April 15, 2017:
Today’s port is Bonaire, which contrary to Curaçao, is not a separate constituent country, but a “special municipality” in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Together with Sint Eustatius and Saba, they are known as the Caribbean Netherlands. Collectively, all of the constituent countries and special municipalities which had been Dutch Caribbean colonies, were known as the Netherlands Antilles until they were dissolved beginning in about 1975.
Although what we could see of the town also featured some of the same cute and colorful Dutch colonial architecture, our mission for the day was to go diving. This island has long been on my bucket list of dive spots I wanted to investigate, ever since my dad deemed it the best diving he had experienced in the world. From the amazing crystal clear waters of the harbor, I had a feeling he was right.
Shawn and Sylvia set off on a snorkel excursion. Here are a couple of pictures of them setting off.
Jim and I had other plans for the day; we went off to VIP Diving, rated Number 1 in Bonaire by Trip Advisor, to experience the scuba diving here. We had two dives planned for the day, both literally right off the beach! Unlike the rather large dive group we had yesterday, today, there were only three of us diving with the dive master. The equipment appeared very new and well-cared for and the dive shop where we met our group was very state of the art.
Our first dive was at a location called Invisibles, which featured an outer and an inner reef wall. Our first mission was to look for the resident local seahorse, which our DM, Jürgen Pfalz, was able to find with little trouble. Sadly, I learned that my underwater camera had permanently died, so there are no pictures to share. We also saw tons of parrot fish, triggers, puffers, and the best of all, a couple of sea turtles! The second of these was very preoccupied with grazing on some sea lettuce so he let us get very close. Dad was right, the diving is superb here, and I wished we had more days to stay!
The second dive was at a location called the Salt Pier. One of the things you quickly notice about Bonaire is how arid it is. As we drove further outside of town, we passed several miles of salt ponds where Cargill operates a salt mining operation right across from the multiple dive spots along the beaches. The interesting thing about these ponds is that they are all pink, which is caused by an algae in the water, which blooms as the trapped sea water warms up in the spreading ponds. The algae is in turn eaten by brine shrimp, who also turn pink, and then provide food for migrating flamingoes, who also turn even more pink. The salt pier, as its name implies, is a pier for loading salt into ships to be shipped around the world. Since it was not being operated today, we were able to dive around the pilings of the pier. As we waited out our surface interval on the beach, a lone flamingo flew slowly by.
The pier was its own undersea ecosystem, and we saw large purple egg masses laid by the sergeant major fish who live there. We also saw some rather large barracudas floating in about the upper six feet of water. All in all, it was a very fun dive spot, with lots to look at, if not the corals and sponges of our earlier dive. The entire coastal area of Bonaire has been designated as a protected Marine Preserve, so the dive operators must collect a $10 entry fee from each diver. However, we were happy to learn from Jürgen that the government really does use these funds to perform coral conservation and other marine preservation activities. We really enjoyed our day with him, and I would highly recommend VIP Diving to anyone considering a dive in Bonaire! Bonaire is very highly considered as one of the best drift dive locations in the world, but I guess we’ll have to wait for a future trip to experience that!
We went back to the ship to enjoy our final evening aboard the Star Breeze. Tomorrow we disembark in Aruba, where we will stay for a few days before flying home.