Friday, September 25, 2009

Bonaire Day 7

Internet is up...w00t!

Today was a non dive day which meant we got to sleep in...kind of. Shannon and I had arranged to take the truck for the day sight seeing. My roommate decided he needed the truck from 7:30am-12 noon so we hung around the resort until then. Once he returned we headed into town to do some souvenir shopping. We encountered a problem though as most of the shops close from 12-2pm for siesta. We did what little shopping we could and headed to the southern part of the island.

Our first stop was the donkey sanctuary. Donkeys are wild on the island from the days when the salt traders used them for labor (more on that later). The islanders were not very nice to these wild donkeys so one of the residents bought some land to "rescue" them. When she started the sanctuary she had about 20 donkeys. Today there are more than 400 donkeys that call the sanctuary home. Since the refuge is run solely on donations, we paid our $12 entry fee, grabbed a bag of donkey feed and headed out on the one way dirt road (the wrong way I might add) to say hi to the donkeys (please note that it is impossible for me to say donkey without envoking the Shrek version of DON-KAY!).

As we entered donkey land we were greeted with a plethora of donkeys who knew why we were there. They have no worries about sticking their long noses into the car and begging for a treat. At one point we had about six donkeys, three in each window, looking for some grub. And these little buggers are smart. As you stop to feed they come RUNNING from everywhere. You feed a few and when you decide to move along one or two will dart in front of your vehicle to try and get some more meal time. They will move but it feels wrong to push them out of the way with a truck. Once you do break free of the group, two or three will GALOP (at about 20 kms) with you until you stop again. Once we completed our donkey safari we stopped to see the "orphaned" donkeys and even a baby donkey about a month old.

With the truck full of donkey slobber we continued south toward the salt "mines" near our dive site from Monday, Invisibles. The salt mines consist of large pools of sea water that are allowed to evaporate leaving acres of salt which are then scraped up an put into large piles. The interesting thing is these "crystallizer" ponds are as pink as flamingos due to the sun refracting through the salt. Quite a sight.

As we drove along the one lane road we eventually came to an area known as the slave huts. Way back when the Dutch had slaves who tended to the salt pools. Ships would moore offshore and the slaves would carry the salt to dingys on make-shift docks. The dingys would then take the salt to the ships. There were four areas where ships could moore and they were marked by large pyrimid pillars that still stand (orange, white, red and blue - the colors of the Dutch flag) which designating the quality of the salt they would buy. The slaves who worked the pools were housed in small huts near the pillars. When I say small, I mean SMALL. The huts are MAYBE 5 feet by 7 feet long and the top of which are about eye level. To enter the hut I almost had to crawl through the door. I can't imagine myself living in one of these huts let alone raising a family in one of them. It is amazing what human beings are capable of inflicting on other human beings.

After that sobering experience we continued to the southern most tip of the island where an old lighthouse still stands. Now equipped with state of the art technology, the lighthouse sits among driftwood, volcanic rock and dead coral while large wind swept waves pound the shore nearby. After a few pictures we ventured along the east coast until we made it back to the center of town.

By now the shops were open again and we were able to pick up shirts and other trinkets to bring back to our family and loved ones back home. We ate at a small place called the Buenos Ares Cafe with a great view of sailboats passing by (the cheapest meal we had to date at only $30 for two cheeseburgers, two beers and a coke).

Everyone had done their own thing today so dinner plans were a little confusing. After I went down to view my last sunset, complete with dive bombing pelicans and viewing the Tarpon feed from above water, I found that everyone had left the condo. I didn't have to get the truck back until 10pm so I took it down to a restaurant along the main drag called ZEEZICHT. After a few beers, some firecracker rolls (which were white fish egg rolls in some VERY hot sauce) and watching most of the Yankees/Red Sox game, I headed back to check out and return the truck. I was able to get the $40 back I paid for internet access since it sucks and headed over to the pool bar to try and connect one more time.

As I was writing this the resort next door had an impromptu fireworks show. Luckily I had my camera with me and was able to get a picture of the action. Since I was in Vegas for 4th of July and they don't shoot fireworks on the strip I feel like I finally got my show.

Our flight leaves at 7:30am from the pink-painted Flamingo Airport which means we have to get up at at 4am to catch our shuttle. I'm hoping to get a couple hours of sleep and then a few more during our 9+ hours of travel (that's right, feel sorry for me as I return from paradise). At the end of the day the trip was one I will NEVER forget. I will have all of my pictures up on Flickr after I sleep for a day and a half and help our softball team the Diablo JETigers get to 3-0.

The Now Internationally Known Buddy Dive Pool Bar
Bonaire Day 6 - Last Day of Diving

Note: I was unable to post this last night as the resorts internet connection was down. I know you were all waiting for this post. ;o) Sorry for the delay

THE EAR IS BETTER! Since our boat dives weren't until 1:30 we slept in til about 9:30 (woo hoo). Shannon and I had breakfast and just lounged around the condo for a while. We had talked about renting scooters for sight seeing tomorrow but after going into town and actually looking at the scooters she seemed a little leary. I found out that only two-wheeled vehicle she has ridden is a bike, except for the one time she rode a scooter and crashed into trash cans. Needless to say we are not renting scooters tomorrow.

As the departure for our boat dives drew near, we ate a quick lunch and geared up. Our first dive site was called Something Special. It was named for all the rum bottles that used to be found on the bottom, rum from Venezuela called Something Special. The site was what we have come to expect except this time the current was really pushing against us on the way out. A 15 minute kick on the way out took about 2 mins on the way back, with little kicking at all. We did see quite a few eels and a few of the group saw the elusive frog fish. We got back on the boat and had a rest while we motored to the next site called Joanna's Kiss.

As soon as we got into the water Daneilo showed us a tiny black sea horse at only 12 feet deep. We then followed him along seeing massive schools of fish all around us. About halfway into the dive Shannon spotted a sea turtle (yay!) and we turned into paparazzi all crowding around snapping pictures while he went about his daily routine. Soon after that we saw two orange sea horses at about 60 feet deep.

These things are pretty cool and while Danilo is quick to make sure we all got pictures and got to see them, he is also watches us very closely to ensure we do not disturb the little guys.

As is usually the case Shannon and I have to turn back sooner than the rest of the group since we use air like its going out of style. On the way back we somehow swam past the boat about 100 yards. On the way back to the boat we did see a flounder that Shannon got a great picture of and what I think is a barracuda (although others say it wasn't they can't tell me what it it was a barracuda damn it). All in all our last boat dives were pretty entertaining. We got back on the boat and headed back to the resort making sure to thank our dive guides for some amazing creatures that we may never experience again.

Although our dives in the daylight hours were over, there was still time for one more night dive among the giant Tarpon right in front of our resort. Five of us geared up and got into the black water. Shannon's tank had issues and she had to get out of the water and switch tanks. The other three divers went on without us while I waited for her. The second tank didn't have issues and we were on our way.

Since I had the camera with me on this dive I had to rely on on Shannon's light. Almost immediately after descending Shannon motioned to motioned with her light that she saw something by a small outcropping of rocks. I came over and was greeted by a lobster than must have been at least 2 feet long. Easily the largest lobster I have EVER seen in or out of the water. Instead of going to the right as we had in our previous two night dives we decided to go left this time. The tarpon were back again but after a couple minutes they had gone. Apparently the fishing was better to the right. Even though we didn't see many Tarpon we did see lots of eels, crabs and lots of other creatures that come out to hunt at night. We ended up seeing the other three divers and stayed at about 30 feet for the duration of the dive. It was a great 45 minuets underwater and a bittersweet end to a great week of diving.

We got out of the water for the last time, rinsed our gear and got ready to head into town for dinner. A group of six of us found a nice little Italian restaurant (of course along the ocean front) and had another great dinner with wine and conversation. We relived dives of the week and got to hear stories from the other divers of trips to locales like Fiji, Palau, Cozumel and Cocos. As great as the diving was here the stories we heard have made me anxious for the next dive trip I am fortunate enough to attend.

Tomorrow should be a fun filled day of touring the island, souvenir shopping and relaxing before getting ready for our flight home EARLY on Saturday. Our flight leaves at 7:30am local time which means we will have to leave the resort about 5:30am (2:30am PST). Not looking forward to a long day of travel but definitely looking forward to seeing loved ones when I get back!

I hope to have more images of the island for you tomorrow!

More Pictures

Ready to Descend For a Night Dive

4-5' Tarpon

Female Parrot Fish

Lots of Fishies

The Town of Rincon

Dive Site: Tolo

Lizard Friend



Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bonaire Day 5

Got to sleep in until 9am this morning. When I woke the constant pain in my ear was gone but it felt like I had a wad of cotton shoved in there. I decided not to push it and fore go today's dive. I accompanied some of the group on their dive as they decided on only one dive today. We loaded up the tanks and headed to a dive site just north of 1,000 steps (can't remember the name right now). The beach was full of dead coral which looks like white petrified pieces of dog poo (no other way to describe them). They said the entry was much easier than Invisibles. While the 6 divers ventured out I hung out with 4 non-divers for about an hour working on my tan and taking a few pictures (which I'm too lazy to upload right now). After the dive we took a drive around the north side of the island. It turned out to be a mini safari.

We first ventured through the flamingo reserve. Now when I heard flamingo reserve I pictured hundreds of flamingos with turquoise water and white sandy beaches. Instead it resembled a Southern California lake with about 50 flamingos spread out over 20-30 acres. Got some good shots and continued on through the hilly, windy road. Along the way we encountered wild pigs, wild donkey and even a goat. There are also wild parrots EVERYWHERE. Those little buggers are loud!

We stopped in a little town called Rincon (next to another town called Santa Barbara, go figure) and had an Amstel light. We continued down the road and stopped at a place along the east shore where there are inscriptions from indians in the volcanic rock that date to 300 B.C. Although it was pretty neat to see the carvings in the rock, the local lizards stole the show. Someone in our group had a granola bar and fed on of the nearby lizards. All of a sudden what seemed like HUNDREDS of lizards came RUNNING from up to 30 yards away for their change at a snack. One of the group commented it felt like the movie the birds but with lizards.

After we ran out of food, we got back in our trusty four door Mazda rental truck (that I am driving because no0 one else in my room can drive stick) and headed back to our resort, Buddy Dive. Naps were of course in order before dinner.

We showered and had a couple beers on the patio before heading to an Argentinian restaurant just down the road in the harbor called Patagonia. I ordered the fillet (first non-fish dinner I've had) and it did not disappoint! Argentinians definitely know their beef. One guy in our group had to wait for his dinner and the chef came out personally to apologize. My sister and I shared a bottle of Argentinian Cabernet-Malbeck blend from the Mendoza region of Argentina and we enjoyed great dinner conversation with 5 others from our group. A fudge brownie with ice cream capped a great dinner.

I'm here in my favorite place the "Pool Bar" writing this post and winding down. Tomorrow we have a scheduled two tank boat dive to the little island Klien Bonaire and there is talk of one last night dive as tomorrow is our last day of diving (you must wait 24 hours to fly after your last dive). I'm hoping my day off from the water has healed my ear and that I am able to go on all 3 dives tomorrow. If I can that will be 11 dive in 5 days! On Friday Shannon and I plan on renting scooters and touring the south part of the island.

Although I am truly enjoying my time here, I am looking forward to returning home to my friends, loved ones and most of all my kiddos. Until tomorrow...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bonaire Day 4 (Now with pictures)

Day 4 began as usual about 7am. I had been borrowing an underwater camera for the first couple dives I decided to rent a camera and underwater strobe and am hoping to get some gre3at shots on the rest of our dives. After tank analyzing, getting our gear ready, picking up the new camera and breakfast we boarded the Sport Diver II and headed to the northern part of the island. Our first stop was "Country Garden".

This spot is on the main island but not accessible from shore. The water was fairly choppy and made our giant stride into the water a little challenging. Once in the water we descended to about 60' and the group headed north along the drop off. Shannon tried to show me a little worm like creature that had what can only be described as rows of wavy tissue paper along the top. As she moved out of the way for me to take a picture, her fin kicks dislodged the creature. Being the animal lover she is she tried to put the little guy back where he was. Danielo quickly moved in and let her know this was not allowed. We continued on and didn't see a whole lot more...although the rest of the group saw a barracuda, a turtle and a Wahoo (yes like the fish taco joint). This happens a lot on dives actually. Even thought we were in a group of 10 not everyone sees everything. If you aren't looking in the right place at the right time it's not like someone can just yell over to you "hey check this out", although that's not entirely true.

Yesterday one of the guys in our group brought a tiny shark hand puppet. HE came along side of one of the female divers in our group and set the puppet right next to her hand. Although I didn't see what happened I definitely heard the screams and the profanities that followed. I was able to clearly make out the word "Bastard". But I digress...

After a 1 hour and 20 minute surface interval we moored the boat at a spot called 1,000 steps. This site is accessible from land but as the name implies it's not the easiest to get to. When you have close to 50lbs of gear 100 steps seems like 500 on the way down and 1,000 on the way up.

For this dive my sister and I decided to go the opposite way of the group (unkown to ourselves and the group). We decided to stay around 30' for this dive and we were not disappointed with TONS of schooling fish. Although they were mostly the fish we have been seeing they were in some cases 2 to 3 times larger and in groups of up to 15 or 20. This was our longest dive at 45 mins and we still got back to the boat about 10 minutes before everyone else.

When we got back to the boat Scott the dive master said we had just missed a baby turtle. When the group got back we heard about one of the divers playing with an eel and some squids they had seen just prior to boarding the boat. We stowed our gear and headed back to the resort for so me pool time and and a nap before our planned night dive.

The night dive was amazing. There was about 8 of us and we stayed above 30 feet the whole time. The Tarpon were back and happy to use our lights to hunt. This time however there was a feeding frenzy as at time there were up to 6 of the large fish darting this way and that eating the small bait fish that were all around us. We also saw some crab and what appeared to be an octopus although we could only see one tentacle. Another cool part of the dive was the bio luminescents. If you shut off your lights and waved your hands around it looked as if sparks were flying around in the water. The dive lasted about 45 minutes.

After the dive we all headed to a restaurant called the blue cactus. I ordered the seared ahi tuna which was AMAZING. Shannon had the jerk chicken which was also very good. I topped off my meal with a piece of key lime pie and the night was complete.

A bit of bad news however. During the night dive I noticed a tingle in my ear. That tingle has turned into full blown pain in my right ear. I'm hoping and praying I don't have an infection. Luckily one of the divers in our group in a physician so I will have him take a look in the morning. Either way it looks like I won't be diving tomorrow. Hopefully I will be ready to go for our final day of diving on Thursday (as you cannot dive 24 hours prior to flying). I will keep you posted...
Bonaire Pictures

Resort Signs

The Sea Horse

Spotted Eagle Ray


My Sister Shannon

Nitrox Fill Station

A Perfect Day

Bonaire Sunset

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bonaire Day 3

Hangin out in the "Pool Bar" having a beer, watching Monday Night Football and updating you all on another amazing day here in the Netherlands Antilles.

After our daily resort breakfast we loaded up our rental trucks with Nitrox tanks and headed to the south part of the island near the salt factory. Our dive site was a place called Invisibles which would be the location of my first shore dive. We gingerly entered the water and surface swam about 100 yards offshore. The reef again started about 30' and descended to about 100'. The fish and coral were pretty much the same as the other dives we've made but did not disappoint.

The first dive was nice and fairly uneventful. After our first dive we decided to stay at the site so we all hung out at our trucks and talked and joked around for about an hour. We then suited up and headed out for dive two.

As we descended above the reef we were immediately greeted by a large eagle ray with what must have been a 6' wing span. We followed and took pictures of the ray for about 10 minutes and then discovered a second reef. We began to explore and then realized we were at 100' (a no-no since our first dive was only about 60'). There was some confusion with a few of us, hand signals got mixed up and a couple of us aborted the dive. We really only lost about 5 mins of bottom time.

After the dive we headed back to the resort, had lunch and took naps. We then decided to head out for a night dive (also another first for me) right out in front of the resort. It was amazing! Large fish (about 3 to 4 feet long) called Tarpon darted in and out of our light beams as we provided them with light for their dinner. During the dive we saw snowflake eels, Tarpon, crab and lobster. A few times I turned off my light and just floated at about 60'. I imagine it is what it's like to be in deep space. No light, no sound other than your breathing and bubbles. Eerie but peaceful. My sister was a bit freaked out at first but enjoyed the dive.

Tomorrow is another 2 tank boat dive, this time to the North of the island, possibly in search of turtles. Unfortunately the internet connection here sucks so uploading pictures takes about 2 hours. I will keep trying though!

Talk to you soon!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bonaire Day 2

After close to 9 hours of sleep I felt great this morning. Got up about 7am put on our swimsuits and headed down to the diveshop. We analyzed our Nitrox tanks for our two tank boat dive, got all our gear ready and headed over to breakfast. Everyone else in the group had the same idea and after we filled up on pancakes, omelet es and pastries it was time to board the Sport Diver II for a couple dives on the little island known as Klien Bonaire.

Our Divemasters (Scott from Toronto and Daniela from Columbia) took us to the first spot called "Bon Adventure". We were anxious to get in the turquoise water (about 84 degrees) and see some fishies.

The site started at about 15ft and sloped to a drop off at about 30ft. Visibility was probably 100' or more. We stayed in a spread-out group of about 12 divers. The colors are amazing. Purple and orange sponges, brain coral and plenty different varieties of tropical fish greeted us as we descended to about 60ft. The dive lasted about 30 mins.

After some much needed re hydrating and about a 45 minute surface interval we had moved to the next dive site, "Keepsake". This site was much like the first, however this time just after entering the water our guide showed us a sea horse that looked to be about 6" tall. Also saw a puffer fish that must have been about 2' long that swam right at me. Unfortunately my camera ran out of batteries at that very moment. Again the dive lasted about 30 mins with a max depth of 70'.

After our dive we pulled anchor and headed back to the resort. We rinsed our gear and headed to a grocery store recommended by Daniela that was supposed to be 5 mins from the hotel. After a scenic 15 minute drive without seeing the store (but seeing plenty of dive sites we hope to visit in the next 4 days) we decided to turn back. We eventually found the market (about 1/4 miles from our resort), not sure how all four of us missed it!?!

We hung out by the pool for the rest of the afternoon and enjoyed the local beer Polar Beer which is imported from Venezuela.

For dinner a group of 5 of us headed to a place called Richard's which has been around for about 20 years. We had amazing food and wine right on the water and chatted with the owner...Richard. Nice guy who is originally from Boston.

We rushed back to the hotel (and got lost on the way) to try and video chat with the kiddos. Unfortunately the internet connection here SUCKS and I wasn't able to stay connected long enough for it to work. So I'm sitting in the pool bar writing this post and winding down with a large Heineken.

Tomorrow we plan on doing a few shore dives from the south side of the island. Hope to post again tomorrow (this time with pictures)!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hello from Bonaire!

So we're finally here. After close to 9 hours of red-eye travel we got in at 5:45 a.m. local time. Got about 40 minutes of sleep on the plane (don't sit in the row in front of the emergency exit, the seats don't recline).

Upon check in we got our rooms and watched the sunrise, had breakfast and tried to get some sleep. The humidity is at about 60% and the temp is about 86 degrees. Since the a/c was a tiny wall unit (in the bedroom only) that wasn't happening. I decided to walk around the resort a bit while waiting for my luggage to be delivered to the room.

After two hours and no bag I started to get worried! After some begging and pleading with the staff I fianlly found my bag (it had been delivered to the wrong room) and was able to relax and get some sleep knowing I had clothes for the rest of the trip.

We were also lucky enough to swith rooms to a much bigger, much more air conditioned room...upgrade!

We had a mandatory island orientation and got in the water right in front of our resort (Buddy Dive) about 5pm. It was amazing! Beautiful colors and so many fish. I've been told that what I saw today is merely the tip of the iceberg.

After our dive we took showers and headed to "Steak Saturdays" for dinner. After a couple draft Heinekens I'm writing to you now and soooo ready for a good night's sleep. Getting some really good pics. Hope to share some tomorrow.

Night all!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hey there everybody! I'm still alive and am getting ready for a week-long trip to an Island located in the Netherlands Antilles called Bonaire (next to the better known Aruba).

THe island is a top 5 SCUBA destination and I am going on the trip with my sister and 14 others. MY goal is to blog about my experience. I'm also taking my Mino Flip HD and a small arsenal of camera equipment.

Check back starting September 19th for a week of Bonaire fun!