Bonaire is known as a diver’s paradise and with good reason. Sixty-one dive sites mark the western coast of the island. A couple of others reside on the southeast side and the island of Klein Bonaire, “Small Bonaire,” has more than 25 places to blow bubbles.
The Lezovi crew wanted to dive, and we decided to suck it up and pay $150 per person for a two-tank dive aboard a dive boat. On his way to one of the many dive shops, Mike ran into Geoff aboard our buddy boat Eclipse, and they came up with a better, more affordable plan.
Candice and George aboard s/v Puma graciously lent their dive equipment to Eclipse. Mike rented three regulators and four BCDs (the extra one was for Eclipse) and bought unlimited air fills for a two-day period for less than $200. We packed all the gear onto Eclipse which has a better set-up for diving. It has a wooden platform that runs across the rear of the transom and connects the two sets of steps. Whether the divers jumped into the water from the platform or the steps, it would be easier and more convenient than using Happy Times.
We set off for Klein Bonaire and dove Sharon’s Serenity in honor of my sister. The first divers into the water were Jerome, Mikayla and Michelle. They were under for about 40 minutes. Miles, Mike and I quickly geared up after their return.
It’s easy to see why Bonaire is a world-class dive site. The variety and density of the coral is unlike anything in Cozumel, though there were probably fewer fish species than the Great Barrier Reef. The more unusual creatures included a spotted moray eel that Miles found and a lionfish that I found, unfortunately. It’s regrettable, because lionfish are voracious invaders that have arrived from Southeast Asia. Many species, including fish, crabs and shrimps, don’t recognize them as predators, and their presence can affect adversely the environment.
After we returned Eclipse to her mooring next to Happy Times, Geoff and a couple of the kids jumped into the water behind our boats for another dive. We repeated our plan the following day when we visited another site on Klein Bonaire called Just a Nice Dive.
There were several aspects to Bonaire that I didn’t really like. We were limited to moorings right off the waterfront, and the music from the bars sometimes ran past 2 a.m. (Yeah, I’m getting old.) The street lights glared inside our boat all night long. Many high-end stores line the streets to appeal to the cruise ship crowd, not tightfisted cruisers, and the main grocery store within walking distance shut down during our visit. On the other hand, it was pleasant to walk around Kralendijk and visit Lilly’s, our favorite ice-cream-and-Internet cafe. From the stern of Happy Times we could see the bottom 20’ away and watch sergeant majors hovering around our hulls. The freedom to snorkel and dive from our boat probably made Bonaire a better place to visit than I initially thought.