We have been diving for nearly 10 years and have been to a lot of places (Palau, Yap, Chuuk, Thailand, Roatan, St. Croix, St. John, Dominica, Bequia, Grand Cayman, Barbados, Florida Keys, Northern Gulf of Mexico, Bermuda, Cozumel, Philippines), but never until this month had we been to Bonaire. Bonaire lived up to its “hype” and I would agree that it is probably the best diving in the Caribbean. We spent a week at Captain Don’s Habitat and were pleased with the accommodations and the dive operation. We will go back.
Our package included 12 boat dives- half of these were Klein Bonaire sites: Knife, Jerry’s Reef, Captain Don’s Reef, Forest, Hand’s Off, and Just a Nice Dive. Every one of these dives was great! The other boat dives were to places that many people do as shore dives: 18 Palms, Small Wall, Rappel, Windsock, La Dania’s Leap, and The Lake (with a cruise by the Hilma Hooker). These were good dives as well. I especially liked La Dania’s Leap and the double reef system at The Lake. The only shore diving that we did was from Captain Don’s. Why? Because we are not young divers (being in our early 60’s and 70’s). The shore diving at Captain Don’s was easy and the reef was excellent.
Boat diving was the best we’ve experienced in the Caribbean. Boats go out for a one-tank dive three times a day (8:30 am, 11:00 am, and 2:00 pm) and every dive lasted at least an hour. No one was ever rushed or encouraged to get back on the boat sooner than they wanted to. Divers could follow a guide or go off on their own. Every guide that we had (Leo, Max, Ludson, Lutty) pointed out interesting fish and other sea life and really added to the enjoyment of the dive.
There were more fish at every dive site in Bonaire than any other place we’ve been in the Caribbean. We saw huge schools of Blue Tang and Creole Wrasse on almost every dive. In addition to the usual Caribbean “suspects” we saw a Manta Ray (at a distance), Spotted Eagle Ray, turtles, spotted cleaner shrimp, squat shrimp, tiger grouper, Midnight Parrotfish, scorpion fish, Frogfish, and Lettuce Sea Slugs.
Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire (STCB) is working with other Caribbean sea turtle organizations to protect endangered sea turtles (www.bonaireturtles.org). Each year STCB measures, weighs, and tags approximately 150 turtles. Each turtle is checked for signs of injury and disease, then gently released where it was captured. Over time the data gather will help determine trends in growth rates, population size and migration rates of young turtles to Bonaire’s waters.
We were lucky to be on island for one of STCB’s two monthly presentations on sea turtles. Leo (one of the dive guides and instructors for Captain Don’s) made the presentation with help from his wife Zsuzsanna. They did an excellent job and we came away with a better understanding of the challenges that sea turtles face and how we can help mitigate them.
Our room was great; large enough to stow our gear without stumbling over it all week. The in-room safe was big enough for our laptop and a small purse. We had a wonderful view of the ocean and a very comfortable patio. It appears that every room has a clothes line on the patio and in the bathroom over the tub (bring clothes pins).
We love to eat and are happy to report that Bonaire has some good restaurants. Obviously we were not able to try them all in one week. We ate breakfasts and lunches at Captain Don’s. The food was excellent; particularly the Panko Shrimp and anything with the marinated chicken (the Greek style sandwich was wonderful). We enjoyed dinners at Capriccio, Bistro de Paris, It Rains Fishes, the Lion’s Den, Captain Don’s, and Chibi Chibi at Divi Flamingo.
We were not traveling with non-divers on this trip. However, we talked to a couple and are pleased to report that there are a number of activities on island for the non-diver. Shopping (of course), snorkeling, a very nice pool (at Captain Don’s), massages, pedicures, and manicures (at Captain Don’s), donkey sanctuary, island tour (flamingos, sea salt operation, etc.), wind surfing, sailing, museums, butterfly farm, golf, cycling, etc.