18
Dec
09

Bonaire – Sept 23-30 2007

The last week of September, I treated myself to a belated summer vacation to Bonaire; I have to say that my second trip was just as good at the first. I had recently been downsized after a takeover at the company where I worked, so I took the opportunity to go on vacation before I started looking for a  new job.  I ended up with a really bad case of PBD (post-Bonaire depression) this time; Bonaire is very addictive!

This time I took the Continental red-eye out of Newark. I drove there from Ontario, Canada in only 7.25 hrs, got a room at the Airport Ramada where I showered and changed then caught the shuttle to the airport. The room rate included free parking for up to 2 weeks and free airport shuttle. The Continental self-check-in was very fast and easy, though I had to rearrange some of my gear between bags as their scale said one of my bags was 51.5 pounds. Going through security was about 2 minutes, but then I found out that all the duty free shops were closed (it was around 9:45 when I got past security). I only found a magazine shop and a Starbucks open in the terminal. Tried to sleep a bit at the gate, but not much luck. The flight was uneventful, but again, I wasn’t able to sleep much. Arrived a bit early in Bonaire, but still had to wait for the truck rental place (AB) to open at 5AM. Got my truck, went to my hotel, only to find that my room wasn’t available after all, so I tried to sleep in my truck. At breakfast I finally got my room key, cleaned up and changed, and felt much better. I already had my marine park tag from my previous trip in April, so all I needed to do was fill out a form for the dive shop, get a couple of lead weights and I was good to go. It is so nice to walk out on the dock and see all the parrotfish in the shallows before you even get in the water…

I was really tired the first day, so I only managed to do 3 dives. I didn’t trust myself to put my camera and strobe together without flooding them, so I took no photos that day. Of course, that was the only day I found a pipefish and a chain moray :-( I took the opportunity of being camera-less to do a giant stride entry off the rocks at Oil Slick Leap. It’s always a little unnerving the first time you do it. It’s only around a 7 foot drop, but it looks a lot higher.

The next 5 days were filled with a lot of diving (4 dives/day), and some really cool finds. I had planned to do some dives searching the coral rubble for yellowhead jawfish, mantis shrimp, and tiny crabs. Well, it paid off. I managed to find 2 mantis shrimp, several yellowhead jawfish, many tiny crabs and a live conch. On the reefs I found many juvenile trunkfish, squid, a seahorse, frogfish, as well as all of the usual fish and creatures.

This time of year (Sept), there was no wind and I took advantage of this to dive some of the usually more difficult sites. Rick, the instructor at the hotel, took me to Cai, Lighthouse and Nukove. Cai was the best, as we saw some rather large green morays, turtles and a squadron of about 20 eagle rays. At Lighthouse there was a bit of surf and a current reversal mid-dive, but nothing too bad. Nukove was a rather long drive, but the huge boulder coral was something I hadn’t seen before. Unfortunately I didn’t bring my camera on any of those dives, so no photos :-(

I dove my favourite reefs: Oil Slick, 1000 Steps, Karpata and Bari Reef, as well as some new favourites: Small Wall and Black Durgon Reef. I was a little disappointed to see that some of the lushness of the soft coral was missing in some of the northern sites, presumably due to storm surge, and the lack of staghorn and elkhorn coral at some of the sites that had very healthy stands of it on my previous trip was disturbing.

There were some negatives at the hotel that would made me reconsider returning to that particular hotel. The main reason was having the gas line in my truck cut overnight. Luckily the owner fixed it, but it ruined my day’s dive plans and caused a gas spill at the gas station (where I discovered the cut line). It’s unfortunate that this happened, as I enjoyed staying at the small hotel and meeting guests from all parts of the world. There were some minor annoyances such as like having to lug tanks up and down two flights of stairs to dive the house reef, and the lack of an in-room safe and on-site security. That being said, those things didn’t stop me from having a great trip. I was on vacation, after all.

Breakfast was included at the hotel. I didn’t usually eat lunch, however I brought a bunch of granola bars for snacks which helped ease between-dive hunger. I also bought some nice gouda cheese and crackers for between-dive snacks. One day after a guided dive we went to the Rose Inn to get some local food. I got the fried fish with rice & beans, salad, funchi and a black bean cake. It was all very good, plentiful and cheap. We ate dinner at La Plazita Limena (2x), City Cafe, Salsa, Bobbe Jan’s and El Fogon Latino. La Plazita Limena was very good, although on our last night (Saturday) when we returned they were severely understaffed and very busy; our appetizer arrived at the same time as the entrees, and we didn’t get any of their bread and garlic butter. I’d recommend going there during the week. City Cafe was also very good, but their service was terrible and they were out of their advertised special key lime pie :-(. Salsa had great service and great food, though a bit pricey. We got take-away from Bobbe Jan’s: it was really good and plentiful. El Fogon Latino also had great food, at about half the price of the more touristy places. Highly recommended.

Again, no issues with theft on this trip. While parked at dive sites, I always left my t-shirt, board shorts, Lexan water bottle, cheap sunglasses and Old Navy flip-flops in plain sight in the truck, with windows rolled down and doors unlocked.

I have to say the weather on this trip was great, but very hot and humid, more so than my last trip in April because the usual tradewinds were non-existent. We had one afternoon downpour, but it stopped in about 20 minutes and didn’t ease the humidity at all. If you don’t like high heat & humidity, don’t go this time of year; go during months when it’s windy, when it feels cooler. Of course, having the ocean very close to go cool off is a real bonus this time of year. The sea was like glass the first 3-4 days I was there, with little to no surge. By the end of the week there was a little breeze which added to the surge a bit, making photography in the shallows just a little tougher. I missed the annual coral spawning by a couple of days, but I did notice the visibility was down a bit as the week went on, presumably because of the coral spawning. It didn’t bother me much as I only shot macro and close-ups on this trip.

I met some really nice people on this trip; it reminded me why I used to enjoy travelling alone. Solo diving in Bonaire was easy for me, so going during the slow season didn’t bother me; I rather enjoyed being able to do my own thing underwater.

Photos:

underwater: http://scubagirl.smugmug.com/gallery/3590623

topside: http://scubagirl.smugmug.com/gallery/3668206

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