Exploring Bonaire – part three

Wednesday morning and we were up reasonably early to go to the dive shop to pick up our gear and four filled tanks. There is a lot of choice here with 63 dive sites dotted along the coast and they are all for independent exploration. The small dive guide is our bible as it gives information about each site such as strength of currents, whether it is a beginner, intermediate or advanced dive, maximum depths etc etc….  In making our decisions we’re looking for clues into the entry points as we are shore diving and we need to park, kit up, and then walk into the sea. Well – a lot of them don’t have specifics about the entry site but there are a few clues in the names like Rappel, 1000 Steps and Bloodlet…..

Today we had selected Bachelors Beach and Chez Hines with the backup site The Lake, which came highly recommended. So off we go – errrrrr….. we are not able to park even vaguely close to Chez Hines so we scrub that.  So we drive to The Lake – errrrrr…. might be a lovely dive but I really do not fancy sliding off the top of jagged rocks into the depths below – going in might be OK but could not see how you would get out!!!  So scrub that one too…. Off we go again – this time to Aquarius. Yay there is a small channel through the rocks we can see – so we go for it. Getting in was fine – although I was really cautious because I’m concerned about my dodgy ankle as I step from rock to rock.

Aquarius has a sandy bottom and is home to many schooling species. Nice corals here – more colourful than we had seen so far – and we had a great time. Then we moved on to Bachelor’s Beach which has steps down to the small beach – so great easy entry although getting off the bottom of the steps onto the beach below was a bit of a challenge!   Another lovely site and one of my favourites so far….. The coral formations here were much larger, there were more soft corals and it looked like a forest at one point as they swayed together in the swell, as well as huge purple tubes dotted around. The sheer volume of fish is huge – from tiny fry through to very large parrots and trigger fish – and they are all pretty curious and it is not unusual to get a few of them eyeball to eyeball!!! There are a few small critters of note too if you look hard enough. But still no turtles or eagle rays…. Check out some of our favourites.

Dive Day 1

After diving we headed back to the shop – cleaned our gear and stowed it for another day – and then back to Morphie. We made water and charged the batteries for a while and then decided not to go ashore….. so had a quiet and chilled evening on board.

Thursday morning we were up early and having a cup of tea in the cockpit when we see dolphins playing in the channel between Bonaire and Klein Bonaire… They didn’t come very close – and of course the camera was being charged so no chance of photos – but great to see them. Oh yes, and a turtle popped his head up to say hi too!   What a great start to the day….

Today we are exploring the Washington Slagbaai National Park. This park covers a significant portion of the top end of Bonaire and we get free entrance with our diving tokens. So we packed a picnic lunch and headed off… arriving at the park around 10.  I was quite taken by all the cactus fences surrounding properties on the drive there – bet that keeps intruders out!

Cactus fence

At the welcome centre there is a little museum which was interesting about the history of Bonaire – and we spotted a hawk!  We picked up our park map and decided to go the yellow route through the park – which is 34 km long and takes about 2 ½ hours if you don’t stop….. Driving off and it is just dirt roads – but not too bad with concrete reinforcement at dodgy bits – and then you enter into a moonscape!  Mountains; rocks with fossils embedded; the towering terraces caused by the rise and fall of the ocean dating back 1 million years; the crashing dangerous sea onto the lee shore; the wind turbines; the blowholes; the sandy inlets; the fresh water lakes; more salt; more flamingos; dive sites designed for mountain goats; cliffs; and some old ruins and renovated historic buildings. We were blown away by the sheer natural beauty of it all….

Park17 Park 1 Park 2 Park 3 Park 4 Park 5 Park 6 Park 7 Park 8 Park 9 Park10 Park11 Park12 Park13 Park14 Park15 Park16

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We eventually ended up at a little beach for our picnic and enjoyed a short time bobbing while watching all the macho posturing of the ‘look at me’ divers as they surfaced with all their knives; their BCDs equipped with every useless object you could find in a dive shop; and their huge camera / light displays. Quite funny!!! Actually this dive site looked great – and we were a little jealous – but realistically there was no way we would have fancied having tanks in the back of our truck while we bumped and shuddered along these tracks…..

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After a while it was time to head off again to drive the final 7 kms to exit the park before it closed – and this was the worst bit of the whole day. The tracks got increasingly narrow, windy and steep. Richard enjoyed his attempt at rally driving while I was just glad to escape without serious injury LOL!

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Phew – finally we arrived back to Kralendijk having had a fantastic day out – pretty tired and a little bruised! – so we had a couple of restorative cold beers watching the sunset whilst sitting on the pier before we retired back to Morphie for the night.

Sunset 1

Friday and we are off diving again…. This time we planned to dive Alice in Wonderland and Tori’s Reef.  Alice in Wonderland has a split reef and you have to watch your depth gauge carefully – but we managed to navigate ourselves around and get back to exactly where we started. We are getting lots of practice at this!!!  This is a very popular site – so we saw other divers underwater. We were a bit shocked to see how bad some of them were particularly with buoyancy issues. They weren’t crashing into the coral thankfully but they were all over the shop… with flailing arms and legs….one woman even managed to kick Richard in the face as we passed by….   We also saw quite a lot of solo divers too which surprised me – but everyone to their own I guess – or maybe their buddy was too far away for us to see ?!?!?   We enjoyed this dive but didn’t really see anything different. The next dive was Tori’s reef which was a bit of a struggle to get into the channel out over the rocks – but we managed it. This is the number two dive in the whole of the Caribbean for fish diversity – and I can see why. Another huge aquarium filled with loads and loads of critters….. Nothing of particular note – just overwhelming numbers, although I have to say that parrot and angel fish do seem to go to the toilet quite a lot and they particularly like to do this on top of our heads LOL!!!! More favourite things below…. Dive Day 2

Back on board – sitting in the cockpit watching the comings and goings and we admired this nice yacht coming into the anchorage….. He went towards a couple of mooring balls – and then carried on going – straight towards the wall….. And then he ran aground. Oh dear….. So Richard is in the dinghy to offer international rescue services – one of the guys took a line to the mooring balls behind and the owner of the yacht started to winch that. Another guy took a line to the dinghy and started to pull – Richard went to the other side and pushed. Eventually they got him free and safely onto a set of mooring balls. There is a reef ledge just along the waterfront but it looks like he grounded before hitting that – which was a bit of luck because I don’t think he would have got off of that without doing some major damage…. Excitement over and we got ourselves ready to go out to dinner.

International rescue

We had dinner at It Rains Fishes – a beautiful waterfront restaurant we are moored almost directly opposite. Richard had a duo fish soup starter whilst I had shrimp croquet – followed by steak for me while Richard was tempted by the steak and lobster combo. The food was fantastic, cooked beautifully, and the ambience was great – although one of the tables behind us was a bit noisy, so not quite the romantic evening it would have been otherwise!  We did succumb to deserts too – I had the chocolate duo while Richard tried out the home-made tiramisu ice cream – but I forgot to take photos.   Doh!!!

It Rains Fishes 1 It Rains Fishes 2 It Rains Fishes 3 It Rains Fishes 4 It Rains Fishes 5 It Raines Fishes 6

Oh yes we watched the firework display further down the coast which presumably was for US Independence Day. Hope all our American friends had a good one…..

Saturday we were up early – more diving – this time to Andrea I and Bari’s Reef. The entry at Andrea I was difficult – climbing carefully over jagged rocks and then pulling ourselves over flat boulders to get into deep enough water to get the fins on…. But it was worth it – this was a very interesting dive site in terms of different topography, more twists and turns, more colours, and the biggest parrot fish we had ever seen in our lives!!! They were absolutely humongous…..and when they crunched down on the coral the noise was very loud….. We also saw a few barracudas, a giant pufferfish, some nudibranches, lots of cleaner shrimps, and were blown away by the place. This is the number one dive site for fish diversity in the whole Caribbean and it lives up to its name.

Dive Day 3

Back on land – doing our surface interval eating digestives and sipping water – we were joined by some huge iguanas…. They were easily four foot long – and were very keen to sample our biscuits!  I know you are not supposed to feed wild animals but this was just too tempting – they loved them LOL… Iguana Iguana 2

Back in the truck and we headed off to do Bari’s reef. Entry was easier from a sandy beach – but I didn’t realise there was a step down and got caught by a wave coming in – so managed to fall on my bum in a very unladylike fashion on the way in…. And of course there were people around to see this! Ooops….. No harm done apart from to my pride – and we descended. Bit gloomy here but at least the reef wasn’t a long swim away like some of the other sites. This place had been recommended to us – but to be honest it wasn’t a patch on our earlier dive… The topography was boring, the corals looked a little beaten up without much colour and although lots of fish around, just the usual suspects. Oh well – never mind.

Back to the dive shop to clean and stow the kit – then back to Morphie for a couple of hours relaxing. We chilled out reading and snoozing – then got ready to go out again. Time for more World Cup football – Holland are playing – so we want to be part of the orange world!   Back to Karels – and we managed to get a spot near the bar – and we watched the match. Well….. the Dutch were going mad!!!!  They had so many chances and so much of the possession – but just couldn’t get that ball to go in the goal. Then it’s extra time….and groans get louder as the tension rises. Then they fail to score again and it’s coming down to penalties. Quickly they swapped their goalie out – and the locals explained that their normal goalie isn’t so good at penalties as the other one – and the whole bar held it’s collective breath!!!

Holland game 1

Thankfully they made it – hurrah – orange drinks all round…. Lots of shouting, screaming, car horns, dancing, firecrackers, laughing…. just complete excitement. Well done! Really good time had by all.

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And after the game…..while the whole of the island was celebrating….there was the most beautiful sunset ever.

Sunset 2Today – Sunday – and we have to give our truck back tomorrow   As we had quite a bit to drink last night celebrating along with the rest of the bar – we decided not to go diving. So I’m blogging while Richard is doing boat jobs.  Later on this afternoon we plan to go to the beach for a bobbing session…..

Bye for now