2009: Bonaire

Under the Sea



As I mentioned before, Bonaire is a well-known shore diving location. But here's the thing about shore diving: it's hard. Especially hard for 115-pound weaklings like me. Hey, falling or jumping off a boat into several dozen feet of water is a pretty easy proposition compared to shore diving, where you have to walk at least thirty yards through shifting sand (or sharp rocks, even worse) in unsupportive rubber booties, wearing a full bodysuit of stiff neoprene and forty pounds of tank on your back, while every five seconds the surf changes direction trying to knock you on your kiester.

Buddy dive dock.

In my case, I can't even attempt walking into the water while wearing my tank; I'd be on my back like a turtle in two steps. That means poor long-suffering Mike has to wear one tank and heave the other one until he's in water about three feet deep, where the tank rig will float on its own and I can slip into the rig sitting down. So while we planned to try some shore diving, we figured to do most of our diving off boats, at least for a few days. I'd done some research and settled on the popular Buddy Dive service as our best choice. Buddy's was a bit of a drive from our condo, but as we soon discovered, it had a very nice facility and a great pier from which you could also shore dive.

Unfortunately, the boat diving turned out to be generally disappointing. Although riding the boats got us into the water with less stress and exertion, the dive sites were lackluster with very little fish life. Ultimately we enjoyed the shore dives more, although we only did a few of them. Our last couple of dives on the trip were done right off our condominium pier -- just walk downstairs, suit up, and swim away.

Larry the photographer. On the boat. Look at that camera gear!

However, there were a few perks we got from the boat trips. While diving on the Buddy boats, we met Larry, a die-hard diver and underwater photographer. On our mutual dives, he took a few photos of us which he generously shared.

Beautiful! Nice spread-eagle. Diving blind? Swim! Swim!

Buddy Dive also had a stellar camera-rental facility. We'd tried underwater photography before with little success, but that was before the digital revolution. We decided it was worth a few bucks to rent some decent digital cameras (in underwater housings, of course) and give it one more try. Here are the few decent photos that I managed to take:

Whoozzat? Pretty corals. Scaled lettuce coral. More pretty coral.
Cup coral. Corals and squirrelfish. Flower coral. Gorgonian.
Tube sponge. Hawksbill turtle. Brain coral. Whazzat?

Pink sponge. Brittle stars.

Mike did a much better job overall than I did. I gave up on the photography after only one dive, but Mike kept at it a little longer and thus got more decent pics. Later he confided that he didn't even try to look through the viewfinder; he just aimed in a general direction and shot. After all, digital "film" is free! One of his nice photos, of a pink sponge, is at left. It was only later, when examining the photo at full resolution, that we discovered the hidden treasure: tiny brittle starfish, the size of fingernails, hiding in the crevices of the sponge.

Finger corals. Tube sponge. Spotted moray eel. Damsel fish. Fan coral.
Fireworm on star coral. Hiding squirrelfish Tube worms. Flame scallop. Strange fish!
French angel. Flower coral. Tube sponge. Hawksbill turtle. Pretty coral.
Peacock flounder. Pufferfish. Schooling grunts. Stonefish.
Spiny urchin. School of silversides. Trunkfish. Scuba woman! Smallmouth grunts.
Schooling surgeonfish. Sea plumes. Squirrelfish. Trumpetfish.
Camerawoman chasing turtle. Suck that air! Heading up. Made it!
Calimari, anyone?

On one of our shore dives, Mike was paddling away from me into the depths while I was lazing along nearer the shoreline. I noticed something odd -- well, two somethings actually -- floating several feet above the bottom, probably about thirty yards away from me toward the shore. Not sure what I was seeing, I started swimming slowly and cautiously toward the floaters; if they were creatures, I didn't want to scare them. I had closed about a third of the distance when my eyes widened in recognition: they were little squid! I'd never seen any before and was really excited. I turned back toward Mike, deperately hoping I could get his attention. But no, he was turned away, poking around on the bottom. I nearly twisted off my own neck turning first to the squid, then to Mike:LOOK AT ME DAMMIT! Finally Mike turned around where he could see me and I tried to gesture "Come here!" without disturbing the little critters. He started to swim back too fast, and the little blobs, each less than a foot long, instantly changed direction and started heading away from me. I pointed frantically in their direction and Mike took off like a bat out of hell after them. Neither of us ever got very close, but at least Mike managed to take one too-distant but precious souvenir photo of the one unique dive experience we had in Bonaire.