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Marine Life Blog » Bonaire » Town Pier in Bonaire – The best night dive in the Caribbean, now closed, but hopefully not for long.

Town Pier in Bonaire – The best night dive in the Caribbean, now closed, but hopefully not for long.

 

Sept 13-19, 2009 Bonaire – The week before Anna and I traveled to Bonaire on what has become our annual September stay as guests of Buddy Dive, I received a phone call from ol’ friend, David Espinosa, who had recently been appointed to the editorship of Scuba Diving – a well deserved congratulations to both David and the magazine – in my estimation a perfect fit and a coup for diving. David was inquiring about the current status of diving at Bonaire’s Town Pier and Salt Pier in the process of researching a possible article. I had heard rumors of some damage from a storm the previous year but knew little more about the situation. The web produced conflicting information, but for the most part indicated that the piers were closed and had been for some time. The news was troubling. I count the piers among the best night dives in the world, and I love night diving.

Bonaire's famed Town Pier

Town Pier

Once on the island, we discover that Town Pier is indeed closed and has been since the previous October when the surge from hurricane Omar did a number on the pier, scouring sponges off the pilings and causing significant damage making diving unsafe. However, it seemed that some folks were diving at Salt Pier making shore entries at Salt City, just south of the Cargill property.

After investigation the situation further, we find that the story behind the closure goes back to before Omar. Following 9/11, docks and other transportation facilities around the world were required by treaty to heighten security. In response, the Harbor Master at Bonaire began requiring everyone visiting the docks to be accompanied by a registered guide who was responsible for providing, via fax, names and passport numbers 24-hours in advance. The policy capped the numbers of divers per guide at four, and limited dives to one hour. No permits were issued when large vessels were in port. The policy allowed divers to dive and put a much appreciated jingle in the pockets of local dive guides. There were grumbles here and there about the procedure, but for the most part, everything went along swimmingly until Hurricane Omar raised it ugly head. After the storm, the Harbor Master, faulted dangling cables, but adding to the decision to close the structures were ongoing legitimate complaints about the extra paperwork created by the constant processing of permits. So as of last October, it was decreed that no more dock diving permits would be issued for the foreseeable future.

Anna, Linda Baker and Ellen Muller

Anna, Linda Baker and Ellen Muller - Three of the Best Critter Hunters in the Business

Anna and I gladly hopped at an invitation from Ellen Muller and Linda Baker,  to join them for a night dive under Town Pier. The pair had been granted a special permit by the Harbor Master, so they could check on the health of the marine life and survey damage prior to repairs and construction scheduled to begin in a matter of weeks. It was a rare opportunity to explore a classic dive site with two of the Caribbean’s best marine naturalists. Linda, who has been a dive guide at Bruce Bowker’s Carib Inn for nearly two decades, knows as much about the island’s fish life as anyone having contributed  well over a thousand fish surveys to REEF’s database. To understand just how good Ellen is at finding and documenting unusual marine life, view her work at www.pbase.com/imagine. Her web site brims with images of unique, often never-before-seen animals from Bonaire, photographed, mainly at night, during the past several years.  

In the 11 months since Omar, marine growth on the piling has made a strong comeback, as well it should. The thick growth, made up primarily of fouling organisms such as Golden Cup Coral, an invasive species from the Pacific, and encrusting sponges, grows like weeds. But what beautiful weeds they are, blanketing the 20- to 40-foot piling from sand to surface with a unrivaled display of dazzling colors. The great stands of tube sponges, some reaching six feet in length, vanished with the storm, however  starter colonies of the fast-growing organisms are popping up everywhere.  By the time the repairs and extension have been completed  and the pier is reopened to diving, sometime in 2010, the animals should be back to their previous state of opulence.

Video – Colonial Animals Blanket the Pilings from Sand to Surface

As impressive as animal colonies covering the pilings are, we have come to see the critters that creep out of the tangle after dark. The thick growth also attracts sea horses and frogfish – two of Bonaire’s superstars. The highlight of the night is a red, fingernail-sized longlure frogfish perched on a yellow sponge. There is always a total surprise under the pier, like a the distinctive little red mystery goby that makes an appearance for only a few seconds. But crabs, and especially decorator crabs that pick living bits from their surroundings to disguise their presence, steal the show. Another rare sight, Anna finds an arrow crab wiggling out of its molt. And the small nudibranch inhabiting the pilings and bottom debris aren’t shabby.    

Baby Longlure Frogfish the Size of Anna’s Fingernail

Baby Longlure Frogfish the Size of Anna’s Fingernail

Mystery Goby

Mystery Goby

Decorator Crab

Decorator Crab

Sponge Decorator Crab

Sponge Decorator Crab

Mating Hypselodoris Nudibranchs

Mating Hypselodoris Nudibranchs

Chromodoris Nudibranch

Chromodoris Nudibranch

YouTube Preview Image

Toward the end of last year’s stay Anna and I began hunting for examples of symbiosis on the reef and sand flat extending from Buddy’s to town. The discovery of a Orangespotted Goby and its symbiotic snapping shrimp got us started on the venture. The alert goby acts as a sentinel for a near-blind burrowing shrimp that builds and maintains a burrow for the pair. Anna’s discovery of an arrow shrimp hiding within gorgonian plumes quickly followed. Soon we added highly specialized shrimp living exclusively within host basket stars, sea biscuits, crinoids, and anemones. Ellen Muller put us onto a fun find; an unclassified brown and white shrimp that lives nowhere but inside Touch-Me-Not Sponges. Peering into dozens of sponge openings to locate the half-inch crustaceans, causes us to take a closer look a the white specks of worms that dot the sponges’ surface. All the exciting animals we discover, only make us even more mindful of the many wonders we are almost certainly missing. ~ Ned DeLoach

Orange Spotted Goby with Symbiotic Shrimp

Orange Spotted Goby with Symbiotic Shrimp

Arrow Shrimp

Arrow Shrimp

Video – Basket Star Shrimp

Wire Coral Shrimp

Wire Coral Shrimp

Black Coral Shrimp

Black Coral Shrimp

Brown Crinoids Shrimp

Brown Crinoids Shrimp

Squat Urchin Shrimp

Squat Urchin Shrimp

Long-spine Urchin Shrimp

Long-spine Urchin Shrimp

Red Snapping Shrimp

Red Snapping Shrimp

Heart Urchin Pea Crab

Heart Urchin Pea Crab

Touch-Me-Not Sponge Shrimp

Touch-Me-Not Sponge Shrimp

Tiny Sponge Worms

Tiny Sponge Worms

 

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The images and text in Marine Life Blog, unless otherwise noted, are the property of New World Publications, Inc. You may not copy entire posts or any of the images. The YouTube videos have been created to allow embedding. Quotes, using a few lines or a paragraph may be used, as long as credit is given or a link back to this blog is used.

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12 Responses to "Town Pier in Bonaire – The best night dive in the Caribbean, now closed, but hopefully not for long."

  1. YOU GUYS ARE AMAZING!!!!!

    Just added you to my favs and passed your site to a best friend who works at the Shedd here in chicago. PLEASE keep it up.

  2. Pistol Shrimp X says:

    The diversity that our oceans hold is astounding isn’t it? It has the weirdest creatures on earth and they all perform their respective roles. Thats a great shot of the goby + pistol shrimp by the way.

  3. Vacationing in Bonaire says:

    Thanks for sharing!! We just got Certified this week and are looking forward to identifying new creatures!

  4. Tracey Barba says:

    Wow! Great pictures!! Really Great Pics!! Just amazing!!!

    Been there 4x and Wow! Your pics just made my day!!!

  5. Sandra Hammond says:

    Dear Anna and Ned,

    Those pictures are amazing, especially the Frog fish. I am so lucky that I got to dive with you both and the KSC Barracudas. Can’t wait to get back to Bonaire next year. Thanks Sandra

  6. Town pier says:

    […] the foreseeable future. If interested there's more info on circumstances surrounding the closure in this 2009 blog entry. Cargill's salt pier is currently open to shore diving, as long as no ships are in the vicinity. […]

  7. […] “Anna and I gladly hopped at an invitation from Ellen Muller and Linda Baker,  to join them for a night dive under Town Pier. The pair had been granted a special permit by the Harbor Master, so they could check on the health of the marine life and survey damage prior to repairs and construction scheduled to begin in a matter of weeks. It was a rare opportunity to explore a classic dive site with two of the Caribbean’s best marine naturalists. Linda, who has been a dive guide at Bruce Bowker’s Carib Inn for nearly two decades, knows as much about the island’s fish life as anyone having contributed  well over a thousand fish surveys to REEF’s database. To understand just how good Ellen is at finding and documenting unusual marine life, view her work at http://www.pbase.com/imagine. Her web site brims with images of unique, often never-before-seen animals from Bonaire, photographed, mainly at night, during the past several years.” (The Marine Life Blog. Town Pier in Bonaire, The best night dive in the Caribbean, now closed, but hopefully not for long. http://fishid.com/marinelifeblog/town-pier-boniare/) […]

  8. Barbara Sebestyen says:

    We have been coming to the divi for 10 years. And your photos. Show WHY. You live in a beautiful place. Thank u 4 sharing
    Barb
    Do you ever dive with visitors. If so we are there for 3 weeks in may.
    Barb

  9. […] itself was hosting a healthy variety of reef life less than a year after the damage from Omar. See this link for more info and photos. Reef life on Bonaire isn't perfect, but it's Pretty Damned Good and […]

  10. […] STINAPA and BNMP communicates the requirement to obtain permission to dive Salt Pier. Here's a blog post where Anna and Ned DeLoach recount some background info on the closing. Here's a link where Rocargo […]

  11. […] STINAPA and BNMP communicates the requirement to obtain permission to dive Salt Pier. Here's a blog post where Anna and Ned DeLoach recount some background info on the closing. Here's a link where Rocargo […]

  12. […] pbase: Ellen Muller's Photo Galleries at pbase.com Ned Deloach's article on the town pier: Town Pier in Bonaire, the Best Night Dive in the Caribbean, now closed but hopefully not for long That set's up my pattern recognition filters for the diving. Helped me spot wire coral shrimp, […]

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