Did you ever imagine diving in a cathedral? Sounds funny and impossible, right?
That thought crossed my mind as we were nearing the pillars of the Salt Pier, one of Bonaire’s most notorious shore dive sites. As I looked up, the sun shining through schools of fish, rays of light piercing through the sea – I was in a serene cathedral surrounded by sunny illuminations and colorful mosaics.
The Salt Pier dive site is indeed peculiar. A long road skirting the turquoise water on one side, white salt dunes standing by pink pans on the other, bare of any visible life. Standing near the remains of historic Blau Pan built by the Dutch during the 17th century, a gigantic industrial structure emerges from the sea, a rather odd vision in the empty flat horizon.
The shore entry was rather easy on that morning, in the calm and shallow water. Stepping onto some of the coral was a bit slippery, especially with the tank and gear on, but Bruno thankfully helped me in as I carefully entered the sea. The day was bright and sunny, the ocean smooth – we were going diving baby!
Barely a few minutes into the crystal clear water, as our group of three divers was getting ready to dive in, we heard another group of divers shouting “turtle, turtle!”. Under we went, heading towards these divers. We quickly spotted the turtle, thanks to the amazing visibility. We did not get close enough to see whether it was a green or hawksbill turtle but here it was, floating it away in a gracious dance.
The metallic construction makes orientation easy as we simply followed the main body up to the pillars. As we were nearing the various columns, it became obvious we were in for a treat. The place was teeming with fish, huge coral formation, and tube sponges.
As we were admiring the cathedral-like feeling, we spotted a group of about five to six adult tarpons, circling around the top of the pillars.
The heart of the pillars construction was like an aquarium, with several schools of yellowtail snappers around us. Amazingly they seem unafraid of us, moving away just inches from us. I was really surprised to be able to come that close to the fish, pretty great experience to see them parting ways around you.
Sponges and corals encrust the pillars but not so much that you can’t still see the rusted metal underneath, allowing for contrasting colors and effects.
Too soon we had to return to the shores, as I was nearing the end of my tank air.
As we exited the sea, the other divers mentioned seeing an octopus hiding between the coral, as others reported seeing a school of squids, confirming Salt Pier as a great dive site.
The Salt Pier was our second dive on Bonaire, where we did a total of five dives, and it was by far the most spectacular. Since this is located on a working industrial site, permission from the Cargill Salt Company is required before diving.
The site is great for beginners thanks to its easy access, shallow waters and lack of current. The diving depth is around 15-60 feet (5 -20 meters). Advancers divers will appreciate the wildlife diversity and scenic formations. . The popularity of this shore dive should not be a deterrent – with such a high number of dive sites on Bonaire, no site is never too crowded to spoil your experience.
While many divers on Bonaire choose to dive independently, we had booked our dives with Dive Friends Bonaire, a friendly and professional dive shop. With eight different shops on the island, renting and picking up gear and new tanks is made easy. Great services, professional divemasters and packages for all needs and prices!