Another day out on Ad Astra for a diving adventure under the Salt Pier also known as “Waf di Salina”. The Salt Pier, one of the best dive sites on Bonaire, is also one of the most photographed sites on the island.
Cargil currently operates the Salt Pans which cover one tenth of the island’s surface and produces 360,000 to 500,000 tons of Bonaire salt every year. The varying colors of the ponds reflect the various stages of production. It starts with crystal clear seawater which then turns to green, then brown, and then the salt crystallizes turn pink. The unique pink color us caused by bacteria which are enjoyed by flamingos. Did you know, baby flamingos are born white until they eat the brine shrimp and bacteria?
Diving the Salt Pier takes you to depths between 5 to 15 meters, where you’ll explore a maze of pillars fully encrusted with sponges and corals shooting up, hanging down, and jutting out. These sponge and coral covered pillars are in vibrant shades of purple, yellow, and pink. Each pillar provides you with a unique sea community filled with sea life large and small. Large schools of fish congregate in the shadows created by the salt terminal overhead.
Our first dive of the day was to get the “lay of the land” and give us Salt Pier newbies a quick glance of what the Salt Pier looks like during in the light. We anchored at Jeannie’s Glory and decided to swim to the Salt Pier. It was a pretty big distance, but we were able to mark our path by a large cargo ship mooring which indicated the half way point to the pier. It also had a distinct “clink, clink” sound as the chain links bobbed up and down off the sea floor.
It was absolutely amazing to see the corals and sea life hanging precariously from each pillar which offered new and surprising communities. We moved on to the 2nd and 3rd set of pillars to get a quick glance of everything before our night dive. We were surprised to see the large amount of trash and tires, but I guess that is to be expected below a pier??
At dusk, we jumped in the water in small groups as there were a lot of us diving (12 divers), we followed our dive plan and headed toward the Salt Pier with torches in hand eagerly anticipating what we might see. Our goal was to swim slowly to the huge mooring, then over the reef to the first set of pillars.
New and surprising creatures appear during night dives that were not there during the day. Flowers bloom, sea anemones pop up, eels and shrimp come out and so much more. It is an exchange of sea life where the day fish go into hiding and the night fish come out to play.
Large tarpon surrounded us checking us out – some as large as our bodies. They have no fear and will often swim very close to you which is unsettling when you don’t see them in the dark until they are in your peripheral vision or right in front of your face.
A delightful slipper lobster was cruising around the bottom of the sea bed in between the pillars. You can’t tell from the photo below, but at night his eyes glow and his tentacles reflect the light from your torch. He moves slowly and methodical – pretty spectacular.