Manta Divers February 2007, Back from Bonaire
I don’t care about what that groundhog says; it’s hard to think about spring when the air is arctic cold! As many of you know, Mike and I just returned from a shop sponsored trip to Bonaire. The weather was sunny and hot, so imagine my dismay when we arrived at O’Hare and a mere 20 degrees! With temperatures in the single digits now, however, 20 degrees sounds pretty good!
For those who don’t know, Bonaire is a small island about 50 miles off the coast of Venezuela. It is one of the so-called ABC islands of the Netherlands Antilles. (The other islands are Aruba and Curacao) This 111 square mile, boomerang shaped island is world famous as a diver’s paradise. It is a title well earned.
Our intrepid group flew from O’Hare to Montego Bay, Jamaica, to Bonaire on Air Jamaica. On Bonaire (and elsewhere, I bet) this airline is referred as “Air Mistaka.” I found the staff of the airline friendly, helpful and professional, but they are definitely on island time. Our flights to the island were not too bad, schedule-wise, but as with the last time I flew Air Jamaica, our flight from Montego Bay back to Chicago was delayed four hours. I am beginning to think that if the Jamaican bobsled team is behind on their fund raising, all Air Jamaica flights are automatically delayed. Anyway, at least this delay did not cut into my diving time!
We stayed at the Buddy Dive resort. They offer double occupancy hotel rooms and two and three bedroom units with kitchens and sitting areas. The units were modest and in need of some maintenance, but for the most part adequate. They were clean when we got there, but the day to day maid service was only good if you complained. Daily American breakfast was included in our package and for lunch, and we could just pop back to our place for a quick and inexpensive lunch. At night, we usually sampled the local cuisine or ate at the resort’s restaurant.
Bonaire is a relatively flat island that was likely at one time entirely underwater. As the ocean receded, the exposed corals died, leaving a fringing reef system that starts right where the water starts, setting the stage for easy shore diving. Buddy Dive is situated in the middle of the island’s best dive sites. In fact, Buddy Dive’s house reef is especially nice. On a couple of our night dives, we had the pleasure of being guided by Buddy Dive’s famous Charlie the Tarpon. The coral and sponges were actively feeding and quite beautiful. I saw a sizable octopus right under the pier at the resort.
We did three two-tank boat dives during the week. This provided us access to a couple of “boat only” spots as well as the famous “1000 steps” that is theoretically approachable via shore, but a royal pain to get to with a tank and all your gear on. Our guides, Tina and Bart were great and pointed out diver-pleasers such as frog fish and seahorses. At a spot called Kali’s reef, in fact, we saw two seahorses, three medium squid and about 18 (a squadron) baby squids and a chain moray. Divers wanting to explore the Salt Pier and the Town Pier are required to register with their passports ahead of time and hire a local divemaster as a leader. These are considered “must dives.” We didn’t make it to the Town Pier, but the Salt Pier was really a fun dive. We were greeted at the start of the dive by a school of silversides. The pilings supporting the pier are festooned with impressive sponges and coral. The divemaster pointed out a nice red frog fish and we watched with rapt attention as a spotted eel worked on extracting a meal from under a rock while a small grouper waited patiently for any leftovers. We had a tarpon escort on this dive as well.
We really enjoyed the freedom of setting our own schedule for our dives. There were shore entries, giant stride entries from rocks, or off small platforms, and ladder or stair entries, so divers do not always have to worry about battling surf.
I was of course very pleased at the variety of critters we saw while diving, but I’m sure a non-diver would find plenty to do here as well. There is a donkey sanctuary, as well as wild donkeys (on the “wild side” of the island. If you like snorkeling and spelunking, you can take a guided tour of some caves. The first part of the tour is dry, then you don your snorkeling gear and explore areas you can only get via an underwater swim-through. If you need a little exercise, you can rent a bike and explore on two wheels. Kayaking is also a popular pastime here, but the most fascinating (non-diving) activity was kite-boarding.
Two of our group went out in the morning to explore and watch the kite boarders and were quite impressed to see the heights they could reach. The best thing they saw that morning, though, was a humpback whale! We had heard divers talking about seeing a whale, but I know how things can be exaggerated, so I wasn’t biting. However, when Roy and Cheri Small produced the photos, I had to believe!
So our trip was a success. Our group was treated to some fantastic sights, the company was the best, and we now have three new open water divers and two of those are now also advanced open water divers. Why not join us on our next trip??
In Other News…..
Congratulations to Rodolfo Egana on his Open Water certification and Roy and Cheri Small on both Open Water and Advanced Open Water certifications!
Manta Divers is now a Sea and Sea underwater camera and camera housing dealer. Come in and check out some of our great cameras and the results we got with them on this latest trip!
If you are planning your own little get away in the next months, don’t forget to check your gear and get any maintenance done before you go. For those who have not been diving for a while, consider a scuba review with a pool session. At the least it is a good chance to brush up your buoyancy skills and an opportunity to don your gear and get wet.