Goin’ Home

We are on the last plane of this trip and as far as the trip status goes we are still 0. It seems we can’t get through a trip without a bit of stress.

Yesterday, Insel Air, supposedly a horrible airline, ran like clockwork. Supposed to leave at 10, we left at 10. We skirted the customs scam on Caracau, where upon arrival you have to enter the country in order to exit immediately and pay a $5 exit fee for the privilege, by having a Westjet boarding pass in our hands and going through the little known ‘in transit’ gate located before the immigration booths.

Next leg Westjet was again on time and we arrive in Toronto as prescribed. Glitch here though as we are not the only ones to arrive at that time and the line at immigration is horrendous. With the new machines everything cracked along and since we had carry on luggage we are on the curb waiting for our hotel shuttle in no time.

This morning however is not so slick. We have booked a shuttle with plenty of time to make our flight. We arrive at the lobby at the appointed time and there is a minor kerfuffle going on. We soon learn the shuttle has given up the ghost. More and more folks arrive at the front looking for a ride. By luck Debbie and I place ourselves by a guy who happens to be a Westjet pilot, and we soon find out a savvy traveler. We start a conversation and chat a bit. Just small talk, where are you going and stuff like that. We soon gather the hotel has contacted a cab company and we will be shuttled via cab to the airport. Most folks seem quite stressed and getting worse when the pilot, who has been staring out the front doors, looked at Debbie and I and gave us a little nod of the head. We follow him out the door load our bags into the trunk of a taxi and we were off. A bit sleazy, leaving the other folk behind but it is a jungle out there and the fittest survive.

The airport gods are looking upon us. We again have boarding passes in hand and our only hurdle is security. Holy s**t the line is long. Haven’t run into that in quite a while. It moves quite quickly and we are still at our gate with a 1/2 hour to spare.

Looking down on the landscape there has been snow on the ground since shortly after we left Toronto. Landing soon and our trip status with be changed to 1. Time to think XC skiing.

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Last Day of Diving in Bonaire

It is our last day of diving here in Bonaire. There are so many dive sites up and down the west coast, that even on our last day, we dive two sites we haven’t been to.

We have been searching for good photo opportunities of this fellow and today we finally got some. He is a peppermint shrimp. Cute fellow who sways back and forth inside tube sponges.

Bonaire

A few days ago I happened across a belted cardinal fish hiding in a coral. I have been searching for him and today we find two different ones. Tiny fellow with a snub nose. Again, a real cutie.

Bonaire

We dove 13 days straight. Ten days were 3 dive days and three were two dive days. We covered a good portion of the dive sites on the west coast, and even two on the east coast. We did not get over to Klein Bonaire to do some boat diving, maybe next time. It was a great dive trip with a myriad of sea life. I think we will be arriving home slightly tired. See you on the other side.

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A thought or two or four

In one part of Bonaire, sea water is flooded into large ponds and the water is evaporated leaving only salt that is shipped elsewhere. In another part of the island, sea water is pumped into a desalination plant, the salt is taken out to make drinking water. Weird, huh?

Bonaire

Today we dive Margate Bay. There are a couple of other divers doing the same dive, and underwater they are traveling at about the same speed we are. This is the first time we have encountered other divers who are not seeming to race through dive sites. After the dive we head to Cactus Blue, our favourite food truck, for a hamburger. I notice this other couple there, the ones who were diving Margate. I approach them and explain that it is nice to find other divers who dive slow. When I ask where they are from, they say “Edmonton, Alberta, Canada”. I laugh and when M and L ask where we are from, I say “Edmonton!” We share stories while eating the best truck hamburgers on Bonaire. It is indeed a small world!

Slipper Lobster, Bonaire

Slipper Lobster

While we are eating our lunch, the local lizards are enjoying their lunch of escaped lettuce fallen from our burgers to the ground. One walks over Murray’s foot, startling poor Murray. A minute or two later, two lizards are fighting over scraps when their fight takes them across my feet. A squawk is involuntarily let loose, and it was not from the lizards.

Watch out for possessive damsel fish underwater. I was taking a picture of a corkscrew anenome, which happened to be in Madame Damsel Fish’s domain, when she got a little irate and pecked at my hand! That has never ever happened to me before. No blood just a small fright.

The four Canucks head to Batchelor’s Beach for the final dive of the day and spend a good portion of our time hunting for non existent seahorses. Peaceful dive, as mentioned we all dive about the same. We part in the parking lot with intentions of exchanging cards and maybe someday diving together in some far flung place.

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Bonaire Road Signage

Bonaire is a special municipality of the Netherlands, so there are many Dutch speakers here. Many food labels and menus are in Dutch, so it would make sense that road signs with words on them are in Dutch too. Roads signs with no words can also be rather humorous for North Americans.

There are wild donkeys on the island, so there are warnings for motorists about donkeys crossing the roads, or that’s what we think it says.

Bonaire

In some countries, they are called speed bumps or sleeping policeman. Here they are drempels.

Bonaire

And just for fun, this one means “Welcome to Saskatchewan”!

Bonaire

There is a narrow road in the north of the island where there are many dive sites. Motorists need to be warned about these creatures crossing the road.

Bonaire

That’s all for our take on the signage in Bonaire, but here is a critter we met today.

Bonaire

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It’s a Forest Out There

Bonaire’s reef is in fantasic shape. It has been a national park for many years and has flourished under the protection of the law. Everything is in abundance. In fact it is hard to find those special things because there is so much of everything. One animal does stand out. There are so many one becomes complacent about them about 5 minutes into the first dive. The only thing is there are so many you cannot ignore them.

There are Spriobranchus Giganteus on every square foot of reef on the west shore of Bonaire. The Christmas Tree Worm, its common name, is a tube building polychaete worm. It has two conifer like crowns consisting of radioles, hair like arms radiating from the worm’s central body.

Christmas Tree Worm

Once these fellows find a home they tend to stay. They bore a hole into living coral and lay down roots (figuratively). They are quite shy and will retract crowns and all into their tubes when they are disturbed.

Christmas Tree Worm

The largest of them is about 1.5″ in diameter. They come in a variety of brilliant colors and are easily spotted when swimming by. Christmas Tree Worms are one of the most widely recognized of the marine burrowing, segmented worms.

Christmas Tree Worm

We keep thinking we should mention these guys in our blog so today we decided to give them a dedicated expose. Hope it is something you can use in your everyday conversation tomorrow.

Christmas Tree Worm

 

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Rest Day

Karlendijk is bigger than when we were here 6 years ago but it is really much the same. I could not remember the routes to take here or there but that just took a couple of days and some things began to look familiar and now navigation is easy. One thing I do not remember is the number of cruise ships that stop here. From Tuesday to Friday there is a least one ship a day moored to the main pier and the hordes descend upon the two block downtown or rent a golf cart and take an hour trip around the island. These are days when it is best to be underwater as much as possible. I’m guessing the revenue is worth it for the buisnesses but the extra traffic is quite annoying to the ones here to dive.

Today was our only shopping day and it was, without planning, an non cruise ship day. We had the main street and any shop we went into to ourselves. We did not buy much so we didn’t help the “divers are enough for Bonaire” movement. Explaining why there are cruise ships every day.

Nurse Shark

Nurse Shark

The first two shops we stopped at are owned by Canadians. A crusty old fellow that had been in the Canadian military and retired down here. For a few years he ran dive tours but now he mans the shop that sells his wife’s paintings. We walk down the street and stop in an upscale kind of jewellery shop and damned if that lady is not from Edmonton, Millwoods in particular. The lady at the Carib Inn dive shop guessed that we were from Edmonton or Calgary, just by the way we talked. I believe she is Canadian too. I do find it odd that there are so many Canadian expats here but most of them came because of the diving and have stayed on, so I guess it is explainable.

Diving today was a little different. We were on a boat. A Canadian made boat. An aluminium hulled Zodiac. We went to the “wildside”, the east coast of Bonaire. I found the diving quite easy but I have to say the swells were really something. Four to five footers. Ten people on the boat, back roll in one at a time, drop to about 30′ and let the dive begin. The main attraction, besides being able to say ‘I dove the wildside’, is the possibility of sighting the larger ocean going pelagics. Managed to see a couple of eagle rays out in the blue and there was one HUGE nurse shark. (Nose in the air again) I have seen so many nurse sharks I don’t even bother to swim over to have a look when the dive master points one out, but this one was big. Eight to ten feet would be my guess.

The next dive was on turtle heaven. 40 turtles is a conservative number. Kick, kick….. turtle, kick, kick….turtle. Could have gotten boring if turtles were not such elegant swimmers and able to mesmerize you with their fluid motion. And of course with that many turtles one is bound to have a close encounter or two. Debbie managed to get a turtle nose as one of her photos. They were not that bothered by divers, even though they have seen far fewer than the turtles on the west side.

Green Turtle

Green Turtle

The dive master (owner) guys were both youngish entrepreneurs. Seemed really happy with their work. Enjoyed guiding even though they had probably done those two dives hundreds of times.

The last portion of the second dive was over some coral ‘fingers’ that ran from quite shallow into the depths. Beautiful terrain but we did not have any time to explore them. The dives are limited to 60 minutes and both of the DM’s had that part down to a science. By the time we passed over the fingers once it was time to call it quits and we had to surface.

Only two dives makes for an easy day. Wandering downtown is not very taxing. Hopefully we have had enough leisure time to rest up for tomorrow’s three shore dive day.

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In Search of Supper on a Monday Night

It is after 6 o’clock and we are starving. Murray has this list he compiled from reading Trip Advisor and under the Italian restaurants, a place called Mona Lisa is identified. We decide to go there.

Normally we read menus before we go into a restaurant, but we neglected to do this before we get sat at a table. I order a Ginger Ale to drink, while Murray has water. We are both looking at the menu and simultaneously realize that this is NOT an Italian restaurant and the items on the menu are of no interest to us and horrendously expensive. Murray graciously informs the server that we won’t be staying past me drinking (very quickly) my drink. We pay the three bucks and skeedaddle.

Flounder

Flounder

Still hungry. Now where? There is another Italian restaurant a few blocks away by driving that is in the same building as a sushi place and an Indonesian restaurant. We drive there, park, walk up to the door of the Italian place and it is closed. Same for the other two restaurants. It seems that many restaurants are closed on Mondays. How can you do that in a tourist spot?

Still hungry. Now where? Oh, let’s try Julian’s on the waterfront. We drive past there looking for a parking spot. Find one a block or so away. Walk there and read their menu. A burger is $15.00. Menu is not too thrilling. We decide to forgo this place.

Juvenile French Angelfish

Juvenile French Angelfish

Still hungry. now where?  We end up at Wattaburger. A fast food kinda place on the main street. The menu is mostly in Dutch. We are now famished so we decide quickly what to order, saunter up to the counter and Murray orders Chicken Fingers, Small Fries and a Fanta Orange for me and a Mushroom Burger and Chocolate Milkshake for him. The young local girl looks stunned. Murray repeats Chicken Fingers. The girl says do you want sauce? What kind do you have? She then proceeds to rattle off some words that neither one of us understand. Now it is our turn to look stunned. I think I hear something with the word chili in it so default to that one. We finally make it understood what we both want after much back and forth about whether they actually have chocolate milkshakes. She takes Murray’s credit card, runs it through but we have no idea how much it cost. When Murray asks her, she again looks stunned. I have a feeling she is not used to dealing with finicky Canadians!

Get our food (only mediocre) gobble it down. Not hungry any more.

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Benefits of Scuba Diving for more than a week

Tonight over supper of Chicken Pesto Pasta for Murray and Garlic Shrimp for me, we discuss the benefits of going on a scuba diving trip that is longer than one week. Our usual time frame for a dive trip is about 10 days. Due to Westjet’s flight timetable, we are staying on Bonaire for two weeks, so we get 13 days to scuba dive.

The longer we are here, the longer our dives become. We are more relaxed in the water so our breathing is calmer and we use less air, therefore we get to stay down longer. Also, we adjust our weights so we are not overweight, thus using less air and we get to stay down longer.

Bonaire

Our dive routine, swim to buoy, descend, use compass to swim over reef, find a marker, etc is getting perfected. We are diligent about picking out good markers, whether it is a large coral head, odd shaped brain coral or unusual tube sponge grouping, as this is how we find our way back to shore. Murray is becoming an expert at using the compass to navigate back to shore.

Our under water communication is getting better and better. We are making up hand signals for things like “buoy”, “turn around”, that crab  is “hiding” and let’s go in that “direction”. We cannot have long conversations while diving but we get the point across and keep trying until the message is understood.

Bonaire

We get better at spotting small or unusual wildlife the longer we dive. It takes a few days to get used to the terrain and who hides where. Our eyes need to become accustomed to where to look, and that takes time.

Finally, my camera skills are improving the longer we stay on Bonaire. The first few days, my photos are all blue, or washed out by too much flash or out of focus. Today I took some pretty good photos, in focus and perfect lighting and colours! If we only dove for 6 days, I would never reach this level, and that would be frustrating.

Bonaire

We would recommend to everyone to book dive trips of about 10 days (or splurge for 2 weeks!) to make sure your diving has a chance to improve.

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Diving in Bonaire

We shore dive up and down the west coast of Bonaire. The diving is very doable for all levels of divers and there is lots to see.

Bonaire
The south has more soft corals. Sea Fans and Sea Plumes and Swollen-Knob Candelabrum. The north has more hard corals. Plate coral and brain coral and lettuce coral.

Bonaire

Living in the fronds of soft corals and the crevices of hard corals are tiny fish, dwarf eels, crabs and shrimp. We move slowly so we can inspect each coral we float over, looking for the unusual, the tiniest bit of movement that gives away a creature trying to hide.

Bonaire

The diving here is mostly wall diving. We swim out toward the wall over flat shallows of sand and then descend to about 60 feet to swim along the wall. We swim north, then turn around to swim south back to our original point and then into shore. The shallows are filled with smaller corals and rock debris which house a myriad of juvenile fish.

There is a second reef that runs along part of the coast which is accessible on a few of the dive sites. We have been over to the second reef twice now.

We mostly have a dive site to ourselves. It is not a busy time in Bonaire right now. High season starts in a couple of weeks. If there are other divers on the same site, we may occasionally see them underwater as they pass by us, usually at a different depth than us.

Bonaire

It is very peaceful under the waves looking at all the corals and the wildlife. If you have ever thought about coming here, please do.

 

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An eel of a day!

Today is a day for eels. We have not seen many in the four days we have been diving. Today we see five, three smaller and two huge!

Murray and I are swimming back towards our marker point on our second dive, and suddenly there is a huge Green Moray Eel swimming past us just off to my left. I don’t move, just watch him cruise by. Don’t want to be his lunch. After he passes, I kick to Murray and poke him excitedly so he can watch the eel too. Mr. Moray keeps going and swims over a coral head and disappears. We both look at each other in shock that the eel is out of its hole and that he is so large and long.

Bonaire

We spy a few of Mr. Moray smaller relatives here and there on our dives (photos). They are not so intimidating and stay nicely in their holes.

Bonaire

On our last dive, I am approaching a Yellow Arrow line Crab for a photo when suddenly Mr. Morey’s brother swims right underneath me, only about 2 to 3 feet below me. I, once again, don’t move and try to not look too tasty. This time Murray sees him right away as he descends to lower depths. Again, we look at one another and shake our heads. What is going on???

It definitely is an eel of a day!

BonaireWe hooked up a pretty good system for diving Bonaire. The hotel, Coral Paradise Resort, we are at has ‘connections’ to everything you would need to dive here. First we rented the room with a kitchenette. It is a really nice hotel with only 8 rooms.

They did all the work and through them we rented our truck, with AB Rental. The truck was waiting for us when we got to the hotel. There was a taxi waiting at the airport to shuttle us to the hotel when we arrived.

One trip to the dive shop, AB Dive, the next morning for the Bonaire Marine Park lecture and the mandatory check out dive and from then on the tanks we require are delivered to the hotel. So all we have to do is get up in the morning, load the truck and we are off diving. They let us take a days worth of tanks so we don’t have to return to town at all.

There is a kitchenette in the room so breakfast is very accessable. Once we leave here we head to a dive site. The hotel folks can also hook up a holiday of boat dives if that is your schtick or a combination of boat and shore dives. We wanted to dive the wildside and Caroline booked us a boat ride for 2 dives on the east coast. All in all this has been a very easy trip to organize and so far has worked well for us. I would without a doubt stay here and do this again.

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