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Destination Portfolio: Ron Watkins, Bonaire
By Ron Watkins, March 12, 2024 @ 06:00 AM (EST)

A large green moray, a staple of Bonaire reefs, photographed with slow shutter (Nikon D850, Nikon 28–70mm, Nauticam housing, Nauticam WACP-1, dual Sea&Sea YS-D2J strobes, f/20, 1/5s, ISO 64)
 

It would not be far-fetched to assume that the vast majority of scuba divers on Earth have heard of the tiny island of Bonaire in the southern Caribbean. The license plates on the rental cars literally read “Diver’s Paradise.” While it is somewhat known as a beginner diver destination because of its easy, shallow, seemingly endless shore diving, even experienced divers and hardcore underwater photographers can enjoy Bonaire’s marine wonders.

The waters around Bonaire are completely protected by the Bonaire National Marine Park. It is one of the oldest marine protected areas on the planet, having been established in 1979. While the marine ecosystems around Bonaire have not been immune to the effects of climate change, their protected status means the marine life can live easy and unharrassed. Healthy reefs, huge fish diversity, and abundant critters make Bonaire both a diver’s paradise and a photographer’s paradise. Sought-after creatures like longlure frogfish and longsnout seahorses are common sights around the west side of the island, while the east—or “wild side” of Bonaire—is home to deeper waters with big animals like sharks, turtles, and massive schools of tarpon.

Whether you are a beginner diver, just starting out in underwater photography, or are a seasoned vet with thousands of dives and tens of thousands of photographs taken, Bonaire is still worth a visit. The island lives and breathes diving and it is hard not to fall in love with this tiny Dutch island.
 

Who doesn’t love the bug-eyed face of a secretary blenny? (Nikon D850, Nikon 60mm, Nauticam housing, Backscatter Mini Flash strobe with Optical Snoot, f/22, 1/250s, ISO 200)
 

Green sea turtle winging its way across a shallow sand flat. One of Bonaire’s more common sea turtle species (Nikon D850, Nikon 28–70mm, Nauticam housing, Nauticam WACP-1, dual Sea&Sea YS-D2J strobes, f/10, 1/250s, ISO 200)
 

Lit moodily by a snoot, a beautiful and intricately patterned goldentail moray (Nikon D850, Nikon 60mm, Nauticam housing, Backscatter Mini Flash strobe with Optical Snoot, f/22, 1/250s, ISO 100)
 

Common throughout the Caribbean, this banded coral shrimp was awarded in the Underwater Photographer of the Year competition (Nikon D850, Nikon105mm, Nauticam housing, ReefNet SubSee +5 diopter, dual Backscatter Mini Flash strobes, f/18, 1/100s, ISO 200)
 

Arguably the most beautiful fish in the ocean, the queen angelfish, a frequent sight in Bonaire (Nikon D850, Nikon 105mm, Nauticam housing, dual Backscatter Mini Flash strobes, f/22, 1/10s, ISO 160)
 

Becoming a rarer and rarer sight in the Caribbean, a beautiful stand of elkhorn coral stands proud in the sun rays (Nikon D850, Nikon 28–70mm, Nauticam housing, Nauticam WACP-1, dual Sea&Sea YS-D2J strobes, f/10, 1/250s, ISO 64)
 

Bonaire’s most popular critter, the longlure frogfish (Nikon D850, Nikon 105mm, Nauticam housing, Backscatter Mini Flash strobe with Optical Snoot, f/22, 1/250s, ISO 200)
 

Variability is the name of the game with longlure frogfish. Here is a gray flavored one (Nikon D850, Nikon 60mm, Nauticam housing, Backscatter Mini Flash strobe with Optical Snoot, f/22, 1/250s, ISO 200)
 

A juvenile beaugregory damselfish photographed with slow shutter (Nikon D850, Nikon 105mm, Nauticam housing, Backscatter Mini Flash strobe with Optical Snoot, f/20, 1/5s, ISO 200)
 

The Caribbean reef squid in the waters around Bonaire are exceptionally curious and tolerant of divers (Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV, Olympus 60mm, Backscatter Octo housing, dual Backscatter Mini Flash strobes, f/13, 1/40s, ISO200)
 

A beautiful cluster of tube sponges growing beneath part of the iconic Salt Pier (Nikon D850, Nikon 16–35mm, Nauticam housing, dual Sea&Sea YS-D3 II Lightning strobes, f/11, 1/125s, ISO 250)
 

Trumpetfish are sneakily voracious predators (Nikon D850, Nikon 60mm, Nauticam housing, dual Backscatter Mini Flash strobes, f/14, 1/250s, ISO 320)
 

The beautifully colored and patterned face of the French angelfish (Nikon D850, Nikon 60mm, Nauticam housing, Backscatter Mini Flash strobe with Optical Snoot, f/22, 1/250s, ISO 200)
 

A Caribbean reef octopus, one of Bonaire’s two most frequently seen octopus species (Nikon D850, Nikon 105mm, Nauticam housing, Backscatter Mini Flash strobe with Optical Snoot, f/16, 1/200s, ISO 200)
 

Bonaire’s other most commonly seen octopus—the aptly named common octopus (Nikon D850, Nikon 105mm, Nauticam housing, Backscatter Mini Flash strobe with Optical Snoot, f/16, 1/160s, ISO 200)
 

Bonaire still boasts beautiful and healthy reefs with all manner of fish life, like this Spanish hogfish (Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV, Olympus 8mm, Backscatter Octo housing, dual Backscatter Mini Flash strobes, f/8, 1/125s, ISO200)
 

Bonaire’s most commonly encountered turtle species, the hawksbill (Nikon D800, Nikon 8–15mm, Nauticam housing, dual Sea&Sea YS-D2J strobes, f/16, 1/250s, ISO 250)
 

To see more of Ron’s work from Bonaire and all across the globe, please give him a follow on Instagram, visit his website, www.ronwatkinsphotography.com, or travel with him on a workshop.

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