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Hello, I am heading to Bonaire for a week of diving in early September 2019. I am looking for recommendations for a great skilled dive guide to do 4-5 shore dives with me for one full day. I want a skilled dive guide that knows the hotspots at the time. Which site has seen great finds in the very recent timeframe (frogfish, seahorses, jawfish with eggs, etc.). I know how secretive (sometimes rightfully so) dive communities can be for great action. I am a skilled UW photographer with lots of experience. I've been to Bonaire 4 times, but not in the last 10 years. This will be my first time back in the Caribbean in those 10 years. I've mostly been diving Indonesia, PNG, Guam (lived there for a year) and the Philippines. Any help will be greatly appreciated. I am staying at Captain Don's, but want a dive guide that is in the "know" and I don't care where they are working. Price is much less important for the guide versus quality. Thanks
I just got a friendly reminder that my trip report was 6 months overdue. Don't you hate it when live swallows you up again. Anyway, here goes, and with thanks to all who helped me pick this dive spot. Let's start with what sold me on Anilao in general - Easy to get to (direct red-eye Vancouver/Manilla flght) - Affordable cost of diving and living - Good macro and fish diversity Anilao, or better Mabini, has a large number of dive operations stretched along the coastline. Some with names familiar if you have been following discussions on wetpixel, but there are many more, probably without web presence and catering to local divers (but that is just my guess). Towards the end of the stretch is Planet Dive. I chose PD for one main reason, it was said to have the best house reef on the strip and unlimited shore diving. Normally I would add one more priority and that is the ability to solo dive but this time I was lucky to meet up with a UK buddy who likes to dive as much, as slow, and as long as I do. I believe officially they have a buddy diving policy, but one person was solo diving I after they got to know us I could have gone solo if I had wanted to. However, check before you go if that is important to you. We visited at the end of May/start of June, which is the transition into the rainy season, and the low season for diving. Apparently conditions are best in the Feb/Apr, which is not an option for me, but on a next trip I will aim for early May. That said, we were diving every day averaging almost 5 dives a day. One good thing is that on many occasions we had the entire house reef to ourselves, especially during the week. We also had a panga, captain and dive master just for the two of us much of the time with 60-75 minute boat dives. The rates vary depending on the number of divers but even with just two it was only ~US$60 for a two tank boat dive plus unlimited shore diving, going down to ~US$40 for four divers, and $15 for just unlimited shore diving. Hard to beat prices. I don't remember the all-inclusive accommodation cost but it was equally affordable, although accommodation and food are pretty basic. However, it is clean and save, and if you are like me all you need is a place to sleep and charge batteries. Another advantage is that you get to meet a lot of local divers, unlike most other places I have ever been to. The shore diving starts right in front of PD. The dive locker is on the beach with tanks always available. We would head down just after 5am and be in the water by 5:30 for our pre-breakfast dive. Boat dives were either two tank trips leaving right after breakfast back by lunch or one after breakfast and a second after lunch. Two more shore dives filled out the day. The beach and shore entry consists of rounded large pebbles/rocks up to hip deep followed by a bank of shallow corals sloping down to about 4m, followed by a slight drop to about 7-8m. That is where you have to make the hard choice, go right on the more scenic route following the slight drop-off towards twin rocks or left to areas of staghorn and other coral with many damsels, cardinalfish and other critters. It is really a fish lovers site and you can probably find well over 200 species on your trip right there. If you like grand vistas and wide angle then twin rocks themselves are the only standout feature but on the whole you are going to be disappointed. Big fish lovers will enjoy the ever present bigeye jack school that can darken the sun if they move like a tornado over and around you. It is hard not to get excited by that, even after you've seen them a dozen times. Friendly batfish, a half-dozen spiny lobsters, giant clams, one hunch-backed turtle and the odd grouper make up the other large animals. Not everyone will enjoy many repeat dives on one site but I dove PD 21 times in two weeks and would be happy to go back for more 90-100 minute dives floating around and observing live as it happens. Boat dives were 10-20 minute trips to various sites along the coast or across a channel. There were two muck diving sites, mainit muck and coconut muck, the latter is prettier the former is muckier. We dove both several times and they always offer surprises. Another site I liked a lot but I don't think gets used that much is Danilaut. It is highly protected behind an island and has a shallow sandy plateau running to a slight drop-off that slopes deeper to where there is the metal frame skeleton of a former casino boat. I found a lot of fish there that I didn't find anywhere else, which is why I liked it. There are many other sites, many of them have been discussed here before. My only "Pacific" comparison is with the Marsa Alam area in the Red Sea. Visibility, reef structure, and general UW landscape beauty is much better in the Red Sea. But when it comes to fish life I've never seen as much variety as in Anilao. The final count is not yet in but well over 300 fish species in two weeks. Twice a typical harvest in the Caribbean and 50% better than the Red Sea. So if you are a fish lover who wants unlimited and varied house reef diving at a good value it is hard to beat PD. Cheers, Bart