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Thread: Dive/Bonaire questions from a total newbie

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Default Dive/Bonaire questions from a total newbie

    Hi all,

    We are going to Curacao/Bonaire at the end of October for the first time and staying at the Sand Dollar in A3 for 7 nights. We just got our PADI Open Water and Enriched Air certification last month. We live in Colorado, and although we have snorkeled through out the Caribbean, this will be our first dive trip, and really our first time diving. We have rented a truck and do have a copy of the BSDME book.

    So, I was looking for some advice for first timers. Really anything that comes to mind would be helpful, but I had a few specific questions:

    How many boat dives would you do (interested in getting over to the Klein diving sites)? BDA has a package with 6 or 10, or we can add them a la carte, or go out with another company?

    When we are taking the truck out and about, how many tanks should we take per diver?

    I know we are supposed to leave the truck unlocked and windows down when left unattended at dive sites, what do you with the extra or empty tanks?

    What does your dive schedule look like on a day-to-day basis, i.e. with Nitrox, how many dives can you get in per day with out overdoing it? (our dives will be 60ft or less, and probably shallower)

    Should we plan to night dive and/or UV dive and how often?

    Are there any sites that are good for beginning divers, but you still get a lot of bang for your buck?

    Can we do a non-penetration Hilma dive, or should we wait until we have more experience and can dive deeper?

    Has anyone rented dive equipment from Bonaire Dive and Adventure? Do they have a hodge podge, or do they carry certain brands/models. (We are trying to figure out if we should take the plunge and buy some equipment, or if we should rent some stuff from our local dive shop and pack it in, etc)

    Has anyone rented a camera from fish eye – how does this work and would you recommend it?

    We were planning to take a few guided dives, would BDA be okay or do you recommend elsewhere?

    How can we meet other divers to dive with or exchange stories with, without being needy or annoying?

    Thank you for your time and advice!
    Last edited by jendiver; 09-11-2011 at 12:46 AM.

  2. #2
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    Hi Jen

    Welcome to BT.

    I would do a few boat dives early to see things like sea horses and frog fish, personally we do shore dive days and days without a truck when we do boat dives and dives off the dock at the resort.

    We always take a couple of extra tanks so we are covered if we have a problem or want an extra dive. Tanks are not normally a target as they are very common on Bonaire.

    We often did 5 1 hour plus dives a day, probably down to an average 4 recently, but more when it is the coral spawning.

    Try twilight dives so you get in as the sunsets and watch the transition form day fish to night, also try an early morning dive, we once did a 4:00am dive. We also love night dives.

    We all have our favourites, we probably dive 50% of the time on the house reef where we stay. Every dive is different as things move through.

    I would suggest a guided dive at first on the Hooker, there are some easy penetrations you could be shown.

    We have not rented as we have all our own gear, if you buy your own then I would look at lightweight equipment.

    For cameras I would recommend doing Peak Performance Bouyancy PADI Course and the PADI underwater photorapher course. That will give guided dives and the use of a camera.

    You can meet other divers at the hotels bar, or go to the managers cocktail parties at the other resorts. It is worth going to Habitat to meet Captain Don, I think that is on a Monday evening.
    Brian Lowe

  3. #3
    Julia is offline Bonaire Lover SUPPORTING MEMBER - Bonaire Talker
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    BDA and Fish Eye photography have a good reputation and the diving from the house reef is simple and good.
    I agree with Brian that a few boat dives will set you off well, I am sure that BDA will be doing a dive to Hilma Hooker. Just explain what you want to the dive master before hand and they are usually very good at helping newbies to have a good, safe time.
    I have sent you an e mail

  4. #4
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    We've (wife Jean & I) used BDA for all 13 of our trips to Bonaire and would HIGHLY recommend that you do the fish ID class and dive with the resident naturalist, Jerry Ligon. We've done it a few times over the years and always learn and see a lot.

  5. #5
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    Jenny - welcome to BT

    IMHO - I would wait on the UV night dive until you have 6 or 8 regular night dives under your belt.

    On a UV night dive only about 5% of the reef is visible and it's all fluorescent yellow.


    You can get a good taste of Klien with 6 dives - just remember there are great dives right off the shore. Susan Porters book has a good list of easy dives - start there and work your way into the more advanced ones.

    Have fun
    Last edited by Timmmmmy; 09-11-2011 at 01:40 PM.

  6. #6
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    Default Hi Jen, welcome to your new home...

    Quote Originally Posted by jendiver View Post
    Hi all,

    We are going to Curacao/Bonaire at the end of October for the first time and staying at the Sand Dollar in A3 for 7 nights. We just got our PADI Open Water and Enriched Air certification last month. We live in Colorado, and although we have snorkeled through out the Caribbean, this will be our first dive trip, and really our first time diving. We have rented a truck and do have a copy of the BSDME book.

    So, I was looking for some advice for first timers. Really anything that comes to mind would be helpful, but I had a few specific questions:

    How many boat dives would you do (interested in getting over to the Klein diving sites)? BDA has a package with 6 or 10, or we can add them a la carte, or go out with another company? Since this is your first dive trip, I would recommend at least the 10 dive package. You are just getting used to diving and may need/wish for expert guidance obtainable from the DM's on the boat. You also will meet and swap stories with those you dive with on your boat. While this is a shore diving Mecca, I would recommend diving with a group and with an experienced DM. You will come back to Bonaire more than once because there is too much to discover on just one trip.

    When we are taking the truck out and about, how many tanks should we take per diver? Two tanks would be reasonable. Return to your Dive Op to offgas and switch tanks for an afternoon 2 tank trip. BUT, unless you are bringing a group with some more seasoned divers, I stand by the recommendations above.

    I know we are supposed to leave the truck unlocked and windows down when left unattended at dive sites, what do you with the extra or empty tanks? Just leave them there. The DiveOps name is on them and where are they gonna go?

    What does your dive schedule look like on a day-to-day basis, i.e. with Nitrox, how many dives can you get in per day with out overdoing it? (our dives will be 60ft or less, and probably shallower) My crew has done 5 tanks easily (including a night dive)

    Should we plan to night dive and/or UV dive and how often? Do night dives by Buddy Dive and experience the tarpon swim beside, over and around you as they hunt using your dive light. Go for a shallow dive in front of your DiveOp before sunrise, kneel on the sand and watch the reef come alive as the night denizens disappear and the day shift comes alive.

    Are there any sites that are good for beginning divers, but you still get a lot of bang for your buck? I will defer to others for this. No sites on the east (windward) side would be recommended for newbies

    Can we do a non-penetration Hilma dive, or should we wait until we have more experience and can dive deeper? Dive your experience and training level.

    Has anyone rented dive equipment from Bonaire Dive and Adventure? Do they have a hodge podge, or do they carry certain brands/models. (We are trying to figure out if we should take the plunge and buy some equipment, or if we should rent some stuff from our local dive shop and pack it in, etc) I've always enjoyed diving with my own equipment. That way any equipment malfunction is probably my fault for poor maintenance

    Has anyone rented a camera from fish eye how does this work and would you recommend it?

    We were planning to take a few guided dives, would BDA be okay or do you recommend elsewhere?

    How can we meet other divers to dive with or exchange stories with, without being needy or annoying? This site is good. www.scubadiving.com may yield other divers with the same travel itinerary as yours. (My friend from Denver is coming to Bonaire for the first time 9/17-9/24 for example)

    Thank you for your time and advice!
    see above

  7. #7
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    For what it is worth - concentrate on enjoying your dives, not trying to 'notch up' as many as you can in 1 trip, be cautious and sensible in what you tackle, and dive within your limits. Re the U/W camera- you may well find you have enough to do without adding a camera to your list - aim at fine tuning buoyancy and other skills underwater - if desperate for pics you could always hire a professional?
    Divers are a very sociable lot - you will certainly find someone who is more than happy to share their experiences over a beer ot two!
    Enjoy!

  8. #8
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    Hi Jendiver,

    I can't give specifics on Bonaire; we're just planning our first trip there ourselves, but I have to agree dreemerdog about the camera.

    Even with the several hundred dives we have logged, we still do our first day or two on each trip without our camera.

    As new divers, it might be a good idea for you to just enjoy the dive and not worry about trying to get pictures. I have seen too many divers, new and experienced, who get too tangled up in pictures and forget about bouyancy and reef preservation.

    Have a great trip!
    DS

  9. #9
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    Yes indeed DiveSergeant - neglecting to check depth/time/no-deco limit (!).
    We also are very experienced divers, and still practice our basic skills on the first dive of the holiday eg mask off/on, buddy breathe, reg retrieval, weight belt off/on - it is so easy just to assume you are still sharp on these things which you may have learned years ago ......sounds a bit 'nerdy' but they are VERY important especially if you are just a lone buddy pair.

  10. #10
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    wwguy is offline Bonaire Lover SUPPORTING MEMBER - Bonaire Talker
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    Great questions! Your excitement & enthusiasm about your new sport and your first trip to Bonaire are remind me how we felt before our first trip.

    I've added my advice below. (Apologies in advance for the lengthy reply.)

    Quote Originally Posted by jendiver View Post
    We are going to Curacao/Bonaire at the end of October for the first time and staying at the Sand Dollar in A3 for 7 nights. We just got our PADI Open Water and Enriched Air certification last month. We live in Colorado, and although we have snorkeled through out the Caribbean, this will be our first dive trip, and really our first time diving. We have rented a truck and do have a copy of the BSDME book.
    You've already made some great decisions by making the above choices. This will set you up for success on your questions below.

    Bear in mind that responses to variations of the "how many dives should we do each day?" question are subjective and based on each diver's experience, energy level, and preference. In a previously reply, Scubanut mentioned that he/she has "easily" done 5 dives a day. This schedule would leave me exhausted and parched for Polar (a locally available Venezuelan beer.) Threee dives a day is plenty for me, plus an occasional night dive. The great thing about Bonaire shore diving and unlimited tank refills is that you can always add dives to your day without incremental expense.

    Based an another of your posts I assume you'll be arriving and departing on the Saturday Delta flight. If so, It'll be tough to get any diving done on Saturday after you arrive... especially if it's your first trip. That pretty much leaves about 5.5 days for diving before you hang your gear up on Friday afternoon.

    Sunday afternoon you can get your rental car, buys some supplies at the grocery store, check in at Sand Dollar, stop by BDA to say hi, and enjoy a beautiful Bonaire sunset from your apartment.

    First thing Monday you check in at the dive shop, get fitted for your rental gear, attend the Marine Park orientation, adjust your weights for buoyancy, and do your checkout dive on Bari Reef in front of the dive shop dock.

    Quote Originally Posted by jendiver View Post
    How many boat dives would you do (interested in getting over to the Klein diving sites)? BDA has a package with 6 or 10, or we can add them a la carte, or go out with another company?
    I'd do 6 two-tank boat dives... The 1st one on Monday afternoon, and the others first thing each morning for the rest of your stay. A two-tank boat dive will consume as much as 4 hours counting motoring out & back, gear assembly/disassembly, bottom time, surface interval, and gear rinse. You'll get finished just in time for lunch... and you WILL be hungry!

    Feel free to ask where the boat is headed and/or make suggestions and requests. Dive boats are the only way to dive Klein Bonaire, but sometimes they head to the shore dive sites too.

    You can always add boat dives... the dive operators love this.

    Quote Originally Posted by jendiver View Post
    When we are taking the truck out and about, how many tanks should we take per diver?
    Two tanks is usually plenty if you're only going out for the morning or the afternoon. If I'm only planning a single tank dive, I only take one tank. The great thing about Bonaire is that you can always get more tanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by jendiver View Post
    I know we are supposed to leave the truck unlocked and windows down when left unattended at dive sites, what do you with the extra or empty tanks?
    Thieves are poor locals that are looking for cash and items they can sell on the street. Tanks and weights don't meet that criteria.

    Quote Originally Posted by jendiver View Post
    What does your dive schedule look like on a day-to-day basis, i.e. with Nitrox, how many dives can you get in per day with out overdoing it? (our dives will be 60ft or less, and probably shallower)
    3 dives/day is plenty for us, plus an occasional night dive. The last few years we've been staying for a few weeks and don't feel the need to make so many dives every day. There are a lot of things to do and see on beautiful Bonaire. Not all of them are underwater.

    Quote Originally Posted by jendiver View Post
    Should we plan to night dive and/or UV dive and how often?
    You should try a night dive at least once for the experience. After that you'll know if it's your thing or not. I love it. My wife doesn't. The easy way is right off the dock in front of your apartment. If you're more comfortable with a guide, you can book a night shore dive or boat dive with BDA. I don't have any experience with UV night diving.

    Quote Originally Posted by jendiver View Post
    Are there any sites that are good for beginning divers, but you still get a lot of bang for your buck?
    Bari Reef, located right in front of your apartment, is an awesome site and perfect for beginners. Most of the sites on the west side of Bonaire are also well suited for beginners and experts alike. Access to some of the shore dive sites can be challenging due to coral and cliffs etc. The BSDME book and your own eyes will tell you what you need to know. If you don't like one site, it's easy to drive to the next.

    Quote Originally Posted by jendiver View Post
    Can we do a non-penetration Hilma dive, or should we wait until we have more experience and can dive deeper?
    I've done a couple dozen dives on the Hilma Hooker over the years, and have never felt the need or urge to penetrate the wreck. Personally, I prefer to dive it as a shore dive because I enjoy the time over the reef on the way out and back.

    It's an easy dive and easily accessible from boat or shore. You should probably plan to dive it 1st thing in the morning due to depth. However you don't have to descend all the way to the bottom to enjoy the wreck.

    Quote Originally Posted by jendiver View Post
    Has anyone rented dive equipment from Bonaire Dive and Adventure? Do they have a hodge podge, or do they carry certain brands/models. (We are trying to figure out if we should take the plunge and buy some equipment, or if we should rent some stuff from our local dive shop and pack it in, etc)
    I'm not sure what you mean by "hodge podge"? I don't have personal experience with BDA, but all Bonaire dive operators I've encountered offer well maintained rental gear. The gear will be rental-grade, meaning that it probably won't have expensive extra features, but you should expect it to be in good working condition. The actual brand doesn't matter as much as the model within the brand and the age/condition.

    You should expect the rental gear quality on Bonaire to be as good as what you'd find in your local dive shop. If you don't like what you find at BDA, you can rent elsewhere. (Carib Inn also has good rental gear.)

    Since you're already familiar with snorkeling, and you've invested in dive certification and travel, it's probably a good idea to start purchasing some gear. Not sure what your budget is, but I'd consider buying dive gear in this order:
    1) Mask, fins, snorkel, wetsuit, and hard soled booties.
    2) Dive computers.
    3) Regulators.
    4) BCD's

    Quote Originally Posted by jendiver View Post
    We were planning to take a few guided dives, would BDA be okay or do you recommend elsewhere?
    There might be exceptions, but I've never had a bad dive guide experience on Bonaire.

    Quote Originally Posted by jendiver View Post
    How can we meet other divers to dive with or exchange stories with, without being needy or annoying?
    Swapping dive stories with other divers isn't annoying... it's friendly! It'll start at the boarding gate in Atlanta and continue until you get off the plane in Atlanta a week later.

    On Bonaire, you'll meet other divers at the dive shop, on the boat, at shore dive entries, and around the Sand Dollar property. We frequently stop by Buddy Dive's pool/beach bar on Friday's for the Manager's Rum Punch Party at happy hour. Moogie, a local musician, has been playing there on Friday's for years. Captain Don's Habitat and other resorts host similar activites throughout the week.

    Hope you have a great trip! :GAC:

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