In the first of this two-part blog, The Scuba Genies share their trip report from the Come Dive with Us hosted trip to Bonaire in September 2021…
Travelling during the Covid pandemic has been challenging for some, impossible for most, and missed by all. We have been scanning the rules and regulations daily, and as soon as the UK Government allowed us, we were off!
What was supposed to be a trip to Mexico for a gang of 12 of us, just like most trips over the last 18 months, we were forced to change as the travel rules changed – we have been trying to get to Bonaire for ages, and this became the perfect opportunity – at last!
With our bags packed, negative test results and completed Bonaire health forms in hand – we made an early start for Heathrow, prepared for an 0630 departure. A quick flight and we landed in Amsterdam. As a Dutch Caribbean territory, all flights from the UK to Bonaire on KLM go via Amsterdam. In the airport, we met up with the rest of the gang who had travelled from Birmingham. After a quick layover we took off for Bonaire, where we arrived about 9 hours later. Our health documents were checked at the airport, and we grabbed our bags. It seems odd to have to fly East to then go West, but as we stepped out of the minibus at Buddy Dive Resort, only 10 minutes after leaving the airport, the sunshine and blue sky told us it was worth it!
Our accommodation for the group was made up of two 3-bedroom apartments, a stone’s throw from the water, dive shop, dock and Blennies, the main restaurant and bar. Buddy Dive also has 1- and 2-bedroom apartments along with studios, all comfortably furnished with either a garden or ocean view.
Each 3-bedroom apartment is spread over two floors – but a floor up from ground level. The ‘ground’ floor of each apartment offers a double bedroom (beds can be configured as twins or double in all rooms), a bathroom, lounge with balcony, and a very well-equipped kitchenette. Microwave, toaster, hob, fridge/freezer with ice-maker and enough pots, pans and utensils to satisfy the avid cook! On the upper floor, there are two further double rooms with ensuite bathrooms, both with balconies of their own. Each bedroom is air-conditioned, and the lounge and kitchen have celling fans. All in all, quite perfect for a home away from home for a fortnight!
The rules of group travel say we must unpack (empty bags onto floor or bed), sort kit out (look at dive bag and save it for later), put cameras together (er….NO!) and hit the bar – so being rule-abiding people that we are, this is what we did. Picking up the rental van for our stay would have to wait!
The next morning after breakfast, served in the Ingridients restaurant and right on the water, we attended the Buddy Dive orientation. The staff gave us a quick tour of the dock and resort including the famous drive thru tank shed offering both air and nitrox tanks ready and waiting to be loaded into your vehicle. Check in at the dive centre was easy… we all completed our diver forms online before arrival so with a quick hello we were handed locker keys for our kit storage. Time to head back to the room and get ready for our first dive!! That is why we’re here after all!
As with all trips, the first dive was a check dive, so we climbed down the steps into the water off the dock to go an explore Buddy Dive Reef. Finning over the sandy bottom, past the coral restoration project ‘trees’ and following well laid lines with directional markers we hit the reef after just a minute or two where you can drop to 35+ metres over simply stunning corals. This reef, just like the rest of the sites we dived, is super-healthy and teeming with juvenile fish wherever you look. Moray eels, turtles, octopi and HUGE tarpon on our first dive! What a great start!
The following day we decided it was time to explore the island. We picked up our 6-person minibus from Reception, pulled up to the drive thru tank station and grabbed 12 well filled Nitrox 12l aluminium (A-Clamp – not DIN) cylinders. With our guidebook in hand, off we went driving on the right of course, in search of marine life.
There are over 50 dive sites scattered around the coast of the main island, and even more on the island of Klein Bonaire accessible by boat. We chose a comfortable start by picking dive sites to the South where the entry seems to be a little easier on old knees and hips. We packed up sandwiches we made after a quick shop at the supermarket the day before, along with waters and a few essentials – towels, sunnies and bug spray.
I won’t bore you with every dive site name and description – the guidebook is the tool for that – but it is more than safe to say that we dived, dived and dived again! Every dive gave us far more than we expected, and the marine park surrounding the whole island delivered the goods without fail. Super healthy corals, plentiful marine life, warm and very clear water at 30 degrees made life easy. Parking the van up at the marked dive sites wasn’t difficult, and a few strides across the sand was far simpler than we had expected.
I will say that some sites are a little more challenging to get into the water from – anything more than three or four steps doesn’t float my boat! We adapted our entries for the group – some kitting up in the water, some not, but the rule of thumb quickly became step in up to thigh-depth, inflate bcd, fall flat on your back and paddle out before putting your fins on. Simple! Getting out of the water was pretty much the reverse of the above – stand up when you can, remove fins, and then navigate the rocks and sand channels before you walk up the beach. Nothing that an over-weight, under-tall chap in his mid-50’s with dodgy knees and even dodgier hips couldn’t cope with! (That is me by the way…..no offense to anyone else intended and no animals were harmed in the writing of this either).
We saw stuff – lots of it! Huge tarpon, French and Grey Angelfish, forests of Christmas Tree worms, anemones with Peterson, sexy and cleaner shrimp, clinging crabs, nudibranchs – especially lettuce-leaf slugs, coral-banded shrimp, lobster and so much more. Turtles everywhere, trumpet-fish in unbelievable numbers, and that was generally the story – all in very good visibility too! The corals and huge sponges were stunning with fascinating reef-structures offering all sorts of hidey-holes for critters!
There were some really special sited that we loved, and Salt Pier was one. The Cargill solar salt facility is easily found with its distinctive line of white salt pyramids.Each pyramid, roughly 50-feet high, can contain up to 10,000 metric tons of 99.6 percent pure salt. Even more noteworthy, in addition to the acres of salt ponds, the facility is also home to largest pink flamingo sanctuary in North America. Our very own Chloe has written an in-depth blog about Bonaire and its pure salt so be sure and check it out!
Back to the diving! We were given a hint to drive just past the pier to park where we would find an easy sand entry to the site. We kitted up and finned out through the shallows where we encountered three juvenile hawksbill turtles along with a few smooth pufferfish fighting to feed on patch of sponges, and then made our way under the immense structure of the pier. There are several platforms supporting the conveyor belts that move salt to the container ships and there wasn’t much diver-traffic to contend with. We were amazed by all things weird and wonderful – big scorpion fish hiding under the metal work, angelfish battling for food, schooling fish up above you, and frogfish! Barracuda, Caribbean reef squid, spotted drums, octopus, oh! and more frogfish! Even a flying gurnard in the shallows! What a dive! And as it is shallow, it can be a very long dive too, especially with the 200-210 bar fills the drive-thru often gave us.
Check back for Part Two of this Blog tomorrow!
Find out more about the worldwide dive itineraries that The Scuba Place offers at www.thescubaplace.co.uk.
Curaçao Dive Site of the Month – Smokeys (Watch Video)
New Video Release: Smokeys near Eastpoint Curaçao.
Learn about https://bit.ly/Smokeys-Dive-Site-Curacao – a Top 10 Dive Site in Curacao located near Eastpoint and arguably one of the best dive sites in the Caribbean.
It rivals the finest dive sites in Belize, Bonaire and the Cayman Islands.
Top 5 things to do above water on a diving trip to Barbados
Whilst you will want to spend as much time underwater as possible on any diving trip to Barbados, with its amazing wrecks, reefs and marine life… you will have to spend some time on dry land! So here are our top tips on what to do topside on this stunning Caribbean paradise.
1) Go Caving!
Babados offers the perfect instagram cave experiences. Two stand out from the crowd: Harrison’s Cave and Animal Flower Cave.
Harrison’s Cave offers a guided tours on a tram to allow you to safely explore these incredible underground caverns. Located in the central uplands of the island, this crystallized, limestone cave is characterized by flowing streams, deep pools of crystal clear water and towering columns.
Animal Flower Cave is named after the anemone’s that can be found in the rock pools that sit within the cavern. This is a perfect spot for a photo or two, with the wild coastline visible through the cavern windows that have been carved out by wave action.
Both these tours are great options for your non-diving day before you fly home.
2) Take in a show
I have to admit that we do not usually get excited about an evening show put on for tourists. But just a few minutes into the show at Harbour Lights and we were dancing along with locals and tourists alike. The show is great fun and is full of talented performers. The buffet dinner included with the event is perfect too, with something for everyone. They had to throw us out!
3) Head to the Beach
Barbados is packed with incredible beaches. Some are setup with entertainment, resturants and bars, others are completely deserted. So it is up to you to find your perfect one. Whether you love to surf, want to relax in the sun, or get into the party spirit – there is a beach for you waiting to be discovered.
4) Learn to cook Bajan Style
If you love your food, and are a whizz in the kitchen, then why not spend an evening with a local chef to show you how to cook some of your favourite Bajan dishes. Award winning Chef Creig Greenidge joined us in our hotel to pass on some of his secrets. An amazing evening saw us chatting about our love of Caribbean cuisine, he guided us through a three course meal, even stopping to help us work out what we could replace hard to find ingredients in the UK with. The food was incredible, but it was also a wonderful experience. Great food and wine too!
5) Rum and Food Pairing Dinner
Barbados is the home of rum. This was a perfect way to round off our trip. Set in the Rum Vault at the Colony Club Hotel, we were treated to a private 5 course meal, each course paired with a rum cocktail. Finished with some fine sipping rums and delicious chocolates. Heaven!
Of course there is so much more than these 5 we have picked. So here are a few more things you should try out: Horses on the beach on Sunday mornings; Friday night is party night at the Fish Fry; Eat out! There are too many amazing restaurants to name here. Have a Mango Chow cocktail. Do a rum distillery tour at Mount Gay or St Nicholas Abbey or try our a local craft beer. Most of all – get out and explore. Barbados has so much to offer.
Next up… we will be back underwater exploring one of our favourite diving areas – Carlisle Bay.
For more information about Barbados click here.