Saturday, February 16, 2008

Bonaire Designated as Most Pristine Coral Reef in Caribbean

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) had designated the island of Bonaire as having "arguably the most pristine coral reef environment in the Caribbean".

Scuba divers and snorkelers already know this -- it's why Bonaire consistently rates as one of the world's top diving destinations. Visibility underwater can extend 100 feet or more, and the variety of coral and tropical fish is both colorful and plentiful.

The designation by NOAA means Bonaire’s reef will now become the benchmark for which all other coral reefs will be compared, since research has shown Bonaire has the highest percentage of coral cover and the lowest percentage of algal cover compared to other Caribbean reefs.

And that's why Bonaire is inhabited by more species of fish than any other Caribbean island, including my own personal favorite, the parrotfish, whose brilliant turquoise color matches the color of the water in which it swims.

This past January, a group of marine biologists and other scientists spent a week researching and mapping the coral reefs. It was an impressive group -- trained environmentalists from NOAA, the College of William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the University of Delaware and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

The expedition was in cooperation with STINAPA, the organization that oversees the Bonaire National Marine Park, where the expedition is taking place. The marine park pretty much surrounds the island.

Located eighty-six miles east of Aruba, the Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire lures visitors with year-round sunshine and a laid-back ambiance. In addition to snorkeling and scuba diving, there's windsurfing, kiteboarding, landsailing, mountain biking, sea and mangrove kayaking, horseback riding, nature tours, hiking, bird watching, sailing and deep sea and bone fishing.

Quite a list. Quite a coral reef. Quite a Green Travel destination!