Scuba Diving in Bonaire: Don’t Get Caught Unprepared!
Make a list and check it twice.
By John Flanders, Master Instructor / Instructor Trainer
January 20, 2012
This is the time of year that people reflect on the past year and dream about the year to come. For me, the dawn of a New Year is a time to start thinking about my personal dive trips for the upcoming season. As usual, my perennial visit to Bonaire stands out as the crescendo for a great year of diving.
Thus, as I start planning this year’s trip to “Diver’s Paradise”, I thought I would indulge myself in the stereotypical practice of resolutions and bucket lists. While it may not be New Year’s Eve, the spirit of Auld Lang Syne still lingers in the cool January air.
Every trip to Bonaire tends to be filled with diving and little time for planning. It is imperative that dive buddies take the time to focus on what they really want to do, or else the frenzy of unlimited shore diving, incredible conditions and visibility, and the camaraderie of thousands of like minded Scuba divers scurrying around the island may lead one to forget some of the items on the proverbial “to-do list”. This year, I choose to leave no desired task undone. Preparation is the key to success. Thus, this January, I have prepared my...
BONAIRE BUCKET LIST
- Find a Seahorse: Last year, the experts in Bonaire told us that the Seahorses were harder and harder to come by. The sightings are less frequent and a bit deeper (70 to 80 feet). I have never been the best at finding Seahorses and usually rely on the eyes of others to point them out. This year, I am determined to find one on my own!
- Night Dive Karpata: Sitting at the end of the Northwest side of the island’s one way road, Karpata is a great afternoon dive. The reef is in beautiful shape, full of color, and welcoming to all divers of every experience level. A wonderful treat and usually the last dive of the day. As we know, the ocean changes with the drowning of the sun. This year, rather than diving the crowded house reef at night, we are going to stake our night diving claim at Karpata.
- Wake up with a Hooker: Get your mind out of the gutter. This is all about Scuba. One of my favorite dives is the outer reef at the Hilma Hooker. There is a great sand channel in between the Wreck of the Hilma Hooker and the outer reef. This bucket list item directs our dive team to start the dive on the buoy line, before sunrise, on the bow of the Hilma Hooker. Head across the sand channel to the outer reef. After a 15 minute trek along the outer reef, turn towards the wreck and finish your sunrise dive on the wreck itself. As the sun rises, you catch the ocean at its finest hour. It’s alive and teeming with life. This provides a wonderful display in the morning. A plethora of sea life on parade ranging from Tarpon and Turtles meandering on the wreck to Southern Stingrays feeding in the sand. As our air supply and no-decompression limits start to wind down, we head back up the inner reef and enjoy our morning coffee on the shoreline. Pack a thermos.
- Shore Dive 1000 Steps: This was actually the original first item on the bucket list. Bonaire is arguably a diver’s mecca for Scuba from the shoreline. The entire island is set up for it. When you see a yellow rock, you pull your truck over to the side of the road and start diving. Last year, we hit over a dozen sites where we dove for the first time from shore. However, the one site we seemed to avoid shore diving from is 1000 steps. There is no doubt, if you are doing 20 to 30 shore dives in Bonaire over the course of a week, there can be a physical toll. 1000 steps tends to be the poster child for that physical toll. With over 75 steps and a bit of a drop at the end, lugging our gear down and then back up the steps could pose a challenge. This year, my dive buddy and I are accepting that challenge. Our task isn’t just to do 1000 steps from shore, but to be in good enough shape to comfortably walk down and back up those stairs with our gear! Challenge accepted.
- Fly like an Eagle: With the Steve Miller Band echoing in my ears, this year we are going to find the perfect spot to dive with the Spotted Eagle Rays. Our task is simple. Skip breakfast. Head as far south/east as possible and conditions will allow. In the mornings, the Eagle Rays feed in the upper and lower sand channels. Perching at the crest of the reef will allow us to keep our eyes on both Sand Channels. Red Slave and Sweet Dreams are two sites that we will look to “fly like an eagle”.
- Kayak to Klein Bonaire: The last day of our Bonaire trip usually includes a drive around the island. Check out all the “non-diving” sites. Do a little souvenir shopping. The last day is always fun and enjoyable as Bonaire offers a lot of non-diving activities. However, every year, I sit and think about how far it is from Bonaire to its close neighbor Klein Bonaire. Why not spend the morning Kayaking to Klein Bonaire’s shoreline. Perhaps enjoy a picnic lunch, stretch the legs, and head back for a well-earned tropical beverage. This year, we are going to stop thinking and start paddling. A kayak trek to Klein Bonaire is on the list!
- Dive the Northwestern Shore of Washington Slagbaai: Washington Slagbaai National Park is the first nature sanctuary of the Netherland Antilles. It was established in 1969 and covers an area of 5.643 hectares. There are eight sites off the beaten track in the National Park. These sites generally have very few people Scuba diving them and are in pristine condition. In the past, you would have to drive through the National Park to dive these sites, taking a long time to reach, as they are very remote. Recently, several boat operators are offering 3-tank boat dives and lunch on those eight sites, making it easier and more comfortable to dive these wonderful sites. Our mission on this trip is to take the road less traveled and dive Washington Slagbaai.
- Take More Pictures: Looking back at the amazing adventures we have had on Bonaire, the pictures we took are priceless. There are so many opportunities, both under the water and on the surface, where I just hadn’t bothered taking my camera and missed an opportunity to memorialize the moment. This year, we keep the camera by our side at all times.
- Dive Salt Pier: Salt Pier is a working dock on the south side of Bonaire. Massive salt ships pull in and out on a regular schedule. To dive Salt Pier requires a licensed Divemaster and permission from the Harbor Master. I must confess, in as many times as I have been there, I have not hired a Divemaster and enjoyed what many people regard as one of the most spectacular dives on Bonaire. This year, that is going to change. Salt Pier is on the table. We plan on peppering the site with our dive team.
- Stay for Two Weeks: This may not happen this year. However, this particular favorite will remain a permanent resident on the ever-changing Bonaire Bucket List.
It looks like our trip to Bonaire in 2012 will be full of rewarding diving. With checklist in hand, our intrepid dive team will find the bottom of our bucket list. If you are interested in watching our bucket list status, check back in with us in November and monitor our progress. You can read about our Bonaire Dive Adventure at http://blog.academyofscuba.com or http://www.facebook.com/academyofscuba
If you are interested in joining us on our dive expedition to Bonaire, you can travel with us through Underwater Vacations. Reserve your spot today, as space is limited, at http://www.underwatervacations.com/bonaire.html