I found this company on line as it was recommended by someone from the Cruise Critic bulletin board. I had wanted to visit Bonaire for some time specifically to dive their extensive reefs. But by the time I got there, I was 75 years old with only 85% lung function, and my husband had just had a melanoma removed from his shoulder and it had not yet healed so he couldn't go. So I went snorkeling on my own. I was a little nervous about whether I could still do it, and whether I could get back on the boat.
I left in such a hurry that I forgot my hat. Bob accompanied me to the gangway and I got off with the scooter. I tried to go out one of the gates but the guard said it was only for cars to exit.
At the other entrance, the guy from the snorkeling company who i think was Ulf Pedersen said I was the first one there and directed me to go down the road to the Casino sign. I tried to go on the road, but the scooter hung up on a speed bump. A man who was jogging helped me over. I went down to the first dock, but that was not it. I went a little father - no that was not it. The girl I was asking finally said "Go to the end of the road".
I parked the scooter under the entrance and walked out on the dock. They brought me a chair and offered water or juice. We got on the boat (a trimaran) and put on my dive skin and they found me a hat. Most of the people on this trip were from the ship, but they do have land based guests.
We went out to Klein Bonaire and some people saw turtles. We were going to snorkel at two places and they divided us up in three groups. I was in the group with all the old ladies and the least experienced. So after we did the first snorkeling session they said I could go up to the middle group if I wanted, and I said whatever worked. So in the end, I stayed with my group.. I was afraid that my snorkeling camera battery would go dead because I have not found the charger, or at least I've not recognized it. So I took photos until I got the low battery symbol and then I stopped and got out. And I COULD get out.
Woodwind takes wonderful care of all their clients. It is drift snorkeling, so it isn't that strenuous and there are lots of fish and coral to see and even some turtles.
Equipment: Woodwind supplies all the equipment, including mask, snorkel, fins, and wet suits. They also have snorkeling vests. They give you water and juice and something to eat, in addition to giving instruction in snorkeling. They are also very environmentally conscious and gave us a stern lecture about touching the coral. The group leaders pointed out various animals to us such as sea cucumber and sponges.
As we were driving, we spotted the land sailing track which is located on the northeast coast of Bonaire. Land sailing is a combination of sailing and racing using modified boats called blokarts.
If you're a fan of "The Amazing Race" you might remember them having that as a detour in New Zealand.
We payed $160 per person for 7 days of unlimited airfills for shore diving. There is really no reason to boat dive unless you have physical restrictions that would make you unable to enter and exit water and rocky shorelines with full gear.
Equipment: We got our package from Belmar Divers which is affiliated with Buddy Dive
The Hilma Hooker is one of the most popular dives in Bonaire. After suffering engine trouble, the ship was found with a large cargo of marijuana. Every divemaster on the island can tell you a colorful story about the ship. Some of them might even be true.
There are three mooring points due to it's popularity. You can expect a wait to get on one of them.
When I dove it, the ocean floor was 92' and the Hooker was laying on it's starboard side. There were quite a bit of large tarpon on the ship as well as some good growth. You can enter the cargo holds but they are pretty much dark unless you have a really good light.
This was one of the first dives with a new underwater Digital Camera. As you can see from the photo, I have a lot of learning to do.
Although it can be a shore dive, there is a little swim to get there. We opted for the boat which put us right on it.
Equipment: This can very easily be a deep dive and the descent can be a little rough. Make sure you know which line you went down as it will most likely be very crowded on the wreck. Coming up to the wrong boat would incur a nice swim and probably some ribbing from other divers. Keep an eye on your bottom time. A computer is ideal.
Bonaire is a great place for beach entry dives, but of the sites to do at night; I recommend the big pier on the south coast. The pylons have many good sponges, fans and surfaces that the nocturnal critters like to come out on. Maybe you'll be lucky to see some tarpon patrolling on the edge of the shelf.
There are many excellent places to watch birds. Bonaire has over 150 species that have been sighted here, some unique to Bonaire. This large number is not surprising since the island is in the path of the bird migration between North and South America.
We loved watching the brown pelicans with their babies.
The pelican is brown-grey, with yellowish-white on the head. Magnificent divers, they often swoop down from impressive heights, plunging into the water like cannonballs.
We were so impressed with Woodwind Cruises partner and guide, Dee, we took her up on the night snorkel she offers. It was $20 a person with a minimum of 4 people. She also limits the size of the group so she can make sure she knows where everyone is. It lasts one and a half hours. We met her at Divi Flamingo Dive Resort and left our items on her boat, then walked to the town pier which was a few blocks away to start the guided tour. You can leave your shoes and eye glasses at City Restaurant which is across from the pier. It was quite a contrast to walk into black water and then see the most vibrant orange coral and an amazing array of eels, a spotted turtle, octopus and so much more. Dee knows where all of the local underwater critters hang out and makes sure everyone in the group gets to see them.
Equipment: Once again Dee was very helpful with making sure everyone was comfortable and outfitted with the gear she provided. She even had a wet suit to fit 6-foot 7" Scott.
Underwater lights are provided. I reccomend using a spot light instead of the wider angle light as it was too diffused to see things at a distance. She offers both kinds.
Taking a guided Snorkel Sailing trip with Woodwind Cruises was a great introduction for us as first time snorkelers. The Woodwind is a good sized catamaran sailboat owned and operated by a knowledgeable couple. Dee was very helpful with making sure everyone was comfortable and outfitted with the gear she provided. Other experienced participants enjoyed the guided tour underwater as Dee pointed out creatures and plants of interest. The tour we took was to Andrea dive spot. They also do sunset cruises, trips to Klein Bonaire Island and a fantastic night dive
Equipment: We had our own masks but they can provide everything, including wetsuits.
On the south side of Bonaire, there is very little development except for the salt production. With no development and a flat landscape, the dive sites are easy to find. They're marked on the side of the road with painted yellow stones with the dive site name. You'll find maps everywhere showing you where the marked sites are. The White Slave site is easy to find because of the cluster of small, white shacks on the beach. A historic marker tells you that slaves once lived there when they were forced to work in the salt trade. It's nice to get a little history lesson in with your diving!
The most remarkable wreck that we saw at Bonaire was the Hilma Hooker. She was impounded by the govt in 1984 when she was found to be carrying a bunch of marijuana. A few months later, she was taken out of the harbor and anchored at her present spot when she was found to be leaking oil. A few days later, she mysteriously sank. Today, she's an underwater tourist attraction, and a hangout for barracuda and tarpon. The viz wasn't very good here, and the reef is fairly worn since this is a very popular spot. You can easily penetrate the wreck, which sits at 90 feet at its deepest.
For some reason, the visiblity wasn't as good here as at Atlantis, but it was still a darn good dive, and not a whole lot different than the rest of the southern dive sites. It's right across the street from the pink evaporation pans of the salt factory.
Atlantis was my favorite dive on Bonaire. The visibility was great, the coral was fabulous, and I got lost in a school of fish. That's a near-perfect dive in my book. Perfection would have been if a whale shark lumbered by, but we can't have everything, can we?
Getting in & out is a little tricky, with a few rocks to stumble over in the shallows, but just hold onto your buddy & you'll be fine.
Way down on the south side of Bonaire, the Red Slave dive site is the last sheltered site on the south-western tip of the island. The next site down, Willemstoren Lighthouse, usually has rougher surf and has a more technical entry. Red Slave has a much easier entry with calmer waves and is another great dive in Paradise! The site is easily found, similar to White Slave, by the tiny, red, former slave cabins clustered on the beach.
Scuba diving in Bonaire is almost as good as in Grand Cayman, though I think I have to give Cayman the edge for visibility and reef health. But Bonaire is right up there too. If money is an object, then I'd recommend Bonaire over Cayman, since lodging and food are much more affordable there. There are also more shore diving opportunities in Bonaire.
Equipment: Gloves are not allowed in Bonaire. You may want to wear a full suit to protect against scrapes. Sometimes while getting in & out of the water you can get knocked around by waves or slip on the rocks. I was glad I had the full suit when I compared by legs & arms to Cliff, who only wears a shorty.
Aside from scuba diving, there's also some supposedly decent windsurfing to be done in Bonaire. I didn't get a chance to try windsurfing myself (was too busy diving this time around), but one or two people from my group did and seemed to have a good time.
Most (if not all) of the windsurfing takes place on the Eastern windward side of the island, down at Lac Bay. There's one or two shops down there that will rent gear and provide traning. I heard some good things about Jibe City, so check them out.