Bonaire diving reviews_ chapbook 2006 by chenmeixiu

VIEWS: 21 PAGES: 19

									   BONAIRE                                               The Wider Caribbean
have bug spray w/DEET; the mosqui-          dives are limited to 45 minutes and cost
toes swarm!                                 $100 for two dives.

                                            Bon Bini Divers, January 2005, Mort
BONAIRE                                     Rolleston, Arlington, VA. Experience:
                                            51-100 dives. Vis: 60 to 100 Feet. Water:
To many visitors, Bonaire’s attrac-         80 to 83 F, calm, no currents. Can basi-
tion is shore diving in front of the        cally roll out your condo door into the
hotels. Many divers rent an auto to         ocean and swim 30 yards to great div-
reach scores of marked sites — but          ing or drive a truck within 15 minutes
keep nothing in your car as many            and swim 100 yards out or take a dive
get broken into while divers are            boat and get to numerous great sites
underwater. Still, Bonaire is a diver’s     (including Klein Bonaire) within 15
island par excellence, with diving          minutes. Very easy to get 4-5 dives a day
that’s especially well-suited to easy       in. The coral and macro life is really top
divers and those who want to con-           notch. Swimming over the thick and
centrate on photography.                    healthy layers of corals (with endless
                                            holes and gaps and compartments), you
Bas, July 2005, Pam Cote, Olathe, KS.       can watch countless critters living their
Experience: 251-500 dives. Vis: 50 to       lives under the cover of the coral (like
100 Feet. Water: 81 F. We have been to      a whole new dimension you cannot
Bonaire 5 times. This time we dived         see above the coral). The hard coral on
with Bas, who was with Photo Tours.         Klein Bonaire looked like something
He took us shore diving on the east side    out of Tolkien. Tarpons at night right
which is hard to do on your own since       off the dive resort (a group of three
the conditions vary. We saw large stuff.    tarpon use your diving lights to hunt
e.g. turtles, eagle rays, tarpon and had    — they’ll lurk behind you and then
two great dives. My husband and sons        will unexpectedly fly past you literally
went with him later in the week and         inches from your head and go chas-
had two really neat dives on other sites.   ing after something just beyond your
There is current on the east side and       light range and then circle back behind
the shore entries/exits can be compli-      you to wait for the next opportunity.
cated. Bas mostly dives the east side and   Having 3 to 5 foot tarpon flying by
knows his stuff. He likes to do 1.5 hour    your head like that out of the darkness
dives. Phone 717-8830 home and 786-         is really cool...) Very little to nothing in
4917 cell. loonybin@bonairelive.com.        the way of pelagics or large schooling
On a previous trip we dove with Larry’s     fish (or much life of any kind) above
Wildside and had went to the North          the corals in the open water (in nearly
side to a spot we could have shore dove     20 dives the entire week, I think all I
ourselves and had to cut a dive short       saw other than the tarpons at night, was
because of current and visibility. He       a handful of barracuda over the wreck,
promotes the east side but mainly does      an eagle ray, and a turtle). That was dis-
one or two dive spots there. He does        appointing. The only partial exception
have a new boat and an assistant but        was the Salt Pier and piers right off the

                                                                                    29
      The Wider Caribbean                                                     BONAIRE
     airport runway, which attracted some          the bug spray! It seemed they had more
     schooling fish. Virtually every dive site      Nitrox divers than usual. Frequently,
     was identical up and down the whole           Nitrox (which was to be unlimited) was
     island (except the double reef system         limited. Getting to Bonaire is a long
     around Alice in Wonderland — which            haul from MN. Took us 18 hours to get
     was pretty cool — especially the outer        there including the 4 hour layover in
     reef). While nice, diving what could          Aruba.
     have been the same site nearly 20 times
                                                   Buddy Dive Resort, March 2005,
     in a week started getting a little old.
                                                   Colleen Kabat, Waupaca, WI. Experi-
     Virtually every site was shallow sand
                                                   ence: 101-250 dives. Vis: 75 to 125 Feet.
     going out 30-100 yards that dropped
                                                   Water: 78 to 80 F, no currents. First
     from 30 to 100 or more feet with a
                                                   trip to Bonaire. The office staff seemed
     coral reef along the slope to a sandy
                                                   “scattered.” We never found continuity
     bottom. My favorite dives were: Alice
                                                   with personnel. The resort has pretty
     in Wonderland, the reef right outside
                                                   shabby looking grounds and a moss-
     Bon Binis/Captain Don’s, Windsock,
                                                   covered pool. Their rooms are getting
     and basically all sites on Klein Bonaire
                                                   old, but they are huge. We had a beach
     — a small island off Bonaire. Bon Bini
                                                   front room with a kitchen & living
     Divers and their condos were fine and
                                                   room and nice walk out patio. The
     (supposedly) the best restaurant on the
                                                   staff is not very friendly and don’t look
     island was on the premises (and it was
                                                   for many smiles among them! A lot of
     really good!). The island was laid back
                                                   the resort’s guests are return custom-
     with no big hotels/nightlife, etc., but
                                                   ers and meet up with the same people
     had enough civilization so you weren’t
                                                   year after year. This was a hassle when
     totally roughing it. Small town feel.
                                                   it came time to putting our names on
     Buddy Dive Resort, Febru-                     the board for boat dives. Some people
     ary 2005, Marjorie Griffing                    were there as soon as they could sign up
     (mjgriffing@comcast.net), Shoreview,           and filled most of the spaces. Watch for
     MN. Experience: 101-250 dives. Vis:           this! Get down to the dive shop early!
     80 to 100 Feet. Water: 81 to 84 F, calm.      Find out when they set up the roster
     Complete freedom to dive when and             and be there! My husband and I had
     where you wanted. The reef off the            only 6 boat dives each and had a hard
     resort was quite nice. Large tarpon fol-      time getting on the lists! The resort
     lowed us at night hoping our dive lights      is located next to Captain Don’s and
     would help them locate dinner. This is        they are virtually on the same reef. The
     the place to look for seahorses, frog fish,    restaurant between, Lion’s Den, is excel-
     etc. The accommodations were some-            lent! We think it’s the best restaurant
     what run down. We had a problem with          on the island. We’ve been all over and
     water leaking into our 3 bedroom unit.        have never seen schools of fish like we
     The bedrooms are air conditioned, the         did there. Klein Bonaire was okay, but
     rest of the units are not. If you leave the   they had just had damage from a storm,
     doors open to get ventilation, the no-        so the reefs weren’t as spectacular as
     see-ems would be vicious. Don’t forget        we thought they would be. We liked

30
   BONAIRE                                             The Wider Caribbean
the house reef at Buddy better. The        our choice (saved $99 each). Variations
night dives there were great. We were      — boat dive to sites not reachable from
accompanied by “Charlie,” a 6-1/2 foot     shore, again no hassles. Night dive on
long tarpon that likes to “hunt” with      house reef with the resident tarpon.
the aid of divers’ lights. My husband      Dusk dive to see fish (yellow head
was he shocked when this huge, silver,     wrasses dive into the sand). Church
mirror-like fish came swimming              service Sunday morning at Trans World
between us! He followed us back to the     Radio. Our Olympus C-750 pictures
pier and when we went up to Lion’s         colored some underwater stuff with a
Den for dinner, divers were all excited    reddish cast not seen in above water
that they saw a huge tarpon and we         pictures. It allowed a picture to clearly
cracked up and told them it was us. We     show a frogfish; whereas underwater
did take our truck to other shore dive     the fish was so perfectly camouflaged
locations and we loved those dives! We     such that a divemaster had to make it
went down to Invisibles and found the      move before either of us saw it. UW
eagle ray. We found a pink frogfish after   Photography Comments: Rinse tanks
an hour’s search! Some wise divers told    for cameras and for cameras and regu-
us to “Let the reef come to you.” We did   lators on land. Camera bucket on boat
— it worked! We saw more turtles, eels,    used for masks too.
scorpion fish, sea horses, shrimp, etc.,
                                           Buddy Dive Resort, June 2005, Diane
than we could count. UW Photography
                                           Kipp, Edgewater, FL. Experience: 51-
Comments: Separate dunk tanks at dive
                                           100 dives. Vis: 80 to 100 Feet. Water: 80
shop for cameras.
                                           to 82 F, calm, no currents. Pack light,
Buddy Dive, May 2005, Robert Banker,       quick-dry stuff, only a dive skin or
Cumming, GA. Experience: 101-250           .5mm (no sea lice encountered). Water
dives. Vis: 50 to 100 Feet. Water: 82 to   shoes/booties a must for sharp coral.
84 F., calm, choppy, surge, currents, no   Casual, laid back. Don’t bring dressy
Currents. We did 18 shore dives and        stuff. We reserved 6 nts. in a 3 br. unit
6 boat dives in 7 days. Wind reversal      w/kitchen. Only upstairs brs. are AC’d.
allowed diving at Wilemstoren Light-       No AC in living room/kitchen which
house, unaffected by 2004 hurricane        is needed. Ask for a fan. 3br. units
Ivan. Our fifth year at Buddy Dive. No      don’t face ocean breezes; others do.
hassles. Fruit, cereal, eggs, omelets,     Rooms are adequate, clean, furnished
sausage, juice, breakfast (comes with      kitchen. Not a 4 star, but comfortable.
the Drive and Dive package), take two      Housekeeping service daily. Front desk
tanks in the truck to dive twice, lunch    is excellent as is dive operation and
in our room, take two tanks to dive        instructors. Rental gear well maintained
twice more, dinner — Lions Den, It         and gear storage available (we have
Rains Fishes, Richards, Buddy’s Friday     diving family of 5 from ages 12 to 55,
night BBQ, buy fish from Hispanic           beginners to adv.) Rental trucks have
folks and bake it in the apartment,        AC; vans do not. Island is easy to drive
cook spaghetti brought from home.          and tour. Food is expensive. Water is
Free Nitrox this month! 32% and 36%,       safe; when touring we brought water

                                                                                 31
      The Wider Caribbean                                                     BONAIRE
     and our own snacks to avoid buying.          houses, beautiful beaches and a unique
     (We pack 1 large duffel bag of food to       culture/history. Our 12 yr. old, recently
     bring on plane and prepare in a kitchen      certified, made his first wreck dive on
     unit. Kids take note: pizza and hot dogs     the Hilma Hooker. Watch your depth
     are harder to find. There’s only a small      gauge; great vis. makes going to deep
     refrig./no dishwasher. The a.m. buffet       depths quick and deceptively clear/easy.
     is nice, relaxing w/view, enough items       Shore diving in Bonaire is the greatest
     to satisfy, but the same menu every day.     ... easy drive up, gear up, walk in and
     Try the Dutch cheese! Buddy Dive food        enjoy! Waters are relaxingly warm, great
     was ok. Next door, Lions’ Den is better      vis to 100’, full of life in every direc-
     but more $$. On-site dive shop well          tion. Over 60 shore dive sites, all clearly
     stocked and helpful. Everything you          marked with easy access. I used a Sea &
     need steps away from rooms. Views/           Sea 5000G housed digital camera with
     sunsets gorgeous. Nicely landscaped          a Y-25 strobe; my first U/W digital. I’m
     grounds, small but relaxing pool. Area       not an experienced photographer, but I
     restaurants are close by, good quality,      thought the quality and variety of U/W
     but $$. Tour Slagbaii Natl. Park (by         life on Bonaire would please just about
     rental truck), allow min. half day, more     anyone. Adequate rinse tanks, and elec-
     if you plan to dive. Remote dive spots in    tric for rechargers.
     Park are awesome & easy to locate, but
                                                  Capt. Don’s Habitat, September 2004,
     keep in mind safety, as you are far from
                                                  Dave Bridenbaugh (dtbriden@fuse.
     the entrance. Unpaved, rough roads
                                                  net), Cincinnati, OH. Experience: 101-
     but worth the drive Y bring your dive
                                                  250 dives. Vis: 30 to 60 Feet. Water: 79
     gear! Kids loved the “old west” look,
                                                  to 84 F, calm. Were worried about the
     caves/bats, huge iguanas, 20 ft. cactus
                                                  damage by recent hurricanes. The pre-
     trees, ancient Indian carvings, wild
                                                  liminary reports from there were good
     pink flamingos, and surreal terrain.
                                                  (actually not so accurate — don’t scare
     Last dive in the Natl. Pk. must be done
                                                  the paying customers away). The vis-
     by 2p.m.We made 8 dives in 6 days. No
                                                  ibility was not so hot as low as 30 feet
     theft problems topside or at the resort.
                                                  on some sights. The storm mucked up
     In-room safe. Truck stayed unlocked.
                                                  the waters pretty well. Didn’t see much
     We felt safe; locals helpful. No travel-
                                                  damage except down South in the Red
     ing/communication problems. Buddy’s
                                                  Slave area. The soft corals were torn up
     drive-thru is unique. Dive 24/7 w/refills,
                                                  and a little bit of the reef was wasted.
     air/Nitrox avail., good rinse tanks, staff
                                                  At most dive sights there was lots of silt
     helpful. Kids saw nearly every variety of
                                                  between the corals and sponges. We still
     reef fish and coral in their ID books. No
                                                  managed to do 39 dives in 10 days and
     large sizes, no sharks, but saw turtles,
                                                  saw several Frogfish (even found one
     tarpon, barracuda, eels of every variety,
                                                  w/o a Divemaster’s help) a lot of juvy
     squid, tons of reef fish, and a scorpi-
                                                  trunkfish, several turtles, several rays,
     onfish. Touring topside is interesting:
                                                  2 sea horses, batwing crabs, eels galore,
     wild donkeys, goats, salt mountains,
                                                  and almost anything you can expect in
     wild cactus frontiers, colorful island
                                                  Bonaire. Great food at Rum Runners,

32
   BONAIRE                                                  The Wider Caribbean
Mona Lisa, It Rains Fishes, Casablanca,         daily cleaning. Nice patio or deck with
and Lion’s Dive. Do rent a truck. There         plastic coated wire for drying at each
are too many dive sights and not                unit. Nice swimming pool. Small beach
enough time.                                    below villas — also site of best snor-
                                                keling at the resort. (only fair). Hotel
Capt. Don’s Habitat, November
                                                restaurant (Rum Runners) quite good
2004, Bill Hitch (ghitch@ec.rr.com),
                                                food at reasonable prices ($10-15 pp).
Jacksonville, NC. Experience: 501-1000
                                                Good breakfast buffet. Plenty of lockers
dives. Vis: 90 to 100 Feet. Water: 82 to
                                                near dock — bring a small lock — only
84 F., calm. The dive crews and boat
                                                a few will accommodate standard
captains were great, as well as the staff.
                                                padlocks. Plenty of rinse tanks and
Packed way to many clothes! All you
                                                shower at dock. Rental equipment in
need is a couple pair of shorts and a
                                                good shape. Beach towels at front desk.
few t-shirts. Very laid back.. Easy to get
                                                Tanks available 24/7. Fills 2700-3100.
around the island....only driving rule
                                                Boats nonsmoking, large camera rinse
is really.......”just don’t hit anything”. 17
                                                buckets, 1 tank dives. Tips appreciated
dives in 5 days, with over 15 hours of
                                                but not expected. Other good restau-
bottom time! Capt Don’s was hooked
                                                rants include Argentinian Grill — great
up with someone with the airlines (Air
                                                grilled meats and fun servers; Richards
Jamaica), they came by the hotel on
                                                — excellent waterfront dining ($30-40
Thursday before we left on Saturday.
                                                pp); Croccantino — Italian ($18-25
They take your passport, ticket, depar-
                                                pp). Airport — get there early on de-
ture tax and $20. fee and they get your
                                                parture, especially if you are returning
boarding pass, which then allows you
                                                a rental car (they work on island time).
early check in. We went to the airport
                                                Donot lock your bags, they search every
at 10 am and checked in our luggage,
                                                bag by hand. Have all your batteries
though our flight was not until 3:10pm!
                                                out of equipment in a separate plastic
When we got to the airport at 1:30 that
                                                bag. Diving pretty good, but not spec-
afternoon, the line to check in was long!
                                                tacular. Best dives — Salt pier, frogfish,
It was L worth the $20 fee.
                                                hunting morays and sharptail eels and
Capt. Don’s Habitat, May 2005, Craig            many filefish; Oil Slick Leap — sea-
Young & Sharon Busey, Menomonee                 horse; goldentail morays, turtle, lots of
Falls, WI. Vis: 30 to 75 feet. Water:           drums and trunkfish; Green Submarine
82 F. Air temperature mid-90s. Room             — honeycomb cowfish, sharpnose
nothing fancy but clean and large. Air          puffer, reef squid; Hilma Hooker
conditioning; small safe and small              — nice wreck with tarpon, barracuda.
refrigerator. Plenty of hot water and           The house reefs, La Machaca and Reef
shower-tub combo No hair dryer                  Scientifico, were both good with mating
though listed on their web site ( rent          sargassum swimming crabs, cleaning
one at $5/ day from front desk plus             stations, puffers, reef shrimp, morays
$50 deposit — no thanks), no iron, no           (gold chain, reticulated and spotted)
hair shampoo. Housekeeping arrives              and scorpionfish. Bonaire Diving Made
at variable times (even after 5 PM) for         Easy is a nice guide to shore diving.


                                                                                     33
      The Wider Caribbean                                                    BONAIRE
     Dives north of 1000 steps are on a sec-      ‘n Browse (from Connecticut, I think)
     tion of one way road and is a long drive     loaned us his binoculars for our drive
     back to the resort areas. We had no          around the island. He didn’t ask for
     problems with crime, but always left the     collateral, ID. Amazing trust! Humidity
     car unlocked with the windows open.          was terribly high and temps in low 90s
                                                  but the wind kept it tolerable, barely.
     Capt. Don’s Habitat, June 2005, Carole
                                                  I wish we had been prepared to pay
     Mouton, Sugar Land, TX. Experience:
                                                  for small purchases in Dutch $. When
     251-500 dives. Vis: 50 to 100 Feet.
                                                  using American dollars, locals were
     Water: to 83 F, calm, surge, no cur-
                                                  either ignorant on conversion or con-
     rents. The advertised internet service
                                                  niving — they would cheat you nearly
     is provided by an outside vender. My
                                                  every time. Wished we had brushed up
     computer had an Airport Card for
                                                  on Centigrade to Fahrenheit conver-
                              I needed was
     wireless service, so all BONAIRE the
                                                  sion. Oven in our rental cabin was in
     password to access the local network.
                                                  centigrade! Luckily we weren’t trying
     The provider required me to meet
                                                  anything critical and muddled through.
     him in person to establish service, but
                                                  A guide taped to the wall would have
     did not show up. His times to be in
                                                  been helpful! American/American Eagle
     the office were during scheduled boat
                                                  had no lost/delayed luggage, no missed
     dives, so I never could get the service. I
                                                  flights. UW Photography Comments:
     bought time on the resort’s antiquated
                                                  Photograph shop on premises, but was
     computers and could only get off two
                                                  not staffed a lot of the time because he
     email messages in 30 minutes. I was
                                                  would be out on the boat. Annoying.
     shut down without warning and mes-
                                                  Had to go chasing around to find some-
     sages being sent were lost. I entered
                                                  one to help us.
     the slide show contest but couldn’t be
     there in person as our night dive at         Capt. Don’s Habitat, Happy Holiday
     the Salt Pier had been rescheduled for       Homes Bungalows, July 2005, Dave
     that evening. I won, but never received      Bridenbaugh, (dtbriden@fuse.net),
     any prize. When I came to the dive           Cincinnati, OH. Experience: 251-500
     office the next day, I was told that the      dives. Vis: 50 to 75 Feet. Water: 82 to
     manager had to give me the prize, but        84 F, no currents. Trip number five
     he was not there the three times I came      to Bonaire. Louise at Happy Holiday
     by the dive office. My flight home was         (info@happyholidayhomes.com) is
     the next morning; I left my email and        great and will take care of booking a
     snail mail addresses, but I was never        truck and a dive package for you — if
     contacted.                                   you’d like even getting some groceries
                                                  ahead of time. We got our own shore
     Capt. Don’s Habitat, June 2005, Rindy
                                                  pkg. at Capt. Don’s Habitat. After the
     and Janet Clayton (rindy@hawksnet.
                                                  usual orientation we stowed our gear in
     net), Lookout, WV. Experience: 51-100
                                                  their lockers that are 20 ft. from a pier
     dives. Vis: 30 to 80+ Feet. Water: 80 to
                                                  where you can step into 10 feet of water
     F, calm. Natives not all that friendly but
                                                  and swim 75 ft. to the reef. Weather hot
     transplants were nice. Owner of Chat
                                                  and mostly sunny with the Trade Winds

34
   BONAIRE                                               The Wider Caribbean
making life great. No great scenery. It     Inn will be a good choice. We saw
looks like Arizona outback areas. Since     spotted eagle rays, turtles, many eels,
the bungalows have stoves and fridges,      and my wife found a yellow sea horse.
we bought groceries. We made two            I found a baby 3-inch octopus hiding
dives that afternoon on Habitat and saw     in a coral head. Barracuda, and the ju-
the usual reef suspects. Our routine:       veniles baby pea trunkfish, little ribbon
Breakfast in the bungalow, pack snacks,     baby drums, all plentiful to the trained
water, and lunch. Drive to Habitat and      eye. We did not find a frogfish. Bring
pick up four tanks each. The folks at       a 3 or 5-mil suit because you will be
Habitat are gracious and helpful. Boat      diving so much you will drop a degree
diving can be booked along with the         or two in body temp. Slow down and
unlimited shore diving package or           enjoy the “laid-back attitude” because it
pay by the boat dives. Easily accessible    is the Caribbean.
coast, which features more than 80 dive
                                            Capt. Don’s Habitat, July 2005, Mark
sights. A yellow painted boulder marks
                                            Kimmey (scubatek1@cs.com), New
each. For the next 13 days we logged up
                                            York, NY. Experience: 501-1000 dives.
47 dives. We did two dives in the morn-
                                            Vis: 40 to 100 Feet. Water: 80 to 85 F,
ing then lunch followed by two dives in
                                            calm. Planned this trip through the
the afternoon. Most sights are close to
                                            resort’s North American reservation
easy parking and sometimes you are no
                                            agent, Maduro Travel. It took a flurry of
more than 30 ft. from the water. Many
                                            email traffic over a period of days; the
sights are 50 yards or closer from shore
                                            agent kept screwing up the reservation:
to the edge of the reef. Many rubble and
                                            we would ask for something, he would
sand areas have a lot to see. We saw yel-
                                            price something close. Or he would
lowheaded jawfish, garden eels, squid,
                                            forget to price something we asked for,
octopus, and even some rays and turtles
                                            or the math was off. By the time we ar-
in these areas. The reefs are in good
                                            rived in Bonaire, we were apprehensive
shape; however, the visibility was not so
                                            that Captain Don’s might be as slipshod
hot. The locals blame the storms. I’m
                                            as their reservation agent. (We later
not sure. Must dives are Karpata, Oil
                                            found out that the guy handling our
Slick Leap, and Ole Blue to the North
                                            trip left Maduro). Captain Don’s met
with Red Slave and its beautiful soft
                                            most of our expectations. Rooms were
corals to the South. Average dives will
                                            clean and accommodated diving (tile
be 50 to 80 feet along the reef going and
                                            floors, clothes lines, etc.), though a bit
40 or so feet on the return. We usually
                                            under cooled. The cottage we stayed
ate supper at one of the many great
                                            in had coolers in the two bedrooms,
restaurants and sometime sneaked
                                            only: the common areas (kitchenette,
over to Lovers Ice Cream Parlor for the
                                            sitting area and bath/shower) had no
nightcap. No sharks, but you might try
                                            cooling. The resort’s restaurant served
the Eastside for an occasional shark
                                            good food at good prices, and the dive
however, weather conditions have to be
                                            staff was proficient and friendly. The
right to dive. A couple of dive opera-
                                            only area of concern was maintenance
tions go there. Bruce Bowker at Carib
                                            of their rental gear. Since I’m a certified

                                                                                  35
      The Wider Caribbean                                                    BONAIRE
     technician and once owned my own             of humor fluttering around the place
     equipment servicing business, this has       making sure everything is as it should
     always been something on which I keep        be Y that is Bruce. The staff is warm
     an eye: It’s indicative of the overall       and friendly. Bruce has one of the best
     responsibility of a dive operation. My       dive shops on the island and the prices
     son was issued two BCs, the first of          are excellent. Bruce and the staff are
     which leaked. More alarming, 9 of 10         always ready to lend a hand and will
     tanks bled air, either from the tank         repair or resolve most gear problems
     valve o-ring, the tank neck o-ring, or in    and not take anything in return. They
     one disturbing case, from the burst-         offer Nitrox and though they do not
     ing disk retaining plug. When taking         blend it, we always had enough for
     tanks for shore dives about the island, it   our party of four. Bruce offers wireless
     was not uncommon to find that tanks           Internet service by the pool. Bruce has
     had bled 300-400 psi from the time           two small boats that can get you to any
     we picked them up to when we began           dive site quickly. You are never rushed
     a dive. We tagged the problem bottles,       into the water or out of the water. Most
     but attempts to report what seemed to        days we did one boat dive and a couple
     be a systemic problem to the staff were      of shore dives. We always rent a truck,
     met with polite indifference. In the case    but you do not need to because you can
     of the leaking bursting disk screw, we       do mostly boat dives, shore dive right
     found the problem in the water during        at the inn, walk to several nice restau-
     a boat dive and duly reported it to the      rants, and walk into town. The taxis are
     divemaster upon exit: he looked at           inexpensive and will cover trips to the
     me like I was an idiot and simply put        grocery store.
     the problem bottle with all the others.
                                                  Divi Flamingo, August 2004, Mark
     What I should have done was pull the
                                                  Smith (marktammi33@hotmail.com),
     bad valve o-rings to force the fill opera-
                                                  Port Saint Lucie, FL. Experience: 51-
     tor to replace them. As it was, I checked
                                                  100 dives. Vis: 40 to 80 Feet. Water: 82
     tank pressure on every bottle we pulled
                                                  to 84 F, calm. We had a great time. The
     from the “ready” pile before loading
                                                  dive staff was wonderful all the way
     them into the truck, and only replaced
                                                  down the line.
     the valve o-rings when it was obvious
     there was a problem.                         Divi Flamingo, August 2004, Gary
                                                  Brown (texaswhirlpool@yahoo.com),
     Carib Inn, April 2005, Doug & Nancy
                                                  Bloomburg, TX. Experience: 26-50
     Dellisanti (dellisanti@buckeye-ex-
                                                  dives. Vis: 80 to 150 Feet. Water: 79
     press.com), Huron, OH. Experience:
                                                  to 81 F., calm, choppy. Coral along
     251-500 dives. Vis: 50 to 80 Feet. Water:
                                                  the leeward side of Bonaire is diversi-
     80 to 82 F, choppy. Our fifth year in
                                                  fied and beautiful, usually in the 30 to
     Bonaire. We found Bruce Bowker’s Crib
                                                  45 ft range. This is dry arid country
     Inn by researching the Chapbook. The
                                                  with little rainfall providing great vis
     Carib Inn is a small quaint place that
                                                  all year long. The fish are the colors if
     you instantly feel welcome. You will see
                                                  the rainbow. Great diving right off the
     a tall lanky individual with a nice sense

36
   BONAIRE                                                The Wider Caribbean
resort dock. Town pier night diving is       newly renovated south pier. Fine for
a mile from the resort. Due to security      boats but lacking benches for shore
precautions this dive may not be avail-      divers. The North pier is being rebuilt
able at all times — check with your dive     (several new pilings were poured dur-
operator to get on a limited list of dive    ing our stay). Hotel landscaping also is
trips to this area. The theft problem        much improved over last year. The ca-
in Bonaire is horrific and needs to be        sino is being enlarged. We thought that
addressed by the Netherlands. We had         the food was good, but the American
our radio stolen out of our dive truck       style buffet breakfast was more than
at Karpata dive site on the north west       we wanted to pay for @ $27.50 for two
coast. We were shore diving at the site      folks. Instead we enjoyed a morning
and only gone about 1 hour. We had to        stroll along the harbor and ate at City
pay $210 for the radio before we could       Cafe and The Lost Penguin, where they
leave Bonaire. You may hear advice to        serve wonderful tropical French toast
not lock your doors and leave windows        (with Belgium Chocolate sauce) for
partially down so that the thieves want      about $13 for both of us. We had great
to break windows out . Seems like a slap     dinners at Casablanca, It Rains Fishes,
to be told we need to accommodate this       Zeezicht Seaside, The Old Inn, Ribs
den of thieves running rampant. I filed       Factory. Pizza at the stand in the mar-
a police report, but it took 2 hours after   ketplace downtown is disappointing as
arriving at the police station. I prob-      were luncheon hamburgers at Casa-
ably will not return to a place where        blanca. Dinner at Richards Seafood is
the local authorities don’t seem to give     over-rated (Frommers 2 star) and over
a damn about what’s happening to the         priced — avoid! Ivan has washed away
divers and Bonaire’s source of revenue.      the sandy beaches exposing the under-
                                             lying hardpan sharp coral, mounded
Divi Flamingo, November 2004,
                                             piles of dead coral along the shore and
Jim Reilly and Fran Klass (james.
                                             together these conditions make shore
reilly4@worldnet.att.net), Wynd-
                                             diving entrances and exits along the
moor, PA. Experience: 101-250 dives.
                                             southern half of the lee coastline chal-
Vis: 30 to 80 Feet. Water: 85 to 87 F,
                                             lenging. Divers need to carefully select
calm. Check-in was fast and smooth,
                                             their entry/exit points. Shore diving
although initially we were assigned a
                                             along the downtown is fine and by the
room without the extras we ordered
                                             marina is nice. And of course diving
(2nd floor, king bed), we were quickly
                                             from the various docks is just simplic-
assigned the room we requested.
                                             ity itself. We did not see large creatures,
Seemed odd that we were not given the
                                             other than tarpon which accompanied
correct room immediately. The Divi
                                             us at night darting in and out of our
continues to improve. Our room was
                                             dive light beams looking for prey. Very
freshly painted, well appointed, clean
                                             exciting! But we did see several types
and kept that way. Housekeeping was
                                             of eels, including a golden moray,
outstanding, even remembering to sup-
                                             clouds of small fish and the wonderful
ply us with extra towels once we asked
                                             seahorses.
for more. The dive operation used the

                                                                                     37
      The Wider Caribbean                                                    BONAIRE
     Divi Flamingo, The Plaza Resort, Jan-        fine but I was almost sound asleep by
     uary 2005, Jill Caple (rg250cat@msn.         the time it came to the table. Diving
     com), Pasadena, MD. Experience:              with Sharkriders Scuba Tours is great
     26-50 dives. Vis: 60 to 80 Feet. Water: 79   because we always get great service and
     to 81 F, calm, no Currents. Our first trip    attention.
     to Bonaire. We went with Shark Riders
                                                  Divi Flamingo, May 2005, R.E. and
     Scuba Tours. Ed Hoffman had every-
                                                  Carol A Thompson (baricat@yahoo.
     thing well planned. Everyone at Divi
                                                  com), Boynton Beach, FL. Experience:
     Divers was wonderful. Orlando was
                                                  251-500 dives. Vis: 50 to 75 Feet. Water:
     amazing at finding frogfish, octopus
                                                  80 to 82 F., calm, choppy. Spectacular
     and other small critters. Pepe was fun to
                                                  shore diving. Corals are healthy and
     dive and made sure everyone was taken
                                                  breathtaking! The marine park fee was
     care of. We dove from their dive boat
                                                  raised 4/1/05 from $10 per diver to a
     Sea Gypsy, one of the nicer boats. We
                                                  whopping $25. We were almost snagged
     did 2 tanks in the morning then 1 tank
                                                  by a fishing line with bait attached
     after lunch. Then we did night dives
                                                  during a dive. It was reeled up while
     from the dock on the house reef. The
                                                  we were almost on top of it. Two locals
     house reef is nice for night dives and
                                                  in a small boat with outboard, close
     a slower evening dive. I get cold when
                                                  to the Hooker. When we asked about
     diving and dove with rash guard shirt,
                                                  the “protected marine sanctuary” at
     full suit (3mm),and bought a hood +
                                                  the dive shop, Orlando, a divemaster,
     dive socks to wear after a couple of days
                                                  told us “Well, it’s OK to fish, but they
     of still being cold. My husband wore
                                                  are supposed to do it at the open water
     his shorty. The rooms at Divi Flamingo
                                                  edge of the reef, to stay away from div-
     are fine but nothing fancy. We did have
                                                  ers.” We thought that “protected marine
     a small kitchen, big refrigerator, great
                                                  sanctuary within 6 miles from shore”
     for heating up leftovers or making a
                                                  meant just that. Your $25 bucks at
     quick lunch. We bought drinks and
                                                  work protecting those fish! We feel this
     snacks to keep in the room and take on
                                                  selective enforcement to be uncon-
     morning dives. The food was great but
                                                  scionable. Saw 2 seahorses, one brown,
     took forever. We would go to eat before
                                                  one black, during the week, and one
     we were hungry because by the time
                                                  frogfish. Town Pier at night is gorgeous.
     your food came you would be hungry.
                                                  While diving Karpata, everything in our
     The front desk would run out of beach
                                                  truck was rifled through. Tore a hole
     towels so you had to reuse yours or hit
                                                  in our dry dive bag. They stole a tin of
     the front desk at the right time to get
                                                  cinnamon Altoids. Left the mint ones,
     fresh towels. Our flight home with Air
                                                  though! Dutch guests were unfriendly.
     Jamaica was cancelled. Ed (Sharkrid-
                                                  Divi was barely passable — room floor
     ers Tours) got us an overnight stay at
                                                  was dirt-laden, fridge froze everything
     The Plaza Resort. The room we stayed
                                                  and air co was either in overdrive or
     in was huge, and nice. The dinner was
                                                  non-existent, lots of bratty kids com-
     over priced and made Divi Flamingo’s
                                                  mandeering the pools.
     food service look fast. The food was


38
   BONAIRE                                                The Wider Caribbean
Divi Flamingo Beach Hotel, May 2005,          60 to 80 Feet. Water: 80 to 82 F, calm,
Joe Stehn, Hillsborough, NJ. Experi-          no Currents. 5th trip to Divi Flamingo.
ence: 160 dives. Vis: 50 to 60 feet. Water:   The food at the resort is superb at
82 to 84 F, calm and flat. Overall dive        breakfast and OK at lunch and dinner.
operation was good. Woman running             Our dive shop (Wateree Dive Center in
dive shop was not helpful and had an          Columbia, SC) had breakfast included
attitude. Water visibility was not great.     in the package, but we were on our own
Great shore diving but entry at most          for lunch and dinner, the best way to do
sites requires great attention due to         it. We could walk 10 min. to excellent
coral. Saw large 10 foot moray eel on         restaurants (Capreccio’s, Crocantino’s,
reef. Divi Resort was well maintained.        and It Rains Fishes). The dive opera-
                                              tion is excellent. Our two divemasters,
Divi Flamingo Beach, July
                                              Laurel and Rofino, are superb. The
2005, Phil and Grace Hampton
                                              boats are fine, nothing fancy. The dive
(gracphil@palmnet.net). Experience:
                                              sites were within 15 min. and the reefs
2,300 (Grace 1,000). Vis: 40 to 70 feet.
                                              were healthy with plenty of critters,
Water: 78 to 81 F, calm and flat. My
                                              some turtles, lots of morays (spotted
wife and I spent 3 weeks. The unlim-
                                              and golden), frogfish, octopus, sea-
ited dive package included a two tank
                                              horses, juvenile drums, and others. We
morning dive and a one tank afternoon
                                              did not see any green morays or sharks.
dive. That plan, together with dives off
                                              Shore diving from the resort is easy and
the dock, gave us each 55 dives over
                                              the reef in front of the resort (Calabas)
the 3 weeks. The dive operation had
                                              is excellent with plenty of aquatic life.
4 boats to accommodate nongroup
                                              Flew Air Jamaica twice and no prob-
divers and 2 large groups. The boats
                                              lems.
were not crowded and always left on
time. A superb operation managed by           Larry’s Wildside Diving, Oc-
Serge and great divemasters. Frog fish,        tober 2004, Dawn Steedman
seahorses, eagle and grey rays, turtles       (rlumenator@aol.com), Cape Coral,
plus the usual reef critters. Manta rays      FL. Experience: 101-250 dives. Water:
were reported on the windward side of         84 to 86 F. Larry, a former divemas-
Bonaire but we only dove the lee side.        ter on Bonaire, has an exciting dive
Getting to Bonaire can be an adventure;       operation, making boat diving to the
we had an 8-hour wait in Curacao and          east coast of Bonaire a daily adventure.
then left late. I never thought I would       Larry helped to design the 30’ rigid
miss ALM or DCA, but I do. Time-              hull Zodiac 920, which runs on (2)
share units are showing their age. This       225 Yamaha 4 stroke engines. He runs
was our 29th consecutive annual trip to       a safety conscious operation. The day
Bonaire and it is our favorite Caribbean      we went was choppy, windy, and rainy
dive location.                                — but the diving was excellent (an easy
                                              drift dive). There were 6 of us on this
Divi Flamingo, August 2005 Tripp
                                              trip, the Marine Park Director joining
Jones (Tjones@sc.rr.com), Columbia,
                                              us on his day off. Spotted eagle rays,
SC. Experience: 501-1000 dives. Vis:
                                              turtles, large rainbow parrots, green

                                                                                    39
      The Wider Caribbean                                                     BONAIRE
     morays, and tarpons too many to count         of renovation. We h ad a room on the
     were among the sightings. The coral           lower level of the ocean front building.
     formations are unusual, and there are         The air conditioner leaked water all
     numerous sea fans. Entry back into the        over or tile floor making it slippery. We
     boat, using an unusually tall ladder was      called to have it repaired several times
     as easy for me at 118 lbs., as it was for a   but it continued to be a problem. The
     man more than 300 lbs. The operation          walls were flaky and a bit moldy. The
     also does unique dives to wrecks and          food was excellent and the bar was great
     to Washington Park. Contact: www.             but did close early most nights. The
     larryswildsidediving.com.                     Divi is just a short walk into town. For
                                                   the price, dealing with the substandard
     Larry’s Wildside Diving, Divi Fla-
                                                   room and having the great diving was
     mingo, November 2004, Judy Flagg,
                                                   worth it.
     New Windsor, NY. Experience: 251-500
     dives. Vis: 50 to 75 Feet. Water: 82 to 85    Larry’s Wildside Diving, Holiday
     F, calm. We saw lots of vibrant cor-          Homes, June 2005, Gary Mazzurco
     als and large numbers of tropical fish.        (bazzurco@pacbell.net) Aptos, CA.
     The water was in the 80s, the vis was         Experience: 0-25 dives. Happy Holiday
     fine and the diving easy. Unlike most          Homes is simply decorated and for the
     Caribbean diving staffs, the Divi staff       budget minded. Internet connection in
     provided no help with getting every-          our room (for a fee), and while Internet
     thing on board and changing out your          service was intermittent, it was fast
     tank after the first dive. The first 2 days     for the island. The BBQ cost us a one
     no in-between dive snack was provided.        time charge and for some reason the
     Despite the small inconvenience, the          briquettes never really got hot. They
     diving was wonderful. The divemaster          seemed to disintegrate quickly, like a
     in the water was great at finding small        piece of cotton. No pool or anywhere
     critters and seahorses. The sites selected    to sit in the afternoon sun to read a
     had great coral and lots of fish. We dove      book. Place was well set up for rinsing
     with Larry’s Wildside one morning.            and drying out dive gear after the days
     Larry is quite the character. He has a        dives and had a small covered patio.
     large Zodiac boat and gets the divers         Marine life was quite sparse as com-
     in and out of the boat in an almost           pared to August 2003, attributed to the
     military fashion. He pointed to you and       large quantities of rain the three weeks
     you were expected to back roll into the       prior to our trip and the effects of the
     water instantly. We did not see any large     hurricanes this season. The freshwater
     pelagics but I understand the chances         run off sends the fish further out to sea
     are better on that side of the island. The    and pollutes the water. Had the “best
     shore diving was exceptional. We dove         burger on the island” as it is known
     Red Slave, the Hooker and went to the         at the Lost Penguin. The owners there
     National Park for the day. Wear hard          are great as is the food. We had many
     soled dive booties of even rock boots         breakfasts and post dive lunches there.
     because of the coral on the shore and         She told us about Larry’s Wildside
     in the water. The Divi is in need of a bit    Adventures and booked a trip for the

40
   BONAIRE                                               The Wider Caribbean
next morning. Larry, who has been on        the air fills were always at least 3000 psi
the island for about 5 years now, and       and usually more. They offer Nitrox
his dive guide, Martin, were great. We      fills for an additional fee. The cost is
met them at the dock the next morning.      comparable to other locations on the
They were friendly, professional and        island and we were able to negotiate
helped us out loading and unloading         and great rate since we were here for 10
our gear. They gave a full boat and dive    days of diving and a larger group.
briefing prior to leaving the dock and
                                            Larry’s Wildside Diving, Divi Flamin-
on the way out to the site. They were
                                            go, July 2005, Jim Reilly and Fran Klass
helpful in setting up gear. Larry runs
                                            (james.reilly4@worldnet.att.net),
a safe and tight ship, checking all of
                                            Wyndmoor, PA. Experience: 101-250
our gear was in proper working order
                                            dives. Vis: 40 to 50 Feet. Water: 83 to 85
before we rolled out to dive. Larry is an
                                            F, choppy. Diving with Larry is just old-
experienced military seal and engineer
                                            fashioned fun. The boat ride is like an
and it shows. His boat is custom made
                                            adventure ride at a theme park and the
by Zodiac and he helped to engineer it.
                                            diving was simply wonderful — lots of
The boat, less than a year old, is one of
                                            large turtles, one eagle ray after another,
the best we have seen and has twin 225
                                            the largest southern sting rays we’ve
Yamaha motors. Larry’s inflatable is by
                                            ever seen and lots of healthy large green
far the most seaworthy on the island.
                                            moray eels. Nonstop action. Wonderful
Larry assists the coast guard when
                                            dive boat and diving system. At first it
needed here in Bonaire. One of the
                                            seems like lots of rules, sort of military,
pontoon sausage portions deflates and
                                            but once you get going, the logic of the
they put a nice ladder in making entry
                                            rules is evident and following them is
back into the boat quite easy, especially
                                            easy and enhances your enjoyment.
in rougher seas. Martin has two degrees
                                            Larry’s Zodiac is a marvel of scuba
in marine biology and was helpful in
                                            design. Back roll exit, and easy ladder to
pointing out marine life. Once Larry
                                            climb back into the boat. A great system
knows your diving abilities he will do
                                            for diving the Atlantic side reefs; there
custom trips for you and your dive
                                            were 4 to 5 foot swells and some mild
group. We had dinner at the Mona Lisa
                                            chop. Larry’s is expensive and worth
restaurant and bar. They are open only
                                            it! UW Photography Comments: No
Monday-Friday. The chef and staff were
                                            bucket for camera. But then the total
great. We had a fabulous lobster dinner
                                            time to the dive site was reasonable
and stayed for drinks at the bar. Not a
                                            brief and the camera was in the shade.
fancy place and was priced right for the
quality of the food. Larry and Martin       Photo Tours, Windsock, No-
can be found many nights having a           vember 2004, Trevor Cramer
quick beer at the end of the day here,      (cramercraft@shaw.ca), Edmonton,
along with many other locals. Amstel        Alberta. Experience: 51-100 dives. Vis:
on tap. We got our air fills through The     40 to 80 Feet. Water: 82 to 84 F, choppy,
Plaza Resort. We found the staff to be      surge. My Dive buddy and I had bad
helpful and friendly both times. Also       intel for the trip, did not do enough


                                                                                   41
      The Wider Caribbean                                                    BONAIRE
     research. Our trip package was done         30 to 75 Feet. Water: 80 to 82 F, calm.
     though Ocean Sports of Edmonton,            Photo Tours Divers (www.bonphoto-
     and guided by Karl. Our package said        tours.com): Unlimited shore diving
     unlimited shore dives with 4/rented         for a flat daily fee, two-tank morning
     truck and condo unit, we found that         boat dives and one-tank afternoon
     4/truck was crowded and hard to get in      dives. The boats go to Klein Bonaire
     more than 2-3 dives a day — too many        except Wednesdays and Fridays, when
     divers with different dive habits. We       they go to the northern end of the
     wanted to dive 3-4 times a-day, others      island. If you want to dive the southern
     were happy with 1 or 2 dives, we didn’t     sites, you are better off doing them as
     travel all that way to lose out on some     shore dives. Divemasters were helpful,
     dives. Rent your own truck per dive         enthusiastic and knowledgeable. The
     buddy/habit team. The condo had no          “drive-through” tank arrangement
     soap/shampoo, toilet paper, no ceiling      worked beautifully — pull up in front
     fans or any gear hooks and hangers, was     of a Photo Tours location, throw to two
     right next to the Airport and a 7 minute    tanks each into the back of your truck
     drive to town, not convenient. That info    (rent a small truck while shore diving
     was not related to us. We would rather      in Bonaire), drive off, dive, return the
     stay in town for the convenience. Photo     tanks even after hours. The dives: A
     Tours Dive Shop was professional,           pod of about 15 dolphins played with
     the boat dive we took was good with         the boat en route to Rockpile (a site on
     exceptional service from the Divemas-       Klein Bonaire), then swam past us after
     ter Chili and his assistant Divemaster,     we were in the water (about 30 feet
     although we missed a couple of appar-       away), then played with the boat during
     ently excellent guided shore dives...the    our move to the next site. We saw spot-
     dive shop should give each diver a list     ted eagle rays, turtles, ocean triggerfish,
     of potential guided dives available! The    large (but no huge) grouper, flounder
     food was great, Lost Penguin, Chibi         and trumpetfish, eels. Every dive was
     Chibi. The weather kind of sucked, a        among the most diverse and interest-
     bit of a tropical storm blew though, the    ing I have ever enjoyed. Unseen: squid
     diving was great, a bit more work than      and seahorses. PTD has two boats, one
     boat dives but you learn lots of great      larger and shabbier than the other.
     skills, not getting tumbled in the surf,    The smaller, newer boat is comfortable
     navigation, dive profiles, currents and      (backroll entry), but the older, larger
     surge, organizational skills, weather and   boat is long in the tooth. Ocean View
     tidal watching. The Island was beautiful    Villas (www.oceanviewvillas.com/).
     and not ruined by over development,         Three-apartment complex south of the
     the people were friendly and the Dutch      airport was designed by a Cuban archi-
     ladies sweet.                               tect and is managed by Tim and John,
                                                 who live on the premises. They provide
     Photo Tours Divers, Ocean View Vil-
                                                 no meals. While not on the beach, it is a
     las, August 2005, Robert and Rhonda
                                                 short distance from shore and was laid
     Fleming (rhondarf@yahoo.com), Tuc-
                                                 out beautifully for divers, with rinse
     son, AZ. Experience: 101-250 dives. Vis:

42
   BONAIRE                                                The Wider Caribbean
and outdoor shower facilities, enclosed      fresh tanks and to (un)load your equip-
high-wall patios (each unit private          ment. Hotel staff was also friendly and
from the others), and kitchenettes. All      helpful. There was a leak in the room
utensils, spices and basics were already     from above and it had to be evacuated.
there, and a shopping trip took care of      The move was completed within 45
stocking the refrigerator. Tim and John      minutes and an upgraded ocean view
were excellent hosts, and happy to help      room. Only negative: I was the last one
with everything — they made restau-          in line to see a seahorse and take a pic-
rant recommendations, reservations           ture of it. I was patiently waiting, finally
for post-dive massages and mangrove          approaching it as all out of a sudden I
kayak tour (check out the day spa run        was pulled on my fins and pushed out
by Nubia Obando (www.infobonaire.            of the way by another group of 3 divers.
com/dayspa) and the Mangrove Info            I did not touch anything. It was a dive
and Kayak Center (www.infobonaire.           master with Captain Dons Habitat.
com/kayakingctively). UW Photog-             Afterwards, there was a pod of dol-
raphy Comments: Boats had a small            phins and divers from a third boat were
camera tank, but no divers on any of         snorkeling with them and Don’s boat
our boat trips had anything more than        came with relatively high speed within
simple digital cameras.                      2-3 feet of them. All you could see was
                                             panicking snorkelers raising their hands
Plaza Resort, March 2005, David L.
                                             and trying to get away.
Bader, Burke, VA. Experience: Over
1000 dives. Vis: 75 to 100 Feet. Water:      Plaza Resort, June 2005, Roger Dennis
81 F, calm, no currents. Travel to/from      (rcdennis@pobox.com), San Jose CA.
Bonaire is getting increasingly difficult.    Experience: 400 dives. Vis: 50 to 100
There’s long waits in PR when you            Feet. Water 82 _ F. Toucan Divers did
transit that airport. North side of Bo-      not respond to e-mail asking questions.
naire is plagued with theft from rental      They advertise things on the web but
cars. The government does not seem to        do not follow through once you are
be interested in protecting divers’ rights   there. The information at the front desk
or property. The economy, which once         did not conform to what we found, e.g.,
catered to divers, is now focused on the     dive shop was not open at 8:00 am; the
cruise ship industry. It’s a shame that      orientation started at 9:00 am instead
such a beautiful dive location is slowly     of 8:30. At our check out shore dive, the
being run into the ground.                   DM soon left. He told us to call from
                                             the bar and they would pick up our
Plaza Resort, May 2005, Jim Hanson,
                                             gear. Once we were back ashore (eight
New York, NY. Experience: 251-500
                                             people) we called and then waited 30
dives. Vis: 60 to 80 Feet. Water: 82 to 83
                                             minutes. We finally just carried all our
F, calm. The Toucan Diving staff was
                                             gear back to the dive shop. When we
helpful, friendly, flexible, professional.
                                             questioned the person in the shop, she
Lockers and rinse tanks were avail-
                                             told us she was busy with a customer
able. You could pull up with the truck
                                             and nobody else was around. She never
directly to the filling station to pick up
                                             told anyone. Tanks often under filled.

                                                                                    43
      The Wider Caribbean                                                    BONAIRE
     O-rings on tanks old and not regu-           (Monday and Thursday) or an after-
     larly replaced. Boat captains and dive       noon dive. You can’t dive the Salt Pier
     masters often did not have any tools         without both Harbor Master permis-
     to replace a bad tank O-ring. The dive       sion and a D/M. They cite the threat of
     sites are nice in many ways but there is     terrorism as the reason. However, when
     a lack of larger fish. Although we did        terrorists start blowing up Bonaire’s
     see a 7ft tarpon at a wreck dive site. The   Salt Pier, we’re in big trouble. “Action”
     dive boats provide little shaded area        Jackson (a Toucan D/M) had a major
     and the aisle ways are too narrow, mak-      side business charging $25 a head to
     ing it hard to get around people to get      take you there (and he doesn’t mention
     to your gear.                                the fee until you’re loading tanks in the
                                                  back of your pickup truck). My ten-
     Plaza Resort, August 2005, Wil-
                                                  year-old daughter completed her O/W
     liam & Frances Ungerman
                                                  referral certification here with Instruc-
     (WSUngerman@aol.com), Santa
                                                  tor “Danny,” a Dutch female. Danny
     Ana, CA. Experience: 501-1000 dives.
                                                  was competent and worked effectively
     Vis: 50 to 100 Feet. Water: 81 to 84 F,
                                                  with little ones. Thirteen dives later
     calm, choppy, surge, no currents. The
                                                  Sierra saw sea horses, morays, and frog
     Plaza resort is an upscale resort, yet the
                                                  fish. The Plaza’s beach is “topless” and
     prices were reasonable and they offered
                                                  a lot of European females bare them-
     tremendous incentives, e.g., free Nitrox,
                                                  selves shamelessly. Thank goodness
     second diver dives free, kids stay and
                                                  us married guys had dark sunglasses.
     dive free, breakfast included. They also
                                                  Whereas nearly 100% of the Americans
     upgraded us to a Grand Suite, unsolic-
                                                  on Bonaire are divers it doesn’t appear
     ited. For our four-diver family, we were
                                                  that more than a third of the Dutch and
     not disappointed. We booked the six
                                                  other Europeans dive. The Europeans
     boat-dive (12 dives) package. Boats left
                                                  outnumbered the Americans two to
     promptly at 0830 and returned around
                                                  one at the Plaza, a Dutch-owned resort.
     1230. Afternoon boats went out at 1430.
                                                  The staff at the Plaza was exceptional:
     Fruit (watermelon, peaches)was offered
                                                  Polite, courteous, helpful and cheerful.
     between dives. The skipper and DM
                                                  Some bartenders at the Coconut Crush
     were fairly accommodating on site se-
                                                  Beach Bar who were a mite surly. The
     lection and didn’t mind going south or
                                                  Caribbean Point restaurant on- site was
     north or to Klein Bonaire (where diving
                                                  excellent with a great staff. The Tipsy
     and viz was a bit better). Air was 88-100
                                                  Seagull, also on site, was a bit pricey
     degrees F in the day with overnight
                                                  and the food only fair. If you night
     lows of 75-80. Tradewinds made it
                                                  dive, there is no restaurant on-site open
     bearable. No bugs. There is a $25 U/W
                                                  except the Seagull and you need reser-
     park fee good for the calendar year. A
                                                  vations and a spare hundred dollars.
     mandatory briefing occurs the first day
                                                  We ate at The Casablanca (Argentinian
     with an unsupervised “checkout” dive
                                                  flair and expensive), The Rib Fac-
     afterwards. Consequently, you miss
                                                  tory, near the town pier, (very good),
     the first morning boat dives but are
                                                  the KFC (What can I say?). The most
     allowed to make it up with a night dive

44
   BONAIRE                                                 The Wider Caribbean
memorable was Giorgio’s and Donna’s,          package saved us on our overall cost
a Pizza and Pasta place. The diving was       as the al a carte totals, two for one dive
good to excellent on the Caribbean            package, etc. was totally –confusing yet,
scale but the reefs and sites all look        when the tally was prepared, the final
pretty much the same after a few dives.       costs worked out fine and we decided
Shore diving may be as easy as it gets,       it was better to just allow them to run
but it still involves getting sand all over   their calculator however they chose.
everything and loading and unload-            Dive operations were great and, though
ing gear. Plus, thefts from vehicles have     there remains damage to the corals
reached epidemic proportions we were          from the hurricane that brushed by 5
advised. (We never saw a police officer        years ago, regrowth is evident and the
in the week we were there). Visibility on     fish life is superb. A night dive on Town
the Hilma Hooker dive was a disap-            Pier is a must-do and an afternoon dive
pointing 50 feet, the worst of any site.      at the Salt Pier is also recommended.
Air Jamaica tries real hard, but time is      Both require a guide that is easily pro-
never of the essence. Curiously, before       vided by the dive operation staff.
every landing the flight attendants went
                                              Sand Dollar Condominiums,
over the crash procedures in earnest.
                                              February 2005, Dean Knudson
There is a $20/person departure tax
                                              (deanknudson@yahoo.com), Golden
(U.S. dollars). US money or N.A. guil-
                                              Valley, MN. Experience: 251-500 dives.
ders are accepted everywhere. Toucan
                                              Vis: 75 to 125 Feet. Water: 80 to 85
Diving had no lockers for us until the
                                              F., calm. The Sand Dollar complex is
last days. They were so busy they were
                                              getting old, but is still comfortable.
even turning down training requests.
                                              It is noticeably more run down then
The aluminum tanks were filled
                                              Captain Don’s immediately to the
between 2700 and 2900 PSI and were
                                              north. The exterior paint is peeling,
available in 80, 63, and 50 CF configu-
                                              and the interior of the condomini-
rations. Rentals are extensive and well
                                              ums date from the early eighties. The
maintained. Nitrox fills were invariable
                                              restaurants and the bar at Captain
in the 33% range. Unless you are going
                                              Don’s, next door, are nicer and livelier,
to shore dive, skip the vehicle rental.
                                              and the rooms there appear more up
Tanks are always available 24/7. For
                                              to date. The Sand Dollar is quiet, and
new divers it doesn’t get much better.
                                              all of the rooms have a nice ocean
For experienced divers, there is always
                                              view. The main restaurant and bar,
something to see.
                                              Mango’s, was being renovated. A small
Plaza Resort, September 2005, Paul            temporary, tin-roofed restaurant and
Schmieder (pschmieder@sbcglobal.              bar had been placed on the ocean ,
net), Bellville, TX. Experience: 101-250      mid-complex, and was pleasant, a
dives. Vis: 60 to 80 Feet. Water: 82 to 83    beautiful spot to have breakfast, and
F, calm. Our package included room for        had a gorgeous happy hour sunset.
two, truck for the week, unlimited shore      The restaurant staff were attentive and
diving and 12 boat dives. I am unsure         agreeable, particularly the couple who
why including the boat diving in our          ran the breakfast buffet. Bedroom air

                                                                                     45
      The Wider Caribbean                                                      BONAIRE
     conditioning was adequate. Opening           rental shop. You may be stranded in a
     the windows on allowed a brisk breeze        rural area in a hot climate, for hours,
     to cool off the living area. The balconies   waiting for help, and always bring
     are spacious and have plenty of room         adequate water and something to set up
     to dry out equipment. We had read            some shade. Bonaire Dive Adventures
     reports regarding crime and theft on         has two dive boats, both of which are
     the island, so used a wire mesh Pac-Safe     crowded. It is best to arrive early for a
     (campmor.com) around a duffel bag,           trip, and claim a seat near the front of
     which we padlocked to a large electri-       the boat. The seats in the rear have no
     cal cable in the closet of the condo. We     shade, and receive a good deal of spray.
     placed all of the computers and other        The boats typically are always full, and
     valuables that did not fit into the small     if you do not reserve a spot by 2 P.M.
     room safe into this bag. We also used a      the previous day, you may not have
     portable movement alarm (guarddog.           a spot, which a miscommunication
     net/halarm) on the bag to discourage         caused our last day. We asked if the staff
     anyone from touching it. There is an         would telephone another dive shop to
     Internet Café adjacent to the property,      assist us, they politely refused, and we
     with wireless access. Telephone cards        politely declined to tip for the week.
     can be purchased for about five dollars.      There is an abundance of small fish life,
     Shore diving sounds like a free spirited     but most of the reefs look alike. The
     fun adventure, however it involves           coral is healthy, but it is difficult to dis-
     hauling 50 to 100 pounds of equip-           tinguish one site from another, even on
     ment 50 to 200 yards to and from the         Klein Bonaire, or on the far north side
     water, in 95 degree heat, while walking      of the island. Experienced divers will be
     over sharp stones. It is risky to leave      disappointed, somewhat, by the quality
     any object inside a rental car, making       of the diving. We did the Hilma Hooker
     the process even more inconvenient.          dive, which was structured according
     Overall, our group was not impressed         to a strict dive table 10 minute bottom
     with this “freedom,” and preferred the       time limit; many of us wore computers,
     boat dives. Moreover, the rental trucks      and could have stayed at depth much
     receive heavy use and are prone to           longer. The capital city is quite pretty,
     problems. We had three flat tires. The        and is as yet unspoiled by cruise ships.
     maintenance staff of the resort agreed       The Dutch have been good stewards
     to take care of our tire repairs for a       of the island. It is fun to drive around
     modest cash tip. Apparently the cactus       and the wind surfing facility on the far
     needles covering the island eventually       side of the island is worth an afternoon.
     work their way into many tires, and it       Wind surfers can be rented there, and
     is necessary to use the rental trucks on     the beer is cheap. Some nights there
     dirt roads to access many of the dive        were fairly lively parties, and other
     sites. Ask the rental car company to         nights it seemed as though the entire
     demonstrate how to lower the spare           island was quiet. Groceries are aston-
     from the bottom of the truck using the       ishingly expensive. It may actually be
     long crank handle before you leave the       cheaper to eat at local restaurants then


46
   CAYMAN ISLANDS                                        The Wider Caribbean
to attempt to prepare food inside the       are back and the reefs, though
condo, with the exception of spaghetti      somewhat affected, are still attrac-
or ramen noodles. The Argentinian           tive. Arguably the best diving is on
restaurant downtown serves a gigantic       Little Cayman and boats from the
$15 platter of beef. UW Photography         Brac make regular trips, though at
Comments: The dive boats are small          times winter weather prevents the
and crowded. There was a small bucket       journey.
for cameras. There was little room to
make any adjustments with camera            Cayman Brac
equipment.
                                            Brac Reef Resort, November 2004,
Wannadive, Yacht Club Apts., Febru-         Randy Cooper, Glen Ellyn, IL. Experi-
ary 2005, Phil Donehoo, Dawsonville,        ence: 501-1000 dives. Vis: 50 to 70
GA. Experience: 200+ dives. Vis: 50 to      Feet. Water: 80 to 84 F, choppy, surge,
100 ft. Water: 75 to 82 F, calm & flat,      currents. Our worries about hurricane
choppy. Back for the first time since        damage were unfounded. Damage was
1984 (stayed Divi then). I stayed at        light: the resort lost one of its two piers,
Yacht Club Apts.. after reading about it    and a few trees, but everything else
in Chapbook. Good location, arranged        was fully operable. Travel was a hassle
a car and could not have been easier.       because of flight cancellations, but hey
Went out first with Phototours Yellow        UW Photography Comments: Separate
Submarine, and I observed total confu-      areas on boats; separate rinse tanks,
sion. After two days (one good boat         photo pro on site (Ed Beatty); over-
dive, I will admit), I moved to Wanna-      night E6; some photo equipment rental
dive, also heard through Chapbook. In       and repair.
15 minutes more help and information
than in two days at Yellow Submarine.       Brac Reef Beach Resort, November
Took us to little hurricane damage.         2004, Glenn Gracom, New Smyrna
I must give them high, high marks.          Beach, FL. Experience: 500 dives. Vis:
Richards, Rains Fishes, Paris Bistro very   100+ ft. Water: 78 to 80 F, choppy. Both
good food. Only small fish and critters      the resort and dive operation were first
but in summary, Bonaire may not be a        class. Excellent location to dive and
filet mignon but it is still a good prime    relax. We did the two morning dives
rib.                                        six days during our seven-day visit but
                                            chose not to do afternoon dive. No
                                            night life. Beautiful grounds with ham-
CAYMAN ISLANDS                              mocks and swimming pool. Hot tub on
                                            premises but not operational during
Grand Cayman got slammed by                 our visit. Three a day buffet menus
hurricane Ivan in September 2004,           were excellent. Diving was first rate,
and thousands of resident’s homes           as was the Reef Diver crew. Mick and
Cayman were seriously damaged               Chris were outstanding boat operators
or destroyed. The readers’ com-             and divemasters. Both gave excellent
ments reflect that most businesses           briefings and provided helpful hints.


                                                                                    47

								
To top