Bonaire SCUBA Diving Trip Report, ‘01

Scope

Identification

This page describes my dive trip to Bonaire from 14 July to 21 July, 2001. The opinions are those of the author, S. Lott.

This trip report is prepared in the rec.scuba tradition of detailed trip reports. I have found these invaluable in planning dive trips, and feel that I owe the dive community similar detailed trip reports.

Purpose

I went to Bonaire to enjoy as much SCUBA diving as I could during a one week family vacation. After having dove in Bonaire, the Bahamas, St. Maartin, Saba, Monterey and Florida, (not to mention New York, Massachusets, Florida, Maine and California) it was my opinion that Bonaire has the optimal mix of low-key caribbean island life-style, high-quality diving resorts and unlimited shore diving.

I’m an avid diving adult, My family includes a reluctant diving adult (my wife, CAB), another avid diver (my 16 year-old son, ABL) and an avid junior diver (my 14 year-old daughter, HBL). We vacation together often, and I think we get along quite well. My children are experienced travelers, having been to Bonaire twice before, as well as Annapolis and San Diego in the last year.

Preparation

Booking

We booked the trip through Great Southern Island Adventures. We purchased a standard package with 7 days at the Sand Dollar resort with 6 boat dives for all of us. We reserved a 2-bedroom condo. We also reserved a Budget Toyota Hilux (stretch cab pickup) for driving around the island.

Detailed cost information can be found at Cost Details.

Packing Checklist

Clothing
Item Qty
Bathing Suits 2
Casual Shirts 4
Dress Outfit 1
Hat 1
PJs 1 or 2
Sandals 1
Shorts 4 pairs
Sunglasses 1 pair
Towel 1
Underpants 7 days
Gear
C-Card
Dive Gear (BC, Regs)
Exposure Suit
Film & Camera
Fins
Knife & Slate
Light
Logbook, Tables
Mask & Snorkel
Tools & Spares
Water Shoes
Medicines
Item Qty
Adhesive Tape 1 roll
Band-Aids Mix of Sizes
Benadryl person/day
Dramamine person/day boating
Gauze Pads A few
Ginger Pills person/day
Kaopectate person/day
Motrin 1/day
Sting Kit person
Sudafed diver/dive
Swimmer’s Ear diver
Tums person/day
Tylenol person/day
Toiletries
Comb/Brush
Sunscreen
Toothbrush
Toothpaste
Washcloth
Travel
Item Qty
Amusements (Books, Cards, Toys)
Belt Pouch 1 ea.
Cash $100/day
Credit Cards
DAN Card 1/diver
Driver’s License
Gear Bag & Mesh Bag 1 ea.
Journal 1 ea.
Passports 1 ea.
Photocopy of passport
Tickets 1 ea.
Traveler Checks $100/day
Water Bottles 1 ea.
Pre-Trip Tasklist
Task Person
Final Timesheet CAB & SFL
Mail Stopped CAB
Timers Set SFL
Voice Mail Greeting CAB & SFL
Water Plants CAB
Confirm Flights CAB

Descriptions

Bonaire

General

For more information see my summary of Large Bonaire Dive Shops. Also, see the Bonaire web site.

Bonaire is a low, nearly desert island just off the coast of Venezuala in the south-eastern caribbean. It’s about 12° north of the equator, well within the trade-winds, with a negligable tide. It’s about 45° or so west of Grenwich, in the Atlantic time zone (1 hour before EST, it matches EDT).

Immediately west of Bonaire (about 3/4 of a mile at the nearest point) is the island of Klein Bonaire (“Little Bonaire”). It is uninhabited.

Bonaire is part of the Netherlands Antilles, along with Curaçao, St. Maarten, Saba, and St. Eustacias; which is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The currency is the Antillean Guilder or Netherlands Antilles Florin (NAf).

The weather (year round) is about 82°F during the day, with water temp about the same. Rainfall is only 22 inches per year.

Many people speak four languages: Dutch, English, Spanish and Papiamentu. Dutch is the official language, but the Bonaireans mostly speak Papiamentu amongst themselves. Spanish radio (from Venezuala) is popular, and most tourists speak English as a first or second language.

While the electricity is 110V 50Hz, we were warned that voltage is unrealiable, and any sensitive appliances should have a transformer. The photo shop has a regulated power supply set up specifically to recharge camera and camcorder batteries. Clock radio times may drift, use your watch.

The major industries seem to be tourism, the salt works, the BOPEC oil transfer station and some high powered radio stations.

Getting Around

There aren’t too many major roads or towns, but you can get lost driving around for the first time. The main city of Kralendijk is a short distance south of Sand Dollar Condominiums, along the major North-South road. Kralendijk has a maze of narrow one-way streets. However, the big grocery store (the Cultimara) is very easy to find: head south, take the left when the road bends left and it’s on your left.

The prices at the Cultimara are high, but the selection is huge and some things are reasonably fresh. Up near Rincon you can also find the Food Giant, prices are slightly lower, but the selection is smaller.

The Bonaire Marine Park

For more information see the Bonaire Marine Park web site.

The Bonaire Marine Park is a protected area from the high water mark to a depth of 200 ft. around the island of Bonaire and Klein Bonaire. In order to dive you must purchase a valid admission to the park. They are good for a calendar year, and all dive operators sell them. They are $10 US.

Generally, all the dive operators conduct an orientation on a daily basis. You must attend this orientation and do a check-out dive under their supervision. Sand Dollar’s orientation is at 9:30 AM every day on the Den Laman patio.

Anchoring is forbidden. All boats must use the mooring bouys. Two boats can’t easily tie up to a mooring bouy, so sometimes your boat may have to go to a different dive site if another boat got there first.

Spear guns and spear fishing are prohibited. Fishing with a hook and line, however is permitted. Bonaireans seem to prefer to use a simple line with no pole when fishing from a boat.

Do not touch the reef. Most dive operations will warn you that you may not wear gloves. It is their experience that people without gloves are very reluctant to touch anything. Be very careful of your bouyancy. Many shops offer bouyancy clinics.

Do not handle or feed the fish. While there is spray cheese available in the stores, I’m very happy to report that I never saw anyone feeding fish from a spray cheese can.

Sand Dollar Condominiums

Sand Dollar has several buildings of oceanfront condominiums. We’ve stayed in both one- and two-bedroom units. There may be “efficiencies” but we’ve never seen them. Condos have kitchens, cable TV, air-conditioned bedrooms, and a balcony facing the ocean.

The facility has a pool and tennis courts. There is a bank, (very small) grocery store, ice cream shop and car rental on the property. Also, The Pool Deck resturant, Den Laman resturant and the Sand Dollar Dive and Photo shop are on the property.

Our condo had a bed room with 2 single beds and adjacent bathroom with sink, tub/shower and toilet. It also had a master bedroom with a king-size bed, a door to the large porch, and a private bath (2 sinks, tub/shower and toilet). There was an extended living/dining room. Couch, chairs, bookshelves, coffee table, television (numerous cable channels in English) where at one end. A dining room table with chairs in the middle. A bar with chairs and a kitchen at the other end. Kitched included toaster, coffee-maker, microwave, two sinks, stove, oven and large refrigerator.

It is about a 35 minute walk to Kralendijk; avoid making this trip during the heat of the day.

Sand Dollar Dive and Photo

Sand Dollar Dive and Photo is a full-service dive operation. They have complete training curricula, certified by PADI, NAUI and SSI. They open at 8:30 AM, and close at 5:30 PM Monday through Friday; they close at 4:00 on Saturdays and Sundays. Briefings are at 9:00 (9:30 on Sundays). They offer 3 boat dives each day: 8:45, 11:00 and 2:30 (1:30 on weekends). If requested, they can offer a night boat dive. If you are planning a night shore dive, be sure to get your tanks before 5:30 when the tank fill area is locked. A package typically includes a number of boat dives and unlimited shore diving.

When you arrive, you will open an account with the dive shop. Either give a credit card imprint or pay for your dive package. You are given a diver ID number, which is used for all transactions at the dive shop. You will also pay your $10 marine park fee and get a tag which must be displayed on your gear when diving.

When joining a boat dive, you simply write your number on the board. When taking tanks or a frame for storing tanks in a pickup, you write your number on clipboards in the compressor area. The dive shop staff will record this against your account. This number is also your assigned equipment locker. You are given a key with the locker number. When traveling with a group, pairs will be asked to buddy up in the locker space.

Equipment rental and the photo shop operate similarly. You will fill out a form, and use your ID number for all transactions. We rented shortie wet suits, BC’s and regulators. Weights are available free to everyone with an account. We also rented lights and a camera. We purchased a roll of film and print processing on our account.

The dive shop was located on a platform on the water with a dive boat pier. This was destroyed by hurricane Lenny in late 1999. Hurricanes are a once-every-150-year kind of event on Bonaire. This is easily proven by buildings that stood for 150 years until destroyed by Lenny.

The dive shop is now located at the southern end of the resort property in a collection of containers. These containers house the rental equipment, compressors and office space. We saw the concrete platform that might house a new dive shop. The current setup is not as convenient for boat diving, but is far more convenient for boat diving. The boats depart from the fuel dock at the Harbor Village Marina (maybe 1/2 kilometer further south). 15 minutes before a boat departs, vans leave from the dive shop to run you down to the dock.

13 July 2001

This is travel day one.

  • 19:00. Pack and leave for Comfort Inn JFK.
  • 21:58. Arrive Comfort Inn.

14 July 2001

This is travel day two.

  • 05:57. Move car to airpark (next door). Shuttle to JFK.

  • 06:10. Check in for flight. Eat breakfast.

  • 08:10. Air Jamaica to Montego Bay.

  • 13:25. Air Jamaica to Bonaire.

  • 14:50. Arrive Bonaire. Clear immigration, customs; claim bags, get rental car. Drive to Sand Dollar.

    Visit grocery store for snacks.

    Visit Sand Dollar Dive and Photo. Complete paperwork, pay marine park fees.

15 July 2001

Marine Park briefing is at 09:30 at Den Laman patio. After briefing, secure rental equipment and weight belts. Make the required check-out dive on Bari reef.

Since the dive shop has moved a hundred or so yards south of its prior location, this is a slightly different part of Bari reef than we had dived in the past. Benches are avaliable for putting gear together; you wear it down the stairs, walk in, put fins on in the water. There is a bouy a few yards off shore in 8’ of water, a line to a mooring in 15’ of water at the reef drop off.

Drive north for second dive of the day on Andrea II with ABL and HBL.

Andrea I and II are north of the Sand Dollar with mediocre shore access. Cars are typically left up on the high ground. The road down to Andrea I is steep and consists only of crushed (round) coral chunks. There is construction at Andrea II, but similar shore access with a somewhat easier walk. We opted to drag gear down to the water and gear up there. It’s probably just as easy to gear up at the truck and wear the gear down to the water.

Took a stroll around Harbor Village Marina to drool over the yachts parked there.

16 July 2001

ABL and CAB take the naturalist course with Jerry Lingon. This course is a basic intro to reef fish identification with a guided dive. HBL and I take the 11:00 AM boat to Mi Dushi on Klein Bonaire.

All four of us dove Bari reef in the afternoon. ABL and CAB showed us all of the reef fish they learned about in their morning class. We were particularly interested in seeing the unusual and well-camoflaged frog fish.

Dinner at the Den Laman at the south end of the resort. A menu focused on sea food, very nicely prepared. Sea-side tables were available. For a family of four: $142.55.

17 July 2001

HBL, ABL and I took the 11:00 AM boat dive to Sampler on Klein Bonaire. Saw two sea horses.

HBL, ABL and I drove down to dive Bachelor’s Beach. This is a small car park on a wall perhaps 10’ above the water. There are stairs down to a small strip of sand. We parked right by the stairs, geared up, wore the gear down the stairs.

18 July 2001

Rented two lights from the photo shop. They have excellent flashlights, but no marker lights for night diving.

Took the sea kayak class from Sipke. Learned basic care of the kayak and essential equipment: paddle, paddle bag, line, pump, skirt, PFD. How to choose a properly shaped and sized paddle, and how to recognize right-handed and left-handed paddles. We covered basic skills: how to escape and reenter with help; how to steer effectivel; how to escape and reenter on your own; how to scull; how to brace (high brace and low brace).

Took the 2:30 boat to Captain Don’s Reef on Klein Bonaire. Saw two sea horses.

Ate dinner at the pool-side Terrace restaurant at the sand dollar. “All you can eat Pasta night”. While the portions are generous, it is not actually all you can eat; it’s simply large portions of pasta. We ordered a refill, it was charged as a separate entree; we didn’t spend time discussing it. Perhaps our notion of “all you can eat” is different from theirs.

Took ABL for his first night dive at Bari reef 1. We were followed by Tarpon, but couldn’t induce them to hunt. Found a lone squid and followed it for a while.

19 July 2001

ABL and I shore dive the Hilma Hooker wreck site. Rented a camera from the photo shop. Drove down to the beach, Geared up on the truck. Entered the water at 11:45, swam bearing 225° compass to the bow bouy. The current set us N so we had to adjust our course during the swim. Reached the bouy at 11:53 and descended to the bow. Took several pictures during descent, at bottom, along the ship and at the screw. Ascended along the reef, swam the reciprocal course to our shore site.

HBL, ABL, CAB and I drove up to Andrea I reef in the afternoon. Took family pictures, plus tried to take some pictures of grunts and parrot fish.

Took HBL for her first night dive at Bari reef 2. Found numerous shrimp. Got the Tarpon to hunt – they like goatfish.

20 July 2001

Took HBL to the Hilma Hooker, but arrived too early. The 8:45 boat divers are there until about 10:30. All three moorings were occupied when we arrived. We waited until two boats had left, then geared up. As we were gearing up, six more shore dive parties arrived. We hit the water at 10:15, surface swam out to bow mooring, starting our descent at 10:25.

Took the 2:30 boat to Mi Dushi on Klein Bonaire 2. ABL, HBL and CAB were done in, so I went alone, was buddied up with the other odd-ball on the boat. Saw the local sea horse and had a long, leisurely dive.

21 July 2001

This is travel day one. Pack.

  • 11:30. Drive to Kralendijk, have lunch at Zeezicht.

  • 13:00. Return to airport with luggage. Drop of rental, paying tax. Guy who works

    for budget asks me to give him $15 to fill up the truck himself, rather than have budget charge me their official rate to fill it up.

  • 15:05. Depart for Montego Bay, Jamaica.

  • 18:30. Delayed departure for JFK Airport in New York.

  • 11:50. Arrive JFK, clear immigration and customs, claim bags, call for Airpark Shuttle back to Comfort Inn.

  • 00:30. Checked in at Comfort Inn.

21 July 2001

This is travel day two.

  • 07:40. Complimentary breakfast at Comfort Inn JFK. Leave for home.
  • 11:10. Home!

Cost Details

The following were direct cost items for this trip.

Costs
Date Vendor Item Each Quantity USD ($)
05/30/01 Sand Dollar and Air Jamaica 6 days, 7 nights plus travel 1027 4 $4,108.00
06/25/01 Budget car rental 108 1 $108.00
07/14/01 Comfort Inn JFK lodging, 1 night 148.09 2 $296.18
07/14/01 Creative Croissant breakfast 17.66 1 $17.66
07/14/01 tip tip 2 1 $2.00
07/14/01 Sand Dollar Grocery snacks $9.67
07/14/01 Cultimara food $92.72
07/14/01 Lovers Ice Cream snacks $10.00
07/15/01 Bonaire Marine Park fee 10 4 $40.00
07/15/01 Sand Dollar Grocery postcard 1.1 1 $1.10
07/16/01 Cultimara food $48.61
07/16/01 Den Laman Restaurant dinner 142.55 1 $142.55
07/18/01 Terrace Restaurant dinner 60.45 1 $60.45
07/19/01 Cultimara food $39.17
07/19/01 Cultimara food $2.63
07/20/01 Cultimara food $2.22
07/20/01 Terrace Restaurant snacks $9.00
07/20/01 Cultimara food $10.01
07/21/01 Lisa Gas gas 15 1 $15.00
07/21/01 Tax rental car 30.54 1 $30.54
07/21/01 Tax departure 20 4 $80.00
07/21/01 Zeezicht Restaurant lunch 35 1 $35.00
07/22/01 Comfort Inn JFK lodging 148.09 2 $296.18
07/22/01 JFK Carwash Quick Lube Airpark parking 108 1 $108.00
07/22/01 Sand Dollar Dive and Photo Dive Shop Extras (rentals, etc.) 735.77 1 $735.77
Total $6,300.45
version:2
date:June 01, 2015

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