The Harbour Village Resort is not one of those places you hear mentioned very often when divers talk about where to stay on Bonaire. Divers rave about the Belmar Apartments, the Plaza, Sand Dollar, Captain Don’s, or the ever popular Buddy Dive, but few ever mention lonely little Harbour Village. It’s the same with dive ops. Toucan Divers, Yellow Submarine, Dive Friends, sure …. but Great Adventures Bonaire?
I think some of this lack of dive recognition has to be due to the lack of advertising this resort does in dive magazines. Another factor is the simple fact that Harbour Village is more expensive than most, if not all, of the other dive resorts on the island. Regardless of this relative anonymity, I found Harbour Village and its dive op, Great Adventures Bonaire, to be a wonderfully pleasant surprise.
Having stayed at the Plaza Resort on my two previous trips to Bonaire, I was ready for something a bit more laid back. The Plaza is a big, sprawling resort with a very busy dive op, Toucan Divers. My last trip there brought back some very unpleasant memories of “cattle boat” operations I have had the displeasure of diving with in the past. Now, also, the Plaza beach gets inundated with disgorged cruise ship for a few hours on most days. Harbour Village, on the other hand, has one of the few private beaches on Bonaire.
So, Harbour Village it was. After booking two different trips with American Airlines via San Juan, I had both trips cancelled leaving me with no connections from my departure city of Boston. Finally, good old Jet Blue came through with a direct flight to Aruba. From Aruba, I was able to book a flight with Dutch Antilles Express (DAE) to Bonaire via Curacao. DAE has a very poor reputation as far as lost baggage and unannounced flight cancellations, but they were absolutely perfect on this trip. My visit started on Feb. 4th and I left on the 14th.
I got to the Flamingo Airport right on time and was greeted by the Harbour Village van, which was waiting my arrival. A short drive and I was in the lobby with a welcome drink in my hand. Sytze, the very gracious concierge, escorted me to my room and then gave me a tour of the resort. The grounds are quite nice; lush with tropical plants, flowers, and trees. A very clean, white sand beach led into the surprisingly warm 81F waters of the Caribbean.
My room was the least expensive available, a plain old standard room with a view of the courtyard. Somewhat smallish, it contained a generous king size bed surrounded on all sides with lace netting. A satellite TV, two tables, two dressers, a closet, a bathroom, and a small patio were part of the package. A roomy shower, but no tub, was provided.
The resort’s restaurant is called La Balandra and is styled like a wooden ship. It juts out over the water at the end of the beach. On the other end of the beach sits the dive shop, Great Adventures. During my 10 day stay here, I found the food varied from good to excellent, but never bad. For lunch, the hamburgers here are irresistible … and huge.
Great Adventures is managed by a gentleman named Leonel, a personable and knowledgeable man. Leonel was often the boat driver, but also acted as the Divemaster on occasion. He was adamant about not touching anything, which was refreshing. At one particularly sensitive site, he even told us not to get down in the sand due to silting issues. More often, the DM was a fellow named Nollie who was also quite competent and helpful. The dive op has two boats; a big Newton 42 and a smaller 36’ boat. Both boats were comfortable, but the 42” boat was used most of the time even though we had as few as 3 divers on some of the trips. Snorkelers were welcome on the boat, and my wife Sandy got in a few trips. Rental equipment is in good shape, Nitrox is offered, and the shop has a selection of hats and shirts. Storage facilities consist of large, open wooden lockers, and hangars for BC’s and wetsuits. The storage areas are locked at night. Two rinse tanks for gear and one for cameras are on the dock. Both boats had camera rinse tanks.
A good briefing preceded every dive. We were allowed to dive our computers, but depth limits were always suggested. Typically, Leonel or Nollie would have us turn back after 30 to 35 minutes or 1,000 pounds. When we reached the mooring, we were allowed to stay in the water as long as we wanted to. Most dives lasted about an hour. The majority of the dive sites visited were off Klein Bonaire, which sits directly across from the resort. We also dove the Hilma Hooker and took a short ride to Oil Slick Leap. Two dive sites are directly accessible from the resort’s beach. Only 50 yards out, rests the wreck of the “Our Confidence.” This wooden hulled former Danish fishing ship sank in 2003 and lies in only 55’ of water. It is marked by a black buoy and easily reached from shore or the dive shop pier. Even snorkelers can get a fine view of this ship from the surface. It’s starting to disintegrate rapidly now, but much of it is still intact. It is a great haven for fish, and I had a ball down there with my camera. From the wreck, or from the restaurant, a line is laid that will take you under the shipping channel to a site called Something Special. This site starts out as mostly rubble, but an incredible number and variety of fish love to feed in the rubble. The line ends at a nice reef which is teeming with all kinds of fish.
Some of the sites I visited were Knife, Hands Off, the Hilma Hooker, Monte’s Divi, Leonora Reef, Bonaventure, Punt Vierkent, Just A Nice Dive, and Oil Slick Leap. I think Just A Nice Reef had to be one of my favorite dives since it’s a turtle sanctuary and also features a very healthy reef system. The Hilma Hooker is one of Bonaire’s signature dives, but I’m not that impressed. I’ve visited the wreck three times now, and always have found the water to be turbulent with poor visibility. It is a big ship, and you can dive through a cargo hold, but I have never been able to see much because of particulates in the water. It’s worth doing … once. Water temperature at every site, with no exception, was a constant 81F. The reefs, below about 25’, still seem to be in fairly good shape. There was some silting at some sites but, for the most part, I saw little bleaching.
Fish life is as prolific as always; with parrotfish, pufferfish, tangs, filefish, trunkfish, chromis, and grunts everywhere. In many spots, trains of blue and silver fish would stream almost endlessly over the reefs, reminding me of rush hour commuter traffic. On two dives I saw squid in groups of two and four, and even witnessed one spraying ink. Even snorkeling in front of the resort, I saw a group of seven juvenile squid. Turtles were spotted on most dives. I got to see one large green moray out in the open on one dive, and a tiny spotted moray hiding in the coral on another. At Hands Off, Leonel pointed out a tiny seahorse hidden in the coral.
The area off the beach is coral rubble, but even there I saw rockfish, a spotted eagle ray, and all the fish I had seen diving off the boat. The restaurant is built on a rock jetty, which has now become encrusted with coral and sponge. It offered excellent snorkeling and even worthwhile shallow diving.
The rooms and grounds were always well maintained and exceptionally clean. Room service was superb. Harbour Village is a top notch place to stay where you are truly treated as a guest. The dive op, Great Adventures, offers personalized service, excellent boats, and is very unobtrusive and accommodating.
So, yeah, I had a great time at this resort. Fantastic service, beautiful grounds, a comfortable bed in a clean, well appointed room, and a fine dive op with two truly fine gentlemen working with me for my entire stay. If … when … I return to Bonaire for a forth trip, there’s no question that I’ll be back at the Harbour Village Resort and diving with Great Adventures again.