Scuba Bonaire: 1000 Steps, June 25

One of the perks of the northern dive sites is that to get there, you have to pass this hand-enhanced “watch for pedestrians” sign.

1000 Steps actually only has 72 steps, but it gets its name from how you feel when you walk up them wearing your full dive kit. It’s not the hardest entry on the island, but it’s definitely the most strenuous. The view from the top isn’t bad, though.

Getting down the steps feels more precarious than strenuous, but we were still wearing wetsuits and gear, and we were very happy to get into the nice cool 81F water.

And we did the dive thing, swimming around and looking at all the fish and critters. The GoPro really doesn’t like to get the lighting right under crevices, but we still have to include the lobster here because it’s the best shot we’ve managed.

Our camera had suffered a mishap on a previous dive, and this was our first real test-run of a new red filter and macro lens. The results: it’s a little weird, and more prone to backlight-glare than the last one, but the macro lens does give us some new options. Here’s a cleaning goby, a Caribbean sharpnose puffer, and some hermit crabs hiding between the coral stands.

We also liked these shots of an intermediate spotted drum, left, and a blue tang. The tang looks like it’s got a parasite, but that’s just a weird feature they all have for some reason.

We’ve been a bit disappointed with the northern dive sites, relative to the southern ones. A lot of the reef has gotten overgrown with what we’re calling “potato-chip algae”. It seems to crowd out the coral, leaving a sad, dead-looking monochrome covering. (We don’t know whether the coral died first or whether the algae helped it along, but it seems better to assume malice.) You can see a lot of this in the background in the above photos; it’s not everywhere, but there’s a lot of it.

While the outer reef is largely algaefied, the shallower area is quite nice. Many people come here just to snorkel, and after doing the climb with scuba gear, this seemed like the wiser idea to us. We saw squids, and several turtles. And we were almost at the shore again when we spotted a juvenile damselfish (Andrew thinks these are adorable), and this sneaky goldentail moray.

So, overall, our review of “one of the most popular dive sites” is a resounding meh. All the best parts are reachable by snorkel, and the deeper reef is not worth the trouble of getting your gear down the hill. A little distance in either direction buys you slightly healthier reef and an easier entrance.