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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is a old set of photos that I just found while cleaning out my emails. These are from a cold water dive in San Diego. Being that we are back in the area I figures it might be fun to share.
This was my first cold water dive and that still wasn’t enough neoprene. I hyperventilated on the surface from the cold shock and my blood vessel constricted to fast. After a moment I was fine and went down to explore a cool sunken ship. Totally worth it
We couldn’t possibly go on vacation and not go for a dive, thanks to Air New Zealand we didn’t have any of our gear. While my suitcase arrived the next day, Josh’s didn’t come for two more.
The site we picked was Poor Knights Island, one of the more famous dive sites in New Zealand. The collision of currents makes available a menagerie of wildlife not seen in other areas. For two people whom dive mostly in the tropics suiting up in 8mm wetsuits with hoods was a bit scary. I love to dive but I get cold even in Cozumel. There will be a video from our dive coming, I just have not done the editing yet. A bit lazy, but here is a little clip of Josh (and his beard) all suited up.
Wearing the GoPro was very comfortable and much easier than messing with my DSLR in a case. My favorite part of diving is watching the schooling fish do their thing and when you are in an area that is prime for migration its heaven. The dive was incredible and even though it was a large charter we were with a group of more experienced divers.
And, we weren’t cold.
We have just arrived in the Twin Cities and are leaving already, too soon if you ask me. Making our way to Tomah, WI tonight and Appleton, WI later this week. It also looks like we will now be heading for Jackson,MS instead of Texas but that is completely in the air now.
Post of the Week: If you enjoyed my SCUBA photos from last week then feel free to hop over to my Shutterfly page and see more.