Days 94 and 95, Year 1: Snorkel ‘Til You Drop
Date and Time: Friday, January 20,2006, 2200 AST
Weather: Sunny and Warm
Air and Water Temperature: 82 degrees F
Location: Kralendijk, Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles

In Chris Doyle’s Cruising Guide to Venezuela and Bonaire, the opening paragraph in the Bonaire section reads: “Bonaire is a charming, quiet and extremely clean island with a population of around 11,000 (2001 Census). The main town is attractive, with pastel colored buildings and red tile roofs. It comes with a wonderful selection of waterfront restaurants. This alone would rate it as a great port to visit, but when you throw in the attraction of some of the Caribbean’s cleanest water and easiest and best diving, you have an unbeatable combination.” That pretty much sums it up. We should be leaving here tomorrow morning headed for Curacao, but we have decided to extend our stay until Monday. There’s more snorkeling to be done and somebody’s got to do it, so let it be us!

Early yesterday morning we headed to the south end of town with Lionel and Laurel in their rented jeep to snorkel along the western coast. There is a beach that runs along the west coast of Bonaire all the way to the southern tip, but the sandy beach does not extend into the water. The sand gives way to a hard shelf of old coral that you have to walk across to get into the water. Then there is a sandy bottom that goes out to a coral wall. It is along this wall that you see the fish. This site boasts of turtles and rays, but we saw none. We explored two different dive sites in this area and then headed back to town to turn in the rental car. We then went back to the boat and had lunch on Sea Whisper. Mark needed to run into town to Budget Marine to order a Panama cruising guide but by the time we remember this it was 1230. Nothing is open from 1200 to 1330, we were forced to snorkel around the boats while waiting for the store to open. Luckily, the Budget Marine in Curacao has the book we will not have to pay to have it Fed Ex’d in from the US. Book stores are rare in the parts of the Caribbean that we have visited and most marine supply stores do not carry any books either. Next time we’ll know to buy all the essential books before leaving home.

Around 1400, all four of us climbed into our dinghy and headed across the harbor to Klein Bonaire. This is an island that lies about a mile from our anchorage here to the nearest point, but we needed to head to the north end of the island to snorkel. We tied the dinghy to a mooring at one dive site and then snorkeled along the coast to the next dive site north. The dive description said the fish would be friendly, but it forgot to mention that they would also be bigger than we had been seeing. Many of the fish here were a good foot and a half long and they came right up to you and then followed you in little schools as you snorkeled. Mark and I spotted what we thought was a Queen Angelfish and then saw another one the size of a large dinner plate. Once I got back to my identification charts I discovered that what we had seen was one Queen angelfish and one French angelfish. It was the French angelfish that looked like a dinner plate. We also saw white angelfish with black tipped fins. I’m not sure what these are called but they were beautiful as they swam gracefully through the water with us.

We swam with the current to the north end of the island and then headed to shore to walk back to where we had left the dinghy. When we got out of the water we discovered that the wind had decided to blow hard enough to make it difficult to walk against it. The dinghy ride back against the wind was most interesting. Every time we hit a wave, the water would fly into the dinghy. Mark had to wear his snorkeling goggles to be able to see to steer the boat and I had to use the hand bilge pump the whole time to keep too much water from accumulating in the dinghy. Laurie also put on her goggles and I really wish that I could have taken my camera out to get a picture. We were a very funny looking, very wet crew. We had cocktail hour on Windbird and dinner aboard Sea Whisper. Laurie and Lionel will head for Trinidad tomorrow and we will miss them. We have had a great time together.

Today was a work day. I think we exhausted ourselves yesterday by spending so much time in the water, so we took a break today. I organized pictures to send to the website and Mark worked on our leaky water maker. Late in the day we headed to town to check e-mail and do some web searching for information on our Galapagos tour. We ran into Laurie and make plans to meet at Karel’s, the waterside hangout for boaters, for drinks. We ended up staying in town for dinner and made plans for an early morning snorkel tomorrow. They will be leaving mid-afternoon, but we will get in one more morning of snorkeling together.

I hope to spend tomorrow afternoon walking through town and getting pictures to try and capture the atmosphere here to share with you. It is so very different from islands in the Windwards. And everyone we meet says that Curacao and Aruba are both so very different from each other and different from Bonaire. Not sure you can capture this in photographs, but I will give it my best shot (no pun intended).

060119 Day 94 Caribbean, Bonaire–Underwater