The first part of my vacation in Bonaire is HERE. Let’s pick up Wednesday morning when I woke up, hoping my ears would be OK…
I woke up, and honestly, my ears didn’t feel that great. They also did not feel any worse, so I figured the most terrible thing that could happen is I’d try to descend, my ears wouldn’t let me, and I’d have to snorkel the shallower stuff. Life would go on.
Cereal and yogurt, my new official diving breakfast, went down the hatch, and we headed out to catch the boat and head up to the North side of the island. The boat was just our dive friends by proximity (we saw them evvvverywhere) Dave and Ang, the crew, and us. Good stuff.
It made for a GREAT morning diving Country Garden and Small Wall. One thing you don’t realize when you mostly do cruise ship diving or one day boat trips, is how awesome it is to not have 5 million other people around, scaring the fish, kicking you, getting in your way (it happens).
Our first divemaster kinda left us in the dust on the way back, but we were all big enough adults to handle it.
Small wall was pretty cool, as it’s the wall pictured on all the dive textbooks for the certification classes. It was pretty amazing to see – though there wasn’t all that much fauna.
I rolled sans wetsuit again, and it worked out ok for me. I did put my knee into some coral that stung (I actually had some rash from it for a few weeks), but that’s how you learn how to be careful, right? After the dive, I went and scoped out some rash guards, but deemed them to be unnecessary and too expensive.
Instead of a huge lunch, we just snacked a bit to get some calories down, and went to the Cliff dive site at the Hamlet Dive Inn. This was our most challenging entry yet. You had to tank up at the top of some rocky stairs and walk everything down, and the entry itself was pretty rocky. Balancing 60+ more lbs then you’re used to in the surge and slippery rocks… makes me really glad I’m not as heavy as I was in my mid-20s!
Another energy bar went down the hatch, and we decided to make it our first 4-dive day. We hit up the house reef and went out with the intention to find the octopus we saw hiding in the tire, but instead found our turtle friend to play with. This time, I had plenty of camera battery, so I got to play paparazzi and had a blast.
We saw our boat friends hanging out at the dive center, and when we all confirmed we were done diving for the day, we had a few beers together. The coolest thing about diver friends is that they LOVE hearing about what you saw in the water, instead of their eyes glazing over when you talk about the specific type of nudibranch you saw at 35 feet down or whatever. We chatted until they had to go for their fancy reservations and then got ready for a dinner of our own.
We just went to the bar/restaurant on the property, which also houses the resort’s pool. It was very Bonaire. We started with some delicious beef empanadas and fried plantains and some margs. Over 3 hours of diving = you get to have guilt free fruity drinks. I got them to combine two dishes for me because I am obnoxious but cajun veggie pasta with shrimp was EXACTLY what I was craving and it was amazing.
We spent the evening drinking a bottle of wine with all the windows open listening to a very LOUD concert happening up the street and checking out footage. Vacation mode was definitely in full effect – the music made it just that much more awesome.
I was out of yogurt, so I had an Oatmega bar and cereal as replacement dive breakfast. Funny story about those bars – we encountered a gal in our work parking garage with boxes and boxes of them and commented that we liked them! Apparently she was a promoter and had them packed up to give out at a race that weekend, so she sent us on our way with about 20 various bars. We thought they’d be perfect for vacation.
Well, some of them were a little… stale. And when Oatmega bars get stale, they get FISHY. I was able to stomach some of them, but some I just took a bite and threw away.
The combo of beer/wine/margs and the late night of music thumping meant we were up a little later than expected, so we were UP a little later than expected, so we were the last ones on the boat. Oh well. They didn’t leave without us, and we had our gear set up quickly and didn’t mess up the schedule, so all was well.
It was a totally full boat, so not as nice as the day before, but still had two great dives at Monty’s Divi and Carl’s Hill back out at Klein Bonaire. I feel like I’m usually pretty decent at scuba, but I did almost sit on one girl’s head underwater on accident. *shrug* scuba is a little awkward.
Being underwater ~3 hours every day just started to feel natural. I remember feeling such LOVE for it right then, and that my (scuba) life goal was to take pictures that were so beautiful, more people wanted to get over their fears and uncertainties (and, frankly, annoyances… dealing with scuba gear is not easy) and get certified and become divers.
Just as I was in my euphoric state of bliss, Zliten’s pressure gauge started leaking. He went from half a tank to a third of a tank REAL quick-like. I was about to give him my extra air and go with him back to the boat, but when we asked the dive master to point the way back, he ended up taking Zliten himself. That’s fine. That’s why they’re there. It was nice to be calm about the whole thing.
At Carl’s hill, right at the end, we saw this GIANT turtle! I was nice and let all the other people get pictures of it first, and then I booked it out to him so I could get some good shots. A lot of these people were just doing day trips and not diving all week, so I wanted to make sure they got their shot and I thought it was very nice and adult of me to show restraint. But… GIANT TURTLE! Only so much restraint possible.
By that point, I was 7 dives in without a rash guard or wetsuit and realized they DO actually have a point, even in 85 degree water. I was getting really chafed on my shoulders from the BCD (buoyancy control device), so I relented and we got two Bonaire rashguards even though I was grumbly about the expense.
We ate up the rest of our lunchmeat with a sandwich, made a salad, and some snacks and rested a bit.
Because it was easy, we dove Bari again and saw TWO separate turtles. One was new, it was bigger and he tried to play hide and seek with us in a bush (but he was too big to fit). The second, we think, was our turtle, we found him in the same place as we did the day before.
We were out of a lot of stuff, so we went to the little store and picked up more bread, some tuna (which I still have in my pantry, oops), popcorn, fruit, and a bunch of crazy flavors of soda to try. Cassis ended up being my favorite. By the way – diet soda does not seem to exist in Bonaire. I don’t drink it often, sometimes in mixed drinks, but it was weird – just NO diet coke, diet sprite, etc. Probably for the best in the grand scheme of health.
We then went out for a night dive just as the sun was setting. Let me tell you, I’m at about dive number 40 by this point, and I’m pretty comfortable with day diving in decent conditions. This felt scary and exciting like Dive #2 or 3 of my life. First of all, my primary light (the big one on my camera) wouldn’t stay on for more than 5 seconds. That’s why you bring backup, but that made it a little awkward and I didn’t really get any pictures because of it. My backlight also wasn’t working on my dive computer and I couldn’t see it.
Since you always proceed with caution, especially when things don’t go to plan, we kept it very shallow and short. We checked out the very top of the reef at Bari and then navigated back and spent some time in ~10 feet of water. We saw our first jellyfish and decided that was it, since we were just in our rashguards. Oh well! First official night dive in the logs.
We hit up a place called Pasa Bon Pizza for dinner, which advertises itself as located at Bonaire’s only stoplight (…and it’s a fake stoplight, there are actually none on the island). It was open air and there were tons of people smoking in the restaurant and tons of incense blowing around which kicked up our congestion pretty quickly. The pizza itself was pretty great, and we got our first taste of Amstel Bright and we wondered why we had been drinking anything else! It was definitely your “relaxing on an island in the sun” type light-ish beer.
We cracked the vodka at home, but barely had any, and drifted off to sleep totally worn out – 4 dives a day x 2 days in a row = one killer workout!
Since it was vacation, even though it was our last day of diving, we decided to sleep in. Not that 9:30 is suuuuper late, but it felt incredibly decadent after 7am wakeup calls.
We had coffee and ate up a bunch of random food around the house for breakfast (salad, cheese, etc) before we set out for our adventure day. We went down to the dive shop, and asked for advice on what to do, and he set us up with two dive sites that would work for us.
Our first dive was the most south, at Salt Pier. It’s actually a fairly famous site when you look up Bonaire diving. Also, it’s a friggin’ pier that’s in use some days of the week transporting salt from the flats.
This was my favorite dive of the vacation. First of all, in 5 feet of water, at minute ONE of the dive, we saw a turtle feeding and got super close and he was like “I don’t give a fuck, I’m eating, paparazzi all you want”. Second, the backdrop of the pier made for amazing scenery and actually made the dive SUPER easy to navigate, and there were tons of nooks and crannies for fish to live.
We saw a bunch of eels, some huge tarpin, tons of shrimp, some of my favorite Angels…it was the best. If it wasn’t the last day, I would have dragged us back there to dive again.
Second, we went to Angel City just a bit north. I ate an oatmega bar and we scoped out the entry. It was a little rocky but we thought it was doable. Sadly, I fell on my ass in about 2 feet of water, but I just let the surge do its thing and pulled myself a little deeper and… voila. Dive time.
Right away, we saw the BIGGEST green eel I’ve ever seen. He was longer than me and super fat. We were at about 50-ish feet down and he was closer to 60, so we gave him his space. My pictures didn’t come at all, but Zliten got an AWESOME video. I think Angel City had the prettiest coral formations we’ve seen on any dive. Otherwise, the dive was pretty standard (beautiful) in terms of fauna.
We swapped out tanks at the Port Bonaire Dive Friends location and had some tea and a snack, and tried to head to Bachelor Beach. Upon inspection, we found that the tide was out so far, we would have had to do some crazy gymnastics to get off the platform to the water, so we decided to head north to Andrea I. We almost got lost and decided to head back to our home reef instead for our last dive, but after giving up, we found it by accident. Yay!
Andrea was a pretty solid dive, mostly more of the same stuff we’d been seeing, but we closed out the day with a new turtle friend! When we got out, we were both sad to be done diving, but super hungry and ready to relax.
We rinsed and stored our gear for the last time (sad), and then sat outside at the shop and ate some snacks and drank some beers (caaaaaalories) and talked with people. We planned to meet up with our boat friends for dinner, so we returned to Rum Runners. I liked the fish tacos so much the first time, I got them again. I had two fruity mango drinks and every time, they gave me turtle toppers and that made me happy, because turtles. They’re sitting on my desk at work to remind me of Bonaire fun.
After that, we all grabbed our leftover bottles of liquor and sat by the ocean until about 3 in the morning looking at dive pictures and shooting the shit. Vacations are fun. 🙂
I was only able to sleep in until 9:30, so I got up and brewed coffee and had a snack and looked through the real estate guide and dreamed a bit. Of all the vacations I’ve taken lately, I really feel like this is somewhere I could end up someday. I’d love to be like the 85 year old guy we met, who flew the same week as us for a winter of diving here (but hopefully a little earlier in my life).
Once Zliten got up, we got going – we hit up a place downtown Kralendijk on the water for lunch. Justine’s served a lunch plate, a soda, and a dessert for 11 bucks which in Bonaire terms was a value meal. I got this amazing mahi with pesto garlic, rice, and salad I will be dreaming about. And the carrot cake was pretty dreamy too. While eating, we watched a dude climb over a bar railing to get into his boat. #bonairethings I guess.
Cool downtown street art.
After lunch, we headed out to tour the island. And I really do mean the whole island. Bonaire is about 24 miles long and 3-7 miles wide (111 square miles total), so we set out to see what we could see from the truck. First, we headed north which turned into this long, tiny, one way road (but, still the main road of the island). We passed the 1000 steps dive site – glad we decided to skip this one this time. It’s a long way down hauling gear.
The one place we skipped was the far north of the island – the nature preserve. It is probably a whole day trip on it’s own (next time, maybe). We turned inland and stopped for some donkeys, and then hit the scenic spot to see Rincon before we headed into the valley and passed through it. Tiny little town!
Then, we hit the east coast. Only one company on the island dives there and they were all from a boat. We could see why – it’s REALLY rough out there. Very rocky, a lot of surge… but gorgeous. We admired the seven seas monument and the ocean and I conquered a rock and then we moved on.
We decided to skip the donkey and iguana sanctuary because, time, drove past a cool lighthouse at the southern tip and then we made our way back into more familiar territory.
It’s an odd thing to say – but the Slave Huts are actually a big touristy thing to stop at, so we did and took pictures. There were 4 different types of salt, and thus there were 4 different colors of huts and a tall monument of the same color by them, so boats knew where to pull in to get the type of salt they wanted. We stopped at the orange ones because they were so striking against the coast and wanted to read some of the history (and scope out the associated dive site). They were so tiny! We passed by the white ones a little bit up the coast, and I believe the other 2 no longer exist.
We stopped for a while at the Salt Pier to watch it do it’s thing. I’m really glad we were able to dive it the day before, because when the boats are in, they don’t let you (for good reason).
We rolled back into downtown Kralendijk, avoiding more donkeys and dremples (signs all over said Let Op! Dremples! which means, Watch Out! Bumps!), and hit up Whatta Burger. Texans will understand why this is funny. However, in my opinion, superior because a) by the ocean, b) had hammocks, c) curry fries.
Sadly, it was time to get packed (nooooo) and then watch the sun set on our last day of vacation from Bari beach with our feet in the water chasing iguanas.
One place that was on our list was It Rains Fishes (because of the name, and their menu looked yummy), so we headed back downtown. They started us with a delicious sushi taster and some bread, and finished with amazing shrimp, veggies, and a little pasta. We had our last glass of wine at the condo, experiencing one more night with everything opened up and breezy, listening to the last concert… and fell asleep a little to late for our super early wake up call.
Since this is already a novel, I will not belabor the details of another travel day, minus the fact that our diving suitcase wanted more vacation as it took an extra day to arrive. Other than that, it was just a looooong morning (3:30am, home around 2pm our time) and we thoroughly enjoyed sinking into our couch and bed that evening.
Things I’d do differently next time:
- More snacks during the day, less meals. A big breakfast, a big dinner, and then things I could eat after each dive (energy bar, pretzels, whatever) would mean less downtime and I’d be willing to adventure more.
- I would actually plan the groceries and food a little beforehand. I tried to totally type B this vacation, and it worked in the sense that I didn’t have a set schedule of “I have to eat this, this, this, and this at this time”, but we did waste a little food because we went to the grocery store without a plan and Zliten got a lot of “I don’t know…” when he asked me what I wanted to eat.
- Bring my rashguard and maybe my cheapo running tights – in 85 degree water, there was no need to hassle with a wetsuit but some protection was nice.
- I will definitely buy a BCD before I go on another dive vacation like this. The rental fee would have been a good chunk of the price of the one we found on sale. The regulator would be nice to have, but they cost a chunk to get serviced once a year so the cost of renting vs owning is probably negligible if we only do this like once a year.
- We did 3 days of boat diving. I might next time decide to do 2, or even 1. I like being on the boat and being able to see normally inaccessible places, and it gave me a good excuse to get up and going early, but we really enjoyed the day where we went exploring by ourselves.
- Change my camera lights before a night dive even if I think they are ok. And maybe do one of those group UV night dives with the dive shop. Those looked super fun.
- Clothes – half of what I brought I didn’t wear, but I know better for next time. Less real clothes, more swim suit cover ups and lounge wear. I was legit in bringing 4 swim suits though!
FYI: if anyone is interested in food cost – we spent nearly 200 bucks on groceries (that included the beer and wine and vodka). A cheapish meal for 2 (think burgers, sandwiches, lunch type places, chinese food) was around 20-30 bucks (we did this about 3-4 times). A typical sit down, nice place with a drink or two was about 70 bucks for the two of us (I think we did this about 3-4 times). You could probably be more frugal than us and eat most of your meals in the condo, but we wanted to see what was out there.
Also, if you’ve made it this far (congrats!) and are interested, there is an album here where I will put all my underwater photos (the good ones, that have been edited). I’m through Day 1 + 2 right now, more to come as my lazy ass edits my pictures!
All in all – this is not the place if you just want to lie on the beach. There’s not much beach. However, if you like to be active on the water (boating, diving, snorkeling, fishing, kite surfing, etc), Bonaire is an awesome, kick ass, low pressure vacation.