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Dive Review of Bonaire Dive and Adventure in
Bonaire

November, 2012, an Instant Reader Report by Carl Mintz, DC, US (2 reports)
Report Number 6794
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
Over 1000 dives
Where else diving
Bonaire
Closest Airport
Getting There

		

Dive Conditions

Weather
windy, dry  
Seas
no currents  
Water Temp
80   to 92    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
50   to 100    Feet  
 
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
yes  
 
Enforced diving restrictions  
For shore diving - none - you are on your own.  
Liveaboard?
no 
Nitrox Available?
yes 
What I saw
Sharks
None 
Mantas
None 
Dolphins
None 
Whale Sharks
None 
Turtles
> 2 
Whales
None 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Corals
  3 stars
Tropical Fish
4 stars  
Small Critters
  5 stars
Large Fish
N/A  
Large Pelagics
  N/A
 
 
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
4 stars  
Boat Facilities
N/A
Overall rating for UWP's  
4 stars  
Shore Facilities  
5 stars  
Comments
[None]
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Accommodations
4 stars
Food
5 stars
Service and Attitude
4 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
4 stars
Dive Operation
4 stars  
Shore Diving  
4 stars  
Snorkeling
5 stars  
 
 

Overall Rating

Value for $$
4 stars    
Beginners
5 stars   
Advanced
4 stars    
Comments  
A small group of us spent 2 weeks in Bonaire in October and November 2012
and had a great time.  As two of the group have knee problems and the dive
shop boats all leave something to be desired, we did only shore diving (one
of the group did two days worth of boat dives).

We stayed at a Sand Dollar (www.sanddollarbonaire.com) condo and dove with
Bonaire Dive and Adventure (www.bonairediveandadventure.com/ ) located
adjacent to the property.  The Sand Dollar condos are all individually
owned; however, they can be rented through the U.S. travel company.  Some
owners have done a better job than others of keeping their units up to
date.  If you stay there, be sure to ask for a unit with a walk-in shower
(as distinguished from units that have tubs with high sides that could be
dangerous to get into and out of).  You may also want to request a
screened-in porch. 

We chose Sand Dollar, having stayed there many times in the past, because
we like their spaciously sized accommodations and the easy access to both
the dive shop and their pier (no steps to get to it) for shore diving (more
about the pier later).  All the units have fully stocked kitchens with
large refrigerators, microwaves, toasters, blenders, and plenty of kitchen
dishes and utensils.  This is important for us, since we ate our breakfasts
and lunches in and several in our group are good cooks.  Maid service is
twice a week, but you can get clean towels any time by going to the office
and asking for them.  In addition, each bedroom has its own a/c unit and
many have an additional unit in the living room, but there is an additional
charge if you want to use the living room a/c in the two-bedroom units. 
Electricity and water are very expensive on Bonaire and being a good
steward of these resources is important and not hard to do.  It is amazing
to us that so many tourists come to a fragile environment like Bonaire and
dont adjust their habits, but part of the charm of being in Bonaire is
being conscious of how we affect our environment and doing something about
it.

We found the office staff to be both nice and helpful.  When we needed to
make reservations for dinner, they would make them whenever we asked.  And
when we needed a repair done, the staff responded promptly.

Now the diving.  There is quite a dispute going on between some condo
owners and Bonaire Dive and Adventure, the dive operation that was
originally associated with Sand Dollar.  As a result of the dispute, now if
you call the reservations office in the U.S. and do not specifically ask
for them as your dive operator, you will be pushed to use Dive Friends
Bonaire (which only recently opened a shop on the Sand Dollar property in
October 2012).  While the Dive Friends operation is okay - the people
running the operation are friendly and helpful  there are some issues with
it: namely, they are located at the back of the Sand Dollar property so
that getting from the dive shop to the waters edge is somewhat of a chore
if you dive the reef in front of Sand Dollar (called Bari Reef).  In our
opinion it is much better and easier to use Bonaire Dive and Adventure as
the dive operator because of the location of their dive shop, the proximity
to the dock, the location of the tanks on the dock, and the large gear room
where you can hang and store your gear, and the large rinse tanks in two
locations  one set on the dock and the other closer to the parking lot for
divers who want to dive off-site.  Dive Friends currently has gear for rent
and tanks at several locations on the island, including the shop at Sand
Dollar, but only one set of rinse tanks and tanks at the shop at Sand
Dollar. Dive Friends only has a few relatively small individual lockers
with locks (several of our group are short and the upper lockers would be
useless for us) to store gear and one set of rather small rinse tanks.  The
real problem is that Dive Friends has no dock or pier of its own at Sand
Dollar so that the shore entry/exit to Bari Reef is over precarious rocky
terrain.  We are certain that this is not going to work for our particular
group and could prove dangerous when the water is rough. For example, the
first day at our check out dives, there was such a strong surge in the
water (unusual for Bonaire) that everyone needed assistance to get out of
the water, the waves were that strong.  While Dive Friends is trying to
rectify this situation and has been trying to get its permits and other
permissions in line, they are not able to build a floating pier just yet in
front of Bari Reef.

One of the other things we like about Bonaire Dive and Adventure is that
they have a professional naturalist who leads dive trips (preceded by a
detailed illustrated lecture) and also can take you out for bird watching
tours.  Several members of our party did both with Jerry and enjoyed
themselves and learned a lot.

One other thing: Bonaire is working to keep the lionfish population at bay.
 They have been pretty successful at the reefs in front of the resorts like
Sand Dollar and other fairly accessible dive sites.  One member of our
group who last year saw several lionfish on Bari Reef saw only one this
year.  And two of our group dined on lionfish during our trip - doing their
part to lower this invasive fishs numbers.

The diving was lovely as usual.  Lots of fish and lots of variety in fish
species.  Bonaire is known for diversity but not usually large critters;
however, the tarpon who like to follow the divers are plenty big as was the
barracuda.  There were octopus and even a solitary squid.  The diver in our
group who went on boat dives to Klein Bonaire said that the coral was in
better shape when she got away from the close-in reefs.  She saw frogfish
and sea horses too.

One of our favorite things to do on Bonaire is to dive with Dee Scarr (you
can learn more about her at www.touchthesea.com/).  She is a naturalist and
dive master who really knows how to relate to the creatures.  She has been
on the island for 30+ years and knows the water intimately and has an easy
way with new as well as experienced divers alike.  While most of the time
we do our own thing, it is a nice treat to go on a guided dive with an
experienced dive master who is quite adept at finding neat critters and who
allows for leisurely, unrushed dives.  This trip we met up with nosy coneys
and French Angelfish, bristle worms, a 30-year old sponge, sharptail eels,
morays, tarpon, cleaning stations, and at the end a very shy octopus.

Now to dining  while a few of our favorite restaurants were gone, there
were several terrific ones still in business. Some of our personal
favorites have moved into lovely new quarters as well.  Try Bistro de Paris
for fine authentic French cuisine - the bouillabaisse was superb as was the
rack of lamb. Another fine establishment, especially for the carnivores, is
Patagonia, which is an Argentine steak house.  Try At Sea whose chef is
quite adventurous.  Also, It Rains Fishes is quite good.  Then there is
Wils and Mona Lisa in town, both of which have excellent food.  However,
be advised: Bonaire is part of the Netherlands and Europeans still smoke a
lot.  And there are no rules about smoking and non-smoking sections in
restaurants.  It is disconcerting to go out for a fine dinner, only to have
it spoiled by being seated next to folks who smoke throughout dinner.  Save
room for the two gelato shops in town - Gios and Lillys  both of which
are wonderful and are open late.

As mentioned, we love to cook in as well as dine out.  So everyone should
be very happy that now there is another new big Dutch supermarket along the
same road as the Warehouse store. Van Den Tweel was fully stocked and, in
particular, the fresh fruit and other produce was both varied and kept
well.  It makes stocking up once you get to the island very easy.  We had
an enjoyable time in the supermarket, trying to decipher labels  most
people on Bonaire speak more than one language and are happy to translate. 
We found one couple who really enjoyed showing us items that we would never
have figured out for ourselves.

One of our group was not feeling well this trip so we went to the ER at the
local hospital to have her checked out.  She was having prolonged coughing
jags and halfway through the trip, needed decongestants to allow her to
clear her ears.  The doctor in the hospital was Dutch and frankly only did
a cursory job in diagnosis and prescribing cough syrup; it didnt really
solve the problem.  Interestingly, when she could not clear her ears and
had finished the cough medicine, the local botika (this is a pharmacy - the
best one is not the one in town, but one of the ones just outside the main
drag) was more helpful, prescribing decongestants.  Ultimately, the
decongestants the pharmacist provided did the trick for the rest of the
trip.  She went to her doctor when she got back and after a week of
antibiotics and an inhaler was back to her old self.

The weather at this time of the year (late Oct., early Nov.) in Bonaire can
be wet.  It rained a few times in the first week, leaving big puddles which
in turn caused there to be more mosquitos than usual.  And, the fresh water
affected the brine shrimp on which the flamingos feed.  So, while we saw a
lot of flamingos the first couple of days near where we were staying, after
it rained, they were gone, replaced by egrets and other shore birds.  We
found the flamingos later in the second week, further south in the island,
when we went for a drive the last day. 

The Bonairian people are very nice; however, there is some petty crime on
the island and one needs to take some precautions.   All the car rental
companies recommend that if you use the car/truck to haul tanks for shore
dives that you leave the windows down and leave nothing in the vehicle. 
There have been a number of instances of items being taken from rental
vehicles, and car windows broken if something of perceived value is left in
the vehicle.

One final note, Bonaire is now part of the Netherlands and their currency
is now, get this, the U.S. dollar - no currency exchanges or trying to
figure out what something costs in U.S. dollars any more.  But, be careful
as some credit card may still charge a foreign transaction fee - check with
your card company before you go.  There are a couple of banks (with a few
branches) on the island and a number of ATM machines.  Indeed, there is one
bank just off the Sand Dollar property with an ATM machine.

We would rate the diving as excellent for beginners, especially the shore
diving on Bari reef.  For more experienced divers the boat dives and other
shore dive locations also rate a solid 4 stars.  Snorkeling near the Bari
reef can be great - there is lots to see in very shallow water; most of the
time the visibility was pretty good.  We even came across a swimming
iguana.  The accommodations at Sand Dollar can vary, but the best units
rate a solid 4 stars.  The many great restaurants available give our dining
out a solid 5 stars.
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Subscriber's Comments

By purple at Jan 07, 2013 16:29 EST  
Thanks for a very thorough review.  As a night diver, I especially
appreciate the dock and after hours facilities at Bonaire Dive and
Adventure.  Due to mobility issues, I would never attempt a night entry
from the rocky public beach beside Den Laman.
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