Trip Report Bonaire, April 2011



Buddy Dive Resort was our destination once again! We arrived on Saturday morning, around 6am on the red-eye flight from Houston. The BDR staff picked us up at the airport along with another dozen people, put our luggage in a truck, and off we went to the hotel. We arrived, checked in, and hit the breakfast buffet. Our room was ready (yeah!), so we unpacked a bit, grabbed our dive logs and paperwork, then headed down to the Pool Bar for the mandatory 9am dive briefing. After the briefing, we took all our paperwork to the Dive shop, checked in with Mama Lou (hugs and kisses), got our dive tags, and we were ready to dive, dive, dive!


Dive #1: Buddy's House Reef

We headed down to the dock with our gear, picked up weights and grabbed 2 nitrox tanks in we went for our mandatory check-out dive. Woo Hoo! Water was warm 79-80 degrees, fish were out schooling and greeted us at the stairs. Of course, we saw things on that dive that we didn't see again all week, like a large chain moray, because we did not have either cameras. LOL. Always happens, but it was a nice long dive, all gear worked well, and we were both weighted correctly.

Back to the room, #203 which is a downstairs 1-bedroom apt with a big patio, we took all our gear, after rinsing in the dock rinse tanks. Our patio had a table, chairs, and hooks on the wall to hang gear along with 2 heavy-duty hangers. Thank you, Buddy's for being so efficient and accomodating! After setting our gear out to dry and hanging our wetsuits on the hangers, we headed back up to the office to get our rental truck. We then drove to grocery stores, both Warehouse and another smaller one near the resort, to pick up beer, sodas, a large water bottle to fill and use daily, and of course some luscious Dutch cheeses, sliced meat and bread for the fridge. We also grabbed a small jar of PB. In our luggage we brought 2 boxes of granola bars for snacks which came in handy between dives.

We returned to BDR, assembled the camera and camcorder, and headed to lunch at the Pool Bar. I ordered the Tropical salad with chicken, Ron had the chicken quesadillas with guacamole. Both were excellent and not bad prices. Our bill total was $28 which included 2 Diet Cokes ($3 each unfortunately).

After lunch, we headed back to the dock, with the camera and camcorder for a second dive. Buddy's House Reef is teaming with fish. The huge schools of tangs and damselfish, grunts and snapper, are everywhere! I have also never seen so many trumpetfish as we saw all week in Bonaire. Seriously, you could not look in any direction on any dive without seeing at least one trumpetfish!


Dive #2: Buddy's House Reef

We again took all the gear back to our patio to dry. After changing to dry clothes, we hopped in our truck and headed to Bobbejan's BBQ shack to pick up dinner. We had read so many good reviews of this place we had to check it out. It is only open on Fri/Sat/Sun so, being Saturday night, we thought it had to be dinner. The menu is not huge, but adequate. The portions are huge and price is good, so we both recommend this to everyone looking for good BBQ in Bonaire. Ron ordered the Bobbejan's special ($14) and I got the Chicken sate ($12). We took the food back to our apt and ate there.

Since our red-eye flight was only 5 hours long, and very bumpy, neither of us got much sleep. We decided to head to bed early.



Sunday

Breakfast at Buddy's is included in all dive packages. Starting at 6:30am, the breakfast area opens. There is hot food (eggs, bacon, sausages, pancakes, etc.) and also cold foods (Dutch cheeses, sliced meats, yogurt, all types of fruit), breads, juices, coffee all out on a buffet. There is also a lady at a griddle who can make any omelette to order. This is one reason we return to Buddy's - we both love a good hearty breakfast, especially before diving!

After eating, we took our dive gear down to the dock for our first boat dive of the trip. Buddy's system involves a large chalkboard listing the dives of the day. You are responsible to sign up on the board and list whether air or nitrox tanks. Boats go out at 8:15am, 10:30am, and 2:15pm each day. Most are single tank dives, returning to the dock after the one dive, however, some are listed as two-tank dives and once during the week they have a three-tank trip up to the northern end of island. We booked our trip for 6 single tank boat dives and unlimited shore diving tanks for the week.


Dive #3: boat - Klein Bonaire - Monk's Haven


Dive #4: shore - Oil Slick Leap

The best way to do this dive, especially if you have camera gear, is to let one person jump in (there is a nice area just to the right of the ladder). Once that person is in the water, the other person carries the camera down the ladder and hands it to the person. Then the second diver can don their full gear and jump in. After the dive, you repeat the process. One diver stays in the water and holds all photo gear while the other diver climbs the ladder. After taking off tank, the first diver climbs back down the ladder and takes the cameras up. The last diver can then climb up the ladder easier.


Dive #5: shore - Buddy's House Reef


Dive #6: shore - Buddy's House Reef - Night Dive

One of our favorite things about a night dive at Buddy's House reef is the resident tarpon, named Charlie. He has been there for many years and loves to accompany divers on their night dives using their light for hunting his dinner. This trip we discovered not only has Charlie grown (he has got to be 6-7' long now) but he has brought along a few friends. It is quite disconcerting to be swimming along in the dark, scanning the reef for small critters and have a huge silver object swim over your shoulder within inches of your mask! Charlie and the other tarpon startled me over and over, and I laughed through my regulator ever time he did it. One time Charlie and a friend scissored me, and I had to stop and lean back to keep from getting slapped in the face by their tails as they zoomed by. Love love love night dives at Buddy's!

Of course, Ron had the macro lens on his camera for the dive, so no Charlie photos this time!



Monday


Dive #7: boat - Klein Bonaire - SW Point


Dive #8: boat - Petrie Pillars

As soon as we hit the water, Ron signaled me that something was wrong with my gear. I had an HP hose, the one on my cobra computer, fizzing like crazy. This was the warning sign that the hose was in need of replacement very soon. I kept an eye on it for the rest of the dive, no problems, and we decided that I would get it replaced first thing in the morning at the dive shop.

Driving down through town, we stopped at Yellow Sub dive shop, which is now Dive Friends. Across the street from the shop is the dive site known as Yellow Sub. We dove this site last trip and loved it so we thought we would check it out. The new condos built in that area have taken away almost all of the street parking so we did not stop, except to snap a few photos of the guys who had caught and killed some lionfish.



Dive #9: shore - Bachelor's Beach

For dinner we decided to head into town. We decided on Paradise Moon, right across from the waterfront. Several other restaurants in the area had interesting menu boards out at the street so I snapped a few photos of them. Paradise Moon is a Caribbean/Mexican place with all outdoor seating under palm trees and christmas lights. Ron ordered us a bowl of chips and guacamole to start. His entree order was Stuffed Ranch Chicken with garlic mashed potatoes and black beans. I decided on the Fiesta Lime chicken which had a thick cheese sauce and came with spiced rice and fresh tomatoes. We both thought this was our best meal of the week. Everything came out piping hot and all ingredients tasted fresh and well seasoned. Total bill, including a tea and beer was $49, plus tip. Other items on the menu sounded very good also. Some examples are Poblano Fish, Garlic Mango Shrimp, Fish tacos, Fajitas of beef, fish, or chicken. Prices ranged from $15-$25 which isn't bad since you are on an island where everything is brought in by boat.



Tuesday

After our breakfast, Ron grabbed my reg set and headed down to the dive shop. Augusto had just arrived and told us they were all out of HP hoses but he would loan me a gauge set until we got it fixed. He recommended a dive shop downtown, Your Dive Shop, for the fix. Ron took the gauge and then he gave me his spare wrist computer to use on the boat dive, which worked out fine for us. No way I was going to miss that dive!


Dive #10: boat - Hilma Hooker wreck

After the dive, we headed to Your Dive Shop to see if they could replace the HP hose. We were told that they were out but the owner made some phone calls and hopped on his motorcycle and drove to pick one up. He returned, replaced my hose, and we were back on the road in less than an hour. Awesome!

We stopped at Elle's Deli for lunch, a small Dutch sandwich shop near the roundabout and SandDollar resort. The menu is not large but the sandwiches are nicely done. Not at all like an American deli, these sandwiches are more European style with chunks of meat rather than thinly sliced meats, and veggies. Food was good, bill totaled $24 plus tip. My sandwich had an olive tapenade on it which I regretted ordering as it wasn't a good taste burping underwater afterwards. Ron's sandwich had garlic and pesto, ditto. Note - we had stopped here to eat lunch the day before and were told we had to leave as I was wearing a swimsuit with shorts. They told me I must be wearing a shirt over the swimsuit. We both found this odd as other people were sitting there at the tables outside in tank tops or more revealing clothing. So if you plan to eat there, keep this in mind.


Dive #11: shore - 1000 Steps


Dive #12: shore - Buddy's House reef

Since we had the delay today due to my gear repair, we decided to do a late afternoon/ dusk dive at Buddy's rather than trying to squeeze in 2 more dives. It was a great idea. We saw yellowhead jawfish and sailfin blennies right near the dock but of course Ron had his WA lens on! LOL Isn't that the way it always goes. Well, at least we know now where to find them tomorrow. Also on this dive we had quite a few eels out hunting, a bit early for a night dive. We also saw small grouper/red hind type fish gathering in groups around in spots. It seemed like it was an evening duel around every corner with these guys facing off, mouth to mouth. I have never seen this behavior before! It wasn't just one group either, we saw it happening at least 4-5 different places during the dive. I need to look this up in my Fish Behavior book and see if it was a mating ritual or maybe a territory issue.

Another reason to skip the night dive - Buddy's Pool Bar dinner special was posted as Mahi or Wahoo $16pp. Yum. So after the dive, we returned to the room with gear, rinsed it off and set it out on the patio to dry. We then went out to the Pool Bar for dinner. Ordering one of each, we were very pleased with both selections. The Mahi was grilled and very good in a more tradional style, while the wahoo was lightly battered and fried served with a nice lemony sauce. So not only did we get to eat some very yummy food for dinner, we only had to walk a few steps from out room. Can't beat that. We also had not used our "free drink special" coupons given to us on check-in so we both ordered a rum punch. Very nice!



Wednesday

Tuesday afternoon we had gone down to the dock to sign up for a Wed am boat dive but found that the morning boats were already full. We signed up for the afternoon boat dive, which was fine with us as it meant we could concentrate on shore diving at Buddy's. After our usual breakfast buffet, we grabbed the gear and brought it down to the dock, and this time Ron had his macro lens on his camera.


Dive #13 & #14: shore - Buddy's House reef


Dive #15: boat - Klein Bonaire - Knife

Getting off the boat I felt a sharp pain in my left knee. I thought it might just be that I hyperextended it and it would be fine later. The more I walked around though, the worse it felt. After dinner I decided to skip the night dive with Ron, and let it rest, hoping for improvement by morning. Ron went in on a night dive, along with about a dozen other divers. While he was diving, I grabbed the laptop and took it too the Pool Bar area to e-mail home. I also ordered some key lime pie to go, for after the dive.


Dive #16: shore - Buddy's House reef - Night Dive



Thursday

My knee was not feeling very good in the morning, so after breakfast, we decided to try some really easy shore entries today. I had thought I might even skip a few dives, and snorkel instead, if Ron wanted to solo dive. We loaded up tanks and drove down south since the winds had finally died down enough to dive those sites. Several other divers had said they were heading to Invisibles so we planned to meet them there. Once there I could tell the entry was going to be a bit more difficult than I wanted, considering my knee. Then I realized I didn't bring my snorkel. Duh, how was I going to snorkel the site with no snorkel? We decided to check out the shore entry at Alice in Wonderland and Angel City, both close by, but those also looked a bit rough.

Our next thought was to head back up closer to town, at the site Windsock. This site is around a slight bend so wave action would be less, and with a sandy beach entry. We arrived there and it looked like a great place for me to test my knee. I walked out into the water and Ron carried out my tank/BC to me. I donned the gear in the water while he walked back for the cameras. He brought those out to me then went back to the truck to gear up. It took a bit longer than usual, but it worked out well and we were off on the dive! It was a great choice as the coral looked good, the fishlife was good, and I found a spotted moray out hunting. My knee felt fine underwater, I was able to kick without pain. Woo hoo!


Dive #17: shore - Windsock


Dive #18: shore - Buddy's House reef

We returned to the resort for lunch and decided to go deep for a dive, see what is at Buddy's reef at the 100' depth. Wow. We found out where Charlie and friends hang out during the daytime. We also found a huge dog snapper, like monster huge 5-6' long and easily 200+ lbs. This dude made Charlie look small. During the week we had not seen very many Queen Angels, but down at 80-90' we found a group of 4-5 of them. Since the winds all week had cut down on the vis at most sites, it was interesting to see the changes today. From down deep, the surface looked only a few feet away and crystal clear.


Dive #19: shore - Buddy's House reef

My knee was not bothering me underwater but I decided not to take in the video rig, to just relax and enjoy the fishlife for this dive. Ron thought he would like to try shooting video for a dive, so he left his camera in the room. This was his 2nd video dive.


Dive #20: shore - Buddy's House reef - Night Dive

Our last dive of the trip! Ron took in his WA lens for this dive, to get a few pictures of Charlie and friends. Since this was our last dive of the trip, we had hoped for a good dive. It was a great dive! Charlie and his other tarpon friends put on quite a show for us, scaring the crap out of me more than once as they darted right at me or over my shoulder out of the dark narrowly missing my face. I loved it. We also saw a huge lionfish (boo) and a basketstar out. There were also 5 eels out hunting that we spotted. We did not see a single octopus out hunting, which was sad. I love watching them.


Friday

After our breakfast buffet, we packed up camera gear and headed out to take topside photos. Our quest - flamingos, goats, donkeys, iguanas, and slave huts! The iguanas had been quite elusive this trip, only seeing a few large ones and never when we had a camera. Ditto the donkeys and goats. One time we had a herd of goats block the road when driving back to the resort, but today every time we saw them the goats would scatter and hide in the bushes. Down on the south end of the island, we did finally find a few flamingos and we also stopped at the Red Slave huts. Some divers were gearing up at that dive site and we were very jealous! The waves were gone, the wind was low... perfect conditions for diving these dive sites. Oh well. All week we had wanted to come this far south, do these sites, but the weather conditions prohibited it.

For lunch we stopped downtown, walked around and shopped, etc.We returned to the resort mid-afternoon to start packing bags. Boo. We also had to go to the office and clear our bill, then down to the dive shop for the same. At 5pm the Buddy's Friday night Rum Punch Party started. The free rum punch is served by all the dive crew staff, and it looked like every guest at the resort was attending. Around 6:30pm the dinner buffet of grilled meats of every sort is set out. Cost is around $12pp and well worth it. We both ate and socialized for a few hours, then returned to the room to finish packing.


Saturday

Check out day! Buddy's had everyone leaving that morning meet at the office with bags. A bus took us to the airport and dropped us off.

Our flight left Bonaire a few minutes late however we had only 1 hour layover in Houston. Continental had promised me that it would be plenty of time to get our luggage, go through Customs and then re-check in for the flight back to Albuquerque. Yeah, right! We didn't make it, so we were put on the next flight which was 4 hours later. Blech, sitting around the Houston airport. Oh well. We had a great trip overall with some disappointments in the fishlife (no sightings of frogfish, seahorses, eagle rays, octopus). Weather had also been a factor in our shore dive site selection. It would have been better to get down south to some of the more remote dive sites. Did we love it? Yes. Was it our best trip ever? No. Great trip, but no big surprises or Wow moments.



My Videos: Bonaire April 2011


All the trip photos can be found here: Bonaire 2011 Photos


Our dive profile for the week

Dive Day Type Site Max Depth Time
1 Saturday shore check out dive - Buddy's 62' 50min
2 shore Buddy's 64' 64 min
3 Sunday boat Klein Bonaire- Monk's Haven 70' 61 min
4 shore Oil Slick Leap 96' 50min
5 shore Buddy's north 56' 63min
6 shore Buddy's - night 59' 59min
7 Monday Boat Klein Bonaire- SW Point 83' 52min
8 boat Petrie Pillars 65' 51min
9 shore Bachelor's Beach 61' 50min
10 Tuesday boat Hilma Hooker wreck 91' 44min
11 shore 1000 Steps 76' 43min
12 shore Buddy's south 44' 65min
13 Wednesday shore Buddy's 69' 73min
14 shore Buddy's north 90' 60min
15 boat Klein Bonaire- Knife 64' 56min
16 shore Buddy's - night 37' 64min
17 Thursday shore Windsock 65' 59min
18 shore Buddy's 102' 53min
19 shore Buddy's north 52' 61min
20 shore Buddy's night 47' 53min