A little about myself. I am former SSI Instructor Certifier and former TDI/SDI Instructor Trainer but still an active PADI, SDI and TDI Instructor. I have been diving almost 25 years and started coming to Bonaire over around over 20 years ago because of the beach diving.
Beach Diving is by no means unique to Bonaire. The simple fact is that beach diving is available at any place that has a beach. I first certified on a beach in Rhode Island all too long ago. The simple truth is that beach diving on Bonaire is extremely easy. In my opinion, in general beach diving is the simplest form of diving. There is no time constraint, there is no rush, and you have virtually all the space you need.
Here are some general thoughts on Beach Diving
Do I need special training for beach diving?
Most Certainly... you need to be a certified diver. OK humor aside, the best comment I saw an observation that dive training or training in general is that it is intended in lieu of experience. In simple terms training is a process of some one gain controlled experience. Every dive organization offers a number of "specialty" courses tailored to about every experience, including beach diving. Do you need those courses? Up to you. The most important thing in my mind, and that of many other professionals, is that you dive with in your own comfort zone. You don't feel comfortable? Maybe you should look into a guided dive. The second important principle in my mind is to know when to say when... If at any time in a dive you don't feel like you are having fun, then maybe it is time to call the dive. If you are doing a beach dive on Bonaire, the nice thing is that you can get out almost anywhere you want along the dive. There are exceptions to this , the Park, the northern dive sites and the extreme souther dive sites but even then you can swim on the service to get back to the dive site.
What Level Certification Do I Need?
As mentioned above, you need to be certified as an Open Water Scuba Diver. More and more I have seen blogs say "divers should be of an Advanced Open Water and Rescue Diver level". Why???? There is no standard definition for "Advanced Open Water Diver" across the agencies nor is it recognized by the World Recreation Scuba Training Council. The blogs are usually related to a Dive Operation at any dive destination. It is always fun to see how the desire to generate income pushes publicity, things like "Lion Fish Research Dive Boat" at ten dollars a head. I have a business, sort of and appreciate making money. I am a strong believer in diver training but if you are in vacation, ENJOY YOUR VACATION!!!. Is your idea of a vacation taking a course then by all means do it. Otherwise save the training for when you are home and getting tired of being dry. Taking training courses at home are a great way to keep those skills from getting to rusty and to meet local divers. If you want do some training on vacation then do something you want to do or are interested in especially those you can't easily do at home. This is why Bonaire is an exceptional place for marine identification, ecology or Technical diving Courses.
am not saying that courses like Rescue Diver or especially the SSI Stress Rescue Course are bad, rather I think they are good tools to extend you diving season and knocking the rust off when you aren't enjoying Bonaire. What they offer you for beach diving is additional tools for recognizing your own stress. If you are really concerned about doing beach diving then the least thing you need is to be trying to play "Bay Watch"
What about those dive sites Recommended for Advanced or Expert Divers
What usually leads to such recommendations are one of several factors: Difficulty of Entry or Exit, Possibility of Currents or Depth. Those recommendations are based on a comparison with other dive sites on Bonaire and in many cases assume the diver was certified in the Caribbean. . Face it, if you were certified in La Jolla Cove or some of the beaches in the North East of the US, you have seen entries and maybe currents far worse then Bonaire can offer. Been diving out of Morehead City NC when the wind came up? Then East Coast Boat Diving is a pond diving to you. Dove off Boyton Beach Florida, or Castle Hill in Rhode Island, then you know currents.
The sites in Bonaire that are known for currents are usually in the park. You may not be able to see what is happening at the drop off. The park also features some entries with very uncertain entries because of the footing. Consult the dive operator through whom you are diving, they can help with recommendations. Heck drop me a line and I will give you my two cent
If in doubt, don't do the dive or abort the dive... they are plenty of enjoyable dive sites on Bonaire
I am still concerned about current
With some exceptions (The Park and Red Slave) the current are not that. They can, however, detract from the dibe you should be having for a dive. A common though through this page is planning. When looking at a dive site look how mych freedom you have in exiting the water at other then the entry area. The dive sites past lake allow a great deal of freedom. The dive sites up north (with the exception of Andrea 1 and 2) dont offer as muc flexibility. When flexibility is there then be flexible ...what??? What I mean here is if you catch unexpected current and have flexibility on exits, then don't fight the current, enjoy it! When you doe exit you can walk to your vehicle or send one of the group to get it. If your choosen site has no flexibility, manage yor dive carefully...When in doubt avoid the infliexble sites until low wind days and lunar extremes (full and new)
I am having difficult getting in and out of the water with my gear
First and foremost.. do you have the right gear?? Do you look like this?
maybe you have TOO much gear e for a place you haven't been before. yeah your instructor said you should have a dive tool, a marker buoy, a signal mirror, a pony bottle, a life raft, a spare computer, an underwater IPOD.. you get the idea. When trying a new place less is better. Also remember your dive gear us NOT GLUED TO YOU!!! Big step down? Maybe take your gear off, ease it down and put it back on. The same thing applies to getting out. This is also a good time for the buddy system. Buddy help buddies. Also remember,.
Six Secrets to beach diving:
1. Plan your dive...Check out where you wnat to dive for entry, planned exit and back up exit
2. Gear can be replaced ... you can not be
3. Remember your comfort zone and dive it,
4. Use Common sense,
5. >When in doubt ....don't .. the best dive is the one you didn't do because it didn't feel right