I love what I do for my job, most of the time. I love triathlon, like, a lot. I love camping and spending time playing in the woods.
The face of a happy girl who’s been in the water all damn week.
But I’m pretty sure given the choice of doing anything in the world, this would be it. I’d wager that a condo within steps to the beach with filled scuba tanks ready and waiting for me whenever I feel like diving under the sea to the most beautiful reef I’ve ever seen would be my first choice 99% of the time. Diving days are the best days, and when every day is a diving day, it’s like my own personal paradise. Even the days we didn’t dive were filled with multiple hours of snorkeling, which is sometimes even BETTER. Some of my favorite pictures and moments came from those days.
A “day to day” of where I snorkeled and dove and ate isn’t going to be that interesting of a story, so I’ll just give you a best of the best.
I’ll be honest, there are hundreds of places to dive here, and we’ve hit a very small sample of them, so I can’t give you a cohesive review (yet), but in my narrow opinion, these are the TOPS.
Bari Reef is my home. We just happened to stay there on our first trip, and now I never want to stay anywhere else. It’s beautiful, it’s diverse, and turtles live here even if the house octopus shunned me BOTH trips so far. We did half of our dives at this one location. Sure, it’s convenient, but I also stand by my statement that if we could only dive one place, it would be here, and I could dive it four times a day for a month and not get bored.
Sunset on the pier.
Salt Pier is my second favorite dive site in the world. We drove down there twice early in the week, because I wanted to dive it multiple times, but it was closed (one day there was a salt boat, the other, construction), and then when it was finally open, it took up two of my last six dives of the trip. The setting is gorgeous even above the water, the background of the thick steel pipes accentuated with coral growths and pops of darting fish. Also, you always see unique things there. Last time, we hung out with a giant turtle feeding in four feet of water. This time, two squid became our friends and hung out while we shot a bunch of pictures and video. They’re usually so skittish and run away quickly, so it was a treat!
Let me give an honorable mention to Invisibles and Sampler. Sampler showed me my first (TWO) seahorses. They’re so tiny! The were amazing to see, but very difficult to photograph since we had a big group of divers and I only got a few “proof” shots, none that were in focus. Invisibles had a trench in the first reef that lead you to a second, deeper hidden reef (thus the name Invisibles). This was the first dive in a while I actually had to watch my nitrogen levels and I was wishing for more time below 60 feet. I guess it’s time for Nitrox certification so I have that option.
Things I want to hit next time: 1000 Steps. Last time, Zliten was less than a year out of his bear fight resulting in three leg fractures, so we didn’t want to chance the entry. This year, we wanted to hit it, but with Zliten getting sick, we didn’t want to walk ALLLLL the way there for potentially a 5 minute dive that we’d have to abort (and then haul a full tank ALLLL the way back up). Next time, we’ll hit this one early, maybe first dive on the second day.
The Bari reef turtles are our homies and we love them. We saw at least one of them almost every day. However, two encounters stuck out in my mind.
Wednesday, we were snorkeling, and one of our turtles came to the surface to check on us. It was breathtaking to float next to him and watch him breathe for a bit and then descend again.
Friday, during the last few moments of our last dive, we found one of our turtles under a rock. He swam and lead us to the other turtle as they danced at the surface for a bit, and then went their separate ways. We followed the smaller one back to it’s home (it had anchored itself under a rock), and I waved goodbye to it and it literally waved back, I think it was actually mocking my movement because when I stopped, it stopped.
I always say Octopus are my spirit animal (spirit cephalopods, whatevs), but the squid contingent are definitely vying for that place after this trip.
At Salt Pier, we encountered two very large squid that after careful approach, didn’t run away. We got really close and they were curious about us and our cameras. I’m used to getting close enough to get a blurry “proof of sight” picture and having them dart away, so it was awesome to get a ton of in focus pictures and video until we swam away, not them.
Then, the next dive, at Corporal Meiss, a pod of squid surrounded us and danced – flashing different colors and waving their fins. We had jumped in there quickly after lunch instead of a planned dive, since we heard there were octopus in the shallows. Well, they dissed me, and the rest of the dive was pretty mundane, but this made me day.
Our second to last dive at Something Special, I met the next top Angelfish. This fish was my little superstar. While these guys aren’t always shy, this one just came up to my camera and would. not. leave. me. alone. I had to keep backing up to get it’s whole body in the shot. This is one of my favorite videos (still working on that part but here’s a shot of my favorite angel). This fish make me laugh out loud and almost lose my regulator. It was awesome.
My little superstar angel! I’m pretty sure he would have followed me home if it was possible.
Honorable mention is literally every other moment snorkeling and diving. Most of these happened the last day of diving. If that day never happened, I’d have some almost equally amazing memories from other days hangin’ with seahorses and eels, and other turtles and spotted drums and scorpion fish and the little bitty things Zliten points out to me to photograph. Every dive here is amazing. Snorkeling Bari could keep me amused for a week straight. I spent 25+ hours underwater in 7 days for a reason and I’d be right back there now if I could.
Things we missed that I’d love to see next time: we didn’t see any rays, those darn sneaky octopuses, and more seahorses for Zliten
Diving is the primary objective, food is always secondary, but suuuuuuper necessary. Diving for 4 hours a day is probably the equivalent to riding bikes for the same amount of time in terms of calorie burn. I ate SO MUCH. However, you don’t travel to Bonaire just for the food, but there are some amazing things to eat, and it was hard to narrow it down…
Between Two Buns has to go on this list. It’s a sandwich shop, it’s only open until 3pm, and the line is always out the door and I don’t think you can pick anything bad on the menu. I had the Mona Lisa the last day of vacation, which is a salami, buffalo mozzarella pesto, pine nut, peppers and onions sandwich, and it was pretty top notch. But, I will say that the burger is the best thing there I’ve had so far.
Rum Runners at Captain Don’s needs to be mentioned. I had one of the best BBQ chicken pizzas of my life as a late lunch one day. When I returned the last night of the trip, the only reason I didn’t get it again was that I couldn’t bear to throw out the inevitable leftovers. Instead, I got some chicken pasta that was also to die for. Last time, I obsessed over their fish fajitas. I’m also pretty sure the scenery makes the food taste better, as you can watch giant tarpon play in the water from your table.
The Cactus Blue truck was our lunch stop on Monday and Friday. We had a curry burger and then their specialty, Lionfish burgers. They are open 11-3pm and they run out of Lionfish EVERY DAY, even with 16 hunters supplying the fish. I was excited to try it because it was a novelty, but they were honestly EXCELLENT and worth the wait.
- I had an excellent chicken curry sandwich at a hot dog, ice cream, and peruvian food joint.
- Breezes and Bites was the restaurant in our complex. We ate there a lot out of convenience, but they also had pretty tasty food. They had some delicious fresh fish catch of the day plates (I ate two) and the garlic shrimp was heaven.
- Our kitchen: we got a pan of lasagna at the store that lasted two dinners and it was so nice to just chill on the patio and not worry about getting dressed in actual clothes.
Things I want to try next time: there was a vegetarian Indian place down the street that sounded awesome. Honestly, if we had two weeks instead of one, I’d like to take some more time and check out a wider variety of restaurants and check out some of the nightlife downtown… but with our short time there, honestly, it was just getting fuel for the next dive. On our walks, we found out the complex has some grills and I’d like to make use of them next time.
Things we did not in the water:
Watching the sunsets. Sometimes we took them in just after (or before) surfacing for a dive, sometimes relaxing with beer on the beach, but Bonaire sunsets are pretty divine.
My husband, the Iguana whisperer…
Feeding the iguanas. At first they were skittish, but once they learned that we would save our fruit and veggie scraps for them, they would actually follow us around. We named them. There was Wild and Crazy guy, Little Shit, Zliten’s best friend, Red Dewlap… they were our friends.
Taking pictures of the property. This place pretty much photographed itself and it couldn’t help but be stunning. This is now the lock screen on my phone and I get a little Bonaire every time I look at it and it makes me happy.
There were a few imperfect things about the trip:
The travel there is not terribly convenient. I mean, it’s no Australia, and it’s better from Austin-Houston-Bonaire than some places where people were taking four or more connecting flights, but it’s still a 13 hour travel day end to end because of the inevitably long Houston layover.
Zliten caught a cold partway through the trip. We thought his diving was done for the trip on Tuesday when he couldn’t even get below 15 feet because of sinus congestion. We tried failed a few attempts on Tuesday before we gave up, and spent Wednesday snorkeling instead. However, due to handy advice from the internet and dive friends, he went and found some heavy duty meds (Aleve D – a mix of two aleve and two sudafed in one pill) and by Thursday afternoon he was resurrected and did six more dives in a day and a half. He was an interesting person to be around (sudafed makes him crazy) and I think he borrowed against feeling better quickly since he’s still recovering, but I’m pretty sure he’d say that it was worth it. Also, he was an AMAZING spotter while on sudafed, He found all the things.
The last day, while snorkeling, I lost one of my lights on my camera rig. No idea how it came off and even scouring the area for another 30 minutes, I didn’t find it. It’s not cheap, so that stinks, but at least it was the last day. It’s the least important thing on my set up to lose, and it’s only money. I didn’t lose my memory card or anything.
All in all though, no big deal.
If you’re interested in more oceans, sunsets, yummy food, and selfies, click on over and check out my Facebook album. I’ll be adding videos too when I figure a few things out.
This trip really solidifies my desire to own property there someday. Yeah, I say that a lot. I’d have 10 different houses if I could and maybe that’s actually how I’ll end up retiring someday. However, this place feels like home. The ocean in my backyard. The ability to freely, on my schedule, without a hassle, take a hundred steps from my back door, and be in the water and under the sea gives me immeasurable joy. Palm trees. Iguanas. Beautiful blue sky and ocean. This is my happy place. I heart Bonaire.
2018 has other plans (Cozumel), but we’re already tentatively penciling in another trip in 2019, and if possible, for two weeks this time.
Where is your vacation happy place?