Saturday morning I got up, even without my alarm, at six o’clock. It was my first day off, and I planned to make the most of it.
By eight o’clock, I was across the road to the Divi Dive Shop where I checked out the availability of a boat dive, since I don’t have a dive buddy. It turned out that they were leaving at 8:30, which is what I figured, so I signed on. I grabbed my gear, walked down to the dock, and picked up a tank on the dock and strapped it to my BC. When the boat arrived a few minutes later, I got on board, and noticed that the tanks were already on the board.
The interesting thing this particular day was that it was overcast, and the wind was blowing from the opposite direction; it was going from the west side towards the east side, and the waves were crashing on the shore, although not very hard. This was because of hurricane Ernesto passing to the north of us. I took a photo with my cell phone of the dive shop flags blowing inland, and sent it out on Twitter. The winds only reverse about three times every year, so this is a real event.
Once on board, the dive master passed around a clip board and asked if I wanted to do a one or two-tank dive. Everybody was doing two-tank dives, so I said, “Sure, sign me up.” The two tanks were already onboard. The dive sites we were heading to were on Klein Bonaire, just over a kilometer away. Apparently a boat dive is about $75, and gives you two dives off a boat, plus unlimited tanks for subsequent shore dives later on the same day. The boat we were on had a rather large inboard diesel engine.
On the way over to Klein Bonaire, the dive master explained that we were going to go to the south side of Klein Bonaire, which was sheltered from the wind, given the direction it was coming from today. Our first dive site was named Rock Pile. We were only about 50 yards off shore when we docked. Klein Bonaire still looks the same, just a coral-strewn beach without much sand at all, and a very flat landscape beyond.
On the way over, I struck up a conversation with the guy sitting next to me named Roy. He was diving with another fellow from Brazil, and I asked if I could join them as an extra buddy, as I was alone. They both readily agreed. Roy is a fire fighter from New York City, and his girlfriend didn’t want to come with him on this trip.
FIRST DIVE – KLEIN BONAIRE – “ROCK PILE”
One of the first things I spotted when we got down around 40 feet or so was a small LION FISH. The lion fish has become a plague on Bonaire, as they are very aggressive, and kill off a lot of the other fish life. They are not native to the Caribbean, but were introduced accidentally. Roy said that last year, he spotted a whole host of lion fish on Bonaire, but this year there are not quite as many. While all other type of fishing is restricted, it is always open-season on lion fish. In fact, they have a group that trains people to kill lion fish. You need a license to do it as they are extremely venomous. If the lion fish is large enough, they are actually good eating, and are beginning to become a delicacy on Bonaire.
Our dive master was a Bonairian fellow by the name of Ebby, and he was carrying a three-prong type of tool with him. I soon found out why, as he spotted a lion fish on the bottom, and moved in carefully, and grabbed it with a tool. He then took a second tool out of his bag and slit its throat, as well as removed some of the spines on the fins. He explained later that if he can get straight to the throat, he will do that, but often has to cut away one fin first in order to get close enough. He then simply drops it onto the sea floor, and it dies.
I was able to get some good photos on this dive, including a couple of me and Roy.
We got back on the boat, and went about four dive stops down the coast of Klein Bonaire back towards the mainline. The name of this dive site was Nearest Point, as apparently it is the nearest point to Bonaire.
SECOND DIVE ON KLEIN BONAIRE – “NEAREST POINT”
On this dive, I got some good shots of a QUEEN ANGEL FISH, and some lovely SPONGES.
One of the most amazing things on this dive was that I spotted a SEA TURTLE resting on the floor. I was able to get in close, and shot a 2-minute video of the turtle looking back at me from about six feet away. Eventually he became annoyed and swam away. It is amazing how these air-breathing creatures can be so relaxed 40 feet down. I was also able to spot a few SPIDER SHRIMP with their tiny, surgeon-like claws.
I came across two large TRUNK FISH. They are triangular shaped, with a flat bottom, and horns on their forehead and on the bottom by their back. What startled me was their colour! There were two of them in what looked like a stand-off, and they were coloured blue! I knew from experience that they were actually a spotted brown colour, but this must have been a mating dance between two rival males. I fired off a few pictures, which distinctly recorded the blue colour. Then they got annoyed and split up, and I followed one into the reef. Sure enough, 10 feet away, it changed colour into its regular spotted brown colour. I never knew they could change colour like a chameleon.
We then went back on board and returned to Bonaire.
I asked Roy if he would be interested in doing a shore dive later that afternoon. He said that he had actually signed up for a boat cruise, but that it might not go due to the weather. By the time I had finished rinsing my gear out, he returned and said that the boat had been cancelled, and he would be happy to go. So we arranged that I’d pick him up at the tank locker in front of my house at 1:30.
I went home and dumped my gear, and then drove down into town in search of a quick lunch. I found a lovely little restaurant called Brandaris (I guess like the mountain) and had barbecued chicken and ribs. It was delicious.
When I picked up Roy, he insisted on paying me for gas, which was very generous of him. We discussed where to go, and decided to head to the north end and dive A Thousand Steps.
On the way up, we spotted some goats on the tourist road, and then a donkey crossed in front of us. I stopped, and took a couple pictures. I then said, “Why don’t you see if he’ll smell your hand?” Unfortunately, the donkey nipped him, and he got a bruise on his finger. But he is a tough fire fighter, and said Not to worry.
The shortwave curtain antenna array for Radio Nederlands is still up, but apparently they are going to demolish it next month when shut it down. There must be almost ten towers there with a massive grid of cables between them, forming a huge shortwave antenna system. I find it amazing that they are going to go off the air. Apparently it is due to budget cuts, as well as a drastically smaller listening audience for shortwave transmissions in this region.
THIRD DIVE – “A THOUSAND STEPS”
We then arrived at A Thousand Steps, which is right beside Radio Nederlands. A Thousand Steps is actually only 70 steps, but I’d say that with 70 pounds of gear on my back or more, it is a bit of a workout.
Entry was not too difficult, although there were a few waves coming ashore from the storm. I found that the underwater scenery was more lush than Klein Bonaire. My guess is that not a lot of divers dive the north coast as it is a long drive.
I spotted some type of WORM coming out from under a rock that was about three inches across. I could only see about three feet of it up until it disappeared under the rock. I didn’t get a good photo, unfortunately.
We exited the water, took our gear up the stairs, and decided to go to Rincon to breathe off a bit of the nitrogen. We had previously calculated our residual nitrogen time for both of these dives. The third dive of the day would be to 50 feet and be 40 minutes long, and the fourth dive could be also to 50 feet but only for 32 minutes. We needed about an hour and a half to off-gas.
Once in the car, we decided to drive straight to the Bopec Terminal. I wanted to know if I could come back and get a tour. We stopped at the gate, and a very friendly man came out and offered us all the information we wanted. However, they do not offer tours of the oil facility.
Apparently, the oil is now shipped from Venezuelain super tankers, and then transferred to smaller vessels for distribution around the Caribbean and up to the U.S.
Then we went up the road to Goto Lake, or Goto Meer, as they say here, and got some nice photos from the Lookout area. I believe it was a kibra hacha tree with the yellow blossoms that was growing in the parking lot. We then carried on up to Rincon where we found an ice cream shop and got a bit of ice cream. While eating the ice cream, I wanted to get to know some of the locals, so we walked over to a bar on the other corner where they were playing dominoes on the deck. We walked up and greeted them, and one of the fellows got up and brought two chairs over for us. So we sat on the chairs, eating our ice cream cones, and chatting with the old fellows playing dominoes. They were quite friendly. Actually, it was three old gentlemen and a lady. The lady never said a word, but just concentrated on her game.
We then drove back past Goto Lake to where you turn left by Karpata to go back to a dive site about three dive sites down called Bloodlet. Unfortunately, we ran into a DO NOT ENTER sign. Apparently, the tourist road is one way.
FOURTH DIVE – “KARPATA”
I decided that we would dive right there at the Karpata Dive Site, which is the northernmost dive site before you get to Washington Park.
It was only down about a dozen steps, but the entry was just a pile of rock coral. Getting in wasn’t too bad, although you had to be careful with your footing, and there were waves coming ashore.
This dive was even better than the one at A Thousand Steps. I let Roy lead, and we only went 30 feet deep as this was actually our fourth dive, and he wanted to be extra safe. We ended up only going about 39 minutes at 30 feet, where we could have probably stayed a bit longer. I was able to get some good shots of a TRIGGER FISH. On exiting I had to struggle in the surf and got knocked down a couple of time. I now had a couple of scratches thanks to Ernesto.
We then returned through Rincon, and down the road that goes past Fontaine. On the east coast, I spotted some large wind turbines. I’ll have to go visit them later, as apparently they are supplying a fair bit of power to the island. I dropped off Roy, and then headed home for a shower, and to rinse off my gear.
After I was changed, I drove down town and had a lovely fish dinner at one of the seaside restaurants close to the pier.
Four dives is actually a new record for me. I must say, this was probably my best day here yet. I’m now feeling very comfortable with all my gear, and can focus on the beauty that surrounds me.