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Snorkel Trip to Bonaire, 9/5-9/15, 2002
Day 1, Thursday: Almost a perfect flight
We left Boston on American Airlines at noon of September 5th. Flew into San Juan, had a 90 minute wait and then headed to Bonaire on American Eagle, landing at 7:30PM. Everything went great until the bag with our snorkel gear didn't show up. We filled out the appropriate paperwork, though no one from AA was there to assist. We then headed over to our hotel, the Plaza Resort, feeling fairly comfortable that the bag would arrive on the next night's flight.
Day 2, Friday: Getting acclimated to Bonaire
Our plans were to pick up a rental car on Saturday (a weekly deal with AB Car Rental), book a couple of snorkel sails, and snorkel at the Plaza today. Well, without our gear, we decided to use the day to enjoy the Plaza beach and get acclimated to the Bonaire sun. We could have rented gear from Toucan Diving and charged AA, but we knew we were going to do plenty, so we opted for R&R. It was a great day. By the way, every day is a great day in Bonaire, 85F and sunny with trade winds. As far as snorkeling sails, the Plaza desk was helpful but seemed a bit uneducated. We had done a lot of homework and they didn't seem to know much about anything other than trips on the Woodwind. Since this was one of the sails we had read about we booked the Woodwind for a Sunday sail and the Wednesday night snorkel. Checking on our luggage with the Plaza that afternoon, they confirmed that the bag was on that day's flight and that they would pick it up at the airport. So much for optimism. The front desk told us at 9:00PM that the bag was not at the airport and that they would check first thing in the morning with AA to get resolution. You can imagine how I was feeling. There is only one AA flight a day into Bonaire, so we would have wait another 24 hours.
Day 3, Saturday: Time to get down to business
My first stop was the Plaza front desk to find out about our snorkel gear. They made a call to AA at the airport and were told that our bag had arrived last night, after all, and was waiting at the airport. So this was great news, of course the Plaza proceeded to tell us that they had no one that could pick it up at the airport, maybe later. So much for top shelf service. Since we were picking up our rental car, we opted to get the bag ourselves. So AB Car Rental picked us up at the hotel and drove us to the rental office at the airport. I filled out the paperwork on our Samurai Jeep while my wife went to retrieve our bag. We were on our way as they brought the bag from out back. Opps, more paperwork to fill out. The lock on the bag was broken but the only things missing were a snorkel and a mask. Not touched were, wet suits, other snorkels, fins, etc. The significant loss for me was the snorkel. It was a dry snorkel. An item that is not found anywhere on Bonaire. Though I will admit that we only looked in about three dive shops. But, we had our gear, thanks to always having back up masks and snorkels, and we had our Jeep. It's time to enjoy the reef. Since the day was passing, we elected to snorkel at the Plaza. It's actually a great place. We came across Snake Eels and CoronetFish in addition to a wide variety of many others. The coral was not great here, but it is teeming with life. That night we drove out to Pas Bon Pizza for dinner. It was the best Pizza.
Day 4, Sunday: A Trip on the Woodwind
Sunday was our day sail on the Woodwind. Another couple never showed and they took just the two of us out for the day. We sailed over to Klein Bonaire, a small uninhabited island. There was more coral and colorful sponges here than at the Plaza, though the sea floor drops off fairly quickly for snorklers. We saw a turtle here in addition to lots of Trunkfish, Goatfish and too many others to keep track of. Next we sailed back to the mainland and a reef called Andrea I. This was really exceptional. Great shallows for snorkeling, good coral and fish of every description. This is the first time we had seen a SuperMale ParrotFish. It must of been 3 feet in length. We had a nice lunch on the way home.
Day 5, Monday: Time to hit the shore
We headed up north to do some snorkeling from shore. Our first stop was a place called 1000 Steps. Though only about 65 steps to the beach, the name refers to what it feels like if you are going up the stairs and carrying a scuba tank on your back. The view was superb and snorkeling was great. The entry was over a coral beach, but not hard at all. The car was left open (not much choice with the Samurai) and our towels, sandals and sunglasses were left on the beach. I always carried keys, money and plastic on me. We had heard about some people having things stolen, but we had no thief here or at any other shore stop we made on our entire stay. While 1000 Steps was great, we really enjoyed our next stop, Karpata. As with Andrea I, the shallows here were excellent for snorkeling. The coral was good and many great fish to observe. Since the road becomes one-way up at Karpata, we had to take the long way back. On our ride back, you really get to see what the interior of Bonaire is all about. Flamingo's, cactus, goats and more cactus. It is a very dry land.
Day 6, Tuesday: Heading South
Today we head south of town toward Pink Beach. Our first stop is a reef called Invisibles. Once again, the shallows were excellent. More rock and less coral here than up north. But that doesn't affect the variety of the fish. CowFish, Grouper and Puffers love to hide among the rocks. An Octopus sat inside it's rock home. Next we headed for Pink Beach. Quite an expanse of beach, even had some palms trees for a little shade. This was another very easy in and out due to the sandy bottom (not everywhere, but you could pick your spots). We thought we might see some rays here, especially with sand bottom, but none today. In fact we never saw a ray our entire visit. Returning from Pink Beach, we stopped in at Tori's Reef. Not talked about a lot, but we loved it. Maybe our best spot of the trip (though that's a very difficult decision to make). This was a very easy entrance via a small inlet, where you could sit on some rocks and hop right into the water. Huge varieties of tangs, angels, and parrots. Here we saw a our second huge Parrot, this time a Midnight Parrot, almost as wide as they are long.
Day 7, Wednesday: Here comes the night
Tonight we are taking a guided night snorkel at the Divi Flamingo, so we head out to snorkel there during the day to get our bearings and provide some context for that night. We found it very different here. A very sandy bottom and we saw many sand divers (fish not people) along the way. Up and down the rock pier was interesting, but a much more subdued area due to the resort. After Divi, we headed up to a place called Cliff which is located at Hamlet Village. There's a ladder down to the beach, and you then you had to pick your way in, but a great place to snorkel. Some good coral and great rock formations. Here we came across our second octopus curled up in a rock enclosure. That night we had a great snorkel at the Divi. What a difference at night! The colors of everything are amazing. And of course, you're never ready for the first time a 5 foot Tarpon swims by you. Several Eels, Banded Shrimp, and beautiful Orange Sponges were everywhere. The Blue Tangs really do have strips at night.
Day 8, Thursday: Time for another Sail
Even though the Plaza desk couldn't help us, we contacted the Oscarina about a snorkel sail. They were nice enough to take just the two of us out for an afternoon trip. We first headed over to Jerry's Reef on Klein Bonaire. A beautiful place, with lots of coral and sponges. Our second stop was Bandara, just north of Andrea I. It was excellent. Probably the best coral in the shallows we saw anywhere. Lots of TrumpetFish, Large French Angels, CowFish and TrunkFish. This is were we saw our first ever pair of Spotted Drums.
Day 9, Friday: Back to the shore
Had to take another trip south for shore snorkeling. We headed right to Tori's Reef again. We were not disappointed. As varied and great as our first stop here. On our way out of the water here, we came across a beautiful Chain Eel and very camouflaged ScorpionFish. Next we head to Windsock. It seems that every stop is great. Here we came across a group of Reef Squid. They are amazing to watch as they float and swim in unison.
Day 10, Saturday: Last Day on Bonaire
Today we went on a guided snorkel just north of town. We were hoping that we might spot a Seahorse. Rare in the shallows, but possible. One of the longest snorkels of the week, and it was great. Many anemones, urchins and eels. The biggest eel I've ever seen. Starfish, flounder and many others that we knew from sight, but not by name. But alas, no Seahorse. That afternoon we went snorkeling again at the Plaza. With all the great places we had been during the week, this just didn't seem as good as it did the first time. I guess everything is relative.
In a Nutshell:
The Plaza is a nice resort. Location is great, and the rooms are huge. I was very disappointed in the service. There are two casinos on the island. The casino we went into (which was the largest of the two) had one roulette table and two blackjack tables and maybe about 50 slot machines. On a regular night there are about 10 people there, but beware of bingo night. It seems that they have to hold bingo in the casinos. They are mobbed. Every local with a mode of transportation shows up, quite a zoo. Food was very good overall. The rental car worked out great. You can't do Bonaire without one. If you want to do some shopping, don't worry, it takes only about half a day to see everything. Overall we visited 14 different snorkel sites and returned to several a second or third time. The trip home was thankfully uneventful.
Thanks to David for this trip report ...