Bon Bini Na Bonaire (Welcome to Bonaire)!
Thanks to a surprise flight change by Insel Air, we (okay, I) was giddily bouncing around the Flamingo International Airport by 8 in the morning. We had just spent a glorious week on Curacao, but were SO excited to see what Bonaire had in store for us. The smallest of the three islands known as the ABC islands (Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire), Bonaire is actually an Antilles of the Netherlands, rather than a country of its own. With under 20,000 permanent resident, and the cutest little airport you’ll ever see, we had a feeling we were about to fall in love.
We were picked up at the airport by an employee of Caribe Car Rental, with whom we had rented a small car for the week. We were in and out of the rental office with great ease and were on our way to soak up the island sun!
The only problem was…it wasn’t even 8:30 in the morning yet, and we weren’t expected to check into our Resort until 3:00 that afternoon. We decided to give early check-in a shot.
It didn’t work out. They were unable to check us in until the pre-determined 3:00. So, tired and weary, we decided to hang out in our rental car in the resort parking lot. That decision served us well, as soon after we had hooked up to the resort wifi and reclined our seats, a down pour ensued. It was more of a ferocious rain than any we had experienced while on Curacao, lasting a solid 30 minutes or more. It was just fine by us to wait it out in our Kia. We napped, planned, and soaked up the wifi until we decided to go and find a bite to eat.
As it was a Sunday, and New Years Eve, the centre of Kralendijk was pretty quiet, with the majority of the shops and restaurants closed. We came across Boudoir, a cute little cafe with outdoor seating. We ordered two different styles of club sandwiches, both described as “toast towers,” one with chicken, egg, bacon, tomato, cucumber and mayo, and the other with smoked salmon and homemade egg salad. They were A LOT to handle, but were so delicious. We decided if we came back later in the week we could easily split one sandwich between the two of us!
We were also lucky enough to be informed of what the Dutch enjoy as a New Years treat each year, oliebollen. The AirBnb hosts that we would later be staying with on Bonaire had sent us an email encouraging us to try this traditional dish. We were grateful for that tip as we would have otherwise never noticed or indulged in this delicious, deep-fried, doughy, apple-filled tradition.
We spent some time after our brunch wandering around the downtown area of Kralendijk. As mentioned, it was very quiet, as Sunday’s are traditionally family-days on Bonaire and limited businesses are open.
After the fairly short tour of the quaint and colourful downtown and boardwalk area, we headed back to Buddy Dive Resort to check out the property’s on-site dive shop, where we had a dive booked for the following day. By this time, it was close to 2:00, which is when Buddy Dive does their mandatory orientation talk with future divers. Because Bonaire’s surrounding water is a protected National Marine Park, this orientation is required before divers enter the water. We were carefully instructed on the importance of caring for the marine life found right off the shores of this beautiful island. The overall message is to take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but bubbles.
One thing that surprised us was that even though we had “booked-in” for a one-tank boat dive via the Buddy Dive website/email, we were told when we got there that we better go and look at the board to see if there was room for us on a boat the next day. Apparently, booking online isn’t a guarantee for the time you want. This information was a bit unsettling as we were only staying at the resort for two nights and would have limited opportunities to do a dive with them. I can see how this system would be sufficient for many guests of Buddy Dive Resort, who likely are staying for a minimum of a week. These guests would enjoy the flexibility of being able to sign-up for boat dives at their leisure, up to three days in advance. For us, it caused a moment of panic, but we were lucky to snag the last two spots of the limited number of dive boats that would head out on New Years Day.
The next morning, we were very excited to do the required “check-dive” on the Buddy House Reef. This dive allows divers to check their tanks and weights before heading off to do shore-dives on their own, and is recommended for divers before going on a boat-dive trip or going solo shore diving. I was very nervous about diving without a dive-master guide, but Travis was more confident, and with a rented dive-computer to let us know our time under the water, we geared up on the docks of Buddy Dive and splashed our way down the steps into our first solo dive.
I was pleasantly surprised to see a small turtle as soon as we descended along the wall of the reef. I wish I would have waited there and spent some more time watching it, but we had a plan to swim along the reef for a certain number of minutes before turning back, and I didn’t want to mess with the plan.
It was pretty invigorating to come up from our first solo dive with just the right amount of time logged, and more than enough air left over. We knew from that moment that we were going to love diving in Bonaire.
Later that afternoon, we boarded one of Buddy Dive’s five dive boats (we were lucky to secure the last two spots on the boat the day before). We had a group of about 10 divers and only one dive master, who was very quiet and I never did catch his name. Luckily, the boat captain was the one who did our dive briefing, and he did enough talking for everyone on the boat! He did a fantastic job of giving us not only a thorough description of our dive plan, but also shared with us the interesting history behind the dive site he chose for us, Carl’s Hill. We both really appreciate receiving as much information about our dive plan as we can, so for us this is always what makes a dive company stand out.
After another exciting dive where we got to hang around with several lion fish, a lobster, a weary puffer fish, and so many more beautiful fish of the sea, we hit the streets of Bonaire again so that I would have an opportunity to take some photos before the sun set on yet another fantastic day in paradise.
We wandered around until dark, then began attempting to find a place for dinner. Our first few stops in the downtown area where quite full, so we continued on walking down Kaya Grandi to the Japanese Fusion Restaurant, Osaka. We ordered a variety of rolls and each one seemed better than the last! It was a deliciously fresh meal and we were happy with our last-minute choice. We finished off the night with another walk back down Kaya Grandi and a stop at GIO’s Gelateria and Caffe for some mouth-watering gelato.
The morning of our third day, we wanted to soak up as much of the resort lifestyle as we could, as we were due to check out at noon. We were up early to return our gear to the onsite rental shop at 8 am (we didn’t return from the boat until just before 5, when the rental shop closes down, and we knew we wouldn’t be penalized if we decided to return it in the morning). After our panged goodbye to the Buddy Dive Shop, we spent some time lounging around our room, grateful for the comfortable space we had enjoyed for the last two nights. Once we’d had enough lounging inside, we moved outdoors. We decided to check out the resort’s second pool area for what was left of our morning. Have I mentioned how amazing the lounge chairs are at this resort? It might seem silly, but they were one of the highlights of the resort for me!
We soaked up every last sandy moment we could before checking out of Buddy Dive Resort. We prepared a quick lunch in our kitchenette before checking out just a couple of minutes past noon. Our next stop was an Airbnb we had booked months in advance…
Stay tuned to read about the rest of our week in Diver’s Paradise!