Bonaire, my first time!

Tell us your tale of coming nose-to-nose with a 6 gill [--this big--], or about your vacation to turquoise warm waters. Share your adventures here!
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Bonaire, my first time!

Post by mancub » Sun Jul 24, 2011 2:35 pm

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of traveling to Bonaire with a good buddy of mine. It was a new place for both of us, and I have to say, we loved the diving! I have frequented Cozumel over the last few years, and after constant rave reviews from you guys here on NWDiveClub decided I had to go. It truly is a diver's paradise. I strongly recommend Bonaire!

The biggest differences I noticed between Bonaire and Coz were the visibility, amount of life, and general reef structure. Cozumel has spectacular visibility (I have experienced up to 200' horizontal, compared to the average 60-80 we had in Bonaire...not complaining at all though:)) and this goes hand in hand with the reasonably paced drift diving. However, the reef in Bonaire is jam packed with life. The great thing is the lack of current, and how the reef is conveniently in 15-100 fsw. This allows for endless hours of slowly looking over and under every part of the reef. I did miss the spectacular building sized reef structure that the southern Cozumel dives offer, but you quickly forget all previous dives when you are effortlessly gliding around taking in the beautiful scene. I can't say which is my favorite, but I will definitely be trying to go back to Bonaire next year.

Bryan and I decided to stay at Buddy Dive Resort. Being just the two of us, and our first time out to Bonaire, we wanted a more "all-inclusive" atmosphere. Buddy gave us a spacious apartment/kitchen, quick access to a truck and more importantly endless tanks for diving. Their "drive-thru" fill station was wonderful. Of the 26 dives we made over 6 days, I believe only 2 or 3 were on air. The rest, of course, were on nitrox. It was glorious, pulling up to the tank station, throwing empties down and helping ourselves to already filled 32%! Buddy was also nice, because it had a fun house reef which was easily accessible from their dock. At the beginning of the trip, they let you know where the "secret" key is. Midnight or 2am diving was not out of the question :).

We opted out of the boat diving, and stuck to shore entry. Don't regret it one bit, only, some new friends we made at the resort spotted frogfish on Klein which requires a boat. No frogfish sightings for us :(. Of the many many sites we visited, the ones that stuck out were Alice in Wonderland, night dive on the Hilma Hooker, Karpata, Angel City, Invisibles, La Dania's Leap ("drift" to Karpata), Candy Land, and 1000 steps. We soon realized that many of the southern sites are similar, and to the north similarities abound as well. Not sure which I preferred, but it was no problem as we drove one direction in the morning, had lunch at home base, grabbed new tanks, and then drove the other direction for afternoon diving. The southern sites had nice easy entries and a beautiful double reef system on many of the dives. However, I loved what the northern sites offered. Perhaps the more difficult (still easy compared to some NW shore dives!) entries had a bigger payoff.

I love Caribbean reef fishes, and Bonaire is the place to see them in abundance. My favorite things were the two bait balls that surrounded us. It was a first for both of us, and each time the fish had passed we would look at each other with ecstatic faces and just put our hands on our heads. Truly amazing to see that many fish moving as one, and then to see the crowd of larger tarpon etc quickly chasing. Other things we saw included trumpetfish, spotted drums, spiny lobster, banded butterfly, goldentail chain and green morays, porcupinefish, stingrays, scorpionfish, arrow crab, french angelfish, grouper, octos, flamingo tongue, cowfish, slender filefish, jawfish, sharptail eels, garden eels, barracuda, too many lionfish :(, turtles, squid, spotted eagle ray, and of course many many christmas tree worms and nudibranchs. Loved seeing the cleaning stations, with the little guy waving his "arms" and doing a little dance to let you know it was cleaning time. Also, the house reef had a resident tarpon named Charlie who loved dive lights just like our harbor seals at home.

I am probably forgetting something, but I hope I haven't understated how great the diving on Bonaire is. It is just so much fun driving a truck around, pulling off the road and saying, "this looks good", and ten minutes later gliding over a vibrant and alive reef. The nitrox and lack of boat timing allow for a great amount of this too!

If you are a Bonaire veteran, I am glad I jumped on this bandwagon. If you have never been, please go and I will see you there next time! Here is a glimpse at what it looks like...

Safe diving

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Re: Bonaire, my first time!

Post by Gdog » Sun Jul 24, 2011 8:51 pm

Nice report, thanks for sharing! Have been curious about Bonaire, as I just cant seem to get past Cozumel!

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Re: Bonaire, my first time!

Post by mancub » Sun Jul 24, 2011 10:15 pm

Thanks. I know, Cozumel is so much fun! You can't really go wrong with either one. If you want pampered boat diving, Cozumel is definitely the place. However, the freedom to dive when you want is pretty amazing on Bonaire.

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Re: Bonaire, my first time!

Post by Mateo1147 » Sun Jul 24, 2011 10:38 pm

Thanks for the post! I am headed to Bonaire in January and staying at Buddy Dive also. I can't wait to get out of my drysuit for a few dives!
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Re: Bonaire, my first time!

Post by ktb » Mon Jul 25, 2011 9:49 am

I have to say, Bonaire spoiled me. I'm not a fan of Mexico, so I haven't been to Cozumel, but after one vacation in Maui . . . yeah, Bonaire shore-diving-with-awesome-wildlife-whenever-I-damn-well-please is the best.

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Re: Bonaire, my first time!

Post by gutholmj » Mon Jul 25, 2011 8:41 pm

Great report which brings back fond memories. It's only been two months and I can't wait to go back.
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Re: Bonaire, my first time!

Post by BASSMAN » Tue Jul 26, 2011 3:32 am

Great report and awesome pictures! Glad you were able to do the drift from Ledonia's Leap to Karpata!
That's a personal favorite, for a few of us. Looks as if you really got to see a lot of the diverse life there.
So when are you going back? I plan on going in May or June of 2012, with a few buddies.
Again, Great pictures! =D>
Hi, my name is Keith, and I'm a Dive Addict! :supz:

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Bonaire, my first time!

Post by mancub » Tue Jul 26, 2011 10:51 am

Thanks and glad the pictures bring back good memories for everyone!

La Dania was likely our favorite dive, definitely top three. Something fun about the setup (dropping gear and one person before driving truck to Karpata), jumping in, and knowing it's a one way ticket. We went a little deeper on that dive, and there is a spectacular vertical wall. In fact, it overhangs some and I couldn't help wishing for something big to show up and be our third dive buddy for a bit.

Another great moment for us was at Tori's reef on our last diving day. While gearing up another couple joined us at the dive site "parking lot" haha. They asked us if we had been to the site, which we replied no. However, according to our book spotted eagle rays are often seen by the mooring in 20fsw. No more than 5 seconds after descending near the mooring, an eagle ray cruises up and we kick alongside for a few minutes!

I don't have specific plans as of yet, but I intend to return before the better part of a year goes by. It is a wonderful place, and I will always remember the first time I went diving on Bonaire. ...jealous if you have your flight booked, or are looking =P !!

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Re: Bonaire, my first time!

Post by lizard0924 » Tue Jul 26, 2011 10:51 pm

Great photos, thanks for sharing. It is always nice to see another Bonaire convert among us. The island has an irresistible pull for many people, myself included.

One trip is usually never enough for anyone. :)

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Re: Bonaire, my first time!

Post by funkydiver » Wed Jul 27, 2011 2:20 pm

We loved Bonaire so much this past February, that we are already booked for February 2012 and, just because we love the Dutch so much, we're headed to Bonaire's neighbor, Curacao, in October. :partydance:
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Re: Bonaire, my first time!

Post by Mac » Sat Jul 30, 2011 11:47 am

I also visited Bonaire for the first time in July, and can't wait to go back. Buddydive was full when we booked, so we stayed at the Divi, which was also pretty decent. Our package allowed us a mix of shore & boat diving, so we took full advantage of both (23 dives in 5-1/2 days). There's really no "need" to do any boat diving there, but they do take you over to Klein and a few other sites that are less accessible from shore, so we're glad we did both.

The diving was unbelieveable. 80+ degree water, great viz, no current to speak of, tons of sea life, and the freedom to dive whenenver/wherever, at your own pace. Our best dives were at Red Slave (for the shear quantity of sea life), Something Special (frogfish, manta ray, puffers), and The Lake (got to hang with a family of squid). Having said that, though, there's no "bad" diving there. We had great dives at many of the sites that Mancub listed as well.

I threw together some photos & vid clips of our trip if anyone's interested.

The first little bit is kinda for non-diving family/friends, so skip ahead to about 1:25 for the good stuff.

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