All The Fishies

A big part of the fun of SCUBA diving is looking for fish.  Trying to spot something rare or unique, this is certainly one of Josh’s favorite things and a reason he usually has the camera.  I like the fishies but more in school form.  Here are some of the many highlights from our recent dive trip to Bonaire.

Fish Finder (13 of 14)

These cool porcupine fish were everywhere and pretty wiley.

You will find so many colorful fish in Caribbean

You will find so many colorful fish in Caribbean

There guys were everywhere

There guys were everywhere

I am a huge fan of big schools like this

I am a huge fan of big schools like this

Always fun to spot a flounder

Always fun to spot a flounder

Some reefs are incredibly active with life

Some reefs are incredibly active with life

You can try to find but Josh will find you

You can try to find but Josh will find you

Fish Finder (5 of 14)

Sometimes nature just blows me away

Swimming with the fish

Swimming with the fish

Local artists capture many scenes like this for tourists

Local artists capture many scenes like this for tourists

The nasty lionfish, a beautiful but invasive predator

The nasty lionfish, a beautiful but invasive predator

 

 

 

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Eels of Bonaire

Eels (3 of 8)

If you follow this blog you will have picked up on that I am obsessed with Scotties, who wouldn’t be?! I am also a fanatic about eels, just adore the things. When we dive i could care less about anything but eels. That’s all I want to see. Bonaire did NOT disappoint. We saw more eels than I can count, many more than it was worth taking photos of but want to share some gems. We encountered –

Golden Tails

Eels (8 of 8)

Green Moray

Eelss (1 of 2)

Sharptail Eel

Eels (4 of 8)

Garden Eels

Eelss (2 of 2)

Josh even “hooked” one. I know that sounds horrible but he probably saved its life. On one dive we encountered a bunch of fishing line, dangerous for all aquatic life and divers. When we see it we clean it up, if possible. One reason we have knives with us (thank you Nancy for the GC for new knives). While Josh was cleaning up some line it was a bit stuck, so he gave it a tug. Well an eel came out of its hole attached to the line!! It saw Josh and pulled back, along with the line. He tried tugging again but NOPE, eels are amazing and strong. He decided to cut off what we could. He was able to remove most of the line, that eel would have been in big trouble in a hurry with that much to tangle in.

Eels (1 of 8)

The very best was seeing a GIANT green moray. This sucker was at least 10 ft long. I was smitten.

Looking at this guy

Looking at this guy

EEEEEELLLLL

EEEEEELLLLL

And now he sees me

And now he sees me

On our very last dive of the trip we had three different eels come out to say goodby and come back soon.

Eels (2 of 8)

Being Normal

Not only was our trip to Bonaire a vacation from work but also it was a vacation from our lifestyle. There are so many amazing parts of living on the road however we both get very tired of eating all our meals at restaurants. This was one of the reasons we rented a condo vs. going to a resort. Being able to spend an evening in your jammies with a book and bottle of wine is a luxury.

 

This is for the Van Gelder kids, fresh raisin buns with cheese!!!

This is for the Van Gelder kids, fresh raisin buns with cheese!!!

So while we were on vacation we were normal. Who gets a kick out of going grocery shopping and hitting the fish market?!? (You will need to bring your own shopping bags) Most food was labeled in Dutch but not terribly hard to figure out. We had no issues other than one terrible piece of cheese.

Look how normal I am next to our little rental truck

Look how normal I am next to our little rental truck

 

This has spurred us on to make a few changes in our lives. Neither of us really enjoy eating out anymore; the occasional great restaurant is one thing but too often we have to pick from what is just around. It takes too long and isn’t very relaxing, plus the portions!! Josh is compulsive about cleaning his plate. There are many times where there just is not a good healthy option either or what is offered does not appeal.

 

This year we are going to try something new. We do stay at many hotels that have kitchenettes, although they have no cooking essentials. I found a great little travel spice kit, designed for RVs and we have some other small amenities. Utilizing the kitchenette is one part the other is to utilize the great deli and pre-prepared food options at many grocery stores. We can eat lighter and with a bit more variety. This is not a New Years resolution just a product of getting a glimpse at how we can live better.

IMG_3274

One of the best parts of the condo we rented (Coral Seas) was the partially stocked kitchen. We didn’t have to start from scratch; there were basic spices, oil and a few non-perishables left behind. Another great feature of this place.

 

***This is part of a series of posts called “Travel Tuesday“, each covering topics unique to our lifestyle***

Cactus Blue Bonaire

Chillin' at Cactus Blue

Chillin’ at Cactus Blue

In my introduction post about Bonaire I mentioned that the food left a little to be desired. There is one exception to that rule, Cactus Blue Hamburgers. This food truck served up the best burger I have, this is not hidden secret either. While we were there the truck was set up five days a week near a popular beach for tourists and locals. There were always people gathered around. We stopped there twice, both post dive, for lunch and a few beers. There is a sign hanging on one of the trees saying “Slow service with a smile”, that about sums it up. Chef Hagen who runs the place makes each order as they come, that including chopping the onions. He puts on some crazy good sauce and wow, we were both temped to stop there every day.

Burgers and Beers

Burgers and Beers

The hamburgers are just amazing but another thing that sets Cactus Blue apart is that he serves Lionfish when available. I admire anyone who finds a reason to hunt and kills these invasive bastards. I hope that more follow his lead and find uses for the meat and over fish them.

AAAAAAAmazing

AAAAAAAmazing

Deep Diver

Dive Cert (1 of 5)

When on a two-week dive trip there is lots of time available to hone your skills, we decided to take advantage of time to get our Deep Diver certification.  We are SDI divers, while having Deep Diver in Bonaire is not at all necessary it is in many other places we go.  In Bonaire you would be completely happy at 60 ft, none of the boat charters take you to anything deep.  We were actually scoffed at by another diver for getting the cert, many folks who vacation in Bonaire don’t dive anywhere else.  How silly we are to want to experience anything else.

Dive Cert (4 of 5)

However many dive sites in the US require a certification like this unless you pay to have a dive master go with you.  We wanted the flexibility and there is nothing wrong with getting an extra set of skills.  Being with SDI we found a great instructor at No Dive, No Life.  The instructor Astrid was flexible but very thorough, she was fine with us doing the e-learning portion before we came down.  That was a big plus, while I wanted to get the cert on vacation I didn’t want to spend my evenings studying (although I still had papers due for grad school while there).  We like SDI for the simplicity of the certification levels, some of the other programs get a bit silly with the classes.

Dive Cert (3 of 5)

After some one on one time reviewing the learning materials we headed out to two cool sites.  The second was a ship wreck, Hilma Hooker.  It has quite a story, one part fact and one part local legend.  The story goes that the vessel was found anchored on the reef of Bonaire, something highly illegal.  The entire coast of Bonaire is a marine preserve.  When local officials took a look at the abandoned vessel they found a “secret” compartment with…can you guess….coke and pot.  Something had to be done about the ship.  When the boat was being towed away from port the most unusual thing happened, it sank!!!  Creating a lovely dive site within the protected marine preserve.

Dive Cert (2 of 5)

We were pretty excited to finish our second dive, it takes two with in the instructor to complete your requirements. As we were paddling back to shore two stunning flamingoes took off from near by and flew right over us. We took that as a good omen.

Dive Cert (5 of 5)

This is the part where I shamelessly plug the dive instructor.  We are big fans of getting private lessons, the one on one attention ensures that we are getting our money’s worth and getting the right instruction.  If you find yourself in Bonaire and want to get SCUBA certified or add to your skills please look at No Dive, No Life.

We Went to Bonaire

I’m back!!! We have been away for long enough and have one heck of a trip to share. This year Josh and I went someplace unique for our winter vacation, Bonaire. This Caribbean destination is part of the ABC islands or sometimes referred to as the Dutch Caribbean, Dutch Indies or Dutch Antilles. That sure is a lot of Dutch huh!! Like I don’t get enough of that with a last name like Van Gelder.   Actually that was one reason we decided to go, the Dutchness aside, the “B” island is known as a SCUBA diver’s paradise. After the recommendation of a family member, Thank You Will, we went for it.

 

What's more Dutch than a windmill

What’s more Dutch than a windmill

I have many things to talk about over the coming weeks but let’s just start with the nuts and bolts of planning the trip. Getting to Bonaire and getting around was different than other places in that region. This is not a typical Caribbean island set up with massive chain resorts to hold beach going tourist, nope it’s all about diving.

Into Post (3 of 2)

To get there we flew on the once weekly offering from Delta, yep you heard me, one flight a week. There is your start to different. If you are flying from the US and want to go directly to Bonaire there are only a few carriers that will take you and they only fly once a week. However there is a second option and this might be good for many. You can take a daily flight from the US to Curacao, “C” island, and then get on an InselAir commuter to Bonaire. We were able to be flexible with our departure and arrival days so Delta’s Saturday flight fit us fine. We also had miles to spend on the tickets, they run around $600 from Chicago.

 

Then there is a getting around, again you have two options. If you chose to stay at one of the resorts, mind that they are not chains and operate on a double occupancy scale, they will help you with transportation and outings. They also charge a hefty penny for that “service”. You are limited to their reefs or the excursion reefs without a car. However if you stay at a rental condo or apartment (even what we would call a condo is often called an apartment) you will also be renting a car. Not exactly car, you will rent a truck and not just any truck a little Helix pickup with a rack in the back for your air tanks!!! It was the cutest little thing and we could just go, set our own schedule and really enjoy the island. The truck we had was a manual, something good to note when making the arrangements.

 

I’ve sort of led into this but we rented a condo, CoralSeas Apartments. This place was amazing. One of the highlights for us was that the kitchen came with a few amenities, can’t tell you how many trips we have taken where we don’t cook a thing due to the unit not even having a salt shaker. No one wants to start from scratch just to make breakfast. CoralSeas is well set up for divers. They have a rinse tank; clothes line and the patios have hooks for you to hang your gear to dry. There are three units that share the tank and pool. While we did see our neighbors you didn’t feel like they were always around.

Into Post (2 of 2)

With all this good there must be some bad, well there is (just a little). This is no foodie’s paradise, I’m not saying all the food was bad, we had a couple of good experiences that I will share. As a whole the food was average. Most places are not open for lunch unless a large cruise ship is docked. We ate lunch out most days and only dinner a few, this is a bit counterculture, as you will find most places open for dinner. We prefer to be out during the day and relax at night. The second bad thing is theft. We did not have anything stolen or broken into but it is a well-known problem. So when driving your cute little truck to a dive site and going down for an hour thieves are known to pilfer your vehicle. You are instructed to keep it unlocked and nothing you don’t mind loosing in there. I was given a scary warning before going but once there assured that items towels and clothing will not likely be lost. We did buy cheap sunglasses there to leave in the truck.

 

Sheesh that was more of an into than I planned. So overview done, enjoy what’s coming soon.