Bonaire SCUBA Diving Trip Report, ‘05



This page describes my dive trip to Bonaire from 16 July to 23 July, 2005. 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.


I went to Bonaire to enjoy SCUBA diving as well as snorkeling with my wife and her aunt. After having dove in Bonaire, the Bahamas, St. Maartin, Saba and Tortola, (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; this trip includes family includes a reluctant diving adult (my wife, CAB) who prefers to snorkel and her aunt (PDB) who also snorkels. We took a similar trip to Tortola in 2003 (Tortola 03 photos). We have also visited Bonaire in Bonaire 97 photos, 1999 (Bonaire 99 photos)and 2001 (Bonaire 01 photos).



We booked the trip through Dive Sand Dollar, a service of RSI; We purchased a standard 2-bedroom package with 6 nights at the Sand Dollar resort with 5 boat dives for a single diver (me). We also reserved a stretch cab pickup for driving around the island.

Detailed cost information can be found at Cost Details.

Packing Checklist

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
Dive Gear (BC, Regs)
Exposure Suit
Film & Camera
Knife & Slate
Logbook, Tables
Mask & Snorkel
Tools & Spares
Water Shoes
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
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




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 $25 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. Bonaire Dive Adventure orientation is at 9:30 AM every day at the dive shop.

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 six 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 Bonaire Dive Adventure Dive and Photo shop are immediately adjacent to 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, blender, 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.

Bonaire Dive Adventure

Bonaire Dive Adventure is a full-service dive and photo operation. They have complete training curricula, certified by PADI. They open at 8:30 AM, and close at 4:30 PM Monday through Friday; they close at 4:00 on Saturdays and Sundays. Mandatiry briefings are at 9:30. They offer 3 boat dives each day: 9:00, 11:00 and 2:00. If requested, they can offer a night boat dive. If you are planning a night shore dive, be sure to get your tanks before the tank storage area is locked. A package typically includes a daily boat dive 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 $25 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, 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 area in the equipment room.

Equipment rental and the photo shop operate similarly. You will fill out a form, and use your ID number for all transactions. We rented a wet suit. Weights are available free to everyone with an account.

16 July 2005

This is travel day one.

  • 07:00. Check in for flight. Eat breakfast.

  • 08:55. USAir to PHL, from there to Aruba with a 15:55 arrival. Flight is delayed 45 minutes.

  • 16:45. Arrive in Aruba, clear immagration and customs, claim bags.

    Dash next door to non-USA international departures to find that we have missed the 17:00 BonairExel flight 9H2973 to Bonaire. We have to wait in the ticket line to find that our only choice is to stand by for the 21:00 flight. At 17:00 we line up to check in for the 21:00 flight, but it is oversold, and we are not going to get on that flight, either.

  • 20:00. Taxi to “Talk of the Town” in Aruba to spend the night. Taxi is $15 over, $15 back, hotel rooom is $101.80 of

    unplanned expenses.

17 July 2005

This is travel day two. Unplanned.

  • 07:00. Check in for 09:00 flight to Bonaire. We can only stand by. As is

    typical in the air-travel industry BonairExel has oversold the flights, since there is a known rate of no-shows. However, in this case, BonairExel is turning away ticket holders, increasing the number of stand-by passengers. They cannot create a reservation, and ask us to stand by. It becomes clear after the 9:00 flight that they are unable to honor the tickets they sold, and about 17 people are stranded in Aruba.

  • 10:00. A representative of an airline, possibly USAirways, counts heads of people stranded

    because BonairExel can’t honor the tickets. She returns with an offer to charter an additional flight for the group, if we can purchase all 46 seats on the plane. This is better than the alternative (KLM flight from another island to Bonaire, requiring us to return to the US and try again).

  • 10:30. The travel professional, in negotiation with the director of BonairExel offers us the

    opportunity to pay something like $125 USD each to fill up a flight to Bonaire. We insist that this is an absurd request; it sounds criminal. However, we’ll settle for $100 each. We queue up, pay this additional “fee”. We then go to the check-in counter, where we have to prove we are “in transit” by producing our ticket stubs from yesterday’s USAir flight. An additional $200 in unplanned expenses. Loss of use of one day of diving plus Sand Dollar: $300.

  • 11:45. Special charter to Bonaire for the 17 displaced (extorted?) passengers.

  • 12:30. Arrive in Bonaire. Get truck from Telerin Rental. Check in at Sand Dollar.

    Late Lunch at the pool-side Barracuda Club at Sand Dollar.

    Dinner at Den Laman, about $90.00 for three of us.

18 July 2005

Marine Park briefing is at 09:30 at Bonaire Dive and Adventure. After briefing, secure rental equipment and weight belts. Make the required check-out dive on Bari reef 1.

The dive pier has containers for tanks, benches for putting gear together, and stairs for exit. On the north side of the pier are some boat moorings made of large gears. On the south side is a long run of PVC pipe that marks a path from the reef to the stairs.

Ran into Art and Harold (two of the displaced) and joined them for a second dive on Bari reef 2. Took out the new Sony camera with underwater housing for the first time.

Dinner at condo. Benefit of traveling with two women who like to cook – good meals in the condo.

19 July 2005

Drove up to 1,000 steps to snorkel in the morning. Wind direction had made the surface choppy by the time we got there: snorkeling was not very good. Later we learned that very early in the morning it is calmer.

Took the 2:00 boat to Petrie’s Pillar in the afternoon. Saw sea horses, but didn’t get a decent picture.

Dinner at Den Laman.

20 July 2005

Tried to schedule a snorkel trip to Klein Bonaire. A mixup in the office confused CAB and PDB, and the boat was a good snorkel site, but not Klein Bonaire. CAB and PDB made a clearer request this time for a snorkel trip to Klein Bonaire, and that will be tomorrow’s 9:00 AM trip. Apparently Bonaire Dive Adventure is one of the few shops that caters to snorkelers. I took the 2:00 boat dive to 1,000 steps.

Dinner at Divi Flamingo’s restuarant, the Chibi-Chibi. While nice, it’s no Den Laman. The Flamingo is a nice looking resort. The facility feels small, crowded, and doesn’t have the lived-in look of the Sand Dollar.

21 July 2005

Took the 9:00 boat to Bonaventure on Klein Bonaire. A good snorkel site as well as a great dive site.

Dinner at Den Laman. It’s that good.

22 July 2005

Snorkeling in the AM.

Return rental wet suit, and close out bill at Bonaire Dive Adventure. $140 or so for additional boat trips and rental.

Took Henk’s cave tour of Bonaire. Wonderful trip to some of the caves the dot the island. He’s a knowledgable and friendly cave diver and geologist who told us all kinds of things about the geology and history of Bonaire. A great experience, showing much about the ecology and fragility of this rock in the ocean.

Top off tank at Curoil in Antriol, a short trip from the Sand Dollar. Gas $21.

Dinner at Casablanca, the Argentinian grill.

23 July 2005

This is travel day.

  • 8:30. Check out of Sand Dollar.
  • 9:00. Return to airport with luggage. Drop of rental. Pay airport departure tax.
  • 11:00. Depart for Aruba.
  • 12:00. Clear Aruba immigration and customs. Go to the USA flights building and check in
    with USAir. Go to international departures, clear security, eat lunch, claim bags, clear US immigration and customs, check bags again. Clear security again to board the flight. Each line was LONG.
  • 16:15. Depart for PHL, then home.
  • 11:50. Home. No additional fees from BonairExel.

Cost Details

The following were direct cost items for this trip. The following were direct cost items for this trip.

Date Vendor Item Each Quantity USD ($)
05/30/05 Sand Dollar 6 days, 7 nights, 1 diver, 2 non-divers plus a truck 1548.34 1 $1,548.34
06/01/05 USAir + BonairExel ALB - PHL - AUA - BON 975.2 2 $1,950.40
06/25/05 Telerin car rental, included in package 0 $0.00
07/16/05 Talk of the Town, Aruba * lodging, 1 night 101.8 $101.80
07/16/05 Taxi, Aruba between Airport and ToTT * 15.00 + 5.00 tip 2 $30.00
07/16/05 various airports meals 15 3 $45.00
07/17/05 Barracuda Club lunch $30.00
07/17/05 Den Laman dinner $90.00
07/18/05 Cultimara food $?
07/19/05 Den Laman dinner $10.00
07/18/05 Bonaire Marine Park fee 25 diver, 10 non-diver 1 diver, 2 non-divers $45.00
07/20/05 Chibi-Chibi dinner $60.00
07/21/05 Den Laman dinner $60.00
07/21/05 Cultimara food $?
07/22/05 Casablance dinner $?
07/22/05 Curoil gasoline 21 1 $21.00
07/23/05 Bonaire Airport departure tax 20 2 $40.00
07/23/05 various airports meals 15 3 $45.00
07/22/05 Bonaire Dive Adventure Dive Shop Extras (rentals, etc.) 140? 1 $140.00
Total $6,300.45