Bonaire - December 27, 2001 - January 3, 2002

Page one of pics follow text.

The trip was booked through Middle Tennessee Scuba and Swim of Franklin, Tennessee.  The management of the trip was outstanding.  I strongly recommend travel arranged by this operation.  Close to 70 people with around 60 divers participated.  We flew American Airlines from Nashville to Curacao with a flight change in Miami.  In Curacao, we transferred to Dutch Caribbean Express (still using bankrupt ALM signage, tickets, and aircraft).  Security was tight at the American Airlines counters and gates, less so with DCE.  On our return, the Miami security checkpoint personnel rigidly enforced carryon baggage size and count limits.  

Some individuals had checked bags opened at the check-in counter; be sure to be able to quickly open your checked luggage.  No problems with checked bags containing snips, knives, and nail clippers.  However, we were told at the AA desk in Curacao that we could not check any type of air cylinder in any state of fill.  No one in our group had one but that was a new twist.  Only one bag for our entire group was delayed, and arrived the next day, apparently stuck at Miami.  I carried a notarized letter of permission from my wife for Elizabeth to leave the country with one parent; it was never inspected.

Accommodations and diving services were obtained at the Divi Flamingo resort. Rooms were large, clean, and well maintained.  One thing - the drinking water on Bonaire is produced by osmotic desalinization and is great - we didn't touch bottled water the whole trip and had zip stomach problems.  My daughter and I took the Alice H, a fast pontoon boat, for most dives.  We did a combination of shore dives from the Flamingo's piers and boat dives.  We did rent a Suzuki Jimmy but did not carry tanks to other shore sites.  One other large group, Rec Divers from Michigan, was at the Flamingo.  The whole island seemed somewhat empty of tourists.  We found out that 9-11-01 has had far ranging effects in the Caribbean. 

MTSS sponsored a treasure hunt and photo contest (using slides).  No skimping on prizes.  We picked up some $50.00-$60.00 of goodies in the hunt.   I noted the Nikon school of photography that some sites mention as being at the Divi Flamingo is no longer there.  We had a roll developed in town at Paradise Photo - great service, high prices - about $25.00 for 36 exposures.  I wanted to quickly check our film as it was always scanned at the airports.  No security personnel would hand inspect it although signs announcing such a service appeared at all airline counters.  No fogging was apparent.

Liz and Rolfino were our divemasters for most dives.  They were great.  We had from 7 to 22 divers on the Alice H.  Dive briefings were informative and both divemasters took considerable effort to help us locate hard to see goodies - seahorses, scorpionfish, flounders, etc.  We saw some quite large barracuda and marlin, several rays, and quite a few turtles, particularly on dock dives.  Water conditions were great, from 50-60 ft viz. to almost gin clear.  

Location Date Current Viz in ft. Water Temp F. Entry Time Max Depth in ft. Length of Dive 
Calabas 12/28/01 none >60 81 1034 79 45
Nearest Point 12/28/01 none >60 81 1453 62 43
Calabas 12/28/01 none night 81 2049 42 49
Cliff 12/29/01 none >60 82 1351 75 41
Bonaventura 12/29/01 light >60 81 1513 52 40
Hilma Hooker 12/30/01 none >70 81 0927 102 33
North Belnem 12/30/01 none >60 81 1044 79 46
Calabas 12/30/01 none >60 81   84 41
Ebos Reef? 12/31/01 none >60 81 0918 69 43
Something Special 12/31/01 none >60 81 1042 62 49
Rockpile 12/31/01 none >60 81 1439 49 55
Calabas Treasure Hunt 1/1/02 none >60 81 1034 42 32
??Klein - site had been closed 1/1/02 none >60 81 1440 56 48
Angel City 1/2/02 none >60 81 0857 63 49
Bachelors Reef 1/2/02 none >60 81 1028 56 54

Our favorite sites were Something Special, Angel City, Bachelor's Reef, and the Hilma Hooker.  The later is a wreck in 80-100 some odd feet of water.  It was sunk against the wall so you can get a real combination of diving environments.  Penetration is possible, my buddy and I did not elect to do so - not trained and not terribly interested.  Anyway, I mention these sites for the diversity of healthy corals, fish, and general beauty of the site.  The corals were spectacular.

Dives were very loose in terms of supervision, with instructions being limited to more or less swim against the current at your deepest depth until you reach about 1500 psi then come back at a shallower depth.  Folks tended to be all over the water column as per preference.  No one got into any type of underwater trouble.  Sea conditions were calm to a bit of wind blown chop, nothing more than one would see on a small lake.  We saw NO other dive operators' boats out - just some small private boats moored to the sites.  There were probably other dive boats running but we didn't see them.

Most boat dives started with the boat moored in 35-50 feet of water over the wall, with about 80 feet being the recommended max for the wall - there isn't a whole lot to see on a regular basis below those depths.  We hit 102ft on the Hooker.  One wasn't hassled over exceeding that depth, though.  Just watch your repetitive dive planning as surface intervals were in the 30 - 40 minute range. Water temps were 81-82 degrees everywhere; air temp was 85-90 degrees.  Sky conditions were clear to partly cloudy.  I mention the latter as the shallow reef areas really come alive with color when the sun is out.  I'll post a chart of the dive specs later.

The dock dives were similar - jump into some 15 feet of water, swim about 20 yards or so to the wall and head down.  Some divers reported octopi on the house reef.  We did a night dive off the dock.  I'm not a big fan of night dives - my comfort level is low and stress is high.  However, it was beautiful.

A few comments - the Alice H was roomy with bow, midship and stern water entry points - the boat cleared fast.  Recovery was over the stern using a ladder and awash swim deck.  The divemasters always removed spent tanks before we re-rigged for the second dive or packed up after the second dive.  This was appreciated.  Water was provided - snacks - you're on your own.  A large central table was available for those with cameras, as was a cameras only soaking tank. 

This was Elizabeth and my first open water use of the Motormarine Seamaster system we'd put together.  We'd shot some 6 rolls in the pool at our university using scuba gear props so we had some idea of what we were doing.  Most of the shots here were taken with the 16mm S&S wide angle lens or the built in close up lens.  A YS60 TTL strobe was used, generally with the diffuser attached.  Kodak Gold ASA 100 film was used throughout.  Most shots were at f 8 or 5.6 at 2-3 feet distance using the TTL setting on the flash.  Some available light shots appear as well.  Most shots were taken at a 60th of a second shutter speed.  I've found that 125 makes all pics look like night shots by blackening the background and a 30th is to prone to jitters.  There are two pages, check the link at the bottom.  We've learned to switch lenses more often and have finally figured out a way to attach the 1:3 macro rig AND the 16mm to the lens carrier without getting poked in the face.  Elizabeth and I each took some of these pictures and one thing deserves mention - we are dive buddies first and photographers second - we always kept each other in sight when composing and shooting.  We may loose a shot that way but I think it's the only way to dive with a camera.

Underneath the Alice H


More Pictures

Equipment used:

Elizabeth, age 15, about 30 dives prior to trip:  Diva LX BC, USDivers Cousteau/micra adj. reg, .5mm Scubapro fullsuit, Cressi mask, Twinjet graphite fins, Stinger computer, 63 or 50 cuft tanks.

Bill, age 53, about 33 dives prior to trip:  Zeagle Escape/24lb wing BC, Mares V16 Epos reg, Mares Quattro fins, Mares Surveyor computer, .5mm Scubapro fullsuit, Oceanmaster Z2 mask modified by Prescription Dive Masks, 80 cuft tanks.

I would probably use a 3mm or tropical hood with the .5mm on the next trip in similar conditions, got a bit cold on second dives.

Some things we took but never used:  Snips, slates, gloves, signaling tubes, snorkels (unless snorkeling).