Trip Report Bonaire Trip Report Captn Don's 7/11-7/19

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Tunaman68

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LAX - ALT - BON July 11-19

Flights to Bonaire are expensive from LA. We paid extra for comfort +, luggage and seat selection which raised the price of the ticket to nearly $1,000. I can get from LA to Paris for less. Makes Bonaire a challenge to justify financially this trip. We stayed at Captain Don’s after visiting several times to dive Cliff and eat pizza on our last trip. The Bonaire entry tax was a **** show but they had lots of people to help you navigate the website to get a bar code to stand in line to pay the fee…added an extra 30 minutes to the entry for us but it didn’t actually matter as for some reason we still had to wait another 25 minutes for the bags to come off the plane. Truck rental was from Avis which is right at the airport but service was SLLLLLOOOOOWWW and it took almost two hours total to leave the airport and be on our way.

I chose a 2 bedroom bungalow for me and my dive buddy as I’m getting too old to share a room and bathroom with another stinky, snoring dude. The bungalow was showing some wear and needs a little paint, but was spotless and very comfortable for us to spread our gear out. Big fridge with a quasi ice maker and coffee maker and kettle for your caffeine fix. The twin beds in my room were firm but comfy and didn’t have the ‘body dent’ from being super old. My buddy stayed in the queen bed room and said the mattress needed to be replaced and featured a lovely dent but only on one side! I enjoyed the huge patio and private rinse tank right at the front door and it was a great place to chill and look at videos and pics from the day. The view was of the inner courtyard which could be pretty but was under construction to plaster the bottom vs the leaky vinyl liner they have in place now. The oceanfront rooms are great and offer a lovely view and if I were to stay here again, I’d look at two rooms oceanfront just for the view alone. Bugs were there, and I got chewed but it was mostly the little noseums that don’t itch but leave little red dots up and down your legs.

Our package included 11 boat dives, breakfast, truck rental and unlimited NX. We did a total of 19 dives during our 6 days, 9 from the boat and 10 from shore. Weather was perfect with not too much humidity, cooler than expected temps and very breezy to keep it cool in the afternoons. We got meat, cheese, bread and snacks as well as beer and water from Tweel and ate that almost every day for lunch and post dive energy refuel stops. It’s a great way to save money and I wish I had a store that carried the things that Tweel has in my home town! The meats and cheese are to die for and the bread was always super fresh at the bakery. Remember to bring a shopping bag!!

Meals out were had at Karls beach bar (cold bucket of Brights for Happy Hour) -good sushi and sashimi, but the steak was meh being cooked on a flat top vs a charcoal grill which is what I’ve come to expect in Bonaire. Trocadero had great entertainment and a REALLY good steak as well as the garlic shrimp appetizer. Döner Station Hato has a great chicken wrap and awesome fries that I ate twice! Papa Smurf’s food truck was in 2nd place for the doner wrap and had an interesting curry taste and added cheese which is apparently Lebanese style. We ate pizza at Rum Runners twice- once was great, the other terrible as they forgot to make the pizzas (we ordered to go after a night dive) and then rushed them resulting in mine being burnt to a crisp on the bottom. Breakfast was included and features your normal European breakfast buffet with breads, cereal, fruit, eggs, bacon (cooked in giant lumps stuck together but still tasty), sausage (get the ones that look like they were cooked this week vs the recycled wrinkled guys), and either pancakes or waffles. Also avail was a short order cook for fried eggs and omelettes. I thought it was a good breakfast and easy to get something quick before the early boat. We took Bobbie Jean’s BBQ to the beach one night to watch the KLM flight land which was very entertaining and worth a go.

Staff at Don’s was super duper. I’ve learned that people working in a dive shop are sometimes peculiar, deal with a lot of complaining idiots every day and need some finessing to become friendly. We chatted a bit, tipped a bit, and overall got GREAT service and really enjoyed everyone who was working the shop and the boats. I had an excellent time with all the guides and captains, and my man Sherman really was a hoot to be around. We had no issues getting on boats when we wanted and almost all our dives were 65 minutes or more. They were very relaxed about people with air left spending some extra time in the shallows under the boat while we waited for everyone else to get back aboard. This lead to some awesome animal encounters and extra long dives which was really nice.

Maid service was slow and hit or miss on the time, but really good. We found the staff at the restaurant and bar to be very nice and super friendly. I also got an excellent massage at the spa on my last day to release some of those sore diving muscles.

The dive locker area needs some love and I really noticed the lack of upkeep here. They did have both NX and air tanks down at the bottom of the hill which was nice. If you wanted NX tanks to go, you had to have them out of the locker by the dive shop before 5pm. One day we were there at 4:45 and they were locked up already meaning we had to schlep tanks from the dive lockers to the parking lot which was a drag. All NX fills were 33% and nobody really sniffs the tanks or puts the little tape labels on any more. Most fills were 3200 psi but we did have a few half fills and Bonaire O rings so we always took two extras when going out for the day. Overall, I really preferred Wannadive’s setup with easy to grab tanks geared to the truck diver and several locations to grab from vs Don’s which was obviously set up for in house diving. While I enjoyed being at the resort and still find Cliff to be an awesome site, I would try and find an oceanfront condo with a good shore dive in front and dive with Wannadive next trip. Don’s was charging nearly $45 for a single tank boat dive which was almost double the $25 Wannadive charged in 2013. Since our package included more boat dives than we ended up doing, I don’t know if we lost or saved. However, if you are traveling alone, are a newer diver, or are just vacation mode lazy and don’t want to be bothered with trucks and shore diving Don’s is hard to beat.

DIVING was amazing. The water temp was perfect, visibility was generally excellent especially at the Northern sites and on Klien. Currents were almost nothing except on the southern sites like Pink Beach, Invisibles and Alice. The last time I visited we stayed at a BnB and only did 4 boat dives. I must admit that doing Karpata, 10,000 steps and the Hooker from a boat is pretty nice and an easy way to get to skip the one way driving, stair climbing or surface swimming! :wink: Did dives at Cliff (day and night), Salt Pier (day and night) but saw the largest amount of fish mass at Pink Beach where I was trying to find the giant school that Diver’s Life shows on his video. No giant school, but the reef was absolutely THICK with life. We also enjoyed The Lake, and Joana’s Sunchi on Klein as stand out dives. We met some friends who didn’t have a truck and adventured to Alice in Wonderland where we headed out to the second reef but the group ended up at 80 feet during the swim across the sand so our bottom time was limited on this dive. Also did Oil Slick which is a personal fav for both the diving, and the post dive cannon balls that turn grown people back into 12 year olds at summer camp.


As a self admitted Cozumel junkie I find Bonaire to be a nice slow alternative and it was interesting to hear people hate on Coz because of the drift diving and inability to go ‘slow’. This is what I LIKE about it and sometimes find Bonaire to be a bit ‘one note’ for topographical variety. The fish life however can not be compared as Bonaire BLOWS Coz away for sheer amount of life and ease of access. I have never dove anywhere that has more going on in 20' of water in my life. Not on one dive, but on almost EVERY dive. We saw a few turtles, one eagle ray and one stingray, but more green morays than I can count. Overall it seemed the larger critters were not out playing, but reef fish density was so crazy it more than made up for it. I’m chopping up hours and hours of video and will post a link when it’s ready.

Thanks as always to everyone here who makes the information on these locations so awesome and easy to get!! It takes the guesswork out of these trips and is such a help.
 

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tridacna

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Very nice review. If you think that Bonaire has a lot of life at 20’, wait until you dive Indonesia! Agree with you regarding the quality of the supermarkets there.
 

morecowbells

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Loved reading this! 100% with you about the older you get, the less appealing is the idea of sharing a room. In my 20's I had no problems sleeping in a youth hostel, whereas now, I need my own room and bathroom. I have not heard of Pink Beach, but it sounds wonderful. I will be on the island in a couple of weeks and looking forward to following your suggestions.
 
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Tunaman68

Tunaman68

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Very nice review. If you think that Bonaire has a lot of life at 20’, wait until you dive Indonesia! Agree with you regarding the quality of the supermarkets there.
I’m looking at summer 2023 options in the Pacific….tell me more about where and how in Indonesia please!
 
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Tunaman68

Tunaman68

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Loved reading this! 100% with you about the older you get, the less appealing is the idea of sharing a room. In my 20's I had no problems sleeping in a youth hostel, whereas now, I need my own room and bathroom. I have not heard of Pink Beach, but it sounds wonderful. I will be on the island in a couple of weeks and looking forward to following your suggestions.
I had not heard that pink beach was one of the ‘better’ dive sites, usually just beach goers and sunbathers there. Even the dive masters at Don’s were like ‘pink beach?, why?’. I was lured by this video, but if that mega school was there, I never found it. Lots of white sand was all we found in the shallows. Glad we carried on out to the reef where we had an incredible dive after all.
 

Jaan

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I’m looking at summer 2023 options in the Pacific….tell me more about where and how in Indonesia please!
yes please. We always get discouraged when thinking about 3+ flights and unknown accommodations.
Any tips would be appreciated. My wife Nathalie loves macro photography, and every time see photos from Indonesia we just say .. wow.
 

tridacna

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I’m looking at summer 2023 options in the Pacific….tell me more about where and how in Indonesia please!
Oh boy. There are many people on the board that are much more qualified than me in matters regarding Indo. Check @Dan ‘s reviews and @drrich2 has put together an outstanding thread with much research.

I’ve been to Indonesia twice. Bangka, Siladen, Bunaken, Lembeh, Manado. Going next year to Raja Ampat. I’ve been diving since 1976 and nothing comes even close to Indonesia. The colors, variety of animals/corals are truly mind blowing. Imagine looking down on a vista of corals as far as you can see with no sand visible!

And yes, I need my own room too!
 

cpace

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Flights to Bonaire are expensive from LA. We paid extra for comfort +, luggage and seat selection which raised the price of the ticket to nearly $1,000.

We paid a bit more in August 2021 for SEA - MIA - BON. Just dropped $1400 a ticket to Roatan for August 2022. Price does include seat upgrades and refundable tickets. Prior to Covid, it was cheaper to fly the Philippines from Seattle than many locations in the Caribbean.
 

Eric802

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Tunaman, I’ve got a cruise stop in Bonaire in December and would love to dive the Hilma Hooker. Any opinion if Capt. Don’s would be a good op for that?
 
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Tunaman68

Tunaman68

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Tunaman, I’ve got a cruise stop in Bonaire in December and would love to dive the Hilma Hooker. Any opinion if Capt. Don’s would be a good op for that?
I really have no idea! The ship pier is downtown, Don's is to the north, and the Hooker is a ways south of the airport. Don's boats were very nice, but I'm not sure how you would guarantee a certain site as they seem to pick where they are going randomly throughout the week. Bruce Bowker has an option to rent the whole boat for $350 (up to six divers) so that might be the best option to make SURE you go where you want. Others with more experience on Bonaire will likely have better ideas!!
 

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