On our third day exploring all that Bonaire has to offer, we left the luxury of Buddy Dive Resort to check in to the Airbnb we had booked after much research into affordable accommodations.
We had never before stayed in someone’s home with them- we have always preferred to rent an entire apartment, but the reviews for Joop and Carine’s Airbnb drew us in and we decided their home seemed like the perfect place to test the waters of staying in a private room. Correspondence with our hosts had always been quick and friendly, and they were expecting our arrival. They were immediately warm and inviting, and their home was beautiful. Any lingering worries about the arrangement quickly melted away as we got a tour and then settled into our room.
As lovely as it was there, we didn’t stay long. We had plans to continue exploring the island! Joop and Carine’s home is in the neighbourhood of Belnam, which is towards the South end of the island. From there, we continued heading further South. Along this breathtaking route we made many stops. Here’s some of the highlights:
I was thrilled that on this very short drive we had already checked off many of the items that I had wanted to see in person and photograph. This included these slave huts from the 1800’s. Here, slaves would stay during the week while they worked at the salt mines and used small boats to haul mounds of salt from the island to the awaiting ships. Most of the men walked from the other end of the island each week, and would walk back home on the weekend if they had enough time.
As we continued on after taking some time to learn about and appreciate the history of the island and the people that made Bonaire what it is today, we drove toward what I had most eagerly been awaiting… just around the corner at the southernmost tip of the island…
Flamingos! We hit it pretty big when we drove up to the flamingo sanctuary at Pekelmeer lake and saw a couple of decent-sized flocks.
After admiring the flamingos from afar, and invading their privacy only through the use of our zoom lens, we continues on to Sorobon Beach area, and checked out the famous Jibe City bar, restaurant, and kite-surfing spot.
We spent some time here, enjoyed a bucket of beer, and walked along the beach until we found this beautiful abandoned lifeguard stand. My favourite travel blogger had posted some pictures at this stand which was part of what made me fall in love with Bonaire, so I was pretty excited to have stumbled upon it!
We whiled away the last of the sunshine hours here at the beach, and then headed back into Kralendijk to find a spot for dinner. Again, many places were already full or booked up, but we did find a table at Tasty Bar and Steakhouse. We ordered a combination-for two dinner. It was excellent, and it looked like this:
One day above water was enough for us. We were ready to get back underwater, and were so excited to dive with VIP Dive.
The next day brought another exciting opportunity for Scuba Diving. We had booked a Boat Dive with East Side Divers through VIP Diving, a convenient system that the two dive operations have worked out to support their clients. The reason the two outfits work together, is that no other dive company dives on the East side of Bonaire. Dive sites are only accessible by boats, and East Side Divers are the only company set up for this.
After a light breakfast with our Airbnb hosts, we headed to the Sorobon area to meet our boat captain and dive master at Fisherman’s Pier. After making our payments for the dive, and an on-deck boat briefing, we were headed out on the zodiac dive boat. As we were listening to the in-depth dive briefing, I was devastated to discover that our dive camera would not turn on! It was such a disappointing feeling, and I was desperately wishing I had checked the camera’s operation before we had left home in the morning. Trying to swallow my disappointment, I shifted my complete focus on not feeling sick on the mildly choppy ride. Luckily, we were only on the boat for about 40 minutes before it was time to get on our gear and drop (roll!) into the water.
The dive was quite spectacular- we saw 7 turtles and several of them were happy to lay around and let us look upon them in awe. It was a spectacular dive and I found myself gaining comfort and confidence in being able to slow down, take my time, and really take in my surroundings. I got a bit of a thrill each time I discovered a little creature on my own- eels, lion fish, and turtles included.
Due to the depth of our dive, we were required to do a 3 minute safety-stop a few metres below the surface, before it was safe to surface. Unfortunately, the sea can get quite rough at this depth, and today was no exception. Occasionally, this stop can leave me feeling disoriented, dizzy, and nauseous. The week before, while diving on Curacao, I barely made it back on the boat before I got sick over the edge of the boat. As I waited for my turn to climb back on the zodiac I tried to hold it together, and once back on the boat the captain told both Travis and I to focus on the horizon we could see in the distance. Only a few minutes passed before Travis was getting sick over the side of the little boat, so at that point I made my mind up that we both couldn’t get sick on the same dive! I continued to focus on the horizon as we headed back to the dock to swap out our air tanks for the second dive.
Once we got to the dock we made the very difficult decision to back out of our second dive. It was a heart-breaker as the second dive site, “Turtle City” was guaranteed to be an amazing dive filled with all kinds of sea life. Nevertheless, as we were currently still dealing with our sea-sickness, we couldn’t imagine getting back on the zodiac for a further and rougher ride this time, and the possibility of having the same situation happen as we surfaced from the second dive helped us to make our decision.
Although we drove away from Sorobon filled with disappointment, we had just experienced one amazing dive, and were comforted by the thought that after a little bit of rest we would soon be feeling better.
Rest is what we did. We pulled up in the comfortable chairs next to the pool at our much-loved AirBnb until we were both feeling ready to head back out and explore some more of the island.
The problem was, we felt really disappointed at the thought of being finished exploring the underwater world of Bonaire. Seeing as we still had our rental gear until the end of the day, we stopped in at VIP for some advice on how we should spend the few hours we had left with our rented dive gear. As has been our previous experience there, the staff were incredible and recommended that we keep it very simple and dive their house reef, which was only a short walk away from the shop.
I will admit that when I was looking into shore diving on Bonaire, I didn’t think I would like it very much due to the fact that you have to lug around your air tank. I was pleasantly surprised that it really wasn’t that difficult, even when you emerge from the sea water-logged. Instead, I was completely sold on shore diving.
Months later, I still lament over the loss of what surely would have been our best dive pictures to date. This self-guided dive along the VIP house reef had us giddily pulling at each other to point out all of the creatures that we were now so able to locate on our own. A highlight was the little cow fish that camouflaged right in front of our eyes as it rose from the coral and changed to match the colour of the sea. We were mesmerized with this and could see the excitement in each others’ eyes. As we emerged from the water we could hardly wait to talk about all that we had seen, and the short walk back to the dive shop went by quickly as we listed off all of the critters the dive site had shared with us.
After sadly returning our gear to VIP, aware of the fact that this would be our last dive for an unknown amount of time, we returned back “home” to get ourselves ready to head back into town. We decided on dinner at Diver’s Diner which we had noticed on an earlier walk along the ocean front, but it had been quite full. This time, we were early and had our choice on seats at the outdoor restaurant. We enjoyed the quick and friendly service, the Happy Hour drinks, mushroom triangle appetizers, and the fish tacos and steak as our two mains. We strolled around a bit before heading back home, where we enjoyed a couple of lovely drinks with our hosts.
The following morning we slept in a bit longer as we had no early diving plans. We enjoyed breakfast with our hosts (including bread with sprinkles– a regular at the Dutch breakfast table!) before setting out to Spice Beach where we planned to catch the Caribe Watersports water taxi to Klein Bonaire.
Dutch for “Little Bonaire”, Klein Bonaire is a small and uninhabited islet that sits just half a mile from Bonaire itself. There is nothing on the island except one small open shelter to provide shade to tourists. The water taxi dropped us off at the beach and then allowed us to get back on the taxi so it could drive us back to one end of the island where it dropped us off. We literally plunged off the end of the boat into the ocean, and began our snorkel back to the main beach area. We spent about 40 minutes leisurely floating along the top of the reef. We saw a bit of sea life here, but to be honest after our amazing diving experiences on Bonaire, being at the surface of the water wasn’t quite as satisfying. Some families has snorkelled back in the more shallow water, where a couple of sea turtles were spotted.
Once we got back to the main beach, we had nothing left to do but laze around and enjoy the sun, sand, breeze, and views!
After about an hour on the beach, the Caribe water taxi was back with their second load of beach-goers. We hoped on and headed back to the main island and tried to hit up the Cactus Blue food truck for a lion fish burger. For the second time, we were too late in the day and the lion fish burgers were already sold out. We settled on some non-lion fish-fair and settled into enjoy more of the beautiful views while we waited for our lunch.
After another quick stop and change at Joop and Carine’s, we were back on the road. This time, heading north toward the small town of Rincon, which is the only other town on the island of Bonaire, aside from Kralendijk. What attracted us here was the Cadushy Distillery, Bonaire’s very own distillery which specializes in their signature green liqueur made out of cactus. We had a fun time learning about the process of how they make their liqueurs and alcohol, and of course having a few samples!
After the short tour, we enjoyed a drink and a snack, and continued our northbound route towards Goto Meer, the famous hangout spot for flamingos on Bonaire. It didn’t disappoint, although I let myself down by forgetting my zoom lens back at Joop and Carine’s! Here are some of the photos I got that afternoon, as well as some of the other interesting wild life of Bonaire that we spotted on our way back:
After our day of exploring the island from below and above water, we joined Joop and Carine once more on their back deck for some special before-dinner drinks. We had made reservations at Donna and Georgio’s, an Italian restaurant that Joop and Carine raved about. It did not disappoint, and we left very satisfied.
On our final day on the island, we were lucky to have most of the day to do “last-minute” things. We left our things at our Airbnb and set off for the day- driving back to Goto Meer, this time with our zoom lens. I could have spent the whole morning watching and snapping photos of the flamingos, but we had more on our list!
We drove back through Kralendijk, stopping for one last gelato and so that I could finally stop into an adorable shop whose windows I had peered in many times, but we had never been able to make it in during their opening hours. With a few extra souvenirs and our sweet tooth satisfied, we rounded back around to the other end of the island to enjoy the sunshine at Jibe City. We enjoyed lunch there, but mostly just soaked up the sun in their colourful beach chairs.
All too soon it was time to say goodbye to our wonderful hosts and this beautiful island. We were so grateful for the experience of living and learning from locals who have called Bonaire home for many years. Staying in a “private room” Airbnb had proven to be a huge success on this trip.
We returned out rental car and were dropped off at the airport. It felt like we were leaving a piece of our hearts behind, but this was one place that we were sure we would return to one day!