedly, there are numerous islands and occasionally regions of countries throughout the Caribbean (and the world, for that matter) whose dominant industry is diving. But there are few places in the world where the entire country is dedicated to making sure you have the best dive vacation that is humanly possible! Bonaire is one of these places.

Bonaire, along with sister islands Aruba and Curacao, make up the ABC Islands which are located approximately 50 miles north of Venezuela. Part of the Netherlands Antilles, Bonaire sits outside the Caribbean's hurricane belt and therefore offers some of the most consistently blue skies you are likely to ever encounter. Because of this lack of rain, Bonaire very much resembles a desert in the middle of the Caribbean.

Since Bonaire is in the Caribbean, it cannot match the marine diversity that can be found in the Pacific Ocean. This is not to say, however, that there are not plenty of impressive things to see in Bonaire. Due to the fact that it was one of the first countries in the world to declare all its reefs a protected national marine park, Bonaire's reefs are in excellent condition and the reef's inhabitants tend to be larger than their counterparts found elsewhere and ofte, quite uninhibited.

Among these large, friendly creatures you are likely to encounter are 5+ ft. Tarpon (Megalops atlanticus), Black Grouper (Mycteroperca bonaci), Tiger Grouper (Mycteroperca tigris), Great Barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda), and some of the largest Green Morays (Gymnothorax funebris) I've seen anywhere. I also came into contact with the biggest lobster, in this case a Caribbean Spiny Lobster (Panulirus argus), that I've ever seen. It was easily in excess of 12 lbs!

My most memorable dive while in Bonaire was undoubtedly under the Town Pier with Dee Scarr's "Touch the Sea" program. Over the years, Dee has spent hundreds of dives at particular locations, hand-feeding animals such as Chain Morays (Echidna catenata), Goldentail Morays (Gymnothorax miliaris), and French Angelfish (Pomacanthus paru). Now, when Dee takes divers down, it seems as if virtually all the creatures recognize her and come out of their holes to greet her, and hopefully get a bite to eat. Not only is it an extremely fun experience, but it's also educational, as Dee gives a 45-minute-long talk on Bonaire's aquatic life before the dive and answers any questions you may have.

Although, as I've mentioned, diving in Bonaire, (and the Caribbean, in general) in many ways cannot compare to that in the Pacific, there are a number of reasons why Bonaire is an excellent choice for many divers. Proximity and affordability are near the top of the list. Getting to Bonaire is not only relatively cheap, it is also quite painless as there are numerous non-stops offered from the U.S.

Also, the diving Bonaire offers is ideal for someone new to the sport. This is a great place to find out if diving is for you. Strong currents are virtually non-existant on the lee side of the island, and the site profiles are anything but tricky. Simply swim out about 25 yards, submerge, and explore the wall that usually bottoms out at about 130 ft. If there is such a thing as the ideal place to experience much of the magic that diving has to offer without paying the price of strong currents, cold water, or bad visibility, then Bonaire is that almost certainly that place!