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Bonaire Trip Report 12/29/18 - 1/5/19 (+ Hat Tip to SB!)

Discussion in 'Bonaire' started by Randallr, Jan 13, 2019.

  1. Randallr

    Randallr Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: New York, NY
    Less tolerant of winter's cold each year, I took a last-minute plunge and booked a dive trip to Bonaire. My goal was simple: easy entry! I wanted to do lots of macro photography, I wanted to do it on my schedule, and i wanted to do it as often (or not) as I liked. Although I'd had mixed feelings about Bonaire from my previous two trips, I decided to return there, prompted by reports from the great Ned and Anna DeLoach about the proliferation of macro opportunities.

    Much of what I'll report below has already been covered by Gajahduduk, and darook. You'll soon learn why! Pictures included here.

    KUDOS TO SCUBABOARD!: I'm placing this topic first because SB really made the trip. If you don't have a significant-other-diver, planning a Bonaire trip can be a little tricky. If you're going to a boat-dive destination, no problem - you'll always get paired up with someone on the boat, with the DM being your fallback. But the point of Bonaire is shore diving, which means you need a buddy. (My sense is that dive operators have begun to crack down on this. It may be because of liability or local laws, but I'm guessing the introduction of the PADI Solo Diver certification - and the potential to earn more money - has something to do with it. All I can say is, I've never had much oversight previously of shallow shore diving, and that meant I needed to find buddies.)

    Scubaboard really came through in the buddy search. Gajahduduk, homerdoc, darook, wwguy, and I all met up before our overlapping trips, and several of us managed to dive together and dine together. That was delightful. Divers comprise a wonderful fraternity - collegial, respectful of nature, happy to be where they are. If I were to make a broad observation: Under the water, everyone is neutrally buoyant - or should be - and that makes for excellent companionship. Thank you, Scubaboard, for introducing me to such fine folk. (A special shoutout to Homerdoc's 14-year-old daughter, who, with her enthusiasm, intellect, and fearlessness will restore any faith you might have lost in the future of the human race!)

    DEN LAMAN CONDOS: I stayed at Den Laman. I chose it specifically because I wanted to be on Bari Reef, because I wanted easy access, good shallow diving, and lots of macro opportunity. I was in the Flying Fish apartment on the third floor; homerdoc and family were on my floor. I'd stay here again in a heartbeat! The one-BR apartment was large, with a modern galley kitchen and a modern bathroom with a great tiled shower. The terrace was large, with a gorgeous view of the water. Den Laman's not much to look at from the outside, but I've never been so comfortable in dive-vacation accommodations. The dive shop and the pier are right outside your door. And the restaurant/bar downstairs are pretty good. (Although I ate most of my meals in, because I wanted to eat early, enjoy my gin & tonics at my pace, and have the salads I wanted to have.)

    The Den Laman staff were fantastic before and during the trip - explaining packaging options, scheduling things, etc. Pretty much flawless. The only thing I'd complain about is schlepping up three flights of starts with 80 lbs of photo and dive equipment (a true first-world complaint). Everything else was great.

    FOOD: As per the above, Bits & Bites at Den Laman is fine. Right on the water, quiet, good seafood, decently priced, good service, nice people. My two other meals out were plagued by sloooooooowwwww service, especially notable at Salatiga, where the Indonesia food (per gajahduduk, above) was really good, but the service was ludicrous. The Van Den Tweel supermarket is one of the best stocked groceries I've ever been in, and basically made me happy with all the grub and grog I could ever want. Special note: Several days a week outside the front door of Van Den Tweel is the Kip Tukkie smoked chicken food truck. It's otherworldly good - so much so you'd think there's a Soylent Green trick in the backstory.

    DIVE FRIENDS BONAIRE: I dove with DFB, and again, I've got nothing but great things to say about their service and situation. There are 5 or 6 DFBs at different sites on the island. If you buy an unlimited air or nitrox package through one, you can use all the facilities promiscuously, dropping off empties or picking up fills at any of them. That's incredibly convenient. They were very easy to set up my mandatory checkout dive (as gajahduduk noted above, it's really only a simple buoyancy check). They also went above-and-beyond when I needed it. For example, when my gauge hose sprung a leak right before going in at Yellow Submarine, they gave me an immediate replacement, and told me I could get a permanent replacement at the DFB retail shop after the dive, When I got to the retail shop, I discovered that DFB Yellow Sub had already called ahead to alert them, and they had the fixes ready. (Another hat tip to Sam at DFB Retail, who helped me several times with immediate fixes during the trip - totally unruffled, and completely at-your-service, a terrific guy.)

    I did pay for two guided dives. As gajahduduk noted above, these were unnecessary. The guides were fine divers, the nicest people, but didn't add any special knowledge. They were indeed (gajah's words) buddies for hire.

    THE BIG EXCEPTION WAS CAITLIN HALE!: Caitlin (aka @seahale on Instagram) is DFB's resident photo professional. I did a full-on set of macro lessons and spots with her, and while these weren't cheap, they were so worth it! Caitlin's a fine photographer, knows the reef's well, and got me to things I would not have reached on my own. She also buffed up my technique. She really helped make the trip what I wanted it to be.

    THE DIVING: As a general rule, I find Bonaire's reefs pretty similar to each other, without the topographic singularity and drama of Saba, the drifty fun of Cozumel, or the chance for pelagic encounters that you'll get in South Florida. As a photographer, I'm also of mixed mind about the shore diving experience - it can be hard dragging that precious equipment in and out of the water, especially if there's any surf at all (as there was during the week I was there), and especially because the sites don't really reward with you with topographic diversity. But the health of the reefs and the proliferation of small critters can be very rewarding. Among my favorite encounters: playing squat lobsters, juvenile spotted trunkfish, a pancake-flat golden frogfish, a free-swimming remora, lots of spotted moray eels, a 7' free-swimming moray at Salt Pier (which IS a dramatic site, and worth diving every day), a very tolerant spotted eagle ray at Salt Pier.

    So all in all, a fantastic trip with many new friends met, and a chance to dive dive dive and shoot shoot shoot.

    Attached Files:

  2. Compressor

    Compressor ScubaBoard Supporter Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: NYS
    Thank you for the report. I'm planning a trip to Bonaire in May (18th-25th) and need a buddy too. I'm going to PM you regarding some of the details. If any SBers want to go and meet up there please PM me. I'm an easy going guy.

    Beautiful pictures.
  3. peeweediver

    peeweediver Barracuda

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Chicago area
    Very nice write-up and pictures. We'll be going in May and staying at Del Laman. It was nice to read that you enjoyed both the accommodations and Dive Friends as a dive center. I've been twice before but stayed at Buddy Dive both times.
    Also very glad you found partners on SB to dive with and enjoy your trip. I agree that SB has tremendous value as a site....as long as you avoid the overheated discussions. :eek:
    Thanks for the report.
  4. darook

    darook Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Twin Cities Suburb
    Nice write up and shots Randall. Really like the squid and pancake lobsters. I am always looking for a dice like you got but didn't see any this trip. It was great to get to know you! Now that I am back home in this redoubt of ennui I am starting to work on a topside video as everything from beneath the waves got vaporized.

    As a photographer I agree that hauling a big kit in and out of the waves is a workout but the advantage of having few other divers around you going where you please always makes it worth it to me.
    Trailboss123 likes this.
  5. tursiops

    tursiops Marine Scientist and Master Instructor ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: U.S. East Coast
    Do you mean if you want a buddy for a shore dive, then you need to find one? I'm sure you don't mean you are required to have a buddy on a shore dive....
  6. DiveFans

    DiveFans Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: NJ
    Terrific photos - thanks for sharing !
  7. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    That would be bad indeed. Can you give us examples?

  8. aquacat8

    aquacat8 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Savannah, GA
    So can you solo there or not?
  9. aquacat8

    aquacat8 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Savannah, GA
    Great pics and enjoyable write up!
  10. oldschoolto

    oldschoolto Regular of the Pub

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: maine
    I'm heading to Bonaire January 26th and staying till May 19th.. 4 months of diving should be nice.. Did I ever tell you guy's that retirement ROCKS..

    Trailboss123 likes this.

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