Been there, done that, got the video. Usually, that is the precursor to the reasons a diver isn’t going to return to a dive site. I very rarely hear that turn of phrase when someone speaks of BONAIRE.
"Why?" I asked myself, as I rechecked my pre-packing list for this return trip to that most wonderful place. What is it about this tiny piece of land, 50 miles from the nearest chunk of continent, which causes so many to spend so much for such a good time, repeatedly?
One thing that doesn’t work, is the tedious sometimes comical, transport to and from this garden spot. Sigh… this year was no different, although (for me), it was slightly quicker. For the first time I almost got to see the island as we landed. Usually, the poor folks detailed to pick us up have to wait until midnight or later. This trip, I stood at the top of the jetway stairs breathing in that wonderful warm humid air, letting the tradewinds bathe my tired soul, knowing it was only 8:30 PM. That meant I actually got to belly up to the bar for an adult beverage prior to collapsing for the night. While we’re on the subject of travel, let me hasten to add that I was pleased with the progress, professionalism, and pace of the odious security checks/inspections to which we must become accustomed. Yes, the lines were long, yes, carry-ons seemed to increase in size and weight. No, I never saw anyone lose his or her cool, and no, I didn’t get frisked! Since I already expect the worst, I just put in the earphones, crank up the volume, and turn to page 1 of the 900-page tome, and wait for the tour leader to poke me into action when needed. And, you know, that’s as bad as it gets, so let’s forget about that and go diving!
Returning to Buddy’s Dive resort is just like coming home. I remembered the faces, (names? c’mon get real!), and the lay out. My two buddies and I were a little apprehensive about our room, (three IS an odd number), but we were all smiles when given the keys to the three bedroom suite. Typical of the rooms here, the air was cold, the floors clean, closets voluminous, and the view was great. Our rooms had televisions, telephones, and small refrigerators. The twin beds could be joined for couples and, of course, the ensuite bath could have stood up to a marine inspection.
After an American style breakfast, omelets cooked to order, bacon, sausage, fried potatoes, pancakes, french toast, and squeeze it yourself O.J., we were off to do the requisite dive check in and lecture for the marine park. The resort requires everyone to do a ‘check out dive’ before you are turned loose, and I would be hard pressed to find a better place to play than "Buddies Reef". Ordinarily, I would grumble, moan and in general bad grace suffer this dive as short as possible to get on with the REAL diving. But how can anyone be irritated when the first thing you see are tiny peacock flounder skittering around in the sand? And then what about the frogfish parked next to the boat mooring block? All that in the first three minutes? It just got better from that point, if you can name it, or find it in the Reef Fish I.D. book, then we saw it, including lots of my favorite, French Angelfish, both juvenile and mature. As I explained to my buddy as we climbed the stairs over an hour and a-half later, "I wanted to be sure my weight was right with an (almost) empty tank."
So the week went, we dove here and there and with every dive a highlight shown brightly. You know it’s going to be a good dive when; you are greeted by a four foot eagle ray slowly feeding in the thirty-foot shallows; you are front and center for the ten squid floorshow over staghorn coral; you guide the five-foot Tarpon in search of that tasty morsel; you drift in awe past fields of multicolored mountainous star coral; you stop at a solitary coral head and become entranced by the almost uncountable species that are its habitants. Sea turtles? Yawn, yep they’re out there. Sea Horses? Geez, didn’t you look in that fan, it was right there! Finishing up a dive on Oil Slick Leap I saw a green post stuck in the coral. Mindful of the hurricane that pretty well used up the reef to thirty feet down I was interested in how it got where it was and what sort of damage it’d caused. Reaching down to see how tightly wedged it was I got the shock of my life. The post was breathing. That’s no post, that’s the biggest damn green moray eel I’ve ever seen! I was still shaking as I measured the monster at about seven feet, (using by body as a yardstick), and just about two feet wide. I am glad he decided to stay where he was!
A twilight dive off Captain Don’s Reef was an equal eye opener. Idling along at forty feet I was complaining to myself about the poor visibility, (50’), and the crowded water, (a group of five was following a large parrotfish). Movement attracted my attention downslope. Now I think spotted morays are cute. They poke their little heads out of the coral and gape as we glide by. Let me tell you, I was a little awed by the four-footer swimming towards me completely out in the open six feet off the bottom. Naturally, I was ignored as it went about finding supper. You know… I still don’t think that other group of divers ever saw it as it swam two feet away, joined by its three-and-a-half-foot mate.
Oh, the tales I could tell, but then, this would be a travel log. YOU need to go to Bonaire and catch some mystique. I know, now, why I am already saving my pennies to be back in the clear, warm waters a little less than a year from now, wanna go?