Sorry for the long report but we always live vicariously through other’s reports while waiting to visit so here goes. Just back from our third stay on Bonaire and had a wonderful time over three weeks! Our first visit was seven years ago, then four years ago so you can certainly see changes happening over that time.
Our first two trips we stayed at Sand Dollar and dived with BDA but this time we gave Eden Beach and Wannadive a try and were happy with that choice. We traveled from Southeast Alaska to MIA via overnighting in Seattle and down to Curacao on American on December 12th. Were able to get an extremely good price on the MIA-CUR portion of the trip by planning our return on New Year’s Eve. We used DAE for the CUR-BON portion and in spite of our nervousness given all the bad posts about them they were very pleasant to deal with, organized, on time, and actually were the best flights of our trip. Maybe we just got lucky but we are not complaining. On arrival in BON it turned out that we had done a poor job of letting Eden know when our flight was arriving so Total Car rental was not prepared for our arrival and was just closing up as we arrived. Fortunately we caught the ladies as they were locking up, explained the situation and they helped us with smiles around. Our low mileage truck was in very good condition with the usual scratches and dings but ran perfectly for the trip and return was without trouble.
Eden Beach was fine to stay at. The influx of pod people was overwhelming when there were large ships in but they arrive about 9:30AM and are gone by 3PM. We were always diving during that window so it was not a problem but if you are planning to hang out at the beach during the day when ships are in you will be very disappointed. We had the beach to ourselves all the rest of the time and killed many a Polar and Bright post-dive watching the sunset from the beach! Our two bedroom was good but not fantastic but we came to love it over the three weeks. AC in rooms as well as living room! Maid service was superb and we felt very safe. The safe seemed adequate for our valuables. We hung out on the beach several late nights and were always visited by security to make sure we belonged there.
Wannadive is a really well run operation. The owners obviously have impressed a spirit of customer service on their staff and all were a joy to be around. They seemed to actually like each other which was not a feeling we got from BDA in the past. We watched them work with class after class of new open water divers and they all seemed to be having a huge amount of fun. Rutger and Emma were really a lot of fun to watch working with the younger kids. We did not do any boat dives as we really like the freedom of shore diving but they seemed to be safe, organized, and uncrowded. Their Thursday night rum punch and BBQ at the Hut is not to be missed.
It rained a short period of time most days but we were underwater during most of that. Only Christmas day did it rain all day. No complaints there. Everything is VERY green with all the rain and while we expected to be eaten by bugs didn’t actually find it to be as bad as our last two visits in November. Used simple 5% DEET Off and were really only bitten a few times. Amazing how the same temperature on arrival day is overwhelmingly hot and muggy and two weeks later feels like you need a jacket for the same weather. Acclimatization is great!
We ate all breakfast and lunches in the condo and used Cultimara and Warehouse for groceries. Better selection at Warehouse but better “Island" experience at Cultimara. Ate out most nights. Best part of Bonaire is that beer on the beach at sunset waiting for your turn to use the shower to wash off the salt and sand anticipating another fantastic dining experience in town. In three weeks we only ate at the same restaurant twice one time (Ribs Factory, son thinks they are the best in the world) . So many options and great food. Favorites this trip were Will’s, Cactus Blue, Casablanca, It Rains Fishes, Rum Runners, Bambu, Richards, and my favorite La Gurnica. Somewhat underwhelmed by Capricios, Pasa Bon Pizza, and Unbelievable but none were bad. Morning cappuccino’s and late night beers at Karels will be remembered forever! Don’t know if we just finally have been able to get our brains on island time or if service has just really improved but once we get our minds out of American fast food mentality and into dinning as an experience to be enjoyed for the evening we found service to be excellent across the island.
Diving? Well the reef is certainly stressed. Lots of coral bleaching, lionfish, and reduced vis compared to our earlier trips. Still a wonderful experience but quite changed over the years. Did all the usual west side sites at a relaxing pace of two a day. Favorite dive is Angel City out to the sand between reefs then north to have the Hooker's bow appear out of the gloom like a ghost with a drift back to Angel City! Always had something like sunglasses, food, or spare clothes in the truck but did not see any signs of fresh vandalism or theft but all sites were pretty busy with divers so that may have had an impact. Clearly an improved presence of police on the island everywhere compared to previous visits.
Overall a bit of a change for the worse over the years but still a fantastic place for a family of divers, eaters, and “glass half-fullers” to visit. Here’s hoping the new government will be able to control the impacts of growth, sewage, etc to protect the reef as much as possible given the constraints of the obvious temperature increases. Without the reef ………