Trip Report Bonaire, 18-25 Aug 2021

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Lorenzoid

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. . . I'd love to return to Bonaire, but there's too much uncertainty, unpredictability and testing drama right now.
. . .

As the trip approached I found myself having alternating feelings of dread along with the excitement. But once on island, and at least one test behind me, it occurred to me that Bonaire really has its act together. The testing rules are clearly posted. (See Bonaire Covid thread.) As I tried to convey in my report, I actually felt safer on Bonaire than here at home because every visitor to the island has been tested, and those from Very High Risk countries are tested even more. That, combined with the natural social distancing of shore diving and open-air lifestyle, and for one short week I was almost able to forget about the pandemic and let myself relax and enjoy, you know, an actual vacation. Bonaire's cautious approach is attractive to me and has earned my respect (and tourist dollars). Given the present circumstances, I would consider another Bonaire trip over a trip to somewhere with a less cautious approach to Covid and more crowded conditions (e.g., boat diving and indoor dining).
 

scubadada

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Hi @Lorenzoid

Sorry to hear about your brush with crime, but glad to hear you had a good trip. My wife and I missed our 8th trip to Bonaire in April 2020. We're finally scheduled to return for 2 weeks at the end of October

Did you happen to dive at Bari Reef? If yes, I was wondering about the status of the Chogogo Resort, just south of Den Laman. On our last visit in Sept/Oct 2019, construction was moving along fairly quickly, noise, dust, and all. We will be staying at Den Laman again and are wondering what to expect. If you traveled a little farther north, did you see or visit Zhung Kong market? I'm hoping they survived the pandemic. I assume you did all shore diving, do you know if any operator is running boats yet? What operator did you use? Give us a little hint about the diving :)
 

Steelyeyes

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Hi @Lorenzoid

Sorry to hear about your brush with crime, but glad to hear you had a good trip. My wife and I missed our 8th trip to Bonaire in April 2020. We're finally scheduled to return for 2 weeks at the end of October

Did you happen to dive at Bari Reef? If yes, I was wondering about the status of the Chogogo Resort, just south of Den Laman. On our last visit in Sept/Oct 2019, construction was moving along fairly quickly, noise, dust, and all. We will be staying at Den Laman again and are wondering what to expect. If you traveled a little farther north, did you see or visit Zhung Kong market? I'm hoping they survived the pandemic. I assume you did all shore diving, do you know if any operator is running boats yet? What operator did you use? Give us a little hint about the diving :)
Zhung Kong is doing well. The Chogogo resort is still under construction. We park by Den Laman when we dive Bari's and it didn't seem too loud. In other news the beach tennis court by Front Porch is gone and that site will be another resort. Not sure about access to the dive site once it's done.
 

tursiops

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Hi @Lorenzoid
Did you happen to dive at Bari Reef? If yes, I was wondering about the status of the Chogogo Resort, just south of Den Laman. On our last visit in Sept/Oct 2019, construction was moving along fairly quickly, noise, dust, and all. We will be staying at Den Laman again and are wondering what to expect. If you traveled a little farther north, did you see or visit Zhung Kong market? I'm hoping they survived the pandemic. I assume you did all shore diving, do you know if any operator is running boats yet? What operator did you use? Give us a little hint about the diving :)
I just returned from 4 weeks at Buddy Dive. Nearly all operations were per normal. The biggest differences were no camera or other rinse tanks on the boats, and instructions to rinse all regs and masks under a hose, not in a rinse tank at the dock.
The construction just south of Bari for a TUI (Dutch low-cost airline) all-inclusive resort (Chogogo Resort) is coming along. Slowly. No noticeable progress in 4 weeks.
Lots of boats out diving, Dive Friends et al.
Biggest downside was some closed restaurants. Salatiga was our go-to for Indonesian food, but it has a big padlock on the door. El Mundo was a good replacement. Lots of the bigger places used the downtime during the darkest days of the pandemic to upgrade their spaces (and menus, and cull their staff). Rum Runners is quite spiffy now, Blennies at Buddy Dive is a very attractive and larger space, etc. A new Bagel place is about to open.
The locals are quite proud of their vaccination statistics and definitely happy to be busy again.
NAAT tests to get you onto the island are not that hard -- unless you are coming from somewhere with inadequate testing facilities dues to local surges.
Antigen tests to get you off the island and back to the US are smooth and easy.
With United not running flights yet, and pent up demand causing Delta and American to price-gouge, it is an expensive place to get to. Amortizing my flights over 4 weeks worked well! Weds-Weds flights tend to be cheaper.
I'll be back in December, and again next March.
 

cpace

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I assume you did all shore diving, do you know if any operator is running boats yet? What operator did you use? Give us a little hint about the diving

My wife and I just returned from a 10 night Bonaire trip, August 18 - 28. This was our second visit to Bonaire, first was spring of 2017. We stayed at Sand Dollar via VRBO and rented from Dive Friends. Sand Dollar was a ghost town, which was to our liking. While all of our dive were from shore, Dive Friends was running daily boat dives from the Den Laman/Sand Dollar dock. Water temps were running 83-84F on my computer. Vis was quit variable from milky to lots of particulate to good, seemed similar to our 2017 trip. Just like ski area snow reports, I take dive location visibility reports/claims with a grain of salt. We did have one day of very hard rain w/wind that lasted most of the day. We still got in two dives that day. We dove as far south as red slave and as far north as tailor made. In my opinion, the coral surrounding Bonaire is looking pretty sad, lots of dead coral, sponges lacking color and dead/dying sea fans. Coral at some sites looked better than others, tailor made for example looked fairly healthy. Fish life seemed down from our 2017 visit. We spotted of lion fish on most dives, on a night dive at salt pier we spotted 8 - 10. Don't get me wrong, we really enjoyed our first trip in nearly two years.
 

Lorenzoid

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Did you happen to dive at Bari Reef? If yes, I was wondering about the status of the Chogogo Resort, just south of Den Laman. On our last visit in Sept/Oct 2019, construction was moving along fairly quickly, noise, dust, and all. We will be staying at Den Laman again and are wondering what to expect. If you traveled a little farther north, did you see or visit Zhung Kong market? I'm hoping they survived the pandemic. I assume you did all shore diving, do you know if any operator is running boats yet? What operator did you use? Give us a little hint about the diving

Did not dive Bari this time. @Steelyeyes said Zhung Kong is alive and well, but it looked to me as we drove by that the building got a face lift and now just says "Supermarket," not "Zhung Kong." Was I looking at something else, @Steelyeyes ?

We used VIP Diving because their shop was across the street from our house. This was the first time I had used VIP. I used Dive Friends for the past several trips. VIP was just fine, including their drive-through, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them.

I agree with @cpace 's comments about the diving. (If you flew Delta, we were on the same flight in.) One day it poured rain, and we only got in one dive (Andrea I). We waited around in the rain at Tolo/Ol' Blue, but eventually the group reached a consensus to have lunch in Rincon and call it a day. Fewer lionfish than years ago, but still saw one or two small ones on each dive--I would guess this is about the same as my last trip. It would seem they have the population under control and, like Cozumel, lionfish in restaurants has become harder to find and more expensive. (A large lionfish pizza from Pasa Bon was $37--yikes.) I agree the coral looks sad, but I'm not a good judge, as I don't take pictures and so have no baseline other than my memory. I dived a site that was new to me: Kalabas, using Divi Flamingo's dock, which you have to (or should) ask permission to use and take your dive gear from your truck through the pedestrian gate, which hassle is why I had never gotten around to doing this one.

I have never done a boat dive in Bonaire or been to Klein Bonaire. I keep saying "next trip," but it somehow never happens.
 

tursiops

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Zhung Kong is now Supermarket. Same people and place, but bigger.

This was my 34th trip to Bonaire over 23 years, taking pictures most of the time.
The coral and fish life waxes and wanes, and varies from site to site and season to season and year to year.
IMHO the coral and fish were both in better shape than my last visit, in October 2019, and in general were doing pretty well. The Trididemnum solidum mat tunicate has expanded farther south; it was even in a few places like Kalli's Reef, but used to be only at the most northern sites.

Bari Reef has several nice frogfish. Cliff has several seahorses.

The large amount of rain has dropped the vis a bit, and turned the water a bit green in some places.
 

Lorenzoid

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Also, like Zhung Kong now striving to be a more upscale "Supermarket," the former beach bar next to the windsurfing place at Sorobon is now Sebastian's Beach, apparently an offshoot of the upscale Sebastian's restaurant. Gone is the sand you could dig your toes in while sipping an Amstel and watching the windsurfers, and in its place, a wood deck--and no Amstel, only Amstel Bright, Heineken, and expensive mixed drinks, liquors and wines (Dom Perignon?!). Gone are the traditional Dutch bar snacks--the bitterballen, the vlammetjes--that we looked forward to as a uniquely quirky part of a Bonaire trip, and in their place a more upscale food and drink menu. Won't be back.
 

tursiops

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Also, like Zhung Kong now striving to be a more upscale "Supermarket," the former beach bar next to the windsurfing place at Sorobon is now Sebastian's Beach, apparently an offshoot of the upscale Sebastian's restaurant. Gone is the sand you could dig your toes in while sipping an Amstel and watching the windsurfers, and in its place, a wood deck--and no Amstel, only Amstel Bright, Heineken, and expensive mixed drinks, liquors and wines (Dom Perignon?!). Gone are the traditional Dutch bar snacks--the bitterballen, the vlammetjes--that we looked forward to as a uniquely quirky part of a Bonaire trip, and in their place a more upscale food and drink menu. Won't be back.
Actually, Sebastians-on-the-Beach still has a sand portion you can sit in and drink/eat, but there is no table service there. You go to the counter to order and to get your food. But the menu has indeed gone upscale; no more deep-fried funchi! Dang.
 

scubadada

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Hi @Lorenzoid

Zhung Kong was finishing up a relatively extensive renovation/enlargement when we were there in Sept/Oct of 2019. They enlarged to include the restaurant that used to be next door and modernized the front of the building/entrance. It was not quite done when we were there, they were still hooking up and starting to use more refrigerator and freezer units and stocking new shelves. I would imagine that all the work is done, @Steelyeyes ? Even though we had been there many, many times, we missed it the first time we went there because it looked so different. I don't think it had an signage at the time. There were paper signs in the new front windows announcing that they were open for business.

We started going to Bonaire in 2004. For our 1st three visits, we stayed in one or two bedroom units at Sand Dollar and used Bonaire Dive & Adventure. I always got along fine with Andre and we were lucky enough to take a fish ID and behavior course from Jerry Ligon. For our four more recent visits, we have stayed in a one or two bedroom unit at Den Laman and used Dive Friends. We have always taken some boat dives on our visits and find them complimentary to the shore dives. Klein Bonaire has some very nice dives. Some people are unaware that there are some very good Bonaire north sites accessible by boat only, La Dania's Leap (unless you exit at Karpata), Rappel, Bloodlet, Country Garden, Bon Bini Na Cas, Kalli's Reef (unless you exit at Jeff Davis), Barcadera, and Small Wall (unless you have access from Black Durgon). We find that a couple of morning boat dives make a nice break from the driving around during a 2 week stay.
 
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