Last Dive on Bonaire and Homeward Bound

Eighty minutes into our last dive I realize I still have 1,000 lbs. of air. I have done 90-minute dives a few times but with that much air I could do 100. Debbie and I have a short conversation using our patented hand language and even though she is not trilled about it she reluctantly agrees and we shoot for a 100-minute dive.

bonaire octopus

We have that discussion at 30 feet and it not very far to the shore so we zig zag our way up to the shallows and by the time we reach 15 ft. the dive computer ticks over 100 minutes. Thinking back to when we started diving, my bottom time was 45 to 50 minutes. It has taken quite a while but I have managed to double it.

bonaire gobi

I have to rant every once in awhile and here it is. Sitting in the airport, I see people walking in and out of the duty free store. Then on the airplane the stewards walk down the aisle selling things from the AC duty free pamphlet. I have to believe these items are indeed duty free but that does not stop the purveyors from inflating the price and instead of passing the extra onto the government, they pocket it. I have copied the manufacture’s name and the items I have been interested in, an aerodynamic umbrella or a carbon fiber wallet, and lo and behold on the internet the cost of those items is the same as I would have paid from a duty free source. Somebody is making money here. Make sure you know the MSRP of the items you want before you make a purchase from the duty free store and then find you didn’t get the deal you thought.

Another rant…..about the Toronto Airport. Do not fly through Toronto arriving on a Sunday evening and leaving again Monday morning. It is pandemonium! Too many flights coming in and going out and not enough resources. Whether it is at immigration, customs, traffic, security or the hotel shuttles. Just plain silly. We just shake our heads, take deep breaths and flow with the rest of the fish.

Home again. See you on our next adventure!

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The word for the day is “HUGE”. Today we see a huge crab right at the beginning of our first dive. This fellow was out in the open at 9:00 this morning. Must have been partying last night and was returning home.


Then, on the same dive, we spot this fellow. Also out of his hole and scrambling to get under cover. He could have fed a family of ten, plus the grandparents! Murray commented that NASA got the design for the lunar module from the way a lobsters legs move!



We always enjoy seeing schools of fish. Their movement through the water is fascinating and mesmerizing. This school of Blue Tangs swims right at me then veers off. We call this the blue highway.


Our last dive ended with seeing the humongous bait ball of shad fish again. We saw it on one of our first days here at the dive site next door. The ball has moved and we swim right into it on our route into shore. We are completely surrounded by fish and did not know which way the shore was except to look at the compass. Thousands of small silver fish with the light glinting off their sides. It is truly an amazing sight.



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The Reef

Bonaire designated the reef surrounding the island a national marine park in 1979. Long before it was the ‘in’ thing to do. The result is a very healthy reef with such abundant life it is hard to find those unusual creatures.  Debbie finds a small hairy crab stuck in a crack in a rock. Two squid are hanging about in the shallows. C & D stumble across a couple of Scorpion Fish. I find another juvenile Trunk Fish. But the rare stuff is hidden very well and we do not spot any.


The dive sites themselves are quite pretty. The first is a field of soft coral bent over from the current and so thick it is hard to swim near the surface of the reef. The second has a mix of soft and hard coral making for quite a surreal landscape. The third is almost exclusively hard coral looking like a boulder strewn slope in the mountains.

Scorpion fish, Bonaire

Scorpion fish

When the wildlife hides we entertain ourselves ogling the landscape, it is so different from the sites you might see on the other side of the surface of the water. We also look into the blue (the deep water) keeping watch for larger life such as sharks, rays, tuna and turtles.


Only a couple more days to explore this marvellous underwater world.

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Banner Day

Sorry, all we talk about is diving when we are here, but in fact that is all we do here. This island is not exactly a land of plenty. It is from my perspective one dimensional. If you are coming here, come here to dive.

We notice at breakfast on the terrace there was no wind. The trees around the pool are perfectly still. (Notice how I tried to instill jealousy by mentioning, outdoor breakfast and an onsite pool.) This has the effect of changing our dive plan for the day that was so meticulously laid out last night.

With no wind we will have to check out Lighthouse. It is a dive at the far south tip of the island that is not often dive-able. The surf is too high or the currents are too strong. Today we arrive early, 8:30am. We are the only people there, the waves are as small as they will ever be and when we look out over the surface there is no indication of any current. The decision is to dive. Getting in isn’t too bad and there is absolutely no current. L, the office manager at the hotel we are staying at, has lived here 10 years and has yet to dive this site. We are lucky. Debbie finds an interesting nudibranch, a Purple Spotted Sea Goddess. It is very tiny but one we have not seen before. Although I am sure they are about we do not find too many nudibranchs here. Just before we head to shore we spot a turtle. Always fun to watch how effortlessly they propel themselves.

Purple Spotted Sea Goddess, Bonaire

Purple Spotted Sea Goddess

Dive two is another coup. With no wind the kite boarders are taking the day off. The sites near the beach where the kiters start from are usually a bit dicey because the boards they use have a 4′ foil for a keel and if they are not planing this sticks under the water. It would not be good to be hit by one of those. Red Beryl is one of those sites and we dive it today. It is the site that has produced the most interesting wild life to date. A small crab chilling in a crevice, a couple of Slender File Fish, and a huge Green Moray out for a morning swim. Debbie is small and this eel had her eyed up as brunch but after closer inspection decided against it.

Green Moray Eel, Bonaire

Green Moray Eel looking very dragonlike

The third dive is closer to home, The Cliff. Although not strait down into the blue it is a wall dive, one if not the only wall dive here. More Slender File Fish are found and a resting Scorpion Fish are the highlights.


Slender File Fish

It is a good day, a really good day. The wind is suppose to be calm tomorrow as well so we will most likely return to kite boarder heaven and use the lack of stainless steel keels to our advantage.


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Somehow even though there is no day light savings time on Bonaire Debbie and I managed to be 1 hour late for our appointed time to leave for diving this morning. So even though C had set up the truck and it was for the most part ready to go we still had to rush around. This is a sure recipe for disaster. It only took 15 mins. but we were together and out the door and we seemed to have all our gear.

In fact we did have all our gear. Go set up and head for the water. The swim to the buoy was quite far but we made it, dropped down to the sandy bottom and headed for deeper water. It was at this point I realize I did not have my camera on my wrist. Thinking it would be back in the truck, I made the executive decision to continue with the dive and leave the camera on the back seat.


Had a peaceful dive. Have been feeling quite relaxed in the water the last couple of days. In fact not having the camera was freeing. I was able to concentrate more and I found myself looking everywhere. It must have something to do with the restriction in the wrist.

Back on shore there is no camera on the back seat. First reaction is someone actually pinched it. But there was absolutely no other disruption of the stuff in the truck. Then I remembered thinking what a pain in the ass the camera was when trying to put on fins in 4 ft of water. I must not have tightened the wrist strap and the camera fell off somewhere between when I was putting on my fins and when we reached the buoy.


I had written the camera off but the group decide we should look for it. C and I walked the shallow water where we thought the wave action would have pushed something. Debbie donned her mask and fins and went out into the area where we had put on our fins. 20 mins of search, C and I had returned to our starting point and Debbie pops up out of the water camera in hand. I, for sure, let out a whoop.

Even though the camera is like a ball and chain it was good to carry the weight the next two dives. I would rather relieve my self of the burden by choice rather than default.

PS A note from Debbie….A few years ago I lost my prescription sunglasses in the surf in Kona. Murray found them in the shallows and it was a miracle! I have now paid back that debt by finding Murray’s camera. Karma paid back.


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The Salt Pier

The Salt Pier is one of the iconic dive destinations on Bonaire. Everyone goes there. It’s busy. Sometimes there are up to 15 trucks lined up along the shore. We usually avoid the place.

But today is turnover day and many divers are flying home or newly arriving, so we decide to dive the Salt Pier as we know it shouldn’t be congested. And we guess correctly. There are a few trucks lined up, but not the usual hoard.

Last time our friends C&D dove the pier they were disappointed in what they saw so we are hoping they see more this time. And they do.

As we are swimming on our backs out to the deep, I spy a small turtle in the shallows. A great start to the dive and we are not underwater yet.

It only gets better as we find many spotted drum fish, including a teenager.


In the same spot is a juvenile truck fish. He is cute because he looks like a dice.


The fish and other creatures are abundant at the pier because all the discarded construction debris makes for a great reef. We ignore the grates and concrete and rebar and concentrate on the wildlife.


We spend over an hour under the surface enjoying the nature but we have to go back to shore eventually as we are running low on air. On our way in to shore, I swim over an octopus and we spend time following it. As he swims, he is one colour, but as soon as he settles on a coral, he changes colour and pattern to match the coral. What a marvellous creature. What a great dive!




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Today we hit our diving stride. It has taken 5 or 6 days but the three dives today were not easy and all were over 70 minutes long. The dives were not super hard with strong currents or anything but the entry and exit of two of the three dives were difficult and the dives themselves I would say were the advanced dives for Bonaire.


Lettuce Leaf Slug

1000 steps is one of the iconic dives for this island. Everyone has heard of it and if you are shore diving you have to do it once or you really have not been to Bonaire. There are 60+ steps from the roadway to the beach. Gear on your back the descent it OK but coming up gets your heart rate up. The dive itself is quite peaceful and the terrain is worth the visit.


Karpata is one of my favorite dives here. The entry/exit is very difficult. The waves are usually quite high and you get knocked about as you try to get in or out. If you can remain on your feet this dive is spectacular. Not as well traveled as most of the dives. It is too far north on a one way road and many, I think, don’t want to deal with the exit and entry.

The last dive, Windsock, is an easy dive off a beach. Still there are things to see and it was a good way to end the day.


The trick to the long bottom time is to be relaxed, move slow and dive a good profile. It always takes a few days to get all the pieces in place but as the pieces fall into place it becomes second nature and you don’t have to concentrate as hard as you do on the first 6 or so dives.

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A Garden of Soft Coral

Murray and I dive a site called Yellow Hut this morning. I knew it would be good when I spy Staghorn Coral on the swim out to the deep water.

We descend to about 60 feet and we see a field of soft corals gently moving in the surge. It is a forest. As we travel south, this forest does not end but actually gets thicker.


We stop and watch a small turtle munch away on a hard coral totally uncaring that we are observing him.


We hang out with a barracuda and he seems to want to travel with us. OK, but I tactically place Murray between our new friend and me. 


We look for seahorses as we move through this forest, but do not find any. As we swim into the shallows at the end of the dive I am thinking we need to return to this dive site again.




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First Dive on Bonaire

The first dive of a dive trip is always a nervous goofy messed up affair. Today is no different.

Hermit Crab, Bonaire

Hermit Crab strolling past the pool this morning.

We are packing the truck trying to get to the dive shop for around 9:00 to do our sign up, get tanks and do our check out dive. Oh! We forgot snacks and liquids. I run back into our unit. Oh! Mur doesn’t want to take his sunglasses and I forgot mine. We run back into our unit. OK, we think we have everything, right?

Our trip to the dive shop was easy. No video, no check out dive, just hand in papers, get our tanks and we are off. We decide to go to a dive site called “The Lake”. We miss the turnoff and have to double back. We get there and park and check out how we are going to enter the water. Looks pretty good, just some small rocks to walk over and around.


We set up our tanks, BCDs, regs and weights first. They go together pretty good this first time. Oops! Mur put his together with his tank backwards. It fits much nicer the other way. We fix that real quick.

Next are the wetsuits and booties. The suits are dry and mine is a touch hard to pull up. Hope no one is watching! Dive computers, cameras, masks. I spray the masks with our home made mask defogger of baby shampoo and water. Only thing is I didn’t make it strong enough and didn’t spray enough in, so it dries out fast and we are both fogged up by the time we get to the bouy. I will fix that tonight.


We don all our gear and trundle down to the water. We are standing in the water when I realize we haven’t turned on our air yet. Big OOPSIE! Get that turned on, double check everything else and off we go.

We have a pretty scenic dive for the first one. We see many old fish friends and even some new ones. Our rocky start to the day turns into the beginnings of a great day of diving.

Bait Ball, Bonaire

Bait Ball

PS Our subsequent gearing up for dives goes much much better than the first time. In fact, we get our process down pretty da** good.

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Debbie’s Pannier Contents

I thought I would share what I carried in my panniers while we rode through Denmark in case anyone out there needed help in deciding what to take on such a trip. I will divide my discussion into three parts – riding gear, street clothes and other stuff. Here I go.

Riding Gear

On a normal warmish day I would be wearing:

  • bike jersey
  • bike shorts
  • over shorts – looser longish street shorts
  • lightweight bike jacket
  • socks
  • bike shoes
  • helmet and sweat band
  • bike gloves
  • sunglasses
  • bike computer on my bike
  • 2 water bottles

In my panniers would be:

  • 1 bike jersey
  • 1 pr bike shorts
  • 1 pr bike socks
  • prescription glasses
  • rain pants
  • rain jacket
  • long fingered gloves
  • long legged bike tights
  • buff
  • armings

The only riding item I did not wear on this trip were the tights. It was not cold enough to wear them. The rain pants, jacket, long fingered gloves and buff were worn once and I was thankful to have them. Luckily we only got poured on the once, but we could have seen much more rain.

Street Clothes

Here is what was packed in my panniers:

  • 2 pr of pants – one technical, one linen
  • 2 long sleeved Icebreaker shirts
  • 1 short sleeved Icebreaker shirt
  • 1 short sleeved Tonder Music Festival Tshirt bought in Tonder
  • 1 pr heavy socks
  • 3 pr undies
  • 1 lightweight down jacket
  • 1 scarf
  • 1 toque
  • 1 baseball cap
  • 1 pr of lightweight walking shoes

When we cycle toured Prince Edward Island years ago, we got caught in the rain in our only set of street clothes, so on this trip I insisted we take two sets of street clothes. I used everything except the toque. If we had not been attending the music festival, I may have reduced the heavy clothing such as the socks and down jacket, but I needed the warmth for the evenings and cold weather, and they did get worn. I used my riding rain jacket as my street rain jacket.

Other Stuff

  • iPad with padded carrying case
  • iPhone – used for navigation only – Murray actually carried it in his handlebar pannier
  • camera – hung on handlebars in a small case
  • electronics bag with cables, battery chargers, ear buds etc
  • toiletries-soap, toothbrush/paste, moisturizer, sunscreen, shampoo, prescription etc
  • headlamp flashlight
  • plastic cutlery
  • wallet, passport, note book and pen
  • other liquids bag-laundry soap, cold meds, polysporin etc
  • sleep sack and inflatable pillow
  • knee support sleeve, tennis ball and wrist support
  • straps for converting small pannier to shoulder bag
  • 2 bike lock cables and locks
  • lunch for the day-apple, salami, PB, peanuts, chocolate, potato chips etc

All the liquids were in small bottles and Murray also carried a bag of liquids. He also had the “first aid kit”. Some items I did not use and they worked their way to the bottom of a pannier and other items were used everyday. We stayed in hostels 4 nights so used the sleep sack only 4 times and I used the pillow every night. Next time I might leave that at home and only stay in B&Bs as they were much nicer and cost the same.

We tried to keep the weight in my panniers between 20 and 25 pounds. The weight was distributed between the 4 panniers with the front having about 4 pounds each and the back each had about 8 pounds. The one thing we did that saved time when we got to Copenhagen was to make a list of exactly what goes in each pannier. In Copenhagen, I was able to lay out all the panniers and stuff very quickly using the list. Here is what my list looked liked.

I made one front pannier my “purse” which always had my wallet, passport and lunch etc in it. My rain gear was always packed in the same back pannier in close each reach if I needed it quickly.

Debbie Front #1 LEFT (Purse) Front #2 RIGHT
2 cables & locks toiletries
2 straps vitamins
electronics bag knee brace/tennis ball
notebook & pens down jacket
wallet sleep sack
passport towel
glutendairy pills flashlight
Debbie Back #1 LEFT Back #2 RIGHT
shoes iPad
bike shirt wool hat
bike shorts 2 pants
bike socks 2 long sleeve shirts
sunglasses 1 short sleeved shirt
gortex jacket socks
rain pants undies
armings scarf

There are items that could have been left at home, but I think I packed pretty lightly. Until next time……..

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