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Rainer

Bonaire Trip Report [Photos + HD Video]

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Three of us (my wife, Jennifer, myself, and a good friend of ours, Ari) traveled from Los Angeles to Bonaire (via Houston) last month for a week of diving, relaxing, and a bit of topside exploration. We used to often dive locally together here in Southern California, but the past several years we'd stuck to warm water and hadn't dived as a threesome in ages. We were all looking forward to catching up and spending some quality time together.


We met at LAX early in the morning of our departure (flight was at the ungodly hour of 6am). We'd decided to bring all our gear (BCs, regs, computers, can lights, wetsuits, and camera gear) so we weren't traveling particularly light (carry-ons plus one checked bag each). The flights over to Bonaire on United were uneventful (this was two weeks after their now infamous deplaning "incident" in Chicago). We landed in the early evening, and after a brief delay, got our trusty (and rusty) Nissan pickup truck from Telerin. She'd serve us well over the coming eight days.


That first night, we headed to our VRBO two-bedroom apartment near the ferry terminal in Kralendijk. We were just one block from the water, in a great spot within easy walking distance of many good restaurants. The apartment was clean, had a full kitchen, two nice rooms with AC and private bathrooms, plus a big outdoor patio where we could rinse gear (we would bring everything inside to dry just out of precaution). After dropping off our luggage, we headed out for a very pleasant late night dinner at Mezze, which was just a short walk away.


The next morning we woke early and drove around the block (literally) to check-in with our dive center, Dive Friends Bonaire. Their Dive Inn location was actually right behind our apartment. Couldn't ask for a more convenient spot. With four additional locations on the island, DFB would prove to be a great choice for us. We were doing their unlimited shore diving nitrox package and would also add a two cylinder charter to Klein Bonaire later in the week. The check-in process was quick and painless. Showed our c-cards, paid the $25 park fee, grabbed our weight belts, and got the tour of the facilities and procedures. Before doing our check-out dive, however, we made two quick stops: first to Illy Coffee (Ari can't live without his morning coffee fix) and then over to Van den Tweel, a glorious Dutch market, where we stocked up on provisions (mostly stuff for breakfasts and lunches, plus an odd dinner).


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Next, it was back to DFB for our first dive. The checkout dive process is basically just an opportunity for the staff to educate you about the Bonaire National Marine Park rules and give you a forced chance to make sure your weighting is correct. We geared up and headed in for a dive on Calabas Reef. Apart from Ari's first stage making terrible honking noises (which thankfully cleared up quickly on their own and didn't return), everything seemed to be in good working order. Felt great to be back underwater and diving together.


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After 70 minutes we headed in and grabbed new cylinders before driving over to Hamlet Oasis (another DFB location) for our second dive at Cliff. While we never did find the frogfish there, it was a really nice wall. We finished that first full day with a night dive at Buddy Reef at Buddy Dive Resort. We had a group of seven or eight large tarpon follow us around the entire time, which was really fun. Just before exiting, we came across a massive Southern Stingray in the shallows. Then it was off to dinner at Zeezicht (shares the local dock with Karel's Beach Bar), the only restaurant we could find open around 10pm. Sadly, it was a pretty bad (every other meal on the trip, however, was exceptional).


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Third day was about visiting the southern double reefs. For the first dive, we splashed at Alice in Wonderland. Dropped in to be greeted immediately by a small green turtle. We stuck to around 30' to conserve gas as we swam out to the second reef, then dropped onto its backside. After exploring that deeper reef, which we had to ourselves, we spent the rest of the dive slowly working our way back to shore, crossing the sand channel and spending some good time on the shallower first reef. We headed to Invisibles for our second dive, which was even better: finding two spotted eagles rays and a bunch of reef squid in the shallows. Lunch was a super healthy mix of gelato, pie, and coffee at (the very good) Gio's Gelateria & Caffe. That evening we went over to Bari Reef for a very enjoyable night dive. Dinner that night was at La Guernica.


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Edited by Rainer

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The plan for the fourth day was to start with a dive on the Hilma Hooker, with the goal of getting some nice wide angle photos. We'd come up with a shot list over breakfast and dropped onto the wreck with our plan already worked out. We started with some shots around the bow, then over to the fallen mast, before a short penetration along the length of the ship, before popping out near the stern, where we grabbed some final shots with the props. Great dive.


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After that, we grabbed lionfish burgers at the Cactus Blue food truck. Then it was back to the apartment to swap over to the macro setup, before heading north of town for the first time, to dive 1000 Steps. Stairs really weren't that bad and we had a great dive, with turtle sightings at both the start and end of our 75 minute excursion. Finished up the day with a twilight dive at Andrea I, where we found eight eels. Dinner was at home, where Ari cooked a lovely tomato pasta.


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Day 5 had us planning to head to the very north of the island to explore and dive Slagbaai National Park. We set off early (for Ari) with enough cylinders so we could do up to three dives in the park if conditions proved decent enough. We decided to take the longer windward route since we had plenty of time (we were only the third vehicle to enter the park that day). We made short stops to walk around at the various scenic settings: Playa Chikitu, Boca Cacalishi, the norther lighthouse (Seru Bentana), and Pos Mangel. We made our first dive at Playa Funchi, which was a great site (relatively easy entry and exit, especially for being on the more exposed north side). We ate our picnic lunch there afterward, watching the flamingoes, iguanas, and whiptail blue lizards. Afterward, we took looks at most of the other Slagbaai dive sites, but with high winds and sketchy entries, we decided not to risk it (especially with the big camera) and just enjoyed the beautiful drive and desert scenery. After leaving the park and heading back to town, we hit up Wattaburger (surprisingly good veggie burgers), before doing a dive at Something Special. Decided to not do a night dive, but instead headed into town for dinner at Patagonia (we tried to get in at La Cantina, but they were full, so we made reservations to come back that Saturday).


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Our sixth day was our first with planned morning boat dives. We would be heading out to nearby and uninhabited Klein Bonaire with DFB. Our first dive was at Joanne's Sunchi, the second at Knife. For both, we decided to head out on our own, just to get some cleaner water away from other divers for wide angle shots. The DMs were totally accommodating and we had two very pleasant dives, but saw nothing so special that I'd probably bother with Klein if coming back to Bonaire. The shore diving on the west side is totally comparable to what we found on our Klein dives. Had a great vegetarian lunch at Go Green (we'd have come again if they simply were open more often).


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That afternoon we followed up on a recommendation we'd gotten on the morning's boat and headed north to Ol' Blue (Tolo). Another phenomenal dive, so thank you stranger for the recommendation! Sun was getting low, so we drove just a little further north for a dive at Karpata. Twilight dives are always fascinating as you get to see the reef ecosystem in clear transition as nocturnal predators become active and smaller fish begin to hide among the rocks. With its steeper drop-offs and plunging reef, there was a lot of real estate to explore. We exited just as the sun set, making for a lovely photograph. A quick rush back home, shower, and out the door to It Rains Fishes for dinner. It was Restaurant Week on the island and every restaurant seemed to be participating with a special, reasonably-priced tasting menu, so we enjoyed yet another great meal.


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Next day was another morning with scheduled boat dives, but this time we'd be heading to the "wild" exposed east side of the island to dive with Bonaire East Coast Diving. This outfit has their act together, which given the very large swell and rough conditions outside of the Soroban harbor, made everything run smoothly. We were a relatively large group (10 divers + two DMs), but spread out enough that the dives didn't feel overly bunched. While visibility on the east side was not nearly as good as on the leeward side of the island, we still had a decent 30-40'. First dive was at Funchi (eagle ray, half dozen turtles), second at Turtle City (40+ turtles, lots of triggerfish, gorgeous large sea fans). The dives were unique and offered unprecedented turtle sightings (I remember one moment where I could distinctly see five large green turtles swimming directly in front of me).


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After another lunch at Wattaburger (your lunch options are pretty limited in the early afternoon), before heading back south. We did our third dive at Vista Blue, and the fourth (and final) dive at nearby Chogogo. That last twilight dive included a visit from a huge loggerhead sea turtle (seriously, he was a monster). Later in the evening after dropping the gear back home and quick showers, we walked around the block (literally) to At Sea, where we had the best meal of the trip. This place is truly excellent and holds its own even against the better restaurants in Los Angeles. We were more than pleasantly surprised.


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For our final full day, we considered doing some early morning dives (which would still leave us 18+ hours of off-gassing before our flights the following morning), but ultimately decided to just let the gear continue drying and enjoy a more relaxed day topside. We had a nice breakfast at the apartment, did some light packing, then headed off in search of topside photo opportunities. We drove to Gotomeer to see more flamingoes, then through Rincon again, headed to Boca Onima to see the ancient petroglyphs and rock paintings, stopped at Seru Largu for 360 degree panoramic views of the island (and Klein), then back to Soroban to The Beach Hut for lunch, with views of the mangroves and windsurfers on Lac Bay. After that, we drove along the island's southern coast, stopping at the southern lighthouse, the slave huts at Red Slave, and the donkey sanctuary. We eventually made it back to Kralendijk in time to do some souvenir shopping in downtown (mostly getting magnets and Bonaire salt), then a quick trip back to Gio's for more gelato, before catching a beautiful sunset across the harbor and over Klein. Dinner that evening was another fabulous meal, this time at La Cantina. Great way to celebrate the end of a very successful trip.


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The next morning was an early wakeup, quick 10 minute drive to the airport, and two relatively easy flights back to LA. Had a fabulous time on Bonaire and we're already discussing where to head next. Thanks for reading and looking!


HD Video:



Edited by Rainer
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Great trip report, thanks.

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Great trip report, thanks.

 

Thanks for taking the time to look and comment!

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Nice report and excellent photos, thanks for sharing!

 

Thanks for reading and commenting!

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Very nice report; thank you.

The pics in earlier post do not show up on my mac.

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His photos are probably not hosted in the same spot anymore.

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After a 4 year hiatus, I am just back last Saturday from a week on Bonaire. Your trip report makes me as eager to return as my own experience. Caring for an elderly parent has seriously curtailed our travel so for now thank you for letting me have some additional vicarious enjoyment through your report

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