Trip Report Bonaire: April 9-24, 2022

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Trailboss123

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Well, it was good to be back on Bonaire. I was there for 2 weeks in January 2020 just prior to COVID becoming a part of our lives. After being used to annual Bonaire dive trips for quite a while, I was really looking forward to “dive freedom” – set my own schedule, dive my own dive sites, dive my own dive profiles. There is nothing quite like Bonaire.

My wife and I always fly from Portland to Bonaire through Houston on United. We have been able to get to Bonaire in the same day with a very early morning departure, a quick, but makeable layover in Houston and an arrival on Saturday evening around 6:30pm.
That flight was not available to us on this trip, so we ended up taking an 11pm flight on a Friday night that arrived in Newark early the next morning, followed by a 90-minute layover and on to Bonaire with an arrival by 1:30pm on Saturday afternoon. The downside to this was the lack of sleep on the redeye (for me). The upside was that we got in early enough to get settled into our accommodations, get to the dive shop to acquire weights and check-in and still get in a nice dive, followed by dinner.

We have stayed in many places on Bonaire over the years, depending on whether we are there by ourselves, there by myself, or there with small groups or large groups. This was our 2nd time in a row staying at Bamboo Bonaire (formerly known as Bamboo Bali Bonaire). After two outstanding experiences, we will likely always stay there going forward, when it is just the two of us. Bamboo Bonaire is located across the street from Captain Don’s Habitat. It is like walking into a SE Asian oasis. The landscaping is stunning and tropical. All accommodations are individual, self-contained villas. There are basically 3 villa types at three different price points ranging from $1150 per person, per week to $1500 per person, per week (depending on villa type and time of year). That price includes a rental truck with CDW insurance from AB Carrental, unlimited nitrox or air package with VIP diving + the villa.

All villas come with full kitchen, huge bathrooms and private outdoor space. You can check the website for all of the nitty gritty, but in my opinion, it is affordable luxury. VIP delivers tanks each day, so there is no need to go to VIP’s dive shop to pick up and drop off tanks (although you can do that, if in the area). There is an analyzer next to the tank station for those diving Nitrox. There are 2 different rinse and drying areas within the completely secure and walled compound of Bamboo Bonaire. There are also individual lockers, if desired.
Bamboo Bonaire - Boutique Resort - Bamboo Bonaire

I have to say that the tank fills from VIP were the best I have ever experienced. Fills were consistently 3200-3400 psi, Nitrox was a consistent 32-33% and we never had a bad o-ring among the 84 tanks we used during the 2 weeks we were there.

The only downside to staying at Bamboo Bonaire is that it is not waterfront and thus has no “house reef”. Which is one of the great advantages to staying at a place like Den Laman (where we have stayed in the past). We were close enough to walk across the street geared up and enter the water at the Captain Don’s pier if we really wanted. We never did, but did choose to have our last dive of the day there on a few occasions. We would pull in with the truck and park, gear up at the truck and walk the few steps down to the pier for an easy entry and exit. It is a great dive site in it’s own right. Head north on the reef and dive the Cliff and return or head south to the Machaca wreck and the reef in front of Buddy’s and return. On high current days, you could easily drift south all the way to the Den Laman pier and exit south of the pier at the Bari Reef parking area. We had a day like that with a ripping south current flowing through that channel.

We had a nice daily routine during our stay. Leisurely breakfast, make our lunch and throw it in the provided cooler, load gear and tanks into the truck and head out for the day to do 3-4 dives. We would always find a nice location to have our lunch after dive 2 and then get in our 3rd dive and then decide if we wanted to add a 4th or call it good for the day.
Historically, I am one of those people that loves to eat out at a restaurant every evening in Bonaire, as there are so many great options. I also love hitting all of the food trucks for lunch between dives. This trip was very different, in that with the exception of 2 evening meals out at Mezze (Syrian/Lebanese/Med cuisine), we had all dinners at the villa and made our lunches each day. It was a good routine, saved considerable money and Iost weight .

The diving was excellent. Water temps were a consistent 79-80. We only shore dived. I got in 44 dives and my wife did 40. Visibility was generally a bit cloudy, and days were quite windy, with a couple of exceptions. The further southern dive sites were difficult to access due to swell and wave height. There was never an issue once you rounded the corner back north at Pink Beach and dive sites headed back to town.

Not sure if it was an anomaly due to spring break and easter week, but the amount of territory being covered, and the vast number of the kite boarders has really expanded at the southern sites. They and their boats were sailing as far south as Sweet Dreams and as far north as Red Beryl. I felt a bit unsafe diving some of my favorite sites as there were numerous boats and the kite boarders will come all the way into the shallows at very high speeds.

We dived a couple of new “unmarked” dive sites that were outstanding, and we took a day trip up to the national park for some diving there, which was highlighted by a wonderful dive at Playa Funchi. For some reason, I had never dived this dive site up in the park before. It is an idyllic setting and backdrop. It has a couple of shaded picnic tables for hanging out or eating and a drop dead gorgeous salina and mountain views behind the dive site and the parking area. We had been getting some big evening downpours and everything was a verdant green. The reef was gorgeous and truly worthy of doing back-to-back dives there after a surface interval.

We saw all the usual critters and had numerous spotted eagle ray encounters, 3 frog fish on Bari Reef, numerous turtles, lots of eels of all shapes and sizes and I was struck on this trip by the number of scorpion fish we saw on most dives. Including a large pair huddled next to one another right under the NE corner of the Bari/Sand Dollar/Den Laman pier in 7 feet of water. Lots of porcupine fish and I always love the number and variety of trumpetfish on Bonaire. Loads of Spotted drums also.

All in all, a stellar trip and we look forward to getting back into our annual Bonaire visit.

I am off to Fiji in less than 3 weeks. Be on the lookout for a much more detailed trip report for that adventure. We don’t get many detailed reports on Fiji and whereas I have been to Fiji in the past on a few occasions- going back to 1983- it was always as a snorkeler or surfer. So, this will be the first dedicated dive trip and I can’t wait. I will be going with my close knit private dive group from Portland, OR and we will have the entire resort to ourselves for 2 weeks of diving the Rainbow Reef from the island of Taveuni at the Taveuni Dive Resort: Taveuni Dive Resort



1650821855717.jpeg 1650821775197.jpeg 1650821746806.jpeg 1650821554815.jpeg 1650821447365.jpeg
 

morecowbells

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Awesome report! You really managed to capture some amazing Frogfish shots.
 

drrich2

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Sounds like a great trip.

VIP delivers tanks each day, so there is no need to go to VIP’s dive shop to pick up and drop off tanks (although you can do that, if in the area).
Did they delivery to maintain a group of tanks at a place on the grounds for various guests there, or did they delivery tanks specifically for you? I ask because I recall that V.I.P. Divers has a tank delivery service for a fee, and wonder if that was an added cost.

Not sure if it was an anomaly due to spring break and easter week, but the amount of territory being covered, and the vast number of the kite boarders has really expanded at the southern sites. They and their boats were sailing as far south as Sweet Dreams and as far north as Red Beryl. I felt a bit unsafe diving some of my favorite sites as there were numerous boats and the kite boarders will come all the way into the shallows at very high speeds.
From what I saw my 2 weeks in February, not an anomaly. Kite Boarding doesn't seem confined to Atlantis. I passed on Red Beryl one day, and went back and timed my dive there another day so as to get in and down before they arrived. I noticed a kite board viewed from shore had a keel to it, like a shark dorsal fin sticking down into the water...would not want to get hit by one.

The further southern dive sites were difficult to access due to swell and wave height. There was never an issue once you rounded the corner back north at Pink Beach and dive sites headed back to town.
Apparently that didn't stop you; I consider the diving down there the best I've seen on the mainstream west coast of Bonaire. Lush and beautiful with the gorgonians, Margate Bay, Red Beryl, Vista Blue and Sweet Dreams all good.

On high current days, you could easily drift south all the way to the Den Laman pier and exit south of the pier at the Bari Reef parking area. We had a day like that with a ripping south current flowing through that channel.
Sounds like a long walk back!

Looking forward to seeing a Fuji report from you!

P.S.: Nice composition on that porcupine fish shot. The diver with at least 2 tanks in side mount setup; technical diver?
 
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Trailboss123

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Sounds like a great trip.


Did they delivery to maintain a group of tanks at a place on the grounds for various guests there, or did they delivery tanks specifically for you? I ask because I recall that V.I.P. Divers has a tank delivery service for a fee, and wonder if that was an added cost.


From what I saw my 2 weeks in February, not an anomaly. Kite Boarding doesn't seem confined to Atlantis. I passed on Red Beryl one day, and went back and timed my dive there another day so as to get in and down before they arrived. I noticed a kite board viewed from shore had a keel to it, like a shark dorsal fin sticking down into the water...would not want to get hit by one.


Apparently that didn't stop you; I consider the diving down there the best I've seen on the mainstream west coast of Bonaire. Lush and beautiful with the gorgonians, Margate Bay, Red Beryl, Vista Blue and Sweet Dreams all good.


Sounds like a long walk back!

Looking forward to seeing a Fuji report from you!

P.S.: Nice composition on that porcupine fish shot. The diver with at least 2 tanks in side mount setup; technical diver?
1. They deliver tanks to the resort itself. They have a partnership with Bamboo Bonaire. There was always 20+ Nitrox tanks, 20+ air tanks at any given time. Different size tanks also. Predominantly 80cf, but plenty of the smaller tanks and 100's upon request.

2. Apparently that didn't stop you; I consider the diving down there the best I've seen on the mainstream west coast of Bonaire. Lush and beautiful with the gorgonians, Margate Bay, Red Beryl, Vista Blue and Sweet Dreams all good.
* Only dived Sweet Dreams and Red Beryl and Red Beryl was sketchy and made me pass on Vista Blue another day, even though it is one of my favorite sights. The dive sites further south of Sweet Dreams were just too blown out and big swells on the days we tried and we never did dive them. We tried Red Slave so many times, but it wasn't to be.

3. Sidemount diver just showed up out of nowhere. My wife actually took that photo. He was coming south from the direction of Invisibles. We were diving that unmarked dive site that I mentioned back in 2019 that is between Invisibles and Tori's Reef, which @Soloist coined Trailboss Reef and I recall he photo shopped a cool looking yellow rock with Trailboss written on it- LOL!
Locals refer to the dive site as The Rock- due to the big rock looking island sitting between the first and 2nd reefs.
 

tbriggsnh

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Thanks for the trip report! It sounds like Bonaire is definitely getting back to "normal" (except for the growth in foiling around Red Beryl).
Foiling.JPG


A question through. I'm heading to Bonaire in two weeks and wondered about the STINAPA tag and orientation/weight check requirements. It looks like things might have changed since I was last there in mid-2019. Is it true that you need to buy your tag online rather than in the dive shop when you arrive? And what's with the buoyancy check? I've made 40 warm water dives since the beginning of March so I'm trying to understand the need to dedicate a morning to showing someone(?) that my buoyancy is dialed in. Am I overthinking this or has something seriously changed?

Also, is the tag still a tag? I'm getting the impression that it's a piece of paper that you have to get laminated if you want to have it on your person. And I definitely want to have it in my possession when entering or exiting the water.
 

drrich2

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Is it true that you need to buy your tag online rather than in the dive shop when you arrive?
I was there in February. Yes. I assume you could buy it online while on island, but how to print out a copy to take as proof?
And what's with the buoyancy check? I've made 40 warm water dives since the beginning of March so I'm trying to understand the need to dedicate a morning to showing someone(?) that my buoyancy is dialed in.
I stayed next door to V.I.P. Divers, the operator Trailboss123 used, and went up to a sloping ramp to the ocean and did my buoyancy check dive with no one observing me (I am solo-certified). My point is, no dive shop staff had to officially clear me to dive. Years ago when I used Dive Friends, and before that Buddy Dive, same basic thing was true, those I was diving off their respective piers.
Also, is the tag still a tag? I'm getting the impression that it's a piece of paper that you have to get laminated if you want to have it on your person. And I definitely want to have it in my possession when entering or exiting the water.
I had no tag. I thought about lamination, but instead printed off a few copies at home and carried some around in the truck, and had some at the room. If STINAPA had hit me up for proof of having a marine park tag, I was ready.

Will be interested to hear if Trailboss123 had any different experiences on these issues.
 
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Trailboss123

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Thanks for the trip report! It sounds like Bonaire is definitely getting back to "normal" (except for the growth in foiling around Red Beryl).
View attachment 719238

A question through. I'm heading to Bonaire in two weeks and wondered about the STINAPA tag and orientation/weight check requirements. It looks like things might have changed since I was last there in mid-2019. Is it true that you need to buy your tag online rather than in the dive shop when you arrive? And what's with the buoyancy check? I've made 40 warm water dives since the beginning of March so I'm trying to understand the need to dedicate a morning to showing someone(?) that my buoyancy is dialed in. Am I overthinking this or has something seriously changed?

Also, is the tag still a tag? I'm getting the impression that it's a piece of paper that you have to get laminated if you want to have it on your person. And I definitely want to have it in my possession when entering or exiting the water.
You can go to the Stinapa website and purchase your annual park tag. Print out a copy and take it with you and keep it in the truck. Keep the email from them on your phone as a back up.

I have hundreds of dives in Bonaire for many years and have yet to meet anyone from Stinapa or been asked to show proof of having my park pass while out diving. Your dive operator will ask you to show it to them before they give you weights and tanks.

My experiences with VIP and Dive Friends has been to tell them how much weight I need and they give it to me and off I go. Nobody checking me out. If you find that you have too little or too much weight, go back after your first dive and swap out lead.

I don’t know if anyone is still issuing you the plastic park passes to affix to your BC or wherever. I know for some people, it’s a cool thing and a keepsake and they like to have them and collect them. Personally, I’ve never been all that attached to them and the current printed pass serves just fine.

Hope that helps. Different dive ops might have different process for the weight check/distribution, so I would check with whoever you are getting your tank package with.
 

LiteWeight

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Right before the Covid shutdown in Feb 2020, I was checked at Oil Slick by a STINAPA rep. Printed copy from online transaction was in glove compartment, no problem. I don't think he was actively out & about checking, he had just gone there to dump lionfish carcasses.
 

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