The Dutch Caribbean Island is located east of Aruba, at eighty-six miles, and offers tourists all over the world the unique occasion of admiring the pristine Bonaire coral reefs and perhaps one of the most impressive fish populations that you could find in the Caribbean. Coral populations in Bonaire are well developed on a submarine terrace that stretches at 50 to 100 meters from the coast and at a depth of 8-12 meters, followed by a drop-off and then a steep slope to 50-60 meters. There are several areas here, each one populated with specific coral families.
White encrusting zoanthid (Palythoa caribaeorum) – thick, incrusting mats on hard substrates, cork-like consistency, round calyces with rounded lips, fleshy polyps with short tentacles in two rings, colored brownish-white;
Blade fire coral (Millepora complanata) – thin, upright blades, up to 50 cm, smooth surface, polyps living in pores and appearing as hair when they protrude, colored brown to light yellow;
Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) – flat or rounded branches, colonies up to 3.5 meter and 1 meter in height, colored golden-brown, light rims;
Tan lettuce-leaf coral (Agaricia agaricites) – large vertical scales in deep water, purple-brown to light brown;
Wire coral (Cirrhipathes leutkeni) – colonies that form a single, long, wire-like stalk, often twisted and coiled, over 4 meters long, in shades of green, brown, red-brown, yellow-brown, or yellow.
Scientists are constantly looking for ways to preserve nature in Bonaire, and one of the solutions they have come up with is to identify new sites where coral nurseries are possible. They collect samples of elkhorn and staghorn coral and use them to populate new areas. The nursery stock is fragmented every six months, and the new coral generations are taken from the nurseries and planted on the reefs to populate the empty areas. The efforts seem to pay out, the beauty and fame of the Bonaire coral reefs increasing by the day.