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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The People We Meet

When we do boat diving or go on a liveaboard, we meet and talk to the same people for a few days or even a week. We get to know folks, even develop friendships with them.

Shore diving, with just Murray and me in our group, is different. We meet and talk to other divers, but it is different divers at each dive site, three times a day. No opportunity to have a long chat and share dive stories over supper or a drink.

Elkhorn Coral

Elkhorn Coral

We meet up with a couple from Alabama, who when they ask where we are from, and we say “Edmonton, Alberta”, we get a blank stare, until Murray adds “Canada”. Then the lights go on. Had a good talk with them about the dive site though. They seemed quite knowledgeable as they had been here numerous times.

We are meeting divers from Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands and from England. Everyone is friendly and has something to offer when asked about a dive site, or where they are from.

A Cleaning Station

A Cleaning Station

Bonaire is a stop for cruise ships, and there is a HUGE ship in today. As we are taking our gear off after our second dive, a taxi van touring cruise ship folks around, stops opposite us, the passenger window rolls down, and an older gentleman asks us if we scuba dive. Of course we chat him up. His friend in the back seat also gets into the conversation and we have some fun for a few minutes. “Where are you from?” “How long does a tank last?” “Psst, come here, I really like your hair, but I can’t say it in front of my wife.” (Made my day!)

Bonaire

The couple, Caroline and Vincent, who own the Coral Paradise Resort, where we are staying are fantastic people. Always helpful and chatty, and Canadian too! They are also divers , of course, and are eager to share stories.

When we were here in 2011 the place was busy but now it is bordering on crowded. The ocean is big so it is not too much of a problem, only at the parking areas. The plus side is we get to meet a very diverse group of people with a common interest and a good part of travelling is interaction with the people from around the world.

 

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Debbie’s “Process”

Accountant/Engineer, no matter how free floating, there is still quite a bit of rigidity in that brain. Diving could be a matter of life and death so to make sure we are set each time we dive, Debbie works out a pattern and routine to getting ready. I have already forgot to turn on my air once. Stupid move but without a routine, one piece to the puzzle is easy to misplace.

Bonaire

When shore diving you are on your own, or only with your dive buddy. That implies you are not only dive master (guide), but boat owner, boat capitan, dive shop flunky and tech.

Bonaire

Over the last three days we have developed and refined a routine and we have been trying to follow it so I don’t go in the water without my air turned on again. Park the truck. Get out and wander over to the area where you are to enter the water and look for a good route. This can be done as you go in but it is much easier without the extra 50lbs of gear. We stand our tanks on the tailgate of truck and mount our BCD’s, then regs. TURN ON AIR. We lay a towel on the ground for a dressing mat and don our wetsuits. Spray our masks with baby shampoo and wrap our computers around our wrists. We can then put our loaded BC’s on our back. Pick up or fins, masks and cameras and head to the shoreline. The whole time we chatter back and forth to make sure we don’t miss a step. It is only day three and the routine is bound to a change but for now it is working.

Bonaire

Our truck boat has only 3000 kms so I don’t expect any trouble with that and I hope we don’t have any trouble with our gear. Although I think I’m a reasonably handy guy, I have never taken a scuba tech course.

Free thinking and action is always good for adventure but routine and planning is good when your life could be in the balance.

 

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3 am wake up call and wonderful diving…..

MEEEEH, MEEEEH, MEEEEH, MEEEEH, MEEEEH. WHAT THE F**K IS THAT? Emergency. An emergency is always good at 3am. Keeps you on the edge, you know. I don’t think we have ever been out of bed so fast. It is good to know you can move if you have to.

The stove in this place is propane. Plugged into the wall, 5M from the stove, is a gas detector. I don’t know how come it took all day and 1/2 the night to gather enough gas to set off the alarm but 3am is the time it decided there was too much gas in the room for its liking. We are the only guests here this week so it did not disrupt any other folks. It only took a part of a second to figure out the gas must be on. Debbie headed for the stove and I headed for the alarm shut off, it is a truly obnoxious noise. The stove was on. Can’t figure out how come it was either us or the maid that moved the dial when we were cleaning the stove. Debbie opened both the patio doors and the front door to dissipate the gas gathered on the floor. Didn’t seem to work immediately as the alarm started again in all its glory. We eventally stabilized the situation and headed back to bed with our adrenaline count about 3 times higher than it should be.

Lesson learned. Double, triple, quadruple check fourteen times a day to make sure the stove is turned off.

After our exciting night, we end up sleeping in so get a later start to our dive day than we were hoping. First stop is a dive site called Red Slave, on the southern end of the island. The entrance into the water is slightly tricky (uneven) so Murray helps me in and then gears up and comes in too. The dive is fabulous! We are starting to find the small stuff we love to find, this time a tiny file fish hiding in a soft coral.

Yellowline Arrow Crab

Yellowline Arrow Crab

The winds are low today so there is talk that the dive site called Willemstoren Lighthouse is calm enough to dive. We head there for our second dive to check out the water surface and get the scoop from other divers. We are finding that talking to divers, preferably ones just coming out of the water, is a good source of information. We learn that there is little to no current. We can see that the wave action is only smallish waves, so we decide now is the time to dive this site. Apparently this site is not diveable a good part of the time, so we have arrived here on an auspicious day. Our big surprise of this dive was encountering the biggest, meanest looking, Debbie eating, barracuda we have ever seen in the shallows while we were swimming to shore.

Soft Coral

Soft Coral

Two dives and now it is lunchtime! We have been trying the food trucks parked along the main road that runs north south. Today we share a chicken burger from Kite City, parked at the Kite surfing beach. Murray gets the top half this time with bun, mayo, cheese, bacon and chicken and I get the bottom half with bun, lettuce, tomato, bacon and chicken. Yummy!

We do our third dive just down the street from our accommodations at a site called Bari Reef. Amazing dive! We find a tiny mantis shrimp, juvi spotted drum fish, a boat load of coral banded shrimp and arrow crabs and tarpon cruising close to us.

A cute Toby

A cute Toby

As we drive the short distance to our hotel, we agree that today has been a stellar day of fish finding regardless of our eventful middle of the night and late start.

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First Day of Shore Diving on Bonaire

Every diver coming to dive Bonaire has to do a briefing and check out dive before going out on his or her own. We arrive at AB Dive for 9:00 and get filled in on on “dos and don’ts”. Easy. We drive to the dive site called Te Amo to test our buoyancy. We over weight ourselves, so no issues and off we go.

We do two other dives with long surface intervals. It is a relaxing day, no hurry and no stress. Murray is a real gentleman and helps me into the water on the dives, and then gets geared up and comes in while I wait in the shallows.

French Angel

The reef is in great condition. It helps being a marine park with very strict rules. The fish are not afraid of divers. I was about two feet away from a French Angelfish and he was not bothered by me at all. They usually are very timid. A number of porcupine fish came over to say hello with their cute little faces.

Porcupine fish

We got reacquainted with trunk fish, who are in abundance here. All different patterns of black, brown and white make each of them very distinctive.

Trunk fish

It is a great first day of Shore Diving in Bonaire.

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Purgatory

The flight from Toronto to Curacao goes smoothly. As we are landing, Murray says, we are 50% to Bonaire. And I reply, well, aren’t we more like 95%? After all, we only have a couple of hours to wait in Curacao and a 20 minute flight left.

As our boarding time draws close the skies open up and it pours and pours and thunders and pours some more. As we are all lined up ready to step out onto the tarmac, we are suddenly herded in the opposite direction, back into the terminal. Our plane can’t land and is circling until the weather clears.

We sit at the gate, our conversation about being 50% or 95% to our destination comes up again. I suggest it should be a more computer like status. Either a 0, for not being there, or a 1, for being there. We are a 0.

Also we talk about being in purgatory. You see, we entered purgatory when we left the house yesterday. As we move through purgatory, we come to various levels or bosses or challenges that we must complete to get out of purgatory. Seat reassignments, lineups, security, hotel shuttles, rain delays, airplane refuelling. We are now stuck on the rain delay level.

Time passes……

I can safely say now that the rain delay, airplane refuelling and the Bonaire taxi, car rental and hotel check in levels have been mastered and we are a 1, for being there.

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Oooooom

Travel mode. We are on our way to Toronto today and then to Curacao and Bonaire tomorrow.

I said it to myself on the way to the airport but things still get to me.

Yesterday Debbie printed out our boarding passes and they indicated we were relocated on the seat plan. According to the Westjet website we were still in the same seats but out boarding passes indicated something different. Not normally a big deal but we are taking a couple of long flights and decided to splurge and fly in the front rows. There are only two people for every three seats and they actually feed you, you know like they used to do so many years ago. Our reassigned seats are not in the same section so we were somewhat confused.

After a phone call to Westjet yesterday, when the nice lady reassured us things were all fine, this morning Debbie’s spidery sense was tingling. She thought she should check the seats again at the flight gate. The ladies there seem somewhat confused about the whole thing, the seating plan on the computer has now changed. Debbie being efficient Debbie had printed off our original ticket that indicated our original seats, important piece of paper it turns out. It seems the plane we are to travel on has been changed and when that happens the computer randomly reassigns seats. By the time it is discovered this morning our seats had been resold. My angst level increased greatly.

As this transpires we are informed the Westjet computer system is down and they cannot access our flight plan. Without the flight plan we sit. Doesn’t look good. Somehow a flight plan for our trip is sent from Calgary and our pilots are allowed to proceed. Again not good for the level of anxiety.

Once seated on the plane my stomach starts to ease. We are totally lucky. The pilot’s announcement informs us we are the last plane to leave the ground until the glitch is fixed, could be many hours.
Once we land in Toronto, we have to go to the Westjet check-in counter and get the seating mess straightened out.

It seems today is not the day to be dealing with computers. The Westjet check-in kiosks at the Toronto airport are on the fritz and the line to the counter is 50 people long. After a few deep breaths we join the line and inch our way forward.Remember……travel mode.

Best news of the day is the young lady at the desk is able to get us back to the proper seating arrangement. We are happy but there will be a couple of somewhat unhappy folks at the desk tomorrow morning.

Shuttle and hotel went alright and we are now ensconced in an isolated cocoon fOr the evening.

Oooooom. Travel mode.

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Camping in mid September

Sitting at our picnic table in site # 64 in Murray Doell Campground, watching the loons swim by on the lake, I realize that it is extremely quiet. No people noise, no traffic noise, no human noises. Just nature.

The loons call is haunting and varied depending on the time of day. A raven’s call is something I do not think I have heard and it is bizarre. Made me really listen to the notes. As a raven flies over our campsite, its wings go swoosh, swoosh, swoosh. I can imagine the air flowing with each wing pump.

fawn

No WIFI! No power! I brought my iPad, but it did not come out of its case. Luckily, I had a paper book that I am reading. Truth is I did look at my phone on the first morning to check the weather forecast. But only that! It feels good to get unplugged for a few days.

We went for a drive through the park to explore the other lakes and campgrounds. The gravel road is an avenue with autumnal trees bordering each edge. The trembling aspens stand out with their bright golden yellow leaves atwitter in the wind. Fall is a spectacular time of year for a drive in the country to marvel at the colours.

Deer

Murray and I were surprised at the quantity of wildlife that we encountered. Numerous deer, two of which darted in front of our moving vehicle on the main gravel road through the park. The second one, stopped in the opposite ditch and looked back to say, “HAH, made it! Take THAT!” Two bear cubs also crossed the road in front of us and then hid in the bushes to check us out checking them out. A shy coyote also on the move. A bald eagle gliding in circles, searching for lunch.

The chilly weather finally told us to go home. Tenting is a great way to experience nature, but cold climes can turn fun into survival. The weather wasn’t harsh, it was just slightly too cold and we had to keep moving to stay warm and this camping trip was supposed to be about regenerating, ie. sitting.

geeseNext stop, Bonaire.

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