There are lots of dive sites to choose from when you go scuba diving in Bonaire. Search for a list of people's favorite sites and you will see just about every divesite pop up on someone's list.
But one that gets mentioned ALOT is the Town Pier night dive. Most people rate it as a must do. There are a few dissenters but for the most part it usually gets rave reviews.
We read all the reviews and put it on our to do list while scuba diving in Bonaire. We'll tell you all about it below.
But first are some details you need to know before you can dive the Town Pier.
Scuba Diving in Bonaire:
Town Pier Pre-Dive Details
You are no longer allowed to dive the Town Pier on your own. Official statements say that this is due to security reasons. As such, you now need to plan this dive in advance. Here are things to consider:
Only a certain number of divers are allowed to dive this site at one time. So sign up early if you want to dive the Town Pier.
We went during the offseason and signed up for the dive once we were in Bonaire.
However, if you are going to go scuba diving in Bonaire during the high season, you might want to consider signing up before you arrive to ensure a spot. I have read of people that were shut out during their week long vacation.
Every group must be accompanied by a divemaster and each divemaster is allowed a maximum of 4 divers. So if you have a larger group, you will need to split up.
Each diver that wants to dive the Town Pier must submit paperwork, including a copy of their passport, to the Harbourmaster. We dove with Bonaire Dive and Adventure and they submitted our paperwork to the Harbourmaster.
The Harbourmaster requires paperwork to be submitted at least 24 hours in advance.
Of course you knew this was coming. We paid $35 per person for this dive (it is not included in any dive packages that I know of).
You meet with the divemaster to go to the site and the divemaster will check you in with the Harbourmaster.
We were given a choice of diving at 6, 7, 8 or 9 o'clock. You must start the dive at the designated hour.
Since there are groups going at each hour, your dive is limited to 1 hour. You will have lots of air left since the maximum depth is 35 feet.
That about sums up the pre-dive planning. Now all you have to do is go and enjoy the dive.
Scuba Diving in Bonaire:
Town Pier Night Dive
We met with the divemaster about 45 minutes before our scheduled dive time (7:00pm) for a pre-dive briefing. He gave a detailed report on the dive site, the dive plan and what we could expect to see. It was a great briefing so we pretty much knew where we were when we were underwater.
We drove downtown, parked at the pier and geared up while the divemaster checked us in with the Harbourmaster.
There are parking spaces right at the edge of the pier so you don't have to walk far with your gear on.
Although it does feel strange to gear up in the middle of town.
Once you have all your gear on, there are steps leading into the water so it is an easy entry (there are no handrails but is still pretty easy).
The dive starts out very shallow as you go under the pier and catch your first glimpse of those famous orange corals. You then proceed to swim, at a very slow pace, through the pillars to the end of the pier. The maximum depth on this dive is 35 feet so you really don't need to worry about running out of air.
The main drawback to this dive is that it can feel, and get, very crowded. The pillars, especially in the beginning, are very close together so you must go in single file.
Toward the end of the pier, the pillars are further apart so you can spread out some more.
However, you will inevitably run into other dive groups and then it gets to be tight under there. Our divemaster wore a flashing red light on his tank so we could tell who he was. And that came in very handy when you were with another group.
Since the dive can be crowded (with people and pillars) and it is shallow, good buoyancy control is pretty much a necessity here. Otherwise, you will be going up and down, bumping into divers or pillars (which are all encrusted with coral) and generally probably won't enjoy the dive that much. Which should never be the case while scuba diving in Bonaire.
So if you are going to dive the Town Pier, practice your buoyancy control first if you are having problems. You will definitely find it worthwhile once you are under the pier.
So what did we see during our dive?
Quite a bit actually - besides the beautiful orange coral. We saw lots of drumfish, lots of eels, a seahorse (Yeah!), turtle (sleeps under a concrete block and our divemaster pointed him out; turtle then woke up and went to the surface), huge arrow crabs, several sharptailed eels, and more.
There is also quite a bit of garbage down there including lots of tires. Eels hang out in the tires so it is a good place to look for life.
Other garbage also can contain life so take a look. Garbage hunting while scuba diving in Bonaire - who would've believed it?
Another note about this dive. There are 2 tugboats which are docked at the pier and then can take off or arrive while you are doing your dive so be prepared.
One took off while we were underwater and it gets extremely loud. It can also cause alot of current although it wasn't bad while we were under. I believe the current gets strong if the tug is trying to dock - just something to be aware of if you hear that tug start up or come in.
So, bottom line - what did we think of the dive?
I enjoyed the dive since it was something different and I am glad I did it. However, when we go back to Bonaire (and we sill be going back), I don't plan on doing it again. One of those - once is enough.
I know some people rave about it and do it every time they go to Bonaire. I just won't be one of those people.
Nothing against it. It was a good dive, I loved the coral and we saw lots of interesting sites. But it is not the be all and end all (IMHO).
I would recommend you do the dive if you haven't already but if you don't, I don't think it is a major tragedy. After all, there are so many great places to dive Bonaire, you can't do them all.
If you did the Town Pier night dive while scuba diving in Bonaire , I would love to hear your opinion. Drop us a line and let us know what you thought of the dive.
Here's to some great scuba diving in Bonaire - Town Pier or not!
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