I’m sitting on the plane back from Bonaire and I still cannot get over the incredible week I just had. I love to travel, as I believe with each trip, you learn something new, whether it’s a new culture, language, or way of life. For me, this trip was truly life changing as I discovered a new world…the one underwater. I have snorkeled and done some introductory dives in the past, but I finally decided to get scuba certified, and I couldn’t have asked for a more enriching and spectacular playground than that of Bonaire.
This past week was filled with so many new experiences, including meeting great new diving friends, boat and shore diving, and my first night dive! I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people with whom to go diving than those at Captain Don’s Habitat. The casual and open setting facilitates easily formed bonds between people of all ages and diving levels. One of my biggest fears before arriving was the fact that I would be a new diver and everyone else would have much more experience. However, my fears quickly dissipated as experienced divers and divemasters offered to be my dive buddy. They were quick to help me double check that all of my equipment was hooked up correctly or pull me back down if I was ascending too quickly as I started to do on my first dive (you have to do a safety stop at 15-20 feet for 3 minutes so you can slowly let the nitrogen out of your body).
During my stay in Bonaire, I did my four open water dives to complete my certification right off of the pier at Captain Don’s, and did four boat dives to Forest and Keepsake in Klein Bonaire, Kalli’s Reef and the Hilma Hooker ship wreck, which was my deepest dive at almost 100 feet! The night dive was an experience unlike any other. When I first jumped in off of Captain Don’s pier, I couldn’t believe how dark it was, but with our dive lights we were able to see around us. Again, I had such a wonderful dive buddy, who held my hand for the whole hour. There were four of us that went out and we wanted to make sure we all stayed together. As we ventured through the waters, we had a big tarpon following us, probably using our light to hunt for his dinner. Its skin was shiny and glistened off of our light. One of the guys the night before had seen an octopus and I was really hoping we would as well. Turns out just as we were heading back, this huge octopus was beside us morphing into different forms and colors. The color changes were amazing, a new one every few seconds. It’s probably the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!
Since this was my first time diving, I didn’t want to buy an expensive underwater camera or video camera just yet, as I knew I would need to concentrate on my buoyancy (making sure you don’t hit the coral or float to the top). However, I also wanted to capture this amazing underwater world and my first experience on tape, so I called Hendrik Wuyts, owner of Bonaire Film Productions, and the best underwater videographer on the island of Bonaire. He came with his very high tech HD video cam and captured the whole dive for me. Not only did he get great footage, but he knew all the right spots to look for the best fish and coral. On this dive, I saw two turtles, one that was swimming and one sleeping, which I was really excited about, and a flounder making his way along the bottom of the ocean. He was the same color as the sand, but you could see his eyes open and close as he scurried along. In addition, we saw beautiful butterfly, cowfish and trunkfish. It was a remarkable experience and Hendrik makes you feel completely at ease so you can explore while he takes care of the rest. He has a way of getting the fish to come to him, as he captures their true essence. Even if you are an experienced diver, you should bring him along on one of your dives or if you are in a group, he will film you all jumping in and interacting with the fish. I know I haven’t been to many other dive spots yet, but I can’t imagine one more beautiful. It is ranked as one of the best spots in the world for its sustainability. Hendrik also just released a DVD entitled Bonaire Ta Dushi which talks all about Bonaire’s past and present, the Bonairean people and their history and highlights all of the things you must see and do in Bonaire. A naturalist teaches you about their birds and beautiful flamingos, while marine park gurus explain why Bonaire still has such pristine reefs.
This was “Celebrate Our Planet Week” in conjunction with Bonaire’s “Dive Into Summer” program and featured famed oceanographer, Dr. Sylvia Earle, who I had the honor of diving with twice and attending her seminar. Dr. Earle is an extremely interesting and accomplished individual who has worked practically her whole life studying marine life and trying to teach so many what is going to happen if we don’t work on conserving our lifeline. Dr. Earle has led more than 60 expeditions worldwide involving over 7000 hours underwater in connection with her research and is known as the ambassador to world’s oceans.
So if you’re thinking about getting Scuba certified, I would recommend contacting DEMA and get on board their “Be a Diver Program.” They will help you find a dive shop in your area. Do the classroom or e-learning work at home as well as your pool dives and then complete the rest in Bonaire. You’ll be certified within a day or two of your arrival and will have the rest of the time to explore. If you are an experienced diver and have not made it to Bonaire yet, what are you waiting for?! After you discover some of the 80 dive spots in Bonaire and Klein Bonaire, you’ll see exactly what I mean…a whole new world like you’ve never seen before.