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Dive Review of VIP Diving/Bruce Bowker's Carib Inn in
Bonaire/west, east, Klein Bonaire

VIP Diving/Bruce Bowker's Carib Inn, Jun, 2010,

by Michael Schoenbaum, MD, US (Reviewer Reviewer 5 reports). Report 5563.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 51-100 dives
Where else diving Belize, Florida, Bahamas
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm
Water Temp 84 to 86 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 70 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions We were free to dive our own profile. I note that I was often diving with my daughter, who is a junior & limited to 40 feet; however, that's not actually very limiting in Bonaire...
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? no

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales None
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish N/A
Large Pelagics 3 stars

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

Subject Matter N/A Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments We did not dive with cameras...

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

Accommodations N/A Food N/A
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 5 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments My daughter and I spent a week in Bonaire. It was the first time there for both of us. She's a junior, and recently certified. We chose Bonaire for its great shore diving - but shore diving is normally unguided, and we did not want to dive on our own. So I searched for guided shore diving, and found VIP.

We stayed at Bruce Bowker's Carib Inn, and rented a truck (4-door Toyota pickup, which seems to be the modal vehicle on the island). VIP is two blocks from Carib - one block north towards town, and then one block east away from the water. The shop is attached to the Blue Divers hotel, but they operate independently. VIP has tanks (AL80s and 63s) and air (no nitrox, although they said they were looking into getting that); they also have rental gear, which we didn't use.

I corresponded with one of the owners, Bas Noij, by e-mail before our trip to make initial arrangements. Since I was new to Bonaire, and looking for something a little different because of my daughter, this was a big help for me. As I understand it, Bas previously worked as a private dive guide on Bonaire, and recently established VIP with a partner, Willem Kalkwiek. In the event, we dove with Willem and another guide, Derk Bevers, as Bas was otherwise engaged. All three were very friendly, responsive, and knowledgable.

What you get from VIP is a private guide - you meet at the shop, set up gear, load into vehicle, drive to site, and dive. (They have 2 vehicles, but in practice we always used our own.) You can choose the site, or - as we did - rely on their expertise. I believe VIP will take clients to any shore site in Bonaire. We dove mainly on the west coast - north, south & middle. I also joined Willem and two clients on one east coast dive, where currents are stronger, & was rewarded by countless huge tarpon and three large turtles, among other things. And I did something new, that VIP specializes in: an ultraviolet night dive. They use UV lights (www.nightsea.com/sport.htm) and a special yellow filter that goes over your mask. Very cool - lots of coral, invertebrates, and fish (scorpion & lizard, among others) light up brightly under UV light, in glowing oranges, yellows, greens, and even deep red. I've seen this in aquaria, and now that I've seen it in real life I'm kind of amazed it isn't offered more widely by dive shops. I recommend this experience very highly for anybody visiting Bonaire.

Many others have reviewed the Carib Inn in Undercurrent, and I found the reviews to be accurate: the place is cozy, the rooms are clean, and they are set up specifically for divers & and are as flexible and accommodating for divers as anybody could want. Like VIP, they have AL80 and 63 tanks, and air but not nitrox. They have a dive boat leaving from their dock every day at 8:30 and 1:30; the folks on the boat decide where to go, and everyone is completely free to dive their own profiles. I went out with them four mornings; each time, I was the last person back in the boat, and there was never any kind of negativity about that (or anything else!).

One related note, from the perspective of diving with a junior. In practice, my daughter didn't join me on these boat dives, preferring to stay in bed. Anyway, I'd been concerned that if we did dive with a larger group, others wouldn't want to be limited by her 40-foot limit - in which case boat diving might not work for us. That was definitely not an issue on any of the dives I went on, because the shape of the reef makes it easy to choose various depths on almost any dive (the one exception I'm aware of is the wreck of the Hilma Hooker), and again, everybody was free to dive their own profiles. And in terms of not wanting to dive alone, on the four dives I did with them, the guide and most of the group stayed between 40 & 50 feet anyway.

Finally, for people who are new to Bonaire, as we were: aside from Klein Bonaire, which is only accessible by boat, I think the main reason people use dive boats in Bonaire is because it's an easier way to transport 5 or more divers plus gear to the dive site - one ends up diving at the same sites as the shore divers.
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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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