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30 January – 15 February 2014

My host Monica was kind to drive me to the airport. Insel Air doing my flight from Curacao to Bonaire has a bad reputation for being late and cancelling last minute (when there are not enough passengers), so I guess I was lucky that we took off only 20 minutes late – approx. the same time as the flight time! Despite the small arport and small plane it took almost ½ hour to get the luggage – at the parking lot I asked for a ride to town and was lucky some people took me all the way to my hostel - they had lost my booking (allegedly a computer crash) but fortunately they had a room anyway.... It was BBQ night so the bar was full and loud; I was hoping it was a one-off and not something that happened every night – fortunately it turned out to be the case; the few dinner nights ended fairly early and heard little having a room in the far back.....

Bonaire is famous as one of the best places in the world for shore diving. Most people have their own equipment, so all they need is to rent a car and tanks - afterwards it's just driving around the island picking dive sites easily identifiable by yellow stones with names on them. Most people come in pairs/groups and have arranged everything from home. Coming alone I didn't want to make arrangements before I had found a dive buddy, so the next days I walked around town to all the dive shops asking for dive prices, packages and a dive buddy. The place I stayed had the best dive package – 6 days with equipment and unlimited tanks and I found a cheapish used car from a local guy. The challenge was finding a buddy who wanted to dive the same period and as many times a day as me – fortunately I had time to wait a while and eventually I found Dutch John who wanted to do a couple of dives a day for 3-4 days; along came also the hostel owner's brother for a couple of dives.

Not what I had hoped for but better than nothing – however, I ended up diving mostly by myself. The main safety rule for diving is to dive with a buddy, but here at Bonaire it's common to do solodives - probably because it's so difficult for single diver's to find a matching buddy.... It was nice to have a buddy but I ended up enjoying the solodives a lot – no concern for other's, their air consumption, etc. Bonaire has a reputation for the best diving in the Caribbean - I can't tell if true as I haven't dived much in this region because it's so expensive (and allegedly quite ordinary) most places. However, being spoiled having dived some of the best places around the world, it takes something special to amaze me and Bonaire didn't have it. I rate it pretty average with decent corals and fairly rich underwater life, but particularly the visibility was disappointing – only around 10-15 meters where it should have been at least 25-30 meters.... Nevertheless, I'm happy to have dived here, so it won't be a thing to regret later in life... Bonaire is far from cheap, but the shore diving makes it reasonable especially when sharing some of the cost. Still my usual daily cost of living was vastly exceeded, but it was nice to have a “holiday” from travelling doing one of my favourite activites – diving - that I haven't done for almost 3 years (except the 3 dives in Curacao a few weeks before)... There are no dive pictures from Bonaire - I don't have my own underwater camera, couldn't borrow one and didn't dive much with people who had one. If you want to see dive pictures from other trips look under “Previous trips – diving”.

Having a car provided an opportunity for a bit of sightseeing. The whole west coast was covered by the various dive sites and the southern part was easily driven in a few hours as it consisted of one road along the open coastline with a wiew of the vast salt ponds. For centuries the Dutch made Bonaire prosperous on salt worked by slaves, but when slavery was abolished in the 19th century the island fell behind it's powerful neighbour Curacao. Not until the salt industry was re-evigorated – this time with machines – the island got on it's feet again. After WWII Bonaire befitted from the general world ecomic boom and the beginning of tourism which today is the major income due to the dive industry. Otherwise Bonaire is mostly bedrock and has only one real beach but the water was beautifully turquoise especially when the sun was out which was most of the time – there were many clouds and a few showers but nothing lasted long as it was quite windy also making the 30+ Celsius a pleasant temperature. I had the car for a week and one day I went on a daytrip to Washington Park covering the whole nothern part of the island – desolate landscape, beautiful rugged coastline, blowholes, lakes, flamingos, iguanas, etc.

Another ½ day I rented a kayak and went to nearby Klein Bonaire – quite windy and therefore big waves. On the way there they were in the back so it was a fairly easy ride but coming back against the waves the paddle quickly broke and I had to get a boat ride from the kind park rangers. Besides that challenge Klein Bonaire was beautiful with rare sandy beaches and no permanent inhabitants – however it was cruise ship day which implied hundreds of passengers which reduced my joy until I found a little beach a bit away from the crowds....

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