Bonaire Trip Report Nov 5-12 2012

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rreconnu

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Bonaire Trip Report Nov 5-12, 2012

My wife and I just got back from a week long dive trip to Bonaire. This was my wife’s first dive trip. She had done her confined water sessions for her PADI Open Water cert in NC in October, but we decided to do her open water dives in Bonaire. This turned out to be a great decision as warm water, pretty fish and great visibility is a much more pleasant place to learn than a cold, dark quarry!

We traveled all day on Monday going from Raleigh to Miami, Miami to Curacao and then Curacao to Bonaire. Not sure why, but for some reason we couldn’t book the whole trip from Raleigh to Bonaire so we had to go through customs, get our bags and recheck them in Curacao. It didn’t seem like a big deal, but it turned out to be a bit of a hassle. Customs was quick, but rechecking the bags involved waiting in line at the Curacao airport for over an hour. Curacao has a departure tax for some of the airlines (We were using Insel Air) so keep your boarding pass from your previous flight so you can prove that you are just a transit ($2) instead of a departure ($24ish). If you use an electronic boarding pass on your phone, make sure it’s up and your phone is charged as the Internet connection at the airport is sketchy and there’s no place to plug in your phone.

I’ve read a number of people complaining about Insel Air. At least for us, on this trip, it was fine. We arrived about 15 min late, but it is “Island Time” so no big deal. Customs in Bonaire is simple and quick. Be warned, baggage claim is outside under a roof and filled with mosquitos. They didn’t bother me much, but wife got eaten because we didn’t pack any bug spray in the carry on. We didn’t have to wait very long so it wasn’t too bad.

We’d rented a condo at Bellevue on VRBO through Sunbelt Realty and their representative was at the exit of baggage claim waiting for us with the key. We had rented a truck through AB Car Rental and their van was there as well. EASY! I’ve put a review of Sunbelt and Bellevue #3 on the VRBO site if you are interested so I won’t cover it here. (http://www.vrbo.com/372075#comments) AB Car Rental was fantastic. The truck was clean and practically brand new. They were friendly and helpful and I couldn’t recommend them more. I paid a little extra for the insurance and apart from piece of mind, it made the rental process really easy. No need for inspections checking out or in, just pick it up, drive it, gas it up and drop it off.

We got a discount trough Sunbelt for Dive Friends so we went with them for my wife’s referral and unlimited shore diving as well. It was pretty much dumb luck, but it turned out to be a good thing. Prior to the trip, Carolyn was helpful and responsive to emails as we organized everything. Once we got there, we found that they have locations all over the place so swapping out tanks between dives is easy and quick. They were laid back, but responsive, friendly, flexible and helpful. I would highly recommend them.

My wife’s open water dives were done at Dive Friend’s Yellow Submarine location down town. I can’t say it was the easiest place to find initially, but once you figure out how to get to the waterfront (Turn left at the pizza place down what looks like a one way alley) it’s easy to find. While she was doing her certification dives, I dove with one of their divemasters, Tim, out in front of the dive shop for my check-out dive. It was a very relaxing and easy dive and felt much more like diving with a buddy than being “checked out” in any way. Basically, it’s a chance to check out your gear and make sure you’re weighted right.

My wife really liked her instructor Rick who made her comfortable and really helped make it a successful and positive experience so if you are looking to do a referral, I’d highly recommend Dive Friends and Rick specifically.

After my check out dive. I decided to do the Hilma Hooker because it was a little deeper and thought it might not be someplace to take my wife as a new diver. It’s about a 15 min ride from downtown and maybe 5 minutes from Port Bonaire (if you need tanks). It was really easy to find, plenty of parking and a fairly easy entry. I got in the water just as no less than 3 dive boats were pulling onto the moorings. I thought I’d have time to dive it before they got in the water, but because the swim out was a bit further than I’d anticipated (not far, just farther than I’d read) I was only able to make one pass of it prior to it starting to rain down new divers, in shiny new dive gear. It’d guess there were no less than 30 divers on it. Visibility went to hell and any chance of photos went away as packs of roving newbies photo bombed every good shot with their bad buoyancy.

Needless to say, I was concerned that I may have made a horrible, horrible mistake coming to Bonaire if dives were going to be like Grand Central Station. But, I’m happy to say, for the rest of the trip as long as I avoided anyplace the boats were at, we never saw another diver.

I’m not going to bore you with reviews of every dive site. I’d recommend either using Scuba Shore Diving Region: ABC Islands or get a copy of Bonaire Shore Diving Made Easy from one of the local dive shops. They both proved valuable, and very accurate.

In general, you aren’t going to have a bad dive on Bonaire. We primarily stayed on the southern sites. They were very close to our condo, conditions were great, fish life was astounding (compared to most other Caribbean locations I’ve dove), they were safe and entry was pretty easy. Nothing against the northern sites in any way, I’m sure they are great as well. But when we drove by them on the way up to the national park on our last day, they had a lot more divers on them, the entry usually took some hiking and climbing, parking was limited and secluded so I’d be more concerned about theft.

Air temperature was 85. Water Temperature was 84. Visibility on the top of the reef off the flats was about 40. At about 50 feet on the reef it was about 70ish. Current was negligible. Structure was mostly hard coral and sponges with soft coral and sea fans and such mixed in. Fish were abundant and pretty much your typical Caribbean mix. I did notice a lot more of them and many more large schools than other places. Color was good overall (for the Caribbean) although some sites (Margate Bay, White Slave and Alice in Wonderland) seemed to have a little more color. As far as “big ticket items”, we saw no turtles, rays, sea horses or frog fish. We did talk to plenty of divers and snorkelers who did. Frankly, it’s probably my fault as much of my attention was on my newly certified wife so I wasn’t really looking for much beyond the immediate area.

I will call out one site in particular. The salt pier was amazing. We dove it 3 times. You no longer need a guide to dive it so just make sure there isn’t a ship parked at it and go for it. The fish life was mind boggling at times. On one dive, it got to the point that I couldn’t see where I was going because the schools of fish were so dense. I’ve never seen anything like it. Besides the life, the structure is cool, the light does some amazing things for a photographer and it’s an easy dive.

Lastly, just a few words on Bonaire itself:

Theft – we didn’t have any issues what so ever. Use common sense and you’ll be fine, just like everywhere!

Power – Rolling blackouts are commonplace so chances are you’re going to have at least one day with no power.

Internet – It seems to be mostly DSL. It’s pretty slow and unreliable. We found an ice cream place downtown with free WiFi and a more reliable connection than our condo and we used it as much as we could to avoid International Data Charges.

Food – The Dutch market is cool. It’s like an Ikea grocery store. It’s a mix of Dutch, South American and American and the prices are on par with the US. Eating out is hit and miss. There are a few excellent places, but you pay for it. Try not to freak out about the service. Just take a deep breath and tell yourself over and over "Island Time". They'll get to it.


We enjoyed every dive and it was an absolutely perfect place to take a new diver. There is no doubt that we will be back. Maybe next time we'll dive some of the northern sites or boat dive Klein Bonaire. I’d recommend Bonaire to anyone interested in a laid back place with idealic weather, nice people, and all the diving you can stand.
 

luckydays

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Thanks for sharing your experience. Glad you had a good time. I love Bonaire and am going back in July.
 

Heatheroe

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Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! We are leaving for Bonaire next week and this report couldn't have come at a better time. I'm wondering if we have to go through customs/immigration in Curacao. We're flying CLT to Aruba (where we do go thru C/I) on US Air and then Insel to Curacao (where we only have a 30 minute layover) and then to Bonaire. We booked the whole trip on Priceline. I'm really worried we're going to miss the flight and be stuck on Curacao for the night.
 

herman

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Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! We are leaving for Bonaire next week and this report couldn't have come at a better time. I'm wondering if we have to go through customs/immigration in Curacao. We're flying CLT to Aruba (where we do go thru C/I) on US Air and then Insel to Curacao (where we only have a 30 minute layover) and then to Bonaire. We booked the whole trip on Priceline. I'm really worried we're going to miss the flight and be stuck on Curacao for the night.

If you do miss your connection odds are Divi Divi or DAE has a flight leaving soon that you can get on HOWEVER at least one of them does NOT take CCs so have enough cash to pay for a one way ticket....somewhere in the $50 PP range. That will get you to Bonaire faster and save you a nights stay and other charges in Curacao.
 

Heatheroe

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Thanks for the info! Hopefully we can use the in transit line since we're flying Insel AUA-CUR-BON.
 

diverrex

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Nice report. We did our third trip to Bonaire in September staying at Bellevue condos our second time. Bellevue is the only place we want to stay on Bonaire now, we love that place. The new grocery store is great. We never had a power blackout in three weeks on Bonaire. Haven't had any theft problems either.
 

PARADISE HUNTER

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Nice report. Thanks.

We never had any black outs (electricity that is) the week we were there. I agree with the grocery store, pretty cool. I always make it a point to visit grocery stores in foreign countries, they always interesting.

I really enjoyed the salt pier as well. Did you see all the flamingo tongues on the soft corals? They were on every other one I looked at. Dozens. The visibilty wasn't to good on the day that I dove it and the large supports would look dark and fuzzy at a distance and would come into focus as you approached them. Great dive!

PH
 
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rreconnu

rreconnu

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Nice report. We did our third trip to Bonaire in September staying at Bellevue condos our second time. Bellevue is the only place we want to stay on Bonaire now, we love that place. The new grocery store is great. We never had a power blackout in three weeks on Bonaire. Haven't had any theft problems either.

I'm glad to hear the rolling blackouts may not be as common as people on the island made it seem. Everyone was very blasé about it like it happens all the time. Maybe it was just a short term thing. I noticed there was tons of construction going on that looked like they were laying conduit under the streets, maybe that was the cause. I'd be happy to have power all the time when we go back! Thanks for the reply!
 

diverrex

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I'm glad to hear the rolling blackouts may not be as common as people on the island made it seem. Everyone was very blasé about it like it happens all the time. Maybe it was just a short term thing. I noticed there was tons of construction going on that looked like they were laying conduit under the streets, maybe that was the cause. I'd be happy to have power all the time when we go back! Thanks for the reply!

The road construction is for a new sewer system.
 
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