But for 40 years, Bonaire, a small pistol-shaped island just 50 miles north of Venezuela, in the Netherlands Antilles, has shown astounding wisdom in the care and preservation of its reefs. Sea-turtle eggs and nests have been protected since 1961; spearfishing was banned ten years later. Coral collecting became illegal in 1975. In 1979, the entire reef surrounding Bonaire was declared a marine park, an act that bestowed full protection on every sponge, shark, and seahorse. As a result, the island has won high marks from conservationists worldwide. It is also generally considered the best diving and snorkeling destination in the Caribbean - an accolade proudly reflected in Bonaire's license-plate slogan: "Divers' Paradise."