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Dive Review of Bonaire Dive Adventure/Sand Dollar Condominiums in
Bonaire

Bonaire Dive Adventure/Sand Dollar Condominiums, Feb, 2005,

by Dean Knudson, MN, USA (Contributor Contributor 15 reports). Report 1709.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Austrialia, Cozumel, Bahamas, South Florida
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm
Water Temp 80 to 85 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 75 to 125 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions limited to 60 minutes, surface with 600 psi, diving on the Hilma Hooker was done by a strict dive table limit,despite the use of computers by most of the divers
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish 2 stars
Large Pelagics 2 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 2 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 3 stars Shore Facilities 1 stars
UW Photo Comments The dive boats are small and crowded. There was a small bucket for cameras. There was very little room to make any adjustments with camera equipment.

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 3 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 3 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 2 stars Shore Diving 5 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 2 stars
Comments The Sand Dollar complex is getting old, but is still comfortable. It is noticeably more run down then Captain Don's complex immediately to the north. The exterior paint is peeling, and the interior of the condominiums date from the seventies or early eighties.

The restaurants and the bar at Captain Don's,next door, are nicer and livelier, and the rooms there appear to be much more up to date.

The Sand Dollar complex is quiet, and all of the rooms have a nice ocean view. The main restaurant and bar, Mango's, was being renovated while we were staying there. A small temporary,tin-roofed restaurant and bar had been placed right on the ocean , mid-complex, and actually was quite pleasant. It was a very beautiful spot to have breakfast, and had a gorgeous happy hour sunset. The restaurant staff were attentive and agreeable, particularly the couple who ran the breakfast buffet. The ocean level varies little, due to a relative lack of tides, allowing restaurant placement at the water's edge.

The bedroom air conditioning was adequate for our stay. Simply opening the Windows on both sides of the condominium allowed a very brisk breeze to cool off the living area. The balconies are spacious and have plenty of room to dry out equipment.

We had read a number of reports regarding crime and theft on the island, and solved that problem during our stay by using a wire mesh Pac-Safe (campmor.com) around a duffel bag, which we padlocked to a large electrical cable in the closet of the condo. We placed all of the computers and other valuables that did not fit into the small room safe into this bag. We also used a portable movement alarm (guarddog.net/halarm) on the bag to discourage anyone from touching it.

There is an Internet Cafe adjacent to the property, with wireless access. I did not get a chance to test out my skpye internet telephone service there. Telephone cards can be purchased at the front desk for about five dollars, and they work in the office telephone and also in the telephone booths, for overseas calls.

Shore diving sounds like a free spirited fun adventure, however, in actual practice, it involves hauling 50 to 100 pounds of equipment 50 to 200 yards at a time, to and from the water, in 95 degree heat, while walking over sharp stones, several times per day. It is risky to leave any object inside a rental car, making the process even more inconvenient, since simple comfort items can't be left in the rental truck. Overall, our group was not impressed with this "freedom",and preferred the boat dives.

Moreover, the rental trucks receive a good deal of abuse, due to heavy use, and are prone to problems. We had three flat tires during our visit. The maintenance staff of the resort thankfully agreed to take care of our tire repairs for a modest cash tip. Apparently the cactus needles covering the island eventually work their way into many tires, and it is necessary to use the rental trucks on dirt roads to access many of the dive sites. Make sure you asked the rental car company to specifically demonstrate how to lower the spare from the bottom of the truck using the long crank handle before you leave the rental shop. Understand that you may be stranded in a very rural area,in a very hot climate, for hours, waiting for help, and always bring adequate water and something to set up some shade.

Bonaire dive adventures has two dive boats, both of which are very crowded. It is best to arrive early for a trip, and claim a seat near the front of the boat. The seats in the rear of the boat have no shade, and receive a good deal of spray. There is no reserve capacity at this operation. The boats typically are always full, and if you do not reserve a spot by 2 P.M. the previous day, you may not have a spot, which a miscommunication caused our last day. We gently asked if the staff would telephone another dive shop to assist us, they politely refused, and we politely declined to tip for the week.

Unfortunately, the diving is nothing special. There is an abundance of small fish life, but most of the reefs look alike. The coral is very healthy, but it is difficult to distinguish one site from another, even on Klein Bonaire, or at the sites on the far north side of the island. Experienced divers will be disappointed, somewhat, by the quality of the diving anywhere on the island. We did the Hilma Hooker dive, which was structured according to a strict dive table 10 minute bottom time limit, despite the fact that many of us wore computers, and could have stayed at depth much longer.

The capital city is quite pretty, and is as yet unspoiled by cruise ships. The Dutch have been very good stewards of the island. It is fun to drive around the island, and the wind surfing facility on the far side of the island is worth an entire afternoon visit. Wind surfers can be rented there, and the beer is cheap. There is not much to see at Rincon. The nightlife is hit and miss. Some nights there were fairly lively parties, and other nights it seemed as though the entire island was quiet.

Groceries are astonishingly expensive. It may actually be cheaper to eat at local restaurants then to attempt to prepare food inside the condo, with the exception of spaghetti or raman noodles. The Argentinian restaurant downtown serves a gigantic $15 platter of beef, which is surprisingly cheap, due to proximity to Venezuela. Don't miss it.

Overall, If Captain Don's matches the price, stay there, instead of Sand Dollar.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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