The Caribbean island of Bonaire in the Dutch Antilles is known as the Divers’ Paradise and is considered to be the best shore SCUBA diving in the world. This was our third trip to Bonaire. It is the place where Bob says he can dive until he is sick of it. We picked up our rental truck (by the way, all trucks rented in Bonaire have wooden racks for air tanks as standard equipment because half the people that visit here are divers) and headed for the Black Durgon Inn.
Some of our friends often describe the Black Durgon as the best 1/2 star resort on the island. Bob describes it as “an adult youth hostel.” The Black Durgon is a small, family owned inn with ten rooms, and is a very basic bed and breakfast divers’ resort. The best aspects of the inn are its location, (right on the shore near the Small Wall, a favorite dive site) and the family feeling you get as you meet other guests at breakfast. Our friends from Lansing, Stan and Betsy Pash stayed at the same time, as well as Al and Maureen Pigeon from Vermont, whom we had met on previous trips. Other guests included two doctors who meet there every year (one from England and the other from Slovakia), a couple from Kansas, a couple from Massachusetts, and another from Denmark just to list a few. There is a breakfast every morning and a small kitchen in an open air porch for fixing lunch and dinner if you choose to eat in. One of the first things we did was purchase food from local markets for snacks and meals. It’s interesting to go shopping in a grocery store where the signs are only in Dutch.
The daily routine is pretty simple. We exercise before breakfast, decide during breakfast where we are going to dive in the morning, go diving, relax and have lunch. Then decide where we will dive in the afternoon, go diving, relax and have some wine and snacks during our informal “cocktail hour,” go to dinner or prepare a meal to eat at the inn. Some nights we do a night dive off the pier at the inn, and after a night’s sleep repeat the process – what could be easier?!
The entire island is a maritime preserve and as a result there is abundant aquatic life, it is like swimming in an aquarium! Even though Pat does not dive, she will normally go snorkeling at the same site where Bob is diving. The weather was beautiful for our entire stay with daily temperatures around 840 and water temperatures around 800. When it did rain, it normally rained at night and was clear during the day. SCUBA diving in Bonaire is simple. You get an air tank from the resort (you get an unlimited number of tanks), get your gear from the storage cage where is has been drying since your last dive, and load it in your truck. Then drive down the road to your dive site which is marked by a large rock, painted yellow with the name of the site on it. As there are over 80 dive sites accessible from shore, you never run out of places to dive. Once you enter the water the top of the reef is typically 25-35 yards offshore and 20-30 feet underwater. The shallow water above the reef allows you to be underwater for close to an hour on every dive – a true diver’s paradise!
While diving occupied most of our time, we did do other things. One afternoon a group of us drove to the little town of Rincon and visited the local distillery. This is run by a Dutch couple who moved to Bonaire three years ago, renovated the property, and now make liqueurs unique to the Dutch Antilles. They are also renovating the old cinema (movie theater) in Rincon. Another afternoon we borrowed one of the Black Durgon’s kayaks and paddled to Klein Bonaire (literally “Little Bonaire), an island offshore for snorkeling.
One of Bob’s favorite dive sites include the Hilma Hooker, a local steamer that sunk off the southwest coast of the island. At 90 feet underwater and about 100 yards off shore, it is an easy dive. The Hilma Hooker has no covers over her hatches which allows divers to swim inside the hull without fear of getting trapped in a confined space. LaDania’s Leap is another favorite – on this dive you jump from a cliff about three feet above the water and drift dive to Karpata, another dive site for your exit from the water. The hard coral formations are in great shape and there is a good chance of seeing turtles in addition to the normal selection of fish. We dove a lot on sites on the southwest shore and were able to see some very healthy hard coral formations and bountiful soft coral. Other favorites include Red Slave, Angel’s City, Thousand Steps, and Oil Slick.
Unfortunately all good things must come to an end and on February 9th we flew back to San Antonio, TX.