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Dive Review of Captain Don's Habitat in
Bonaire

Captain Don's Habitat: "Habitat: Not So Much Diving Freedom Anymore", Jan, 2017,

by Marilyn Walker, CA, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 9 reports with 12 Helpful votes). Report 9472 has 4 Helpful votes.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 4 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 3 stars Shore Diving 5 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments The Bonaire National Marine Park has been in place since 1973 and their stringent protection glows brightly. The reef is well populated with thousands of small and medium sized reef fish. Parrotfish and damselfish and trumpetfish are especially well represented. Two tarpon, of the many who live here, are named Charlie and Charlene. Various tarpon come every afternoon to hang out under the restaurant and swim with the night divers. The coral looks healthy. It's a beautiful example of Caribbean diving. Good job STINAPA!

“We want to dive on our own,” I said to our dive guide, Sherman. “What is the best approach?” The 20 divers on the boat were quite a crowd and we felt we could manage ourselves perfectly well without being in the great welter.

“You cannot go by yourself,” Sherman replied firmly. “It isn't safe. It's a rule, everybody has to follow the dive guide. Then in case of emergency we can get everybody back aboard easily.”

We were flabbergasted. In the old days, Habitat really provided diving freedom, without any such restriction.

“This is a cattle boat!” John exclaimed, indignant. “All these people, only one dive guide, all going the same place, it's too much! Diving freedom is dead!”

The other dive guides were more laid back. “Just go in the same direction,” Marco said. We could spread out well enough on the gently sloping walls, so that fins and bubbles from the other divers were not such a problem.

Shore diving is a well-known feature of Bonaire in general. You do have the freedom to load tanks in your pickup truck and drive out to the well-marked shore dive sites at your own convenience. The shore dive in front of Habitat is still an excellent spot, as good as any on the island. The well-known “diver's highway”, a rope tied to the swimming pier, is suspended by plastic bottles off the bottom, and leads down the slope to below dive depth. When you reach your preferred depth, just turn left or right, according to the (minimal) current, kick slowly for half a tank, then come back. When you see the rope, you're home.

The number of divers drops off sharply on the weekends, to as few as four on the boat, much more comfortable.

If you have freedom to travel on your own schedule, think about a twelve-day stay, arriving Thursday, and then you'll maximize your use of the lightly loaded boats on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, for two weekends. For planning your flights, I highly recommend downloading the Flights to Bonaire White Paper published by Bonairepros.com. It has all the options laid out for you.

We've accommodated other rules that we think are too restrictive. When we brought our metal pointers to the boat, which we use to keep us stable when we're taking photos, we were told that “Bonaire does not allow them.” Reluctantly, but quietly, we complied and left the pointers behind. John checked online later, and Bonaire does have a very general declaration that nobody touches the reef. We think that the pointer is the lesser of two problems, allowing a touch on dead rock instead of a crash when the surge moves one unexpectedly. But equally obvious are the yahoos (who often are photographers) that use the pointers to probe and poke animals. John spotted two divers with pointers who were actively digging creatures out of the reef, deplorable. The dive guides here do not use them, although in other places they do so routinely. (And when they do, at other dive destinations, they often harass the animals unmercifully, until we demand they stop that.) Good job, Habitat, for treating the animals respectfully!

Another rule of the marine park is that the orientation dive is mandatory, and is supposed to be supervised by the dive operator. We did the orientation dive, but it was unsupervised. That dive started up our prepaid package, too. The details of the package are complicated, but the bottom line is that before we had been in residence for 24 hours, we were already two boat dives behind. They offered to let us make the dives up, but with a strict time limit that disagreed with our objectives. That had us quite agitated, but we arrived at a solution: we paid the minimal price of one shore dive for the orientation dive. Then they agreed to restart the boat dive program the next day. That cheered us up.

On the whole issue of dive packages: make absolutely certain you understand the details, preferably before you put down a deposit, not when you're standing in the dive shop. You may be better served to pay a la carte prices, if you are not certain you'll do all the dives. No refunds. No trades.

Another negative aspect of the cattle boat: there were far too many cameras to fit in the little washtub designated for storing and rinsing them. For a few years, the trend was towards smaller cameras, but lately we see very large rigs have made a comeback. After an inconsiderate guest dropped his boulder of a camera rig down into the little tub, landing on top of ours, we kept our two systems elsewhere. I prefer mine to be in my lap while the boat is moving.

Two large groups were diving the second week we were there. Each group was assigned its own boat, with a third boat designated as open for all the rest of us. Although our open boat became crowded some days, the plan worked out well enough.

The dive board features a grid for up to twenty divers to sign themselves up for a given dive on a given boat. Twenty is uncomfortable both above and below the surface. But on our last day, as we packed to go home, we checked the dive board and saw that only two boats were in use that day, not three. The staff had marked up the board to position more than twenty divers aboard, past full to overcrowded.

The Rum Runners restaurant associated with the Habitat (but under separate management) has a big infestation problem. The flies come in swarms to crawl on the food. I can only speculate about the situation in the kitchen. Our arms waved constantly over the plates, we covered glasses with napkins to keep the insects out of the orange juice. The hostess says the moscas are bad all over the island. Nevertheless, the restaurant at the resort next door, Buddy Dive, has much less of an insect problem and a somewhat less expensive menu at the cost of a five-minute walk.

And speaking of insects, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC.gov) has issued a travel advisory for Bonaire, due to the presence of mosquitoes infected with zika virus. Check the CDC website for up-to-date information.

Take-away pizza from Rum Runners Pizza Temple makes a tasty dinner in the comfort of your patio table, no flies. The restaurant seems to be well-known for their pizzas. Boxed pizzas go out in stacks for delivery around the island.

We often walked to the Zhung Kong Supermarket, two blocks away, purchasing snacks, cookies, beer, frozen vegetables (Birds Eye brand is best), a few fresh vegetables and fruit (this is a desert island), cheese, and so forth, for room picnics. There are larger grocery stores on the island, but you need a car or taxi to get there, so we didn't trouble ourselves. The Deluxe Junior Suite has a microwave, refrigerator, serviceable plates, bowls, cups and tableware.

Bring from home a good paring knife, a roll of paper towels and maybe a can opener (John's Swiss army knife served.) If you think you'll be doing a little grocery shopping, a small package of sandwich-sized bags will be useful to cover leftovers. Also, the restaurants will supply Styrofoam take-away boxes for leftovers.

If you're particular about coffee, bring your own and perhaps a French press. Habitat supplies a few tea bags and paper tubes of instant coffee and a drip coffee machine for which you can buy coffee enclosed in filter paper at the grocery store. They do not replenish the instant coffee after the introductory packets are consumed.

I was quite surprised when we did the formalities of entering Bonaire from the US that they asked no questions at all about what you were bringing with you. Often the officials do not want food brought in, lest it harbor insect pests to cause trouble.

I regret paying for breakfasts ahead of time. In hindsight, it would have been better to eat at the restaurant sometimes and sign for it when you do. Some days, just a cup of coffee and a bite of fruit and cereal (from the supermarket) were all one wants.

The tap water at Habitat is delicious. They supply a plastic pitcher in the room, to take to the ice maker. I seem to rediscover the joys of ice water on these trips, when it's important to stay hydrated. At the restaurant, they ask if you want a beverage, but if you say “just water” they place a pitcher on the table readily.

The Deluxe Junior Suites are cool, very quiet, and comfortable, although the air conditioning needs much negotiation between individuals. “Too hot, too cold, turn the air con on, no turn it off,” and so forth. The big bed could be much better if were European style, with two mattresses. The mattress transmits the least movement into a big jostle, disturbing to light sleepers.

The quiet room is hugely important to me. When we're outside, we can hear other voices, cheering from the football game on TV in the bar, canned music, but when we go inside and close the door, it's all sweetly silent.

So eat, sleep and dive! Enjoy your stay, there is much to see and photograph.
Websites Captain Don's Habitat   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving Indonesia, Caribbean, Australia, Malaysia, Solomon Islands, Micronesia
Closest Airport Flamingo Airport Getting There SFO to ATL to BON

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, rainy Seas choppy, surge, no currents
Water Temp 79-80°F / 26-27°C Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 25-50 Ft/ 8-15 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Divers must follow the dive guide.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish N/A
Large Pelagics N/A

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 2 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments
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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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