Trip Report Fourth visit after a four year absence

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morecowbells

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After a four-year absence from Bonaire, I honestly did not intend to return anytime soon. Our previous vacation was plagued by Delta’s screw ups (previously referred to as Satan’s Chariot in old trip report, however, they did eventually mitigate our expenses) causing us to lose a day of vacation and losing our gear for two additional days; I swore off making that trek again, especially since Curacao was far more accessible. We were planning on visiting Curacao this summer, but airfares were crazy high. For once, AA had a decent price to Bonaire, about half of what I would pay to visit Curacao. I decided to shrug off my Bonaire grudge and book a vacation.

I don’t know if it is the middle age spread, or if the seats on AA are actually shrinking. My drybag which I always slide under the seat in front of me required aggressive mashing down with my foot in order to fit. Besides sitting on the hot tarmac at the MIA airport for over an hour, waiting for the plane to get fueled, we had no issues.

Why we picked Port Bonaire. A comparison with the other places we stayed

Previously we stayed at Bonaire Seaside Apartments (nice location, but bed and bedroom were tiny which felt like it was shrinking daily with snoring husband). Our second visit, we stayed at Playa Lechi which I absolutely loved (sadly, it was not available during our timeframe). Third visit was at Delfins. I enjoyed the resort, but the wooden louvered windows sans glass pane is a deal breaker, plus it has become far pricier. After reading @uncfnp trip report, we decided that Port Bonaire was a good pick within our price range.

We booked through Sunwise Bonaire. They were flawless with preparation and communication. I will definitely seek them out for our next vacation. Our unit was two stories, with two bedrooms. It had everything we needed including a well-stocked kitchen, Wifi, large patio and nice pool area blissfully absent of small children. Despite being across from the airport, it was surprisingly quiet. I am a light sleeper and never had issues with noise. We had a wash machine which is ideal for midweek cleaning. The bedrooms (on upper level) have air conditioning, but the living room and kitchen do not. During the day, we had a comfortable breeze which kept areas pleasant. In the later evening, it was downright sweltering. I know in August, the weather will be hot, but even the locals told us that was much hotter than normal. I am not the dreaded American a/c glutton. Personally, I am fine with the system we encountered in Curacao where if your daily kilo wattage usage exceeds the norm allowance, you pay an additional charge. If I visited Bonaire in the winter, I would be fine with the lack of a/c in common areas, but for another summer visit, I would stay at the same complex, but seek one out with less a/c limitations.

To be continued....


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morecowbells

morecowbells

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The Diving

We have always used Dive Friends, and have consistently been pleased with them. Tanks were routinely filled >3000 psi. Instead of breaking down each shore dive findings, I will do a side-by-side comparison of each day of diving.

Bari Reef North versus South of the dock: The winner is surprisingly south! Everyone we talked to recommended North. I enjoyed both, but found more creatures including a green moray a school of squid on the south side.

Something Special versus Hamlet Oasis/Cliff (south of entrance): Close, but the winner goes to Something Special. We came across a large baitball and a couple of sting rays.

Salt Pier versus Aquarius. The winner goes to Aquarius. Coral was more vibrant and there were more schools of fish. I came across a chain moray and some curious porcupine fish. Entrance is gentle and easy.

Pink Beach versus Bachelors Beach: The winner is Pink Beach. thanks @Tunaman68 recommendation. The entry is as easy as they come. We saw some squid and a green moray.

Hamlet Oasis/Cliff north versus Andrea 1. The slim edge goes to Cliff. Neither of these dives were anything raving about. Somewhat lackluster. The topography of Andrea was interesting, but not as many schooling fish as Cliff North.

East Coast Diving Adventure:

Now for our day diving with Bonaire East Coast Diving. We met up at Lac Bay. There were about 8 divers. We set up our own gear on dock, then loaded up onto a large zodiac type of boat. Captain Maarten and dive master Fred were friendly, professional and very thorough in detailing each dive site, and what to expect. I anticipated some choppy and rougher waters, but these swells were rollers! I would have been out of commission had I not applied a Scopolamine patch the night prior. Exiting from the boat was quick, well-orchestrated and we were quick to descend. There was a good amount of surge, but not as bad as I expected after being on the surface. Visibility wasn’t great, perhaps 40-50 feet. Once I reached depth, I worked out some of my anxiety and started enjoying the dive. Our first dive was at a site called Funchal(sp?). Fred was wonderful at finding critters. We must have seen about 10 turtles. One was a massive, elderly, utterly colorless Loggerhead that looked like he was perhaps in the early stage of decomposition, yet was assured that he was alive and simply napping. I got some pics, but it really doesn’t do justice to this massive beauty. We also saw two eagle rays. Surface interval was back at the dock at Lac Bay. The public bathrooms looked like a crime scene. Just do your business in the ocean. I popped some ginger candies and off we went to our second dive at Turtle City. Fred gave us the 411 on the site, behaviors, patterns and cleaning station behavior. Conditions were similar to first dive. Upon descending, I counted five turtles. Every turn we took revealed napping turtles everywhere! We arrived at the cleaning station where there was a flurry of turtles coming and going. Truly amazing! They were all green turtles. After counting up to thirty turtles, I quit counting. While at the surface, the waves were much larger than I have experienced in my mild and mellow diving CV. We kept regulators in mouth, turned our back to each swell and waited our turn to board. Both captain Maarten and Fred helped get us situated and back on the boat. Would I do this dive again? Absolutely!
 
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morecowbells

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Food:

Donner Station: It was our first time at this place. It was prefect for lunch after diving.

La Cantina: We have been here before. I love the outdoor area. Meal was very good. Beer was decent.

Cuba Compagnie: On my last visit, I have a wonderful Cubana sandwich. It was not on the menu this time. Ordered the Ropa Vieja. It was okay; lacked any robust flavor. I like the Cuban food at La Caretta at the Miami airport better.

Pasa Bon Pizza: This has been a regular go to on other visits. I loved the animated waiter. This time, service was abysmal. It was not very busy and the waitresses seemed completely uninterested in taking order etc. I will skip this next visit.

El Fogon: The vegetable rice was actually very good and flavorful with hints of curry and saffron.

Mi Banana: A regular to our Bonaire visits. Chicken was decent, but vegetable dish was not fresh and bland. Disappointed.

El Mundo: Excellent service and the food enjoyable. The chicken stir fry was quite good.

Between Two Buns: I knew they relocated, somehow, I didn’t get the memo that it actually a nice sit down, fresh, peppy restaurant versus basic deli style place previous. I showed up in my swimsuit hoodie cover and wet hair looking like a total loser compared to the smartly dressed customers. We ate outside, but I felt skanky. Food is excellent with even more selections than before.

Sugar Thief: This was the unexpected dark horse winner. My husband is a big fan of home brews and craft beer. Our plan was to grab some beers at Sugar Thief then go back to condo and eat some biterballen amongst other crap. Along with a Dutch couple who were also beer enthusiasts, we got a tour of back room and details of brewing process. My husband was in beer geek heaven. I didn’t realize they served food as well. It was taco night. I wasn’t planning on eating there, but then I heard the owner talk about seasoning, brining and smoking the meats, it was an easy choice ditching the bitterballen. The tortillas were handmade, using some of the leftover beer grains. With some spicy pico, it was a flavor explosion! Easily my favorite meal on the island.

In previous visits to Bonaire, we rented a truck through AB. We never had any issues, but taking the shuttle from the airport and waiting in line behind others was a PITA. On this visit, we decided to rent a Volkswagen from Prins after reading @drrich2 report. It was basically a car with a small bed which tightly accommodated 4 tanks and gear. It was the best of both words. Easy parking and handling. The only caveat is that it was a stick shift. It had been a while since I drove one. There was some initial herky jerky shifting, but I found the sweet spot after a day. It was good to brush up on driving a standard. We picked up the car at the airport. Prins messaged me a video on where car was parked along with instructions on getting keys. We had a regular old school key, not a fob. The following day we drove to their office to complete paperwork. Returning the car involved parking in long term lot and sending a picture of where it was parked. I will definitely use them in the future.

In Summary:

I am so glad we returned to Bonaire! The corals were so majestic and colorful. I feel such melancholy reading about the damaging Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease. With the exception of Pasa Bon Pizza, everyone we encountered was friendly and helpful. I am disappointed that we didn’t find any sea horses or frogfish. I used to be fairly skilled at finding the macro critters. Lately, my eye prescription has changed frequently. Once I find a pair of contact lenses with appropriate bifocal correction, my prescription either changes or the brand of lens ends up discontinued. On my next visit, I think I will hire a guide for a couple of dives, then repeat those dives on our own.
 

Hydo

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Great write-up! We're making our 1st trip to Bonaire in November and appreciate all the hints and tips.
 

Trailboss123

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Has it really been 4 years? Wow! How time flies. Seems like your trip report when you stayed at Delfin's couldn't have been more than 2 years ago.

Outstanding report @morecowbells -- Just what I would expect from you! Love all of your details and comparisons, and as always, your photos ROCK! They are all standouts. I have a fondness and attraction to Flamingo Tongues, so that one really caught my eye :wink:

Thanks for the 411 on Sugar Thief also. That will be on my hit list next year. I am also a big fan of Donner Station for a lunch stop. Good quality and quantity, easy parking, easy place to keep an eye on the dive truck if concerned about theft and Veg and Vegan friendly to boot.

Where are you headed next?
 
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morecowbells

morecowbells

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Has it really been 4 years? Wow! How time flies. Seems like your trip report when you stayed at Delfin's couldn't have been more than 2 years ago.

Outstanding report @morecowbells -- Just what I would expect from you! Love all of your details and comparisons, and as always, your photos ROCK! They are all standouts. I have a fondness and attraction to Flamingo Tongues, so that one really caught my eye :wink:

Thanks for the 411 on Sugar Thief also. That will be on my hit list next year. I am also a big fan of Donner Station for a lunch stop. Good quality and quantity, easy parking, easy place to keep an eye on the dive truck if concerned about theft and Veg and Vegan friendly to boot.

Where are you headed next?
Thanks for such kind words! Be sure to visit Sugar Thief on taco night. We are hoping to do some diving in Feb. I love Cozumel, but when we visited this last Feb, we lost two days of diving due to a norte. Aiming for either Bonaire or Curacao.
 

Trailboss123

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That makes sense. You are not going to lose any dive days to Nortes in Bonaire or Curacao in February.

I have Sea of Cortez liveaboard a week from today. Cozumel in early December for 10 days (Norte winds will be in play) and a fisrt ever trip to Guanaja in February.
 

drrich2

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Glad you had a good time! I roam here and yon, but Bonaire is the place I've gone back to time and again, and yearn for after diving elsewhere. You remain the master of the green moray shot. Beautiful squid shot!

Previously we stayed at Bonaire Seaside Apartments (nice location, but bed and bedroom were tiny which felt like it was shrinking daily with snoring husband). Our second visit, we stayed at Playa Lechi which I absolutely loved (sadly, it was not available during our timeframe). Third visit was at Delfins. I enjoyed the resort, but the wooden louvered windows sans glass pane is a deal breaker, plus it has become far pricier. After reading @uncfnp trip report, we decided that Port Bonaire was a good pick within our price range.
You explained why Delfins is no longer a preferred option, and given the small bed and bedroom at Bonaire Seaside Apartments I take it they aren't, either, so now that you've had good experiences with Playa Lechi and Port Bonaire, which would you prefer going forward?

What did you love about Playa Lechi? I'm unfamiliar with it.
 
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morecowbells

morecowbells

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You explained why Delfins is no longer a preferred option, and given the small bed and bedroom at Bonaire Seaside Apartments I take it they aren't, either, so now that you've had good experiences with Playa Lechi and Port Bonaire, which would you prefer going forward?

What did you love about Playa Lechi? I'm unfamiliar with it.
Playa Lechi unit #7 has it's own dive locker in gated parking lot. It is walking distance to town. While both Port Bonaire and Playa Lechi have great views, PL wins hands down. The downside of PL, is that it books up fast and costs more than PB. Both are great places to stay.

I hope to read one of your trip reports soon. I used a lot of your helpful information.
 
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