Bonaire – March 2009

I recently returned from my fourth trip to Bonaire, and second time at Buddy Dive Resort.

I drove from Ottawa to Syracuse, then flew to Newark and caught the Continental red-eye direct to Bonaire. If I had flown from Ottawa it would have been $500 more. The flights down weren’t too bad; a couple of delays in Syracuse, but I spent the majority of the 7 hour layover at Newark in the President’s Club lounge. It was worth the $50 for a day pass, especially for the high-speed wireless internet and lockers. It was nice to be able to lock up my camera gear and wander the airport unencumbered. There wasn’t much food at the lounge: just cheeses and spreads, crackers, apples, chips and lots of cold and hot drinks plus free alcoholic beverages. Their furniture is much more comfortable too. I was so tired I didn’t bother drinking any alcohol, besides which I was planning to dive the next morning. They also had shower facilities, which I would have used if I was staying longer. It wasn’t noisy or crowded, and I would pay for a day pass again (until I get to Elite status, where access is free).

This time I travelled with 5 others, so we stayed in a 3br/3bath condo. The rooms were clean, the AC worked well and we all had enough closet space. We had one of the newly-decorated units with the dark rattan furniture. Four of us had DSLRs and one had a video setup so we added a second truck to our package, which worked out well. Buddy Dive staff had suggested a van for all 6 of us, but I’d seen the vans before and with all our gear and tanks it would have been a tight fit.

Buddy Dive Resort caters to divers, and this time was no exception. Drive-through tank pickup/drop off, free Nitrox upgrade, 24hr tank availability, and breakfast included.

On this trip, the dive briefing, while mercifully short, started with a hard sell from the photo shop. It dragged on for over half the briefing. The briefing ended with a walk around the resort to point out the tank locations and where the ‘secret key’ is held for off-hour tanks and gear storage.

The diving: Since I had something to compare it to, I will say that there was a difference from my last trip. Tropical storm Omar hit Bonaire hard in mid-October 2008. The reefs have a lot of damage, many overturned coral heads, and there is a lack of colourful encrusting sponges, since they were likely ripped/sandblasted off the coral heads during the storm surge. However, except for that lack of colourful sponges, the fish life is as abundant as before, and probably more so. There were larger schools of fish, and I actually saw large schools of jacks (bar and crevalle). I saw many more grouper on this trip, including a gigantic one that cruised past us on a dive, then settled under a coral head where we found him later on. I’ve never seen that large a grouper anywhere! Many octopus on this trip, at least one per day. There were fewer eels on this trip, of all sorts. I saw fewer turtles, maybe 5 the whole trip. Way fewer puffer/porcupine fish. I only saw 2 barracudas all week, which was odd. Fewer shrimp and tiny macro stuff, and no frogfish 😦 However, the tarpon were all over the place at the house reef, even during the day! There seemed to be fewer parrotfish in general, however we saw a couple of large midnight parrotfish and several large rainbow parrotfish throughout the week. Tons of scorpionfish, lizardfish (sand divers) and flounders. The southern sites had a fair amount of eagle rays. In general, the southern sites sustained less damage, especially the outer of the double reefs. The lush soft corals are still abundant on all sites. If you’ve never been to Bonaire, you likely won’t notice the damage; there is more fish life on Bonaire than most other Caribbean islands.

As usual, I like to observe fish behaviour, and there was a lot of it. Cleaning stations were abundant, nuclear hunting (where various fish species join an eel and go hunting) occurred late every afternoon, as did daily fish courtship rituals. On two night dives, I got to watch an octopus go about its evening hunt, changing shape and colour, extending its tentacles like an umbrella over a coral head and flushing out prey. It was amazing and very rewarding to watch.

underwater photos:  http://scubagirl.smugmug.com/Tropical-Diving/Bonaire-March-2009/7636644_vCotz#493732920_QX978


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