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Me diving

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Bonaire, May 2006

Here's a report of our trip to Bonaire in May of 2006. You can also check out our favorite pictures (or slideshow). Here's a list of all of the pictures.

Getting There

We flew American Airlines from San Francisco to Miami to San Juan to Bonaire. The last leg of this trip is on a turbo-prop. AA runs one flight a day, 5 days a week from PR to Bonaire. Our flight got delayed overnight in PR due to volcanic ash from not-so-nearby Montserrat. Our luggage was further delayed by several hours. Next time I would seriously consider flying to Curacao (AA runs jet service from Miami) and taking a regional flight to Bonaire. That way if we get stuck there, at least it's in Curacao and not Puerto Rico. Plus there are frequent regional flights.

Even if we hadn't been delayed overnight in Puerto Rico, we would have had a 9-hour layover (our itinerary had us getting into PR at 8am, and the flight to bonaire leaves at 5pm). This is another reason why a regional flight would have been better.

We also had delays getting home in PR. The flight out of PR was delayed and we were re-routed on a different connection. Avoid PR like the plague.


We stayed at Den Laman Condominiums in a studio unit. The unit had a full kitchen (well, no oven) and was generally nice and new. We got a dive-and-stay package that covered the lodging, rental truck, and diving through the onsite (quite literally downstairs) dive shop. There is a restaurant downstairs (which we had breakfast at once). Overall, I'd recommend staying here. Everything is nice and new and the price was good. There is also wireless internet available (for charge).


There are lots of places to choose from, but these were our favourites:

We also ate many breakfast/lunches in our room with leftovers (esp. from the mixed grill) and from groceries we picked up. We shopped at the Cultimara (downtown) and the Supermarket near the airport. We thought both were good. Next time, we will bring more snack foods with us. Also Lover's Ice Cream is the best ice cream on earth.


The dive sites on Bonaire are pretty well described elsewhere.

We dove with Bonaire Dive and Adventure (the onsite dive shop). They were very flexible and great to dive with. As an example, because our flight got delayed, we missed the daily morning BNMP orientation. They arranged for us to have a special orientation in the afternoon and even comp'd us rental gear (until our luggage arrived) so that we would only miss a half-day instead of a whole day. They run 2 boats on 3 trips a day (9am, 11am and 2pm). Our package included 6 boat dives for the week, but we only ended up using 4 of them; a testament to how easy and convenient shore-diving is. If I went back, I might still get the 6-boat package because near the end of the week, flopping off of a boat is a little easier.

Getting tanks is convenient; they have 2 places to pick up tanks on the dock and a drive-up location. Air tanks are available until 9pm but Nitrox tanks are only available until 4:30pm. They have night lockers that you can use to store tanks (but not gear). This is slightly inconvenient for night diving. They had a communal gear room that was locked at 9pm which can also be slightly inconvenient for early morning or late night diving. I think twice during our trip we stored gear in our room because of this. These inconveniences wouldn't keep me from using them again though.

The divemasters and staff were pleasant and flexible. The divemasters were cool with us diving our own profiles and wandering off on our own. The only limit they had was 1hr bottom time for each dive. The boat destinations were determined by the first person to request them, which could usually be done the day before.

We wore 3mm fullsuits which was sufficient for Rob but Allison was cold limited by the end of week on later dives of the day. Next time, perhaps a beanie, hood or hooded vest is in order. Water temperatures ranged from 78-82F. Nitrox availability was not an issue at all. There was tons of it. I would definitely advocate using nitrox here (in fact it is a free upgrade if you stay at Den Laman or Sand Dollar). All told, we did 23 dives in 5.5 days.

These were our favourite dive sites:

  • Bari Reef - (The house reef out back)
  • Hilma Hooker
  • Angel City
  • Town Pier - (Do this at night. This is a must-do dive).
  • Oil Slick Leap - (Easy entry at night too)

We did a dawn-dive one day which was pretty neat. Basically a dusk-dive in reverse (plus you get an early start to the day!).

One small warning about diving Karpata. The road becomes one-way when you get far enough north, and you have to take a big loop to get back to town (see map).


We spent the last day driving around the island. You can see lots of flamingos if you go to the north end past karpata. We also saw several wild donkeys during the drive (and one in Kralendijk earlier in the week). We also drove over to Lac Bay one day; the windward side of the island definitely seemed rougher in terms of the surf.