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Bonaire Revisited

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Bonaire

The Scuba Place team hosted a group of 16 divers for a return visit to Bonaire in August 2023. They first visited Bonaire in 2021 during a break from the COVID lockdown. They had a great time then (read the first trip report here) and wanted to experience the Shore Diving Capital of the World once again.

Our group met for an early morning flight from London Heathrow to Amsterdam with KLM. It was a short 90-minute flight and a two-hour layover in Amsterdam gave us enough time to do a little shopping for those few items we forgot to pack and a stop at duty-free. The second leg of the flight was 10 hours with a short stop in Aruba before continuing on to Bonaire. We arrived just after 7:00pm and were efficiently and quickly transported to the resort by the Buddy Dive team.

We chose to stay at Buddy Dive again after a great experience last time. We split our group into two three-bedroom apartments and one two-bedroom. The resort is just the right size… every apartment is close to everything… reception, the restaurants, the drive-thru tank station and the dive centre. We got our keys, checked out the digs and then met at Blennie’s for a bite to eat before calling it a night.

In the morning, we headed down to the breakfast buffet at Ingredients. Every morning we had our choice of sweet and savoury breads and pastries, meat and cheeses, cereal, yoghurt, fresh fruit, eggs, pancakes, sausages and bacon and made-to-order omelettes. The doughnuts were a personal favourite!

We stopped into the dive centre to grab our tank cards and locker keys. An orientation and tour by the dive staff for our group had been prearranged and we were shown how to check the pressure and analyse the NITROX tanks. The drive-thru tank station has tanks at the ready, rinse tanks and lockers for dive kit.

The team at Buddy’s shared with us that Bonaire’s reefs are experiencing coral disease and the national parks foundation STINAPA is working hard to educate and conserve. While the disease hasn’t been officially identified, it is affecting six out of the eight coral species vulnerable to Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease. Protocols had been put in place in an attempt to help stop the spread including a Red Amber Green system for dive sites and decontamination tanks for dive gear. Divers were asked to rinse gear in specified decontamination rinse tanks before entering the water. When we planned our shore dives, we were careful to make sure we went from Green to Amber or Red and not the other way around and rinsed our gear again at the end of the day. Buddy’s had special rinse tanks at both the drive-thru and down by the dive centre. If you’re interested in more information, check out the interactive map of Bonaire dive sites here.

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We learned a lot when visited Bonaire in 2021 so we were prepared with our shopping lists and made quick work of our favourite grocery store Van den Tweel. We grabbed all the bits for our surface interval lunches along with drinks and snacks. Soft sided cool bags worked perfectly for lunches.

When it came to the diving, we relied on our past experience and our dog-eared guidebook and enjoyed sites from north to south and everywhere in between! We saw all the favourite suspects – turtles, frogfish, seahorses, trumpet fish and puffers, filefish, and trunk fish. Salt Pier – a top site – delivered a school of more than 30 Caribbean reef squid! We spent ages with them – such a special experience.

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Shore diving allowed us to visit the sites we wanted, when we wanted, for as long as we wanted. Some sites were more challenging than others when it came to entry and exit with the rocky shore and surge, but we had some tricks to help… collapsing walking sticks were a great help for John who was just 8 weeks post hip surgery. After entering the water, the sticks collapsed and were tucked under bungees wrapped around the tank. Putting gear on once in the water helped more than one of us too!

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We timed our trip to make sure it included a full moon. Why might you ask? If you haven’t read our last Bonaire trip report you can here. But let’s just say, our ostracod dive was out of this world! We chose to dive Aquarius, a southern site with loads of soft coral, and it delivered! Twenty minutes surrounded by thousands of magical twinkling lights that evoke memories of Tinkerbell waving her wand at the beginning of childhood Disney films – just mesmerising!!! We had of course waxed lyrical about this experience to our group of divers, most of whom hadn’t seen this before, and to see their faces at the end of the dive was our reward – smiles everywhere!

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All of the great underwater experiences we had on our previous trip were repeated, and we stretched our legs and took in some more dive sites. Bonaire really does deliver some excellent diving, and the new sites we tested out kept the bar high.

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Above water, food and drink are the key things to take into account, and we revisited some old favourites and checked out some new eateries too. Given the apartments at Blennies are set up for self-catering, getting a takeaway is a great way to control the spending!

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Blennies – the onsite bar and restaurant at Buddy’s is still great for a post-dive beer, light (and heavy!) lunches, and a good evening dining menu too. There are also numerous themed nights; Taco Tuesday, Steak and Pizza Nights and All-You-Can-Eat BBQ, so you really don’t have to venture out of the resort if you don’t want to. Additionally, a more upscale offering is Ingredients, a lovely a la carte eatery sitting overlooking the bay. The food here is delicious, and the wine list is excellent.

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Out of the resort, we hit our favourite El Bigote a couple of times – the authentic Mexican fare and jugs full of cocktails are too good to miss! The staff are excellent, and this really is a super-friendly casual eatery that caters for groups brilliantly.

Turning left out of Buddy’s, and less than a mile up the road, we visited the highly recommended Dragon City Restaurant and Bar. Food here was delicious, huge portions, and great value – and takeaway is available too. According to the dive staff, this is the best Chinese food on the island, and we have to agree.

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Finally, another newcomer to us – a former food truck about to open a new permanent location, the Fat Dog Tacqueria and BBQ. If you like authentic Texas BBQ, slow roast everything and pulled beef and pork, this is a place you cannot miss. A huge platter, including burnt ends, pulled pork, spicy sausages, brisket and much much more, plus coleslaw and a potato salad fed four of us for two meals for just $50……delicious food and excellent value!

On our off-gassing day, we decided to get busy and play with toys – speedboat toys! Splitting into two groups, we hired two virtually brand new 16’ centre console sports boats with 70 HP engines and an inner tube of course – and off we went! We packed up cooler bags with picnic lunches and drinks, and spent four hours zipping around the bay, towing those brave enough to jump onto the tube at speed! This was great fun and a very different way to spend a non-diving day. $70 plus fuel was the cost per person, and this was well worth the spend!

In summary, Bonaire delivered the goods again – this is an excellent destination for dive clubs and group travel. Our hosted trip group was made up of people travelling from London, Cardiff and Manchester – all via Amsterdam, and there are plenty of other regional offerings too, making it easy for anyone in the UK to get to.

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Bonaire has a host of hotels and apartment offerings, and numerous dive centres too. We dived with Buddy’s two years ago and they were excellent then. This year, they were even better! Having everything under one roof and on-site is the real benefit to visitors – accommodation and dining, plus vehicle rental, tank filling stations and of course a very easy access house reef all add up to a very streamlined operation, and this makes great sense for those travelling the distance to get there.

And we can’t leave out the value for money – it is just too good not to mention. A week, including flights, costs from as little as £1799, including truck rental, unlimited nitrox, and breakfast. Two weeks starts at £2999pp. In terms of cost per dive, one of our gang did 52 dives in 14 days…..that’s just £60 per dive. Realistically though, 24 dives in a week equates to £75 per dive. For direct comparison, a Red Sea liveaboard with 22 dives comes in at around £90 per dive, and a Maldivian liveaboard with 17 dives equates to close to £165 per dive. Bonaire might not be the Red Sea, or the Maldives, but it really does deliver the goods.

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If you or your dive club is looking for a new destination, don’t overlook the Shore Diving Capital of the World, Bonaire! Get in touch and let us help you plan your next dream diving holiday! And check out our 2021 Bonaire Trip Report for more information here.

Key Facts :

  • Getting there : Our flights were with KLM Airlines flying from Heathrow to Bonaire via Amsterdam and a quick stopover in Aruba. The first flight is a quick 90 minutes. A quick two-hour layover before our 11-hour flight onto Bonaire arriving at 7:15pm.  We were greeted by Buddy Dive staff and after a quick 15-minute drive we arrived at the resort. We were quickly given our room keys and off to the restaurant for some food.  Our flight home left after dinner arriving in London in the early afternoon.  KLM offers flights to Amsterdam from many UK airports so alternatives are readily available.
  • Air temperature : Tropical – average daily temperature throughout the year is 31°C. Rainfall passes quickly and the sea breezes are most welcome!
  • Water temperature : 28-30°C. A 1-3mm full suit or shorty is recommended to protect from scratches and stings and to keep the sand out.
  • Visa requirement : UK passport holders are permitted to enter Bonaire without a visa for a period of 90 days.
  • Immigration : A Bonaire Tourism tax of $75 is required to be paid before arrival and can be done online. A QR code is provided and must be shown to airport personnel on arrival and departure.
  • Tourism : The STINAPA Marine Park of $40 is required before arrival and can be paid online. You are required to have your marine park QR code on hand should you be asked by the authorities.
  • Currency : US Dollars are accepted across the island. Some establishments accept only cash so be sure and have some on hand.  ATMs are easily found.
  • Electricity : 120V with European 2-pin plugs.
  • Internet and Wi-Fi : There is wifi in resort and worked well in our room and all over the resort. We were able to email, WhatsApp and post on social media without issue.

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Price Guide: For 2024 expect from £1799 per person for 7 nights at Buddy Dive with bed and breakfast plus unlimited NITROX and truck rental. Two weeks from £2999 per person. Includes flights and ATOL protection.

Our Advice: Get your dive club together and visit Bonaire! Shore and boat diving are available and the area is suited for all levels of diving experience. Buddy Dive is perfect for big and small groups. A well-equipped dive center and amazing house reef can’t be beat!

Packing tips :

  • Bag for Life : $4 in the supermarket! And you will need a quarter ($0.25) for the shopping trolley!
  • Cool Bag : Great for keeping your sandwiches and snacks cool in your truck, especially if you have a frozen water bottle in it too. Buy two big bottles and freeze one, chill the other.
  • DIN adapter : Tanks in Bonaire are A-clamp.
  • Dive Boots : With ultra-thick soles – you will be walking across rocks and dead coral, so good protection is needed.
  • Insect repellent : We’ve made a habit of throwing some repellent in our dive bags every trip but with the lovely breezes we didn’t suffer the mozzies much at all!
  • Rechargeable fan(s) : If you’ve read any of our recent trip reports we recommend these over and over again. We can’t believe we travelled without them for so many years! Join the fan club and grab one off Amazon… you won’t regret it!

Come Dive with Us!

The Scuba Place designs and builds custom scuba diving holidays.  With personal knowledge and experience diving in many of our destinations, there is no one better to help build your dream dive holiday.  Come Dive with Us!

Call us at 020 3515 9955 or email at reservations@thescubaplace.co.uk

Find us at https://www.thescubaplace.co.uk

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Smart Shark Diving: The Importance of Awareness Below the Surface

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shark diving

By: Wael Bakr

Introduction to Shark Diving Awareness‍

In the realm of marine life, few creatures captivate our interest, and sometimes our fear, like the shark. This fascination often finds a home in the hearts of those who venture beneath the waves, particularly scuba divers who love shark diving. It’s here that shark awareness takes the spotlight. Shark awareness is not just about understanding these magnificent creatures; it’s about fostering respect, dispelling fear, and promoting conservation. As Jacques Cousteau once said, “People protect what they love.” And to love something, one must first understand it.

Shark awareness is not a mere fascination; it’s a responsibility that we owe to our oceans and their inhabitants. From the smallest reef shark to the colossal great white, each species plays a crucial role in the underwater ecosystem. Our understanding and appreciation of these creatures can help ensure their survival.

However, shark awareness isn’t just about protecting the sharks; it’s also about protecting ourselves. As scuba divers, we share the underwater world with these magnificent creatures. Understanding them allows us to dive safely and responsibly, enhancing our experiences beneath the waves.

Importance of Shark Awareness in Scuba Diving

The relevance of shark awareness in scuba diving cannot be overstated. Sharks, like all marine life, are an integral part of the underwater ecosystem. Their presence and behavior directly influence our experiences as divers. By understanding sharks, we can better appreciate their role in the ocean, anticipate their actions, and reduce potential risks.

Awareness is crucial for safety when shark diving. Despite their often-misunderstood reputation, sharks are generally not a threat to humans. However, like any wild animal, they can pose risks if provoked or threatened. By understanding shark behavior, we can identify signs of stress or aggression and adjust our actions accordingly. This not only protects us but also respects the sharks and their natural behaviors.

Moreover, shark awareness enriches our diving experiences. Observing sharks in their natural habitat is a thrilling experience. Understanding them allows us to appreciate this spectacle fully. It’s not just about seeing a shark; it’s about understanding its role in the ecosystem, its behavior, and its interaction with other marine life. This depth of knowledge adds a new dimension to our diving experiences.

Understanding Shark Behavior: The Basics

The first step in shark awareness is understanding shark behavior. Sharks are not the mindless predators they are often portrayed to be. They are complex creatures with unique behaviors and communication methods. Understanding these basics can significantly enhance our interactions with them.

Sharks communicate primarily through body language. By observing their movements, we can gain insights into their mood and intentions. For example, a relaxed shark swims with slow, fluid movements. In contrast, a stressed or agitated shark may exhibit rapid, jerky movements or other signs of discomfort such as gill flaring.

Sharks also use their bodies to express dominance or assertiveness. A dominant shark may swim with its pectoral fins pointed downwards, while a submissive shark may swim with its fins flattened against its body. Understanding these signals can help us interpret shark behavior accurately and respond appropriately.

How Shark Awareness Enhances Scuba Diving Experiences

Shark awareness significantly enhances our scuba diving experiences. It transforms encounters with sharks from mere sightings into meaningful interactions. Knowledge is power, and in this case, it’s the power to appreciate, respect, and safely interact with one of the ocean’s most fascinating inhabitants.

A thorough understanding of behavior when shark diving allows us to interpret their actions and responses accurately. It enables us to recognize signs of stress or aggression and adjust our behavior accordingly. This not only ensures our safety but also promotes responsible interactions that respect the sharks and their natural behaviors.

Furthermore, shark awareness adds a new layer of depth to our diving experiences. It’s one thing to see a shark; it’s another to understand its behavior, its role in the ecosystem, and its interactions with other marine life. This depth of understanding enriches our experiences and fosters a deeper appreciation for our underwater world.

Misconceptions About Sharks: Busting the Myths

Unfortunately, sharks are often misunderstood, feared, and even demonized. These misconceptions can be detrimental, not only to our experiences as divers but also to shark conservation efforts. As part of shark awareness, it’s important to debunk these myths and present sharks in their true light.

First and foremost, sharks are not mindless killing machines. They are complex creatures with unique behaviors and communication methods. They are not interested in humans as prey and, in most cases, prefer to avoid us.

Secondly, not all sharks are dangerous. Out of over 500 species of sharks, only a handful are considered potentially harmful to humans. Most sharks are harmless, and even those that can pose a threat are unlikely to attack unless provoked.

Lastly, sharks are not invincible. They are vulnerable to a host of threats, most notably human activities such as overfishing and habitat destruction. They need our understanding and protection, not our fear and persecution.

Shark Behavior: What to Expect When Scuba Diving

When scuba diving, it’s important to know what to expect from sharks. Most encounters with sharks are peaceful and awe-inspiring. However, as with any wild animal, it’s essential to be prepared and understand their behavior.

Most sharks are shy and cautious creatures. They are likely to observe you from a distance, often circling around to get a better look. This is normal behavior and not a sign of aggression.

However, if a shark becomes agitated or feels threatened, it may exhibit signs of stress such as rapid, jerky movements or gill flaring. In such cases, it’s essential to remain calm, avoid sudden movements, and slowly retreat if possible.

Remember, every encounter with a shark is an opportunity to observe and learn. With understanding and respect, these encounters can be safe, enriching, and truly unforgettable experiences.

Practical Tips for Shark Awareness During Scuba Diving

Being aware of sharks during scuba diving is about more than just understanding their behavior. It’s about applying this knowledge in practical ways to ensure safe and respectful interactions. Here are a few tips for shark awareness during scuba diving.

Firstly, always observe sharks from a safe distance. Avoid approaching them directly or making sudden movements, as this can startle or threaten them.

Secondly, never attempt to touch or feed sharks. This can disrupt their natural behavior and potentially put you at risk.

Lastly, always respect the sharks and their environment. Avoid disturbing their habitat or interfering with their natural behaviors. Remember, we are visitors in their world.

Promoting Shark Conservation through Scuba Diving

Scuba diving offers a unique platform for promoting shark conservation. As divers, we have the privilege of witnessing the beauty and complexity of sharks firsthand. We can share these experiences with others, fostering understanding and appreciation for these magnificent creatures.

Moreover, we can actively contribute to shark conservation. Many diving operators offer opportunities to participate in shark research and conservation initiatives. By participating in these programs, we can help ensure the survival of sharks for future generations.

Lastly, we can advocate for sharks. By sharing our knowledge and experiences, we can help dispel misconceptions about sharks and promote their protection. Every voice counts in the fight for shark conservation.

Courses and Resources for Shark Awareness and Behavior

There are many resources available for those interested in shark awareness and behavior. Scuba Diving International as well as numerous conservation-based organizations offer courses and workshops on shark biology, behavior, and conservation. These courses provide in-depth knowledge and practical skills for interacting with sharks responsibly and safely. From courses like our Marine Ecosystems Awareness Specialty and our Advanced Adventure Certification provide you with the information you need to tackle this new challenge!

Additionally, there are many online resources available, including websites, blogs, and forums dedicated to shark awareness and conservation. These platforms offer a wealth of information and a community of like-minded individuals passionate about sharks.

I encourage anyone interested in sharks to explore these resources, to sign up for one of SDI’s courses call your local dive center or instructor or reach out to your regional representative/ World HQ to find where the class is being taught near you. Knowledge is the first step towards understanding, appreciation, and conservation.

Conclusion: The Role of Shark Awareness in Future Scuba Diving Experiences

As we look to the future, the role of shark awareness in scuba diving will only continue to grow. As our understanding of these magnificent creatures deepens, so too will our appreciation and respect for them. This knowledge will shape our interactions with sharks, enhancing our experiences and promoting responsible and respectful behavior.

Shark awareness is more than just an interest; it’s a responsibility. It’s a commitment to understanding, respecting, and protecting one of the ocean’s most fascinating inhabitants. And it’s a journey that I invite all divers to embark on.

As we dive into the blue, let’s dive with awareness. Let’s dive with respect. And let’s dive with a commitment to understand and protect our underwater world. For in the end, the ocean’s health is our health, and every creature within it, including the sharks, plays a crucial role in maintaining this delicate balance.

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Divers Have More Fun in the Philippines (Watch Video)

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Pretty much whatever kind of diving interests you have, the chances are there is something for you in the Philippines.

From the Japanese WW2 wrecks in Coron; the Thresher sharks in Malapascua; big schools of fish, sharks and huge walls in Tubbataha; World class macro diving in Anilao, Puerto Galera, Romblon and Dumaguete; Whalesharks in Southern Leyte, Oslob, Donsol and Bohol; Massive schools of sardines in Moalboal and Bohol and stunning hard and soft coral reefs right across the country.

Plus, the Filipinos are the friendliest people on the planet!

Divers have more fun in the Philippines!

Book your next Philippines Dive Adventure with Philippine Dive Holidays, the specialists when it comes to diving in the Philippines! Visit www.philippinediveholidays.com to find out more.

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