Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bonaire Day 7

July 8, 2011
We had every intent of getting up and doing a dive in the morning, but Tim said he thought he would skip it because his one ear was getting a little tender and he did not want to push it.  Eric and I then decided to skip the morning dive also as I did not think we would be able to get all of our days activities done if we did a dive anyway.
So after breakfast we went down to the office and settled up our bill at the Bellafonte and then returned the three full dive tanks and weights back to Dive Friends and checked out there.  After that we headed out for our day-long tour of the island.  
First we headed to the Donkey Sanctuary.  The last time we were in Bonaire was in 2009 and they had been telling us that they were going to have to move because they were too close to the airport (for security reasons).  This was the first time we had seen their new facility.  They really have a nice store and palapa set up for taking a picnic lunch or having a cool drink in the shade while enjoying the breeze.
We drove all around the santuary and must have petted 100 donkeys.  They actually run along side your car and chase you down (hoping you have food to give them).  They will stick their whole head in the car for attention.  We went up on the viewing tower they have built that gives you a birdseye view of the area.  They now have a wetland area for flamingos too, a new tortoise area, and a new iguana forest.  
After the Donkey Sanctuary we headed on down the road to Lac Bay and had lunch at a beach bar there and watched the windsurfers in action.  After lunch we walked down the beach a short distance and then headed back to the car to continue our tour.  We continued our drive on around the south end of the island, past the lighthouse, slave huts and salt pans and headed for downtown to do our T-shirt shopping.  
However, we first had to stop into the Gelateria downtown to have a sweet treat so we would have enough strength for our shopping adventure.  Eric was looking for another diver dog T-shirt, but we did not have any luck finding one.  Tim ended up getting a shirt and I also got a shirt.  Then we headed on down the road to the other end of the island.  We drove along the coast and by Goto Lake (where there are supposed to be flamingos) but we did not see a single flamingo.  We were also looking to photograph parrots and/or iguanas, but after our experience in 2009 we had pretty much decided that was a losing proposition (and it was again this time also).
We drove through the town of Rincon and then back toward downtown.  We had decided to try Pasa Bon Pizza again (our third try), but we decided to get there early this time so we could make sure and get a table.  We ended up getting back into town a little after 4 p.m. so we decided to go ahead and gas up the rental car and then stop by the Bellafonte real quick and drop some stuff off before we headed to dinner.
We got to Pasa Bon Pizza right about 5 p.m. and we were the first customers to be seated.  I'm glad we finally got to try them out.  Their pizza and garlic cheese bread was EXCELLENT—the best pizza we have had so far on the island.  Since we were not going to be able to take any leftovers home, we thoroughly stuffed ourselves, but boy was it good.  
We waddled our way out of the restaurant and headed back to the hotel to begin packing for our early morning flight home on Saturday.  Tim had to keep pointing out the fact that it only took him a few moments to pack.  Needless to say, it took us a bit longer to pack all of our stuff.  
We had a fabulous trip.  We were all sad to see it come to an end.  Eric and I enjoyed having Tim along—he made the trip a lot of fun.  Plus I enjoyed having another person to haul my gear around for me.  Tim was a big help when it came to getting us in the water and getting all our camera gear in the water safely.  No one ended up falling down on our shore entries or exits this trip.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Bonaire Day 6

July 7, 2011

We slept in a bit this morning and after we all got up I fixed us some omelets. Then we sat around and chatted a bit and planned out our day. Today would be our last full day of diving before flying home on Saturday morning. We had to first run down the road to Dive Friends to get fresh tanks. After we got some new tanks we headed down south with the intent of diving Tori's reef again since that was one of our favorite dives. However, once we got there, there were about 10 people just about to get in so we decided to go somewhere else less busy.

We decided to go back north just a short way to Alice In Wonderland. There was only one car there already and just two other people going in at the same time as us. It was a nice dive. Tim got to experience a double reef system here. He said he thought we were taking him out into the blue for a bit because after we left the first reef you could not see the second one until you got fairly close to it.

After that dive we ran our used tanks back to Dive Friends and got some fresh ones and then stopped by the hotel so Eric could change to the wide angle lens on his camera. Then we took off back south to hit the Hilma Hooker again. We all enjoyed that dive the first time, but Eric wanted to do it again as an afternoon dive. We lucked out and did not see any other divers on this dive. It was another great dive.

Then we made a third trip to Dive Friends to change out our used tanks again so we could do a third dive off the pier of the hotel and still have three fresh tanks for in the morning. So when we got back to the hotel we then went down to the pier and Tim and I attempted to be scuba models for Eric whilst he attempted to get an over-under shot of us swimming underwater and the hotel and pier above water. He was not having much luck so we finally gave up and Eric ran back up to the room to change from his wide angle lens to the macro lens.

Once Eric made it back to the pier we all dropped down in the hunt for macro life (flamingo tongues, arrow crabs, cleaner shrimp, blennies, etc.). Eric did get some good flamingo tongue shots and we also saw a juvenile spotted drum and a huge puffer fish.

After our pier dive it was definitely time to get cleaned up and head out to find some dinner. We decided pizza sounded good so we headed for Pasa Bon Pizza (which we had stopped at once before but it was the day they happened to be closed). Unfortunately, this time they were open but they were full up so we decided to go somewhere else instead. We headed down the road a short way to Rum Runners bar and restaurant at Captain Don's Habitat.

The waitress that greeted us happened to be our waitress from 2009 at El Mundo when we were here with Eric's parents. She got us a prime table right by the water and Eric and I ordered some pasta dishes and Tim ordered a pizza. The pasta dishes were both awesome. Unfortunately, we all ate too much and had no room for dessert.

We made our way back to the hotel and watched most of my video from the day and checked out some of the photos from the day and then headed to bed.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bonaire Day 5

July 6, 2011

This morning we decided to get up a bit earlier and find somewhere on the way to our first dive to have breakfast. There was a small supermarket/bakery downtown where we ended up stopping in and got some donuts and juice. Then we made our way down the road to do our first dive at a dive site called 1000 Steps (there are really only 72 steps--it just feels like a thousand hauling all the gear and cameras down and then back up). It was well worth the effort, though.

I spotted another small turtle who proceeded to swim off, as most turtles do when they figure out they have been spotted. However, I decided to follow behind at a leisurely pace, hoping I might eventually get close enough to get some good video. Boy did I get lucky. The turtle stopped and started chowing down like you would not believe on some algae. The damsels that the algae belonged to were not too happy to say the least. The turtle stayed there eating for what felt like an eternity and did not even care that I had the camera in it's face. Then it went on it's merry way. We also saw a giant lobster, a barracuda, and all the other usual suspects.

After we hauled ourselves back up the 72 steep steps to the car, we headed down the road a ways to Karpata--a dive site we have been wanting to do for a while. This too was another good dive. We saw a giant parrot fish and a lot of other fish and there was a lot of diversity as far as the coral goes.

After that dive we decided to head back to the hotel, but first we stopped to get some ice cream. Then we made it back to the hotel and rinsed off a bit and had a snack before we went down the road to get some more tanks at Dive Friends. Then we came back and decided to do our third dive at Margate Bay. Right after we dropped down at that dive site, we saw a large free swimming green moray. Other than that it was the usual sea life.

After that we headed back to the hotel and had some dinner and then Eric and Tim decided to head out and do a night dive off the hotel pier. I decided to sit this one out and rest up. They had a good dive and then came back up to the room to have some popcorn and a few beers. The perfect ending to a perfect day of diving.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bonaire Day 4

July 5, 2011

We got up and had some breakfast and then set out to do what Tim had been looking forward to doing for the last month or more--the Hilma Hooker (a wreck). It is a very busy dive site but the dive was great and people were spaced out enough around the boat that we really did not see too many other people. The visibility was fairly good and I got some good video of Tim and Eric. Tim really enjoyed the dive and we will probably do it again before we leave. On the way back in we saw several cleaning stations, one of which had a big grouper and an angelfish being cleaned. We also saw a scorpionfish on the way back in too.

We managed to dredge ourselves out of the surf and make it back to the car to load everything in and head for Dive Friends to get new tanks for this afternoon's dives. After we got our new tanks we decided to go ahead and do another dive before we went back to the hotel for lunch/snack etc. So we headed to Bachelor beach, which is just the other side of Bellafonte. We had never dove there before so we thought we would give it a try. It actually has probably one of the easier entries. It also has probably one of the nicest beaches we have seen on Bonaire (Bonaire has very few sand beaches).

After our dive there we went back to the hotel and decided just to have a little snack instead of going out to look for lunch. Of course, after that we all got a little lazy. Eric and Tim then decided to head out off the pier of the hotel to do Tim's navigation dive--another one of his dives for his Advanced Scuba Diver certification. I decided to be lazy and stay in the room for this one and type up this blog instead.

After their dive (Tim managed to navigate them back to the pier safely), they came back up to the room and got cleaned up so we could go find some dinner. We drove downtown and ended up dining at La Barca. It was an open air restaurant right on the water. The food was great. We had fresh bread, caesar salad, margarita pizza and a slice of chocolate cake for dessert.

After dinner we drove back to the hotel and pretty much headed straight to bed as we wanted to get an earlier start tomorrow.

Bonaire Day 3

July 4, 2011

After we got up and I fixed the three of us some omlets for breakfast we went down to the hotel pier to do our first dive. This dive was Tim's first deep dive, which was one of his dives for his Advanced level scuba certification. Because this was a training dive Eric did not take his camera, but I followed along with the video camera. Tim did great and we actually saw our first squid and I got some awesome video of the squid.

So then we came back up to the room and had a little snack before we headed north to dive at Oil Slick Leap. We had a good dive there, but we did not see anything too remarkable as far as sea life goes--just the usual critters.

We packed up the car and headed back toward town. Before we got into town we stopped at the ice a cream shop and Tim treated us all to some really good ice cream. The we went downtown to stop into the dive shop there to get Tim a scuba hood so he can protect his head from burning and me some fins that we have been unable to find or purchase anywhere in the states.

Then we made our way back to the hotel and got cleaned up and had some dinner (leftovers from Casablanca) before we went down to start our night dive at around 7 pm. This was Tim's first night dive (there have been a lot of firsts for Tim on this trip). He had a blast. He got to see how the tarpon follow you and use your light to find their next meal. We saw a couple lion fish hunting, a bunch of eels, a lobster, several different types of crabs. We also saw the octopus that lives in a hole by the hotel pier, but he was still in his hole.

After our dive we rinsed all our gear and headed back up to the room. We all got cleaned up and I made some popcorn and we watched my video from the night dive, looked at some of the pictures Tim had taken, Eric's pictures, and then Tim showed us his starring role in one of the Austin Powers movies (which we happened to have with us on our iPad). Then it was bedtime.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Bonaire Day 2

July 3, 2011

Today was a great day all around. We had great weather, great diving, great food, and great company. Tim had an awesome day diving, now that his eyes were not trying to burn their way out of their sockets due to sunscreen.

We all slept in and all we all managed to get a good nights sleep. We had some breakfast and then headed down to do our first dive off the hotel pier. This time all our equipment surfaced when we tossed it in and we got in it and headed down. Tim was just amazed at all the colorful fish and coral. Eric and I are enjoying re-experiencing the enthusiasm one has as a new diver. Tim is just fascinated with the purple tube sponges--as I think I was too when I first started diving. We finished our dive and loaded all our gear in the car.

We decided to head south to Tori's reef. We had never dove their, so it was a first for Eric and I also. It was an amazing dive site, probably one of the best we have done on the island so far. There were schools of barracuda and schools of several other kinds of fish, which we have not seen before on Bonaire. There were trumpet fish everywhere we looked. We also saw several giant needlefish and just for Tim we ordered up an intro with a sting ray. We will definitely go back to Tori's reef again.

After Tori's we stopped by the hotel real quick and grabbed a few things before we headed to Dive Friends to get some more tanks for the next day. After that we headed to Yellow Submarine downtown and did our third dive. We saw several large spotted eels, cleaner shrimp, filefish, trunk fish, sail fin blenny, and Tim finally got to see what he describes as a "massive tarpon with teeth and a temperament of a pissed, cheated on ex-girlfriend." Also, towards the end of the dive we saw a very large old anchor that we got some good pictures of.

On the way back in to shore we waved to the underwater Yellow Submarine pier cam. Then we got out and headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up to go out and look for some dinner. Since Tim was paying for dinner we tried to find the most expensive restaurant we could. We ended up stopping at Casablanca. The food was actually really good, but the service was a little slow--but about standard for the Caribbean.

After dinner we came back to the hotel and looked through the days video footage and some of the photos and then headed off to bed.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Bonaire 2011 Day 1

July 2, 2011

We made it to Bonaire a few minutes early at just after 5 a.m., which is 2 a.m. Arizona time. We made it through customs fairly quickly and then grabbed our luggage and headed to pick up our rental car. We got a really nice Suzuki minivan that has plenty of room for the three of us and all of our dive gear.

Then we made the short trip down the road to the Bellafonte. We unloaded all our luggage from the car and headed to our room. We got a really nice two bedroom two bath grand suite. None of us got much sleep on the flight so we all crashed in bed for about three hours. Eric said he got some sleep then, but Tim and I didn't get much.

After our "nap" we headed downtown to get some lunch. We went to El Mundo (the place that used to have my favorite chicken salad sandwich). Unfortunately they no longer have that on the menu so I ended up having a crab salad sandwich and Tim and Eric both had Dutch pancakes.

After lunch we headed to the grocery store, which by the way is a madhouse on the weekend. We got a few things and got the heck out of there. We headed back to the hotel and put our groceries away and then headed down to the dive shop to do our "checkout dive" and get our marine park tags (which are mandatory to dive here). We got our tags at the dive shop close to Bellafonte but we had to drive downtown to Yellow Submarine to do our check dive.

After our checkout dive we loaded all our wet stuff in the car and headed back to the hotel to do our first official dive here in Bonaire off the pier in front of the hotel. We did our usual entry of inflating our BCDs and throwing them in and then putting them on. Tim got int the water first and Eric tossed in his BCD and he put it on. Then I got in and Eric tossed in my BCD. Unfortunately, mine didn't float and instead went straight to the bottom of the ocean. Fortunately, the bottom of the ocean was only about seven feet down at that point.

So after we retrieved my equipment and we were all set, we started our dive. Tim did great on his first ocean dive. He was amazed at how clear the water was and how much there was to see. Unfortunately, he must have gotten sunscreen in his eyes and they were very uncomfortable and burning the whole dive. Before we ended our dive we were lucky enough to see our first turtle of this trip, a baby hawksbill. I managed to get some good video of the turtle.

After our dive we all got cleaned up and then went to look for some dinner. We ended up going to Buddy Dive and eating at the beach bar. The weather was beautiful all day yesterday, but it was especially nice in the evening with a wonderful almost cool breeze. Eric and Tim both had pasta and I had a giant chicken quesadilla and of course we all had to have dessert. (Just to let Dick know, the key lime pie was fabulous.)

By the time we made it back to the hotel we were pretty much all ready to crash, which we did shortly after watching the video I had taken of the turtle and Tim.