CIDA trip to Bonaire-October 25/November 1, 2014
By Ken Kollwitz
This was the third trip back to Bonaire in over a dozen years and I have to say probably one of the best and for quite a number of reasons such as-an excellent group, best weather yet, explored more than the norm and I finally clicked with my camera and started getting much better pictures.
So why go back to Bonaire when there are so many other places? Some of the main things that come to mind are; Buddy Dive and their cars, easy fun diving by both shore and boat, plenty of things for non-divers, lots to see and do both above and below, economical including airfare and you can do as much or as little as you would like.
Let’s look at some of the things I mentioned and the first is Buddy Dive. I have ran a trip to Captain Dons which is next to Buddy Dive but I do prefer Buddy dive for a few reasons and the biggest is that you get a car as part of your room package. As far as I know all the other places you must rent one and when you have a group there is always someone who wants a ride to town or one dive site and doesn’t want to pay their fair share of the rental car so this is a real BIG reason why Buddy Dive is so nice. The house reef at Buddy is nice and very easy but it is at most the other resorts. They have 2 restaurants onsite at Buddy’s and the pool bar and restaurant is not the best but it is a great place to hang out and watch the sunset. The newer restaurant up top above the dive area is very good with some very good choices.
Bonaire also has some very good restaurants and a new grocery store to get supplies at. The nice thing about Buddy Dive is that the rooms have kitchens and for the people like my wife and I who do not like to go out to eat all the time going to the grocery store is a great option plus a learning experience.
I really like how Buddy has the dive area setup including their Nitrox truck tank area and how convenient everything is. Another really big thing is Buddy has remodeled the rooms and grounds and have added paved walkways and roads making it even better than it was before. They still have some projects going on and it is nice to see they want to improve on an already good thing! One thing I learned this time from our divemaster/captain is that Buddy is sort of off the grid because they have their own generators for power, desalination plant for their fresh water and huge bags to warm the water before it goes through the water heaters. I think that is ingenious and a great way to help keep costs down so us divers can afford to go there more often.
Now for the diving and Bonaire has lots of that and is known for some of the best, easiest dives by both shore and boat. Every year Bonaire ranks very high in dive magazine reader polls and that is for good reasons. There is lots of diving and dive sites good for all levels and most are good for everyone at the same time. There are a few sites that being a more advanced diver is useful but most can be had by all and the reason is the way the reefs are laid out.
For the most part Bonaire has two types of reefs, a shallow area that leads out to a wall starting at about 25’ deep like the house reef at Buddy’s or a double reef system. The double reef system has a shallow reef that slopes off to a sandy bottom and if you go out further along the sand you will come to a deeper reef. The outer double reef usually is healthier and sometimes you get to see bigger things where the inner area is great for snorkeling or looking for little critters. There are only a few wrecks with only one that I know is in recreational depths and that is the Hilma Hooker. This wreck is in the middle of a double reef and can be an excellent shore dive as well as by boat. I hear it is an excellent night dive which will be on my list for the next time I go back to Bonaire.
The night dives are equally as good with the large tarpons that are attracted by lights (the brighter the better) usually cruising in groups. At Buddy’s house reef there were about 4 every night I went out and I could spend a whole dive just watching and playing with them. Besides the Tarpon there are many other things to see at night and with the excellent visibility the night dives in Bonaire are some of the best I have ever done.
Snorkeling is equally as good but to get to the better areas you must take a drive. Just drive around the island till you see a yellow rock with a dive site name and chances are it will be an excellent snorkeling area as well as an excellent shore dive. Usually you can go either south or north for plenty of options and sometimes you can plan these outings with some sightseeing. There are some sites that are better for diving versus snorkeling but there is more than enough to make everyone happy. Some people go to Bonaire and never do any boat dives because there is just so much one can do in a week not to mention it is less expensive and sometimes it can be hard to do both boat and shore dives and see everything you want to see. This is why most people go back and often several times. I know I will be putting together another trip in 2-3 years.
For non-divers I think Bonaire has a lot to offer. There is some shopping and after a short time it all seems the same but for people who like to explore and like nature there are many things to do. You can drive up north to Washington Slagbaai National Park and drive through it which can take at the least a half day and that is if you aren’t going to dive. If you plan to dive in the park you really need one whole day or you are going to come up short on time. There is also the south end of the island with the slave huts, salt pits and lighthouse along with the mangroves and more. This year four of us did the mangrove kayak/snorkel tour which was much better than I had anticipated not to mention we really learned a lot about how important the mangroves are. There are still things on my list of things to do because I have read several times there are some caverns to see and I would like to explore more of the windy side of the island.
Overall and what I think is most important is that going to Bonaire is very economical and the flights and cost of flights make it a very easy and fun dive destination for both divers and non-divers alike.