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Dive Review of Dive Friends Bonaire/Courtyard by Marriott in

Dive Friends Bonaire/Courtyard by Marriott: "DIVE FRIENDS – NOT DIVERS’ FRIENDS", May, 2019,

by NEAL LANGERMAN, CA, US (Contributor Contributor 15 reports with 15 Helpful votes). Report 10918 has 2 Helpful votes.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations N/A Food N/A
Service and Attitude 1 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 3 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 2 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments The Dive Friends locations on Bonaire are able to process divers like cattle, but they do not know how to provide customer service. Mis-information and confused communications marked the 9 days we dove with them. We selected Dive Friends because they were located at the hotel we stayed in – Courtyard by Marriott. The Undercurrent reviews looked good. Both choices were bad.

Upon arrival, we realized that Dive Friends’ “house reef” was not what we had thought it was. None existed at the Courtyard, and in fact only a couple of the Dive Friends locations had an accessible reef on site. The Dive Friends employee who checked us in– Maria – exuded hostility. She seemed to have no idea of the plans we had made with other Dive Friends employees via email while setting up our package with them, and even less interest in hearing about them. She just handed us a tiny piece of paper with our schedule for the next nine days and told us we had no choice, this was what we were signed up for.

This bad start was compounded when she turned out to be our tyrannical dive master for the mandatory two shore dives the next morning. (Mandatory so that we could undergo a formal buoyancy check, and have an introduction to the Marine Park rules, neither of which ever happened.) And we were expected to provide our own transportation via taxi to the three different shore dive sites set up for that first day, disregarding our request made two months before our arrival for a boat dive in the afternoon. By the end of the first day, I had earned a reputation with Dive Friends of being abusive and highly objectionable. Justified, perhaps, but I was totally dissatisfied and looking at 8 more days of awful surface activity. A long conversation with the Courtyard Dive Friends location manager – Dan – started to fix the extraordinarily bad person to person interactions.

Then our planned boat diving started. The level of service and the temperament of the human interactions depended on the dive masters. A few were exceptional and made up for the others who were gruff, callous, and apparently burned out by their jobs. While I get the requirement to “Nitrox” our own tanks, having to carry them to the boat and having to set-up our own kit is not what we purchase when we go to a resort or a live-aboard. It may be the Bonaire way, but after about 60 years of diving, I expect more. Yes, two guides grabbed our tanks and handled them, and they were appropriately thanked.

Then came scheduling. We had reserved a morning 2-tank dive every day from the Courtyard pier. We were told, in writing, to show up at 08:30. By the second day, we were being rushed to have our gear on board by 08:00 and departed by 08:05, because of divers who needed to be picked up at other locations. On the fifth day, Dan asked us to show up by 07:50. Breakfast service began at 07:00 at the hotel – not a relaxing schedule. On day 4, when we arrived at the dock, we were told we would be trucked to a different Dive Friends location because a group of 10 divers had arrived and took the entire boat. This busing happened repeatedly, often giving us less than 1 hour for lunch before the afternoon dive boat departure. Several times we were bused to the alternative location in the afternoon. This entire logistics nightmare made us feel like second-class citizens, even though we were paying full price.

When Dive Friends did not have an afternoon boat scheduled, we did grab tanks and went to Buddy Dive Resort to dive their house reef, which we had discovered after we went exploring in the car we found we had to rent even though we were diving with the shop at our own hotel. Buddy Dive has a real house reef, with an easy staircase entry and underwater lines and signs. Everyone was friendly and helpful about sharing it with us even though we were not staying with them, and there was no charge and no hassle. While it took a bit of work, our two days of diving there convinced us that this is a great location if we ever return to Bonaire (unlikely). Their restaurant, “Ingredients,” was excellent as well.

We tried to work out a dive plan months before we arrived. It was never really finalized, and we had no clear idea of the cost. Diving cost us just over $1800 for 2 divers for a total of 44 dives over 9 days.


Ideally, dive guides serve the same primary function as airline crew – your safety. At Dive Friends, safety was matter-of-fact with almost total responsibility placed on the diver. The major point of the dive briefing was to prevent tanks from falling by always having the bungie in place; how to get into and out of the water; and what we might see. Only once was buddy separation mentioned, and no mention of what to do in the event of a problem underwater or on the surface. In the water, the guides slowly swam at about 15 meters (45 feet) paying little attention to the divers behind. In contrast to current industry standards for guided dives in this setting, Dive Friends allowed 10 divers per guide (in one case there were 11). Given my wife and I are independent divers, comfortable with being on our own, this lack of safety leadership was not worrisome. However, it is strong basis for me never to recommend Dive Friends to other divers. Surface intervals were about 45 minutes, with a clear sense the operation had to move along to stay on THEIR schedule.

The Bonaire underwater world is lovely, but not exceptional. Lots of fishes and corals of limited diversity. A few tarpon were the largest fish seen. I would much rather go to Cozumel or Roatan and have a better underwater experience AND quality surface service.

The Courtyard bills itself as a “dive resort”. It is not. I stay at Marriott properties frequently and know what to expect. This property was a good business-class Courtyard, but not a dive resort. The rooms had zero accommodations for diver gear. The food-service schedule was good for those attending a conference, but not for divers trying to meet a boat schedule. And the location does not have a “house reef”.
Sadly, the staging area between the Dive Friends shop and its boat dock has inadequate security protection; early on our second morning, half an hour before our first boat dive was scheduled, my wife’s brand-new Suunto computer was stolen from a table out of range of the single security camera Marriott has installed. She was ten feet away in the tank room analyzing our Nitrox for a few minutes, when someone apparently swept her reg off the table to the deck looking for something easier to walk away with. She remains pretty upset about this.

As I said before, I would use Buddy Dive, Captain Don’s, or Flamingo Divi were I to return to Bonaire. It would not take much for the Marriott property to accommodate divers. Ensuring the restaurant provide breakfast starting at 06:30 and providing methods to dry gear in each room would help. Advertising that lunches could be pre-ordered to accommodate a fast turn-around would help. And, making clear that the location did not have a house-reef would avoid the misrepresentation we experienced.

Bottom line, there are many other Caribbean locations which provide a markedly higher quality experience than Bonaire. If you choose Bonaire, be prepared to do everything for yourself - and you must have a rental car.

Keep your bubbles tiny and the current behind your fins. Safe diving!

Websites Dive Friends Bonaire   Courtyard by Marriott

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving All of continental USA; Caribbean, Gulf, Sea of Cortez, Eastern & Western Pacific & more
Closest Airport BON Getting There SAN - MIA - BON on AA. Good connections; no travel issues

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy Seas choppy, no currents
Water Temp 78-79°F / 26-26°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 50-150 Ft/ 15-46 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions 1 HOUR LIMIT; STAY WITH GROUP
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

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 3 stars Large Fish 1 stars
Large Pelagics 1 stars

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

Subject Matter 3 stars Boat Facilities 1 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 2 stars Shore Facilities 2 stars
UW Photo Comments There are far superior UMP locations in the Caribbean. We shot three different UWP rigs on the trip; a Nikon D500; a Canon video, and a GoPro Hero 7. Lots of images of a small collection of different critters. Production will tell an nice story, but no prize-winning shots. Camera handling on the small boats was ok, but not rigged for large kits. Large cameras and shore diving is a recipe for disaster.
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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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