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Thread: Another Great June Trip

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Location
    The "First State" Delaware
    Posts
    162

    Default Another Great June Trip

    The K family returned to beautiful Bonaire the third full week of June for another wonderful holiday. It was quite a bit more relaxed than our June 2016 trip, and we all enjoyed the many experiences despite not doing anything “new”. This trip was actually thrown together fairly late for us – mid-April – when Mrs. K was finally given permission to take another week off from work. No sooner had we booked everything when I was informed that I needed hernia repair surgery in mid-May. Fortunately my surgeon was a diver, knew of Bonaire and its shore diving, and assured me that four-and-a-half weeks of healing would let me do some diving. He was correct as you will read below.

    We again drove to Newark NJ on Friday evening to catch the direct United Airlines flight to Bonaire on Saturday 16 June. Our stay-park-fly package was at the nice Springhill Suites just north of the airport. Even for a diving adventure to Bonaire, it was still tough to get up at zero-dark-thirty to catch that 5:30 airport shuttle. Check-in and security went fairly smoothly, so we were eating breakfast when we received a text that our flight was delayed 35 minutes due to an aircraft that was stuck in traffic coming out of Boston. Oh well. Despite the delay, the flight was smooth and service acceptable. We were only about 10 minutes late getting into Bonaire, but did not beat the Delta flight. So we had a nice wait at both immigration and baggage claim, but all ended well. Our truck rental through Avis as part of our Sand Dollar package, and Avis had a separate (shorter) line for those of us with prepaid reservations. They were very professional on both ends about checking the vehicle for dents and scratches – I know that there have been many knocks on this company on this forum, but we have never had any problems. I will note that the Mitsubishi L200 truck was very comfortable but seemed really wide and really high – wide when trying to drive and park in town, high when loading gear.

    We made the short drive to Sand Dollar where we were checked in to Allen and Joan Zale’s condo B-6. We had stayed here during our 2011 trip, and Joan’s mural on the balcony looks as good as it did then. We love all the photos and their biographical story, including the pics of each of them underwater with the “600th” sign. Thanks to those two for sharing with our family. After a quick trip to the Van den Tweel supermarket for lunch stuff and beverages, we did a brief walk around SD to reacquaint ourselves with everything and to watch the lora that were common in the trees in late afternoon. The royal Poinciana trees were still in bloom, providing nice red colors. After dinner at Rum Runners (a family favorite as you know from my earlier reports), we had to quit yawning long enough to make it to bed.

    SD packages now include a breakfast buffet at Breezes and Bites over at Den Laman, so Sunday morning started there. Every day featured a nice little spread of fruit, breads, a rotation of something hot, and yogurt & muesli. We then checked in at the “new” Dive Friends Bonaire location on the Den Laman side for (re)orientation and our check-out dive at Bari Reef from the dock. Since I was restricted from lifting or carrying more than 30 pounds (i.e. dive gear!), Mrs. K or Son K would carry my gear into chest-deep water where I could put on the neutrally- buoyant package. They returned with their own gear and the family could go diving. We obviously reversed the process at the end. This added a bit of time and lots of effort to the week, but those two were real troopers in making it work. We love the house reef at SD for its many fish, good corals, and big sponges. Highlights on this first dive were a pair of sergeant majors guarding their purple patch of eggs, lots of butterflyfish, and a close-up look at a napping hawksbill turtle. Visibility was in the 60-75 foot range, with water temperatures 79-80°; these were the conditions for the week. We chose Cliff for our second dive as a way to try out the “beach entry” with no waves and that big rock for balance. The dive was nice despite Son K acting as though it was a race to get to Captain Don’s house reef before having to turn around. We saw lots of queen angels (Mrs. K’s favorite fish), a large scorpionfish, and several bluish trumpetfish trying to blend in with a line of creole wrasse. Really? Mrs. K and I went north to Oil Slick Leap for a late afternoon dive – she carried gear up that ladder twice! Now I know why I practiced those donning and doffing exercises in my dive course! We enjoy this site for the decent corals and diversity of fish. Being Sunday, we stocked up on satay and ribs at Bobbejan’s BBQ to eat back at the condo – good as always.

    Monday was our boat trip to Klein Bonaire. After some rain showers while waiting at the dock (oh how I hate when my dive gear gets wet!), it cleared off for the rest of the day; there was only light chop since it was not very windy. We love the reefs around Klein Bonaire for the topography, and Munk’s Haven and Ebo’s Special did not disappoint. Visibility was in the 75-100 foot range with only slight current. And we didn’t have to carry tanks – I just slid off the swim platform of the “Pelican” to start my dive, then undid my gear at the end so Capt. Larry could lift the tank back up. Thanks! Both dives featured the usual fish and plunging reefs, plus lots of little critters – arrow crabs, cleaner shrimp, a mantis shrimp, and tube worms. The best find by DM Pauline was a black and white crinoid on a branching tube sponge at Ebo’s with a 1 inch-long filefish seeking shelter amid the arms. Mrs. K and I chose Tori’s for our afternoon dive since it is an easy entry. While not our favorite site, we did see lots of fish swimming around the many sponges and whips. She was fascinated by the school of ballyhoo in the inlet channel. Dinner that night was at Diver’s Diner for my usual hit of fish tacos and some Amstel. We then had a short walk around town and some relaxing on the porch.

    Tuesday saw us head down south for a morning dive. After Mrs. K looked at and rejected Margate Bay’s step-down entry (is this becoming our pattern?), we hit Invisibles. She finds that entry fairly easy despite some uneven spots. The garden eels are still near the mooring; you can’t see the mooring from the reef but the landmark is a big sand shoot right by the eels. We had a nice long dive on the inner reef to look at the corals and big sponges on the slope, and lots of fish. I found two small goldentail morays by searching in holes. I was quite surprised that my left ear required some work to clear early in the dive – I am one of those “drop your jaw and go” kind of guys. We took the afternoon off from diving to do the “northern scenic route” of 1000 Steps and Gotomeer. There were only a few flamingoes in the quite low water of the lake. However, a yellow warbler decided that the truck’s side mirror was a great place to perch, so we got to watch it closely for several minutes. We swung by Sera Largo on the way back and were treated to awesome visibility where we could see the entire salt operation.
    P1050559 Seru Largo view panaram -- 6-19-18.jpg
    We also saw several more lora that allowed us to snap a quick photo.
    P1050569 Lora pair at Seru Largo -- 6-19-18.jpg
    Mrs. K then decided that she needed to continue her open-water swim practice, so she swam from the Den Laman dock to Buddy Dive’s dock twice (about 1200 meters total). I went snorkeling to find the octopus that reportedly lives in a pipe in front of the platform rubble – found several pipes but no octopus. We ate the second set of meals from Bobbejan’s for dinner before a family night dive on Bari Reef. The three of us had a great dive, seeing open polyps (particularly on the great star corals), a spotted lobster, a small basket star spread open on top of whip corals, one spotted moray foraging in holes, and three big tarpon. The biggest one (with a remora as sidekick) didn’t bother zooming past from the back, it just stayed in our way the whole dive. Uncharacteristically, I really had to work my ears on this dive.

    My left ear was feeling really full Wednesday morning, so I chose to just snorkel while the other two went diving. Not having to schlep gear, we all decided on a trip up north to 1000 Steps and Karpata since both are favorite dives and good snorkel sites. I did carry the gear bag with masks and fins on the steps. The reef crest is a bit deep at 1000 Steps to make it great snorkeling, but floating over the fields of re-growing staghorn coral made for an enjoyable time. I spotted an octopus moving around small rocks in about 10 feet of water and was able to watch it for the last 20 minutes. I am always amazed how they color- and texture-match their surroundings since they lack color vision. This octo was very active but did not like having a Spanish Hogfish nearby – any pass too close earned a flick of an octo tentacle. The divers had a good dive with great sloping scenery but did not talk about anything unusual. We all had a good time at Karpata; Son K was particularly impressed by the corals and the porcupinefish that joined their dive, while I got to watch a small green turtle swim along the reef for several minutes. Mrs. K and I took the southern tour on Wednesday afternoon, seeing hundreds of flamingoes in the Pekelmeer area down by the lighthouse. Though at a distance, it was still quite a sight.
    P1050602 flamingo flock with juveniles -- 6-20-18.jpg
    We saw several groups of flamingoes much closer on the back side of Lac Bay. We made a brief stop for groceries and the Bonaire Reporter on the way back. Reading the paper, we were pleasantly surprised to see a picture of Joan and Alan (and her extended family) on a trip to Sicily with a copy of the Reporter. The Bonaire community really is a special group. Dinner that night was at Julian’s which we enjoy for good food at a very reasonable price; I had the fresh fish and Mrs. K found the alfredo pasta with chicken to be very good.

    Thursday morning was sunny and windy, but my ears felt better so I was going diving. We decided to head south to Angel City, Mrs. K’s favorite site despite past misadventures with the entry. My Sherpas had really gotten the hang of the entry by now, so our routine worked quite well. There were decent waves from the south giving a noticeable surface current; we soon discovered moderate current from the south on the reef. We thought that the reef in the southern direction was not quite as nice as our recollections of the northern direction (which may or may not be a true situation), but we had a nice dive. After crossing back over the sand channel and ascending on the inner reef, there was some concern about son K’s air status so we angled in way before the known landmarks by the mooring; at least this put us “upstream” of the entry point. We drove down to the Salt Pier for our second dive of the morning, only to find the area closed for maintenance after a ship was loaded on Wednesday. Bummer. So we headed back to Alice in Wonderland, right next door to our first dive site. Disclaimer – Mrs. K and I did Alice on our first family trip in 2008 and found the sand channel very deep and the second reef very far and deep. We never dived Alice again since we found Angel City more to our liking. But given the current, we planned an inner-reef-only dive at Alice and really enjoyed it. The current was not quite as strong, there are lots of plate corals here, and that sand channel is still at 96 feet. The slight current made for an easy ascent and return along the reef crest. Son K found a small sharptail eel out swimming and I pointed out a small cluster of social feather duster worms; I had only seen these one other time (in the Bahamas). Mrs. K and I went for an afternoon snorkel at Andrea II where we saw four big rainbow parrotfish in very shallow water on the barrier, lots of little fish around the rocks and whip corals, and a small southern stingray feeding in the sand. I loved how it would back up a little before digging; those electroreceptors really do work well. We returned to Diver’s Diner that evening to feast on fish and ribs.

    We headed to The Lake after breakfast on Friday. We always enjoy this dive with its counterclockwise plan. We say several pair of big foureye- and banded butterflyfish and several cubera snapper on the outer reef, and Son K just had to check out the garden eels in the sand channel despite being the one who always reaches the air limit first! We decided to rinse, hang, and dry all our gear a bit early so we could take the afternoon kayak trip in the mangroves around Lac Bay at the Mangrove Information Center. We did this tour on our 2010 trip, but it was still cool to relearn the reproduction and ecology of the trees. We saw tons of upside-down jellyfish, sponges, and large snappers while snorkeling. When paddling around, we saw several green herons and a turtle. We returned to Rum Runner’s for our last evening to watch the sunset. I found the seafood pasta special to be quite tasty, while Mrs. K really enjoyed her sate ayam and the kesio (flan) she had for dessert. Son K will always eat ribs.

    Saturday morning was the usual packing, pictures, and feeding the resident iguanas at Sand Dollar. Several of the smaller iguanas even were calm enough for me to give them a little backrub. Check-out at SD and the truck return went fine. It is always sad to leave, but I can hope all winter for a return trip. We seemed to be ahead of the herd for airport check in, though there is just not enough room in that airport waiting area for two full flights (Delta and United). Despite a bumpy flight and the usual Saturday evening return crowd, we got through immigration in Newark, easily retrieved our bags and car, and made it home about midnight. Of course, I spent Sunday morning in the driveway hosing off dive gear. Oh well, at least their gear will be clean and ready to head back to Bonaire again. I had two beautiful diving days in Hatteras NC before the Fourth of July. We all are hopeful for another Bonaire trip in the summer of 2019!
    P1050709 Bill petting iguana -- 6-23-18.jpg

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Urbandale Iowa
    Posts
    27

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    Great Report!

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