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September 2021    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 47, No. 9   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Report from Bonaire:

great diving, bad roads, more construction

from the September, 2021 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

One of our intrepid travel writers has a second home on Bonaire, and because she is well known there, she can't provide the usual Undercurrent anonymous report, but with so few destinations open for dive travel, we want our readers to know what's happening there. Here is her report, with a following reader report from another Undercurrent correspondent.


Having returned in early August from nine weeks' diving in Bonaire, I'd like to provide some information for my fellow subscribers who may be considering a trip there. By all means, it remains a great destination in these perilous times.

These days, there are four U.S. flights per week to Bonaire, Wednesdays and Saturdays, with more to come on American and Delta, via MIA and ATL, respectively. There is a rumor that Jet Blue may soon fly nonstop from JFK, hopefully bringing down the airline's unconscionable price gouging.

Currently, the Dutch government requires visitors to have a PCR test within 48 hours of landing on Bonaire (not 72 hours before departing to go there) and a rapid antigen test upon arrival, which is available at the airport. To return to the U.S., you need a test ($35-$55) as well, which most hotels can arrange, or you can schedule one at Bon Bida, across from the Sand Dollar. Bring your passport.

The island population is over 80 percent vaccinated (Clearly, they are smarter than Americans, no matter what the "We're Number One" gang thinks), and though some folks wear masks inside, many do not. Lately, the island governor has upped the COVID measures from level one to level two because of the fast-spreading Delta variant. We masked up inside the well-stocked markets and shops just in case. For anyone who really cooks, Canarbo, owned by a local couple with connections to Canada, provides excellent meat to restaurants and the general public. Go there for Canadian beef and duck, corn-fed French chicken breasts, and robust Canadian pork chops. It's on Kaya Industria, in a little strip of businesses fronted by the Antillean Wine Company.

Also, visit the weekend-only American-owned Dash Kitchen, on Kaya Gob Debrot, for biscuits and doughnuts; their chicken sandwich is coveted, and I love their sausage and egg biscuits.

Restaurants have smaller staffs, and service can be spotty. One friend tried eight places for dinner reservations and found none. I wanted to try a newer high-end place - Chefs - on Kaya Gob. Debrot in the Bamboo Bali resort - but the first openings were weeks away - Luckily, our favorite place, Capriccio, is open Wednesday-Sunday.

Bonaire MapAfter months of few divers and no cruise ships, the reefs look pretty darn good, especially those around Klein Bonaire. Unfortunately, I noticed more lionfish and many lionfish juveniles, reflecting perhaps a drop in harvesting them because of less restaurant demand. As usual, there are fewer big fish than small ones. I dived the east side with East Coast Diving ( and loved it. The reefs are lush and dense, the animals big and abundant, turtles too numerous to count, and the dive operation superb. It's usually rough, maybe 8-foot seas, but Martijn and his colleagues make it work nicely. Make your reservations with them early, as the boat sells out quickly.

The roads are worse than ever: massively potholed, rutted, and generally horrible. Kaya Amsterdam is the worst, Kaya Neerdlandia a close second, and Kaya Gob. Debrot wins third-worst. Drive with care since it's so easy to scrape a sidewall and ruin a tire. The guy in charge of the roads, James Kroon, might be one of the most reviled people on the island.

There is a surprising amount of distressing, large-scale construction. Worst is a resort being built at the former Sunset Beach, an all-inclusive Tui resort, a low-end Dutch outfit specializing in mass tourism. One of my Dutch buddies says Tui's caters to Dutch rednecks who have no idea if they are in Spain or Bonaire; they just drink and party. It will accommodate well over 800 mainly Dutch tourists who will, presumably, never leave the resort. It's an eyesore and goes against the government's pledge to favor class over mass tourism. Another large resort is under construction south around Belnem-Punt Vierkant. Captain Don's Habitat has broken ground for several new buildings that will add accommodations for 58, though Habitat remains committed to its "Blue Destination" sustainable tourism status. As for the housing market, real estate agents say they are having their best year ever as buyers compete for properties.

So, Bonaire is roaring back to life, restaurants are open, stores are stocked, and diving is underway. It's different from the Before Times, and you will be surprised by the construction and development, but thankfully, it's still Bonaire. At least for now.

Bonaire's Divi Flamingo Beach Resort Continues to Impress

Subscriber Michael M. Lay (Ocala, FL) made his 9th trip to Bonaire in July and says the Divi Flamingo Beach Resort is his favorite.

"I stayed in a comfortable and spacious renovated studio room. The Chibi Chibi restaurant, the Pure Ocean buffet space, and the ocean side bar offered good food and beverage options - and a 5-minute walk into downtown Kralendijk provides another dozen or so excellent restaurants. The hotel's on-site pools, spa, gym, Hertz car rental agency, and even a casino, round out the amenities."

Divi's fleet of six dive boats (including a brand-new Newton 46, the "Sea Coral") tie up at their private dive dock out front and offer quick access to dive sites in the mornings and afternoons. Air and Nitrox tanks are available 24 hours a day to dive out front on their house reef (Calabas Reef) or drive to one of many shore diving locations whenever you want.

The reef life seemed well-rested, with all the typical Caribbean reef fish you would expect: lots of drum fish, several seahorses, a few nice rays, abundant squid - my safety stops seemed to occur in a pod of squid practicing their ballet. Like gang members from a movie, the tarpon staked out their territory near the bow of the Hilma Hooker. I had an excellent interaction with a large porcupine puffer and saw several green morays, one a free-swimmer, and crabs, large lobsters, shrimp of all types, acres of garden eels, schools of snappers, lots of snake eels, a few turtles. Sponges and soft corals were looking great. Some divers needed a squirt of ammonia at various times due to something "bitey" in the water. My guess is sea lice.

To dive Bonaire, pay your mand tory yearly marine park fee online, and you'll receive an emailed QR code to show the dive shop.

I was initially disappointed I didn't receive the traditional "Bonaire Bling" plastic disk to tag my BCD from the DIVI shop - once you start collecting them, it's hard to stop - but Sietske (one of the divemasters) gave me one as a parting gift. The Divi Dive team does whatever it takes to make your trip a good one. For example, we lost the steering linkage during a morning boat dive out to Rock Pile. There were a few tense minutes as the wind blew the boat sideways toward Klein Bonaire (a small uninhabited island nearby). Throttling a single-screw boat forward/backward wasn't going to stop us from grounding. Fortunately, conditions changed, and Captain Ruud backed us into more open water. Gert, the Divi fleet mechanic, soon arrived on another boat to effect repairs. I expected they would cancel our second morning dive so that Divi could maintain their much-touted precious schedule, but we got a second dive in the afternoon - no one wants to lose a dive in Bonaire.

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