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Dive Review of Bruce Bowker's Carib Inn in
Bonaire

Bruce Bowker's Carib Inn: "Beautiful, relaxed, easy diving", Oct, 2015,

by Edward Clapp, CA, US (Reviewer Reviewer 3 reports). Report 8578.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 4 stars Food N/A
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 4 stars
Snorkeling 2 stars
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments I've been to Bonaire and dived with the Carib Inn (www.caribinn.com) eight times starting about 30 years ago and have always had a great time. My last visit was in October of 2015.

As in all but one of the previous visits, I also stayed there (and would have stayed there the other but couldn't because the Inn was full). It has my highest recommendation, provided it's a good fit for you. The place and its dive operation are probably not for you if you're into guerrilla diving or wild partying. The average age of divers is probably close to 50.

Bruce has a terrific operation with little staff turnover and lots of repeat customers - this time I dove with a couple I'd met on a previous trip whose children and grandchildren all learned to dive at the Carib Inn and who'd completed their 600th Bonaire dive that week - for very good reason.

An example of why he does so well came up on our last day. UAL had us scheduled to leave about 8:00 AM but the flight was postponed for about 12 hours. They'd not notified us by email so we had to drive to the airport to discover this. We went back to the Inn and because our room was going to be vacant for the day we were able to stay there until leaving for what was now an evening flight at no extra cost.

Bonaire is the place I most often return to for diving, probably because it's easy, gentle, and beautiful.

The reefs were lovely as were the fish. As with most of the rest of the Caribbean, Lionfish are doing in the reef fish though there seemed to have been fewer of the former and more of the latter than my 2014 visit. In fact, I saw about as many Spotted Drums (one of my favorites) as I did Lionfish.

We saw perhaps 10 turtles during the week but you don't get to see much by way of large fish. On the way to one dive site, we ran into a school of dolphins and the divemaster slowly worked his way so they'd pass around us several times.

Bruce is a bit of a character (there may be some bias on my part as I enjoy people like him). For instance, he still recalls and is unhappy about the April 1986 Undercurrent review of Bonaire that included some cost calculations for the Carib Inn and three other operations. He says he couldn't come up with the expenses claimed for a stay at his inn (but three other places were listed as having high prices and Bruce didn't complain for them). He likely has a point. But it was precisely this "unacceptable" review that was responsible for my decision to go to Bonaire and stay at his Inn. I did calculate the expenses in advance and found them different from what the Undercurrent review claimed.

The inn is small and casual. The store is small but well stocked and the prices are reasonable. Bruce'll fix broken equipment. The divemasters give you lots of flexibility and yet make helpful suggestions if you're about to make a mistake. If you ask for advice, they'll give it. They're explicit about not limiting you (for example, it's "we recommend you not dive deeper than 120 feet" rather than "you may not dive deeper than 100 feet") and I was able to do several 90 minute dives without incurring the wrath of either the divemaster or the other divers.

Consistent with the "you're all adults and competent" attitude is the lack of pool hours. You can swim in the small pool any time you wish with only the request that you not disturb others.

Warning: Bruce still hasn't come to terms with the concept of Island Time and his boats leave when they're scheduled.

You can get in lots of bottom time because there's no real benefit to diving deeper than about 60 feet unless you visit the sunken Hilma Hooker. Water temperature in late October was about 84. The air temperature was warmer, especially in the afternoon.

You only do two boat dives a day, which is probably enough given how much bottom time you can get in. That reef actually provides a nice beach dive any time of day. They aren't generally doing night boat dives as divers have found it easy enough to do a shore dive right off the dock. But if there's interest, you can expect one or more offerings a week of night guided tour dives.

Another option for diving, day or night, would be to rent a car and dive off the shore at a large number of sites which are easily located. There are maps available for this.

We had no mosquito problem, though there have been issues in the past.

There are several grocery stores in town within walking distance but the selection of fresh produce isn't all that great. Speaking as a Californian, the wine selections were, well, if you cook - and almost all the rooms in the Carib Inn have kitchens - don't plan on making wine a central part of your meals unless you bring your own. However, expect nothing in the kitchen but cold water in the refridgerator when you arrive. Not even soap.

The island has seen considerable change since my first visit: there are now more buildings and more things to do besides dive, among them being windsurfing, exploring a mangrove swamp, bicycling, viewing flamingos in their natural habitat, and checking out petroglyphs. Things to consider for your last day there.

Notes: 1) I'm rating snorkeling at two stars because almost all the reefs start at 15 feet or deeper; 2) I'm rating diving at four stars because what Bonaire has to offer will not appeal to all divers and because the diving there (and everywhere else in the Caribbean) isn't what it used to be.
Websites Bruce Bowker's Carib Inn   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Hawaii, SCAL, NCAL, MA, FL, Puerto Rico, Belize, Dominica, Saba, Grand/Little Cayman, Sea of Cortez
Closest Airport Bonaire International Airport Getting There Moderately difficult - not many flights and schedules change

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm, no currents
Water Temp 83-84°F / 28-29°C Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 80-100 Ft/ 24-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions None
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? no

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish N/A
Large Pelagics N/A

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 [None]
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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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