Surprise! It’s Bonaire again in 2022! Part 2 of 2

Sunday 10/16/22

It’s a beautiful morning, and after breakfast we decide to try one of my favorite places (and one of K’s least favorites), Yellow Submarine. We also decide we will try to swim north of Yellow Submarine to the Harbor Village hotel at Eden Beach.   We park on the main road that runs along the water and get into the water on the northernmost part of Yellow Submarine. 

We start out by swimming north towards the Harbor Village. There is always big tarpon here and we see some almost immediately upon getting in the water. The current isn’t terrible, and we are working against it as we swim north. Apart from the tarpon, and one Chain Moray Eel, we don’t see too much apart from the usual suspects. There used to be a lot of Whitespotted Moray Eels here, but the authorities are afraid that a viral disease which nearly wiped out all the moray eels on the island has had a resurgence. We certainly have seen less than in normal years. 

Smooth Trunkfish at Yellow Submarine **
Split Crown Feather Duster at Yellow Submarine **
Tarpon at Yellow Submarine
Green Iguana on the rocks at Harbor Village

We make it to the mouth of the harbor that gives Harbor Village its name.  On either side there are rock formations which hold a myriad of sea life, and we see a nice puffer in the southernmost one, but it quickly retreats into the rocks. It’s a working harbor, so we look to see no boats are approaching, and quickly swim across the mouth of the harbor to the rock formation on the northern side.  Almost immediately I spy the tail of a large Green Moray Eel at the bottom of the rocks. I can’t see his head, but I know which end it’s on, so I dive down and put my camera into the crevice that it’s hiding in. I can’t tell for sure, but I think that it looked up at the camera. I do two more dives to try to get some extra footage just in case. They are so imposing looking, but very shy and skittish, and rarely are seen out of their hiding places except at night.

Large Green Moray at Harbour Village
Smile for the camera!

We swim along the rock piles that the hotel added years ago to try to encourage coral formation, but which after all that time are still pretty much just piles of rocks. We swim back towards the southern side of the harbor mouth against a stiff current. Once we turn the corner to the southern side of the rocks the current decreases dramatically, and we don’t have any other issues with it. 

We see a lot of tarpons, I count six swimming around us at one point, and swim south to the Yellow Submarine dive shop that gives this snorkel spot its name.  The reason K doesn’t love this spot is that many of the local fishermen tie their boats up in the shallows, so you are always going under and around boats and lines.  There are far less boats here today, and K pronounces it the best time we’ve ever been here. We get out of the water and drive back to the Divi. We take a dip in the pool and have some lunch. Afterwards we decide to do a house reef snorkel. We don’t see anything too unusual, but I do see the Ocean Triggerfish in the distance, so it’s obvious it’s been hanging around here lately. We get out of the water and head to the room to shower and get ready for dinner. We have a rum drink as we watch the sunset.

Golden Chain Moray at Yellow Submarine
Peacock Flounder at Yellow Submarine **
Two of many Tarpon that cruise along at Yellow Submarine
French Grunt hovers over a Pink Tipped Sea Anemone **
Sand Diver at Yellow Submarine **
Four Eyed Butterflyfish at the Divi **
Whitespotted Filefish at the Divi

Dinner tonight is at Patagonia, an Argentinian steakhouse. We share a Parma ham and melon appetizer, and we both have sirloin strip steaks, with K getting a blue cheese sauce and baked potato, and I get a pepper sauce with excellent fries. We accompany the meal with a lovely Argentinian cabernet. We walk back to the Divi, where we have some of the ice cream we bought from the store. I watch a bit of the Sunday night football game, mainly to watch the scores from earlier, and am happy to see that the Pats have beaten the Broncos 38-15. The Pats now have a full-blown quarterback controversy, though I still think Mac Jones is the better choice. We drift off to sleep readying ourselves for the last Woodwind trip we have planned. Dee arrives back home tonight, but I doubt she’ll be on the trip tomorrow morning. I haven’t told K yet, but we will be doing our 35th wedding vow renewal on the boat tomorrow. Shhh!

Monday 10/17/22

It’s K’s birthday today, and we get to celebrate with a trip on the Woodwind. We have met a nice couple from New York, P & K, and they have also booked the Woodwind for today’s trip. We have breakfast and walk down to the dock to meet the ship. When we arrive on the dock we see Isa, Donna, and Sandor there as well as Marfa the photographer. No Dee, alas, but we didn’t think she’d be here this morning anyway. Alejandro, who owns the photography studio that Marfa works for stops by to give her some supplies. We chat with him for a while to hear about his plans to sail west to Columbia (where Alejandro is from), and then north to the Yucatan peninsula, East to the Florida Keys then south back to Bonaire. They leave in early November and hope to be back in Bonaire by late May, early June before hurricane season begins. 

We head out on the Woodwind for the traditional three stop snorkel trip to Klein Bonaire.  At the first stop we see two turtles, but both are too deep for me to film. I dive down and try to get some footage of a few Rock Beauties, a beautiful yellow and black fish. We also see a single adult sized squid, who scoots away before I can even point the camera at it. We also see several large French Angelfish. We don’t see anything too unusual at the second or third stops except for a large Tiger Grouper who manages to stay just far enough away from me to not be able to film it.  They are protected here as they are severely overfished.  We get back on board and have a few beers while Isa and her crew serve lunch. K sits in front with me, P & K, which is unusual as she generally sits near Sandor. It’s a good thing she’s come up here on her own, as I’m assuming this is where we’ll do the vow renewal as we sail back towards the Divi. Just as we are leaving Klein Bonaire, we are surrounded by a pod of dolphins which frolic around the boat. Because the sun is so bright, I think I’m filming them, but I’m not, though I do get one cell phone pic of one just under the surface. In any case, it’s a special thing since this is only the third time, we’ve seen dolphins on our 22 trips on the Woodwind. It’s a great birthday present for K.

Rock Beauty at Klein Bonaire
A pair of French Angelfish at Klein Bonaire **
Christmastree Worms on Brain coral at Klein Bonaire **
Blackbar Soldierfish at Klein Boniare
A Typical view off Klein Bonaire with hundreds of Gray Chromis **
Scrawled Filefish with corals, sponges, and more at Klein Bonaire
Butter Hamlet at Klein Bonaire
The only picture I got that sorta shows a dolphin!

Isa announces after lunch that we need to stop at the Harbor Village as they’ve “forgotten dessert”.  I fall for this lie completely as we head into the port. K smacks me on the arm, and I look at her to see tears in her eyes. Then I look at the dock, where Dee is waiting with her husband Ulf and another woman we don’t know, who we later learn is Adrianna.  Dee and Adrianna get on board and give us big hugs as usual. Dee announces to everyone that it’s our 35th anniversary and says some very kind words about how she feels we are part of her and the Woodwind’s family. She reads some vows I had written from memory and does an amazing job. Here are those vows.

We gather here on the Woodwind to celebrate the vow renewal of M and K on their 35th wedding anniversary. Do you K promise to love M for the rest of your lives and to put up with his strange obsession with taking pictures of eels? Do you M promise to love K for the rest of your lives and honor her love of pufferfish, squid and spotted eagle rays? Under the beautiful Bonaire sun, we celebrate this 35-year union, and hope it lasts for many more years, until you both snorkel off into the sunset. 

We both have tears in our eyes at this point, because, let’s face it, I’m a sap. Ulf had asked me what our song was while I was communicating with him and Isa about the trip, and I tell him that our wedding song was The Love Cats by The Cure. I figure they will just play the song, but Dee and Adrianna bust out saxophones, and play along with the music. Dee then sits and talks to (mostly) K and Adrianna plays Happy Birthday by Stevie Wonder, Isn’t She Lovely, and Just the Two of Us, as we sail back into the Woodwind dock. After a health scare a few years ago, Dee is crossing off bucket list items, hence the El Camino de Santiago, and learning to play the sax. Adrianna is her sax teacher.

We get our usual big hugs from Dee, and we head off to the pool for a dip. We then head to the jetty for a house reef snorkel. K finds the Flying Gurnard again, and we see a small turtle, probably the same one we’ve seen around the Divi this past week. We also see a small boat very close to the end of the jetty, but by the time we swim over there it’s gone. we leave the water, do the usual dip in the pool, and then head to the room for rum drinks. P asks us if we saw the boat. We said we did, and he tells us that it was some locals who were netting fish at the end of the jetty, which they are not supposed to do. The dive master scared them off but reported their boat info to STINAPA, the entity that protects the reef and water. 

Queen Parrotfish at the Divi **
Female Hairy Blenny at the Divi
Flying Gurnard at the Divi
Flying Gurnard in all its glory!
Single squid at the Divi
Green Turtle at the Divi

After showering and changing we watch a beautiful sunset and then head off to the Brass Boer, one of Bonaire’s fine dining restaurants. Situated at Delphin’s Resort, it’s a ten-to-fifteen-minute drive away from the Divi. We are seated in a small double seat, and order drinks. K has a gin and tonic and I have a delicious tropical mocktail.  I’m not drinking this evening as I’m driving. They have a five-course surprise menu, but there are too many fish we don’t eat on their menu, so we opt for three courses each ala carte. First, we are given a small amuse of a crisp filled with seasoned beef, chorizo, and kim-chi. This is spectacular. Next, they bring a small roll that has a fork with a garlic clove, and a small grater built into the plate. You grate the garlic on the grater, add olive oil and salt, and you make your own garlic oil for the roll. Very cute.

Amuse of beef, chorizo, and Kim-Chi at Brass Boer
Gin and Tonic for K, fruit “mocktail” for the driver
Bread with garlic grater, oil, and salt

K’s three dishes are Filet Americain (beef tartare with chorizo, Amsterdam sour, sour bomb), Straticciatella (Italian buffalo cheese with pimentos chive and asparagus), and Duck Breast and stew (with carrots, and a hay gravy with star anise). There was an actual eggshell on the side, that was filled with duck meat and a creamy custard that had a slight hay flavor. It was amazing. My dishes were Oxheart Cabbage (cabbage with pistachio, fermented cabbage sauce and orange), Sweetbreads and Langoustines (with peanut barbecue sauce, pineapple, and pumpkin), and Cheek of Veal (braised with potatoes and sauerkraut). For dessert we get the Blue Cheese (Toasted white chocolate, blackberries, fennel, and pistachios). And the Trick with an Egg, which was white chocolate egg with mango mousse inside that is cracked over bed of coffee, pineapple, and vanilla.

Straticciatella at Brass Boer
Oxheart Cabbage at Brass Boer
Duck breast with carrots and amazing egg on hay in the back at Brass Boer

Finally, after dessert we are given a final goodbye gift of an “iced coffee dessert” which is a small dollop of caramel served on a frozen block, covered in a coffee ice cream, and topped with small coffee “caviar”. It’s a perfect end to a lovely meal, though K is pretty much wiped out from the busy day. We haven’t made definite plans for tomorrow, so we drive back to the Divi, and collapse into bed, falling asleep almost immediately.

Iced Coffee Dessert at Brass Boer

Tuesday 10/18/22

We wake up a little later than normal and have our next to last “island eggs” meal of the trip. Island eggs are scrambled eggs with chorizo, onion, peppers, tomato, and cheese. There is a cruise ship in port today, so we head down to the craft market to see if any of our friends are there. We stop first at the Caribe Inn to get some Bonaire calendars for 2023, a wonderful calendar of photos by an American ex-pat who takes beautiful pictures. We walk into town an K gets a psycho bunny t-shirt. I have been wanting to get some full foot fins so that when we do house snorkels or go on the Woodwind, I don’t need to wear my diving boots. We walk to one of the many dive shops in town, one that I know has a wide variety of fins for sale. I find some that feel fine in the store, and I also pick up an extra snorkel for me, as the plastic top of mine has a piece missing, and it’s letting in water whenever a wave comes near it.

Island eggs with toast

On the way back we stop at the craft market and get another Hawaiian ice, tamarind for K, and mango for me. The people who press dead pieces of coral into clay are here, and K buys a turtle necklace as a gift for a friend. They have another plaque that differs from the two we have, and after eating our Hawaiian ice, and a discussion, we go back and buy it. Back at the Divi with loot, we stash it and decide to try Windsock today, the snorkel site near the airport that we lollygagged too much to go to on Saturday.  We drive south towards the airport and pull over to park.

This area used to have large swaths of living fire coral and staghorn coral, but the inner reefs are decimated, and almost all the coral is dead. Dead coral still attracts nice fish, though, as algae grows on it that they eat. We don’t know the reason for this damage. It could be the warmer than normal water, a beach that is much loved and heavily used by locals, or people not using reef safe sunblock. In any case the coral is in pitiable condition, and though we see some barracuda, a large needlefish, and some other nice fish, we get out quickly as it’s depressing to see the coral condition. 

Barracuda at Windsock
Three Rowed Sea Cucumber at Windsock
School of Smallmouthed and French Grunts at Windsock **
Rock Beauty at Windsock
Large Needlefish at Windsock **
Bluehead at Windsock **

After snorkeling Windsock, we stop at the next beach area north of Windsock, Te Amo Beach, where the Kite City food truck sets up. One would never expect to get high quality tuna tartare and sashimi from a food truck, but Kite City always delivers, and we split those two plus a spicy “Boom Boom” burger. The food is all great and we return our plates, pay, and head back to the Divi. We arrive, swim in the pool a bit, and head into the water for a house snorkel. I decide to try my new snorkel here and I quickly find out I’ve bought a diving snorkel, that has a waterproof valve on top to prevent water from getting into the snorkel while under water. This doesn’t preclude me from using it, but it’s very disconcerting whenever a small wave hits the top of the snorkel, it shuts the valve which also prevents me from breathing in. A quick breath out opens the valve, but later in the room, I remove a small rubber piece from the valve which is how it shuts so completely. I don’t have a problem blowing water out of the snorkel if it gets in from the top, or when I free dive. I’d much rather do that than ever feel like I can’t breathe through the snorkel. Once I remove the valve, I have no further issues with it. 

Peacock Flounder at the Divi **
Sand Diver at the Divi **
Stoplight Parrotfish (initial phase) at the Divi **

I also try my new fins on this house reef snorkel. They feel OK but seem tighter than in the store as I swim around the usual house reef snorkel. We see mostly the usual suspects with a few nice scorpionfish out and about. We return to the jetty, and when I remove my fins, my feet are very angry looking and red. Obviously, these fins are not for me. I’ll drop them off at the Woodwind later during the week as a donation as scuba gear is no-returnable once used.

We grab some rum drinks and watch another great sunset. Dinner tonight is in the room, some cheese and crackers and prosciutto and melon with olives. Very low key and nice for a change. We get to bed early and realize how quickly our second week is going. Soon we’ll be back to the drudgery of the 40-hour work week again. 

Sunset over the Dive Dock at the Divi

Wednesday 10/19/22

There’s another cruise ship in town this morning, so it’s a good idea to get as far out of dodge as possible. P & K have been telling us about a place north of the retired oil refinery that we’ve heard of but have never been able to find. They offer to have us follow them since they’ve been there before, and we agree. It’s called Candyland and P says it’s the best coral he’s seen on the main island.  Once you get to the main gate of the refinery, there is a dirt road to your right. This is the road that you follow for about a mile to Candyland. There are other sites north of Candyland, one of which the Hawaiian Ice people told us about, and now that I know how to get here, I think we may investigate those in the future.

Each dive/snorkel site has one of these yellow painted rocks letting you know where you are. Not all are as helpful with entrances and exits as this one is
The dirt road at Candyland looking north

The entry and exit into the water are very well marked, but it’s still a bit challenging as there are large coral heads on either side of where you get in, and you must be careful not to let a wave drive you into them. The water here is also a bit choppy.  I will say that this is some of the nicest coral on the main island that we’ve experienced so close to shore in such shallow water. Nearly equal to the coral quality off Klein Bonaire. We see tons of the usual suspects, plus a lot of Black Durgeons, which we generally only see regularly at Klein Bonaire. We also see a small Lionfish, unfortunately. We leave the water and get back to the cars. 

Very nice coral with a Black Durgeon at Candyland
Close up of a Black Durgeon showing how much color they actually have at Candyland
Small Lionfish at Candyland
Two French Angelfish ** with Black Durgeons behind at Candyland
Not sure, but I believe this to be dead Tube or Star Coral at Candyland (Please let me know if I am wrong)

P&K were also telling us about snorkeling Bari’s Reef which is front of the Sand Dollar Resort where they have stayed before. The gate to Sand Dollar is closed, but there is a dirt parking lot next door which we can use, and we gear up and head into the water. We snorkel north towards the Sand Dollar, and see only so-so coral, but a wide variety of sea life. Apparently, Bari’s Reef has some of the highest fish diversity on the island. There are nice rock and coral outcroppings along the shore that provide a lot of shelter for fish of all sizes. We see a moderately sized Rainbow Parrotfish, our second of the trip. The first was deeper and moved away from us quickly as they are wont to do, but this one is munching on the coral and rocks, and I’m able to get closer than usual for some film of it.  We see another Ocean Triggerfish in the depths, and a large Fire Worm along the rocks.

Four Eyed Butterflyfish at Bari’s Reef **
Striped Mullet at Bari’s Reef
Long Spined Sea Urchin at Bari’s Reef **
Large Two + foot long Rainbow Parrotfish at Bari’s Reef
A second look at this beautiful fish!
Black Jack at Bari’s Reef
Puffer with Bearded Fire Worm at Bari’s Reef **
Close up of Bearded Fire Worm at Bari’s Reef **

Just as we’re getting ready to get out of the water, I see a Spotted Eagle ray in the sand flats. I yell to K, as she loves Eagle Rays, and we haven’t seen one in several years. I dive down and film it, and follow around for a while, yelling out to P so he can get some pictures of it as well. K is ecstatic that she’s finally seen another Spotted Eagle Ray, and we vow to add Bari’s reef to our permanent snorkeling list.  We get out of the water and go to a nearby local burger joint with P & K for lunch. P & K have some errands to run, so we say our goodbyes, and we head back to the Divi.

Spotted Eagle Ray at Bari’s Reef. About 2 1/2 feet across, the tail is 6-7 feet long!
Stunning pattern on this beautiful animal
One more for good measure

After a dip in the pool, I dry off and then head into town to go to the Van De tweel supermarket to get some smoked chicken from Kip Tukkie.  I see him outside, so I head into the store as we planned on getting some potatoes to nuke for baked potatoes and a cucumber to go with our smoked chicken for dinner tonight. I also notice a lot of people with eggs, so I go by the display, and while it’s only about a quarter full, they do have some. I grab a dozen. When I return, I offer P & K some eggs since they’ve been without for a while as well, and we now have more than we can use for the remainder of the week.  We sit and read for a while before the sun goes down as we’ve planned a night snorkel for this evening. P is going to tag along as his K doesn’t like night snorkeling, and he doesn’t want to go alone (a wise decision). 

We get in the water just as the sun is setting, and I immediately see some Spotted Spiny Lobsters along the rocks of the jetty. It’s amazing that there are so many hiding where you can’t see them at all during the daylight. Night snorkeling is a completely different experience than day snorkeling as there are many fish that are nocturnal, and most of the daytime fishes are hiding and sleeping. We see lots of lobsters, probably close to 20, as well as several Lionfish which also have been hiding in the rocks. P points out an Yellowline Arrow Crab which looks like an underwater Daddy Longlegs. I see some of the small squid, and the octopus hiding in its den underneath the Elkhorn coral. We also see a live shell of some sort that I hope to identify later (it’s known as a Music Veloute). We see some divers doing a night dive with a tarpon hanging around them.  We’re all getting cold, so we swing back around the jetty. There are some small Red Night Shrimps in the rocks as well, and I think I get some nice footage of them before leaving the water.

Lionfish in the jetty rocks at night at the Divi
Yellowline Arrow Crab at the Divi @ night
Sharptail Eel at the Divi @ night
Music Veloute at the Divi @ night
Spotted Spiny Lobsters at the Divi @ night
Red Night Shrimp at the Divi @ night
More Red Night Shrimp
Spotted Spiny Lobster at the Divi @ night

We say our goodnights to P & K, and head into our room to tuck into some Kip Tukkie smoked chicken. We have it with our microwaved baked potatoes, a sliced cucumber, and some beer.  Afterwards we finish off the ice cream we bought and head to bed exhausted. Time is really creeping us on us now, and tomorrow marks the first of just 2 more full days on Bonaire.

Thursday 10/20/22

There are cruise ships the rest of the week, so we decide after breakfast (island eggs!) to go down to Lac Bay today. It’s another great spot that we couldn’t do last year, since you must walk 200-300 yards in knee to chest deep water over undulating sand to get to the reef. We park near Jibe City after following a line of golf carts full of cruisers. The golf carts were the worst idea ever allowed on the island, since they can’t go as fast as cars, and the drivers refuse to move over on the roads to let drivers pass them. 

We walk straight into the water at Jibe City past the fledgling wind surfers and out to the reef. This was the first time we accomplished this without arguing so I took it as a win. The tide is coming in, so we swim against it for the final 50-yard push to the reef. The water is rough and shallow. We’re wary of being tossed into some coral and damaging it, so we reluctantly call it quits after a short while. We do see some cool stuff, like live conch, two large puffers, and an Ocean Triggerfish that promptly swims into the deep when it spies us. We also see a Rosy Razorfish, a weird fish that hovers over a depression in the sand and then dives into the sand as you approach.

Live Conch at Lac Bay
Sand Tilefish at Lac Bay
Baby Spotfin Butterflyfish and Juvenile Bluehead at Lac Bay
French Angelfish at Lac Bay **
Spotted Trunkfish at Lac Bay
Honeycomb Cowfish at Lac Bay
Dueling Puffers at Lac Bay
Bar Jack coming by to say Hi at Lac Bay
Interesting Sponge at Lac Bay
Rosy Razorfish at Lac Bay
Rosy Razorfish heads into the sand at Lac Bay

We go back to the Beach bar at Jibe City for some lunch. K orders a chorizo quesadilla, and I have the special burger which is the most ridiculous burger I’ve ever had. A full beef patty, with cheese, lettuce, tomato, chorizo, and pulled pork, with fries, of course.  We talk to two cruisers from Texas at the bar and the wife offers to buy the dirty white t-shirt that one of the bartenders is wearing. They have switched to a black model, since the white ones get so gross, but this woman passes up a chance to buy one of those, she wants the white one. The bartender goes out back, changes into a black shirt and hands her filthy white one over. The bartender initially resists, but the cruise woman insists on giving her $20 for the shirt.

We leave Lac Bay after lunch and head back to the Divi. We hang by the pool for a bit, then go on a house reef snorkel with P & K. I’m happy that we see the Goldspotted Eel again so P can see it as they are very rare. We don’t see much else except the usual suspects, so after a while we get out of the water and head to the room to get ready for dinner.

Trumpetfish at the Divi **
Barracuda at the Divi
Goldspotted Eel at the Divi
Lionfish at the Divi
Single baby squid at the Divi
Big Puddingwife at the Divi **
Spotted Moray Eel at the Divi

Dinner tonight is at the restaurant At Sea, another bougie place that has tiny fancy food, which we love as much as a meat laden burger. When we are on our second course P & K come in looking for someplace to eat for their last dinner in Bonaire, as they fly to Curacao tomorrow. We haven’t known them long, but I look at K and remark that this isn’t their kind of place. After perusing the menu, they say goodbye, and move on looking for something a bit closer to their style.

We have a fine meal that consists of six small plates that we share, and one that was just for me. First, we are given some savory macarons (I forgot to note the flavor) and a second amuse of a parsnip mousse. The shared plates were Ceviche of Lionfish with couscous, pumpkin and cilantro, A veggie dish with various preparations of corn (divine!), Truffle risotto with soft egg, Beef Steak Tartare with arugula, capers, onion, pickles and egg yolk, Pork Belly with beet and orange balsamic, Duck Breast with celeriac, potato, and spinach. My dish was a foie gras terrine with pear compote. K had the chef’s special desert which was a French cake with raspberries and grapefruit. I had the Guilty Pleasure, which was different preparations of chocolate and caramel, and included a small chocolate covered ice cream bar. We finish up and head back to the Divi to sleep. Tomorrow is our last full day on the island, and I’m already bummed about returning to reality, even though I don’t go back to work until Tuesday.

Friday 10/21/22

Our last full day on Bonaire is always bittersweet, and after breakfast we head down to the Woodwind dock to give them my unusable fins. Dee is onboard and she refuses to just take the fins. She offers to trade me for a different pair, and some dive socks to make them more comfortable. I tell her I’ll try them but will bring them back if they’re not to my liking. After we leave Dee, we head to the car and drive back to Bari’s Reef where we saw the Spotted Eagle Ray earlier. We don’t see anything too weird beyond the usual suspects, though K finds the Rainbow Parrotfish again, we find a Barred Hamlet, and we see three large Black Jacks which were also there on our previous visit. We finish up and get out of the water. There is a large iguana sitting on the rocks where we exit, and I grab some footage of him before we get back to the car. We leave Baris Reef and head to the gas station to get gas before we return it.

Spanish Hogfish at Bari’s Reef **
Dusky Squirrelfish at Bari’s Reef
Large Elkhorn Coral at Bari’s Reef
Gray Snapper at Bari’s Reef **
Growing Coral on trees to transplant at Bari’s Reef
Barred Hamlet at Bari’s Reef
Three Black Jacks at Bari’s Reef
A typical view at Bari’s Reef
Iguana on the rocks near Bari’s Reef

When we get back to the Divi, we have lunch, the rest of our smoked chicken on sandwiches, and a couple of Amstel Brights as well (there were some on our second trip to Van De Tweel). We rest after lunch for a while then head into the water for a house snorkel.  We see many scorpionfish and a small green turtle as well as the usual suspects. K thinks she sees a Green Moray in the rocks and I dive down and stick the camera into a crevice where it might be. It’s there, as I notice later when processing the pictures, but it never looked at the camera. We return to the jetty, and get out, head to the room and get ready for dinner.

Green Moray in the rocks of the Divi
Spotted Moray Eel out hunting at the Divi
Orange Spotted Filefish at the Divi **
Green Turtle at the Divi
Puffer at the Divi **
Scorpionfish on the move at the Divi **
Ocean Triggerfish in the depths at the Divi

Our last dinner on Bonaire will be at Joe’s, a nearby restaurant that we like.  For appetizers K orders the Goat Cheese with mixed nuts, sugar bread, apple and Parma ham. I have the Beef Carpaccio of dry aged strip loin, pine nuts, aged cheese and piccalilli. For mains, K has the Pork Tenderloin, with a bacon crumble, brie panna cotta, and port syrup. I have the slow roasted Veal Cheeks with garlic au jus. K gets the Pandushi Pina Colada, cooked coconut with pineapple, almonds, and vanilla ice cream. I have the Red Fruit Cobbler, a Passionfruit sabayon, red fruit ice, and whipped cream. Every meal at Joe’s ends with a complimentary shot of their house made liqueur Yess (pronounced Jess). It’s a mix of fruit, spices and pepper, and makes a nice aperitif. We walk back to the Divi and pack up what we can to make check out tomorrow easier. It’s off to bed to dream of fish and the inevitable crash back into reality tomorrow. 

Last sunset on Bonaire

Saturday 10/22/22

It’s a melancholy Saturday as check out is at 10am. We get up early, have our last island egg breakfast and head out by 7:30 am to get a morning snorkel in before we must leave. We get down to the water, but my camera doesn’t appear to be working. Initially I was going to forego going to get a new battery, but K convinces me to do so. I walk back to the room and change out the battery, test it quickly, and then walk out of the room, leaving the room key on the counter near the door, so I wouldn’t forget it. After spewing out some choice expletives, I head to the front desk to get a new room key. The woman at the desk is having issues with her computer, so she asks the security guard to go to the room with me to let me in. He does, I grab the key, and head to the jetty, where K has been circling visiting with the big puffer who lives at the end.

I gear back up and head into the water for our last regular house snorkel, south to the Woodwind dock, north to the jetty and around, then further north to the dive dock, then back. I’m trying to take footage of any usual suspects that I feel I haven’t gotten good footage of when K points out an octopus out and about just below us. I start filming it, and it’s obvious that it’s missing an arm. Either he lost a fight with a predator or another octopus, it has only cost him one arm, and he’s none the worse for wear. 

This octopus is missing an arm at the Divi
Just about to scoot away!
I love how they change their color and texture!

We continue when a few yards away I see a bar jack hovering over a rock.  Bonus octopus! This second octopus has all its arms, and I follow him it for a while until he eludes me by going into the rocks to avoid my nosy camera. I get some footage of a smaller puffer as we go around the jetty, and once again, the other octopus is in its den under then elkhorn coral. Our third octopus of the morning. The only thing that could be better is if we saw the Flying Gurnard again. We don’t but as I’m filming an orangespotted file fish, what comes into my field of view? Yup, a fourth octopus! This one is smaller, and it hides quickly, though I manage to get some nice footage of it before it does. It’s amazing we’ve seen so many octopuses this morning. Maybe we need to come out before breakfast in the future. We make our way back to the jetty steps, and unfortunately leave the water for the final time. 

When you see a Bar Jack hovering over a rock, it’s either an octopus or an eel
It’s a second octopus!
Swimming away from me
The same octopus as in the past two pictures!
Queen Parrotfish at the Divi **
Sand Diver at the Divi **
Menagerie of small fishes all less than 3 inches long, juvenile Blueheads, Red Lipped Blenny (gray variant), juvenile Longfin Damselfish and Bi-color damselfish at the Divi
The third out and about octopus of the morning!
Swimming away!
Final goodbye to the octopus clan!
An average day at the end of the Divi jetty

We return to the room to shower, change, and finish our packing. We check out and hang out in the shade until 11:30 or so, then make our way to the bar. We order a bucket of Sol beer (still no Amstel Brights at the Divi), and have to wait until noon to order food. We get our usual Coconut Shrimp, bitterballen, and Bonairian cheese balls. The food is taking a while, and the bartender apologizes. Finally, the bitterballen and shrimp arrive.  Another server brings what we think are the cheese balls, but they can’t find any in the kitchen, so they bring us some more bitterballen (not good as K doesn’t eat them), and some OK small spring rolls. We finish up and pay and call a cab to take us to the airport.

Bucket of Sol beer with the Divi jetty behind
Coconut Shrimp and Bitterballen
Lac Bay from the plane. Goodbye Bonaire, until we see you again!

The cab arrives and we make our way to the short drive to the airport. We go through customs and security and wait for our plane. After we get settled on the plane, I snap a few shots of the island through the window as we take off. On the way from Bonaire to Atlanta I watch Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (4.5/5) my favorite Spider-Man movie since the original Sam Raimi ones. I was going to watch another Spider-Man movie but it’s too long, so I settle for watching Beetlejuice instead. It holds up well (4/5). 

We land in Atlanta, head into the bathroom to change, and then walk towards the dreaded customs line. Generally, we spend anywhere from 30-45 minutes in this room, snaking along in an amusement style queue line that doesn’t have a nice roller coaster ride at the end of it. Today, however, there are only 25-30 people ahead of us in line, and by the time we make it to the front of the line, only one family of five is ahead of us. We go through customs, then head downstairs to get our baggage, only to move it to a different area. I’ll never understand why we must do this. Since we made it through customs so fast, we 15-20 minutes for our luggage. After moving our luggage, we head to the equally short security line. We make it through that line and are at our gate in just about 40 minutes from the end of our flight, with about 20 of those minutes spent waiting for our bags. A new record.

We get some crappy airport pizza for dinner and get on the plane to Boston.  It’s not a long enough flight to watch any movies I want to see, so I opt for two episodes of The Office, and some college football. After last year’s taxi debacle, we had decided to use the livery service for both to and from the airport. We get our bags and make it to the limo stand where we are supposed to meet our driver at 12:50 am.  There are three livery cars there, but none of them are ours.

I text the livery company and they give me my driver’s name and phone number. They say he’s “on location”.  I call him and he says he’ll be there in ten minutes or so. He calls me back in ten minutes to say he’s in the tunnel (!) and will take a further ten minutes to arrive. He finally arrives at 1:15 AM, and never apologizes about being late.  Otherwise, he is professional, and we pull up in front of home at 1:40 am or so. I will email the company tomorrow to let them know that I’m not happy with the service. After speaking to a manager, the trip home was comped, then mistakenly re-charged two weeks later, then credited again after a strongly worded email. We drag our bags and ourselves into the house and get ready for bed. Another too long of a last day, but the visions of octopuses playing will dance in our heads as we sleep and get ready to crash back into reality.

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Surprise! It’s Bonaire again in 2022! Part 1 of 2

Friday 10/7/22

We have a 9 am pick up by Blue Nile Livery for the first flight down to Atlanta. We’re going on Friday to avoid the mad rush through the airport on Saturday morning. I watch Jurassic Park Dominion on the plane 2.5/5. Dinner at Champions in the hotel lobby. I had a turkey BLT that comes without bacon and am then given a whole lot more bacon than was probably on the sandwich to begin with. K has a loaded baked potato. Off to bed for an early flight to Bonaire tomorrow.

Saturday 10/8/22

We arise and get to the airport by 7:30 am for our flight to Bonaire. Long lines at security, and 30+ person lines for any type of food. I get hangry without breakfast, so I grab some cheese crackers at a store. We board the plane and head for the beautiful island of Bonaire.  I watch The Batman with Robert Pattison on the way down. A bit too long, but I mostly enjoyed it 3/5. We arrive on the island and head into a building to pay for the new tourist tax. They used to add a tax to every hotel room and car rental, but now they just impose a $75 fee per person instead. I tried to pay online, but their website wasn’t working well. Because I had the QR codes, we were allowed into a building to pay, which shortened the customs line for us.

The stone jetty in the distance from the Woodwind dock

We get our baggage and grab a cab outside to take us the short drive to the Divi Flamingo where we’ll reside for the next two weeks. Generally, we always end up waiting for our room to be ready, but today it’s already set, and we cart our baggage to the room and K starts to unpack, while I go to the onsite Hertz counter to pick up our car for the week. I get the car, return to the room, and K and I head out to the Van De Tweel supermarket for provisions.  We get pretty much what we need, but they are out of eggs, a big topic of conversation on the island, so we stop at Warehouse Bonaire another nearby supermarket, to grab some. I get 2 dozen there, and we head back to the Divi. We are also bummed to see a sign at Van De Tweel that Kip Tukkie, he of the amazing smoked chicken is on vacation and will not return until Wednesday of next week. We’ll only get smoked chicken once on the trip, alas, providing he’s there next Wednesday.

The area beyond the Woodwind dock towards the south

After getting our groceries into the refrigerator, we head out for our first snorkel of the trip on the house reef out front.  We do our usual route, south from the jetty stairs to the Woodwind dock, north around the jetty to the dive dock, then back getting out where we got in, the south side jetty stairs. We see plenty of the usual suspects, and a nice spotted moray eel. The Divi dive dock is in disrepair and is mostly closed off to people. You can see how the metal underneath the dock is quite rusted out, and several pieces of wood have fallen off it into the water. The gear washing tubs and diver lockers that were on this dock have been moved to the Woodwind dock instead. I use the term “usual suspects” a lot to typify the fish that are ubiquitous and that we see on every snorkel at any place on the island. I will place a double asterisk ** next to the photo captions of fish that would fall under the category of “usual suspects”.

Red Hind at the Divi **
French Angelfish at the Divi **

I film a small barracuda under the dive dock, and just miss filming a small tarpon that silently cruises by. On the way back to the jetty my camera battery dies and so I’m done filming for today. We sit on the jetty and grab a bucket of Polar beers. They don’t have any Amstel Brights, which are as scarce as eggs, since the Van De Tweel and Warehouse didn’t have any either. We get an order of bitterballen and Bonairian cheese balls as well. The food takes a long while to arrive, and I’m really getting hangry now, as I’ve had cheese crackers, some cookies and pistachios on the plane, and now I’m waiting for Dutch snacks. They finally arrive, and we eat. Afterwards we have rum drinks while watching a magnificent sunset, with a green flash, and head to bed.

Small barracuda under the Divi dive dock
Our first sunset on the island of Bonaire

Sunday 10/9/22

We awake to a rainy morning. K says we had thunder and lightning last night, but I slept right through it. We have our breakfast and coffee on the veranda as we contemplate the day. At about 10 am the rain slows to a drizzle, so head into the water for the first house snorkel of the day. Even with the storm overnight, the visibility is slightly better today, and we head out on our usual circuit. On the way back to the jetty from the Woodwind dock, I notice a small octopus sleeping next to a rock. I know it’s sleeping as its eyes are closed, and it does not react at all as I’m filming it. I’m surprised I was able to even see it, as they are so well camouflaged.  As we approach the jetty, we see our first scrawled filefish, and this one is very curious. It keeps approaching the camera and kisses it. It was probably trying to decide if the camera was edible or not, but kissing it sounds better. We move on, and I see something large in the near distance. It’s an Ocean Triggerfish, about 18 inches to two feet long, and silvery gray. We’ve only ever seen one in the very deep water, so I’m a bit surprised to see one here in the shallows. I film it as it swims round us and out of sight. After I turn off the camera, the battery dies again. I think because I had charged the batteries up a week or so before the trip they are not at maximum power.  I collapse my selfie stick and enjoy the rest of the snorkel without the ability to film, hoping we don’t see anything too spectacular. 

A cloudy first morning from our veranda at the Divi
Stoplight Parrotfish (Terminal phase) at the Divi **
Large 18 inch Puddingwife at the Divi **
Sleepy octopus pretending it’s a rock at the Divi
Scrawled Filefish comin’ in for a smooch at the Divi **
Ocean Triggerfish with young Puddingwife at the Divi
One more shot of the Ocean Triggerfish

We do come across an octopus out and about, and I’m bummed, but I’ve got tons of film of octopuses from previous years, so I’m not too upset. We swim back to the jetty stairs and get out of the water. After a quick dip in the pool, we decide to grab some lunch. Since it’s slightly cooler with the cloud cover, we lunch by the pool, and I make us some rum drinks and ham and cheese sandwiches. We have some Kats, a Dutch crisp that is reminiscent of the old Munchos in the states. After lunch and drinks, we decide today will be a chill Divi day, so we return to the jetty for a second snorkel. When I prepped lunch, I switched out my camera battery for a freshly charged one. There is a group of snorkelers in the area between the jetty and the Woodwind dock, so we opt to go North first today instead of South. 

Black Margate in the rocks of the jetty at the Divi
Trumpetfish at the Divi **
Banded Butterflyfish at the Divi **
Brain coral with Christmastree Worms, and Featherdusters, and a Branching pipe sponge at the Divi
Brain coral grows on metal above the surface of the sand below

We see lots of the usual suspects as we snorkel, and around the dive dock, K remarks that she though she saw some squid under the dive dock. I’m looking for the ones we usually see, fully grown adults about a foot long. These, however, are juveniles. A small group of ten individual squid. The longest one is only about 3-4 inches long, and their curiosity keeps them close as I approach, getting some nice close-up film of them. We swim out to the deeper reef where the coral is much better. I try to dive down and get film of a nice porcupine fish or puffer, but they are skittish, and it swims away before I can get too close. We swim past the Woodwind dock towards Sebastian’s restaurant and notice their dock, which once had a table for dining is now missing. We are eating there on Wednesday night, so I’ll have to ask what happened.  We swim back to the jetty, gather our stuff and head over to the pool for more swimming, run drinks and sunset. For dinner I’m making cheeseburgers. I was planning on using the community grill, but it’s out of gas, so it’s on the stove top in the room instead.  We watch some TV and head off to sleep. We hope to snorkel 1000 Steps tomorrow, one of K’s favorites that we had to skip last year due to her balky hip.

Tiny squid squadron and reflections
under the Divi dive dock, the largest one on the bottom is only about 3-4 inches long!
Same squids different color! Amazing animals!
Coney with pink tipped anemone at the Divi **
Needlefish at the Divi **
Stoplight Parrotfish (Initial phase) at the Divi **
Princess Parrotfish (Initial phase) at the Divi **
School of Blue Tang over the Divi jetty rocks **
Bar Jack or Skipjack over Spanish Hogfish and coney at the Divi **

Monday 10/10/22

We awake to another cloudy day on Bonaire. The forecast is only for a 10% chance of rain, but by the time we get done with breakfast and get our gear it’s raining lightly. We head out to the car to drive to 1000 Steps. There are only about 70 steps, but I’m sure when you’re walking up them after a dive with your tank on, it feels like 1000. As I said, this is one of K’s favorite spots, and she was very disappointed she couldn’t do it last year. She’s nervous about the steps, especially the bottom where it can be difficult getting from the stairs to the coral laden shore. They’ve added a few steps to the bottom to make it a bit easier, and she does a great job, as I knew she would. 

Honeycomb cowfish at 1000 Steps
Gray and Blue Chromis over star coral at 1000 Steps

There’s a strong South to North current, so we head south first to making drifting back easier. The coral and sponges here are nice (though a bit deep), and we often see turtles. Today there are a ton of parrotfish and Honeycomb Cowfish. We swim against the current for a while in the deeper water. I spy a Spotted Drum under a rock, and free dive down to get some film of it. At one point I turn to see where K is, and she’s floating in the water looking at a turtle. It’s a smallish green turtle, and I swim around him getting some footage.

Adult Spotted Drum at 1000 Steps
Some of the beautiful coral and sponges at 1000 Steps
Small Green Turtle at 1000 Steps
Large French Angelfish at 1000 Steps **
More of the gorgeous coral and sponges that populate the bottom at 1000 Steps
Close-up of a small Green Turtle at 1000 Steps

We drift further north across a large swath of staghorn coral and on the way back encounter probably the same turtle, but further up near the surface. He floats down and sits near some soft coral, and I dive down for a quick shot.  We head out of the water and do the long drive along the northern edge of the island past Gotomeer Lake and the former capital city of Rincon. We don’t have our phones with us as two flamingoes rush across the street in front of our car. I wasn’t close to hitting them, but it was pretty crazy none the less. We stop at Ven De Tweel on the way back to pick up a few things we need, and a few we forgot on our first trip (still no eggs). We get back to the Divi, put our supplies away, have some lunch and drinks by the pool, then head down to the jetty for a reef snorkel. We head south as usual, and as I am filming, I look up I see a sleek 4-foot tarpon swim by, and I swing the camera up to capture his stealthy approach. K sees it as it passes us, but it looks as if she’s having an issue. We stop and she says that she’s getting water in her snorkel. I duck under the water and water is streaming into the bottom of her snorkel. Not good. I tell her to get out of the water, and I run back to the room, as I have an extra snorkel in our gear bag. I bring it back, switch it out, and we resume our house snorkel. 

Tarpon at the Divi
Stoplight Parrotfish showing why they are called “Parrot” fish! at the Divi **
Bicolor Damselfish and multi-colored coral and sponges under a ledge at the Divi **
Branching tube sponge at the Divi
Solo squid under the Divi dive dock

We head north, and swing around the dive dock where we see two baby squid. Not sure if they are the same from the group of ten we saw the other day, but we fear that the circle of life has ended for some of our young cephalopod friends.  We get out of the water and hang by the pool with some more rum drinks. We watch a nice sunset and see the elusive “green flash”. The green flash happens when the last part of the sun sinks below the horizon. There is a brief flash of green light. It’s very subtle, but very cool as well, though conditions need to be perfect for it. There can’t be any clouds on the horizon, though above the horizon is fine. 

We finish our drinks, go into shower and get ready for dinner. We don’t have any reservations for tonight, so we walk into town. We stop at Cuba Compagnie, a restaurant we’ve been to before, but not for a few years. They don’t have any dry seats without a reservation, but there’s room at the bar, so we settle in and get some caipirinhas and get menus. We have some beef carpaccio (weirdly ubiquitous on Bonaire restaurant menus) for a starter, and I get the Ropa Viejo, Cuban pulled pork which comes with a dazzling array of starches including fried yucca, rice and beans, and mashed potato. K gets the black bean soup which weirdly tastes like it’s made from barbecue sauce. Not the best. She takes some of my rice and beans to give it a more bean forward flavor. We finish up, pay, and head further into town to go to Gio’s the fabulous gelato shop. I get mango, K gets cherry and at $2 for a small scoop it’s perfectly priced and really hits the spot. We sit by the water to eat and walk back to the Divi to get ready for bed. Tomorrow is the first of our two trips on the Woodwind, though it is most likely going to be without Dee as she’s in Europe participating in the El Camino del Santiago pilgrimage, a 500-mile walk. It won’t be the same without her, but hey she gets to go on vacation too! 

Tuesday 10/11/22 

It’s a bit cloudy this morning, but no rain, and sunnier than any other morning so far. Today is our first of two trips on the Woodwind, and our second ever without Dee. We go down to the dock after breakfast and are happy to see Isa and Sandor from last year. There is a different Lotte on board, as well as Donna, a new snorkel guide, and Mafer, the underwater photographer. One of the attractions of the Woodwind is the sail out to Klein Bonaire.  In the distance as we leave the dock, we see some tuna feeding on a bait ball, as the gulls and other sea birds fly into the water to get their share. We don’t see any flying fish until we get closer to the island, but it’s always so cool to see them. They glide on their wings for up to 100 yards before plopping back into the water.

The Woodwind at dock

We are the only English speakers on the boat, and Isa offers to do her spiel in English for us, but we’ve heard it so many times that we tell her it’s OK to do it in Dutch. It’s the traditional three stop snorkel tour, and while the coral and sponges off Klein are truly beautiful, we don’t see anything too unusual for sea life at stop number one. The second stop is a bit more exciting as we see two Queen Angelfish, one of K’s favorites. I only saw one, but it was not too deep (only 20-25 feet down), and it’s busy eating so it’s a bit distracted. They are a very skittish species and will often take off at any indication you are approaching. I’m able to get a bit closer than I usually can, and hope I’ve captured some decent footage. Back on the boat, we cruise to snorkel stop number three. We see a third Queen angel (at 40 feet down and swimming fast), but that’s about it. 

Juvenile Blueheads and a Juvenile Stoplight Parrotfish in some coral at Klein Bonaire
Juvenile Blue Tang (yellow) over coral at Klein Bonaire
Sharpnose Puffer at Klein Bonaire
Dusky Damselfish over coral at Klein Bonaire
Isa from the Woodwind points out something as a Black Durgeon swims below her
Queen Angelfish at Klein Bonaire
One more shot of this beauty!
The longest of these Stovepipe Sponges are nearly ten feet!
Usual suspect frenzy at Klein Bonaire **

Back onboard we sail back towards the main island and enjoy lunch, and a few beers. This group of Dutch tourists are quite nice, and most of them wore fins while in the water, which is unusual. I really don’t know why so many of them eschew fins, as it’s far more difficult to snorkel without them. We thank Isa and the rest of the crew as we depart and Isa gives the good news that Dee is returning to Bonaire the following Sunday night, so she’ll be on island for our next trip. The European planes get in late, so we’re not expecting her to be on the snorkel trip, but we should be able to see her sometime before we leave. We pay for the trip, which is $85 per person, which is for a five hour, three stop snorkel trip, with full Chinese food lunch, dessert, snacks, and an open bar of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. A bargain in my opinion. 

Large Green Iguana at the Divi pool

We head to the other pool that’s closer to the Woodwind dock to wind down. On the other end of the pool, we see a large green iguana, and I head over with my camera to take some pictures. We decide to do another house reef snorkel but a short one, just around the jetty to the dive dock and then back. Sandor told us on the boat that the dive dock was redone in-house in 2008, but they did not use galvanized steel, and it’s now rusting away. He said the estimate to fix it was $400-500K. 

The snorkel is nice, we see a purple mouthed moray eel, and we’re happy to see that the squids are back. There are 14 in this group and let me approach quite closely with my camera. I see some coneys and a bar jack hovering around a rock, which makes me think there’s an octopus or eel there. It’s an octopus, and I dive down several times to get some footage. 

Purple Mouthed Moral Eel at the Divi
The Squid Squadron has grown to 14!
I can’t tell you how many squid pictures I edited!
Octopus at the Divi
Octopus at the Divi

We get out of the water, and head to our regular pool for a quick dip, then cabana boy (me) goes in the room to return the gear and grab some rum drinks to watch the so-so sunset. Back in the room for showers and to get changed for dinner, which tonight is at Mezze, a Syrian restaurant, and one of our favorites. We get a complimentary starter of Persian chicken, which is a better version of chicken salad, and some of their amazing in-house made pita bread, which is more like a saj bread than traditional pita.  K gets a gin and tonic, and I get a rum punch. We order some meaty hummus (house made hummus with spicy ground beef), Turkish sujok sausage, truffle fries, and we split a main of Tuna steak special with salad. After dinner it’s back to the Divi, where we’re missing our usual walk around the dive dock, since it’s closed off. It’s been a very long day, and we drift off to sleep quickly to dream of another day in Paradise.

Persian chicken with yummy house made pita at Mezze

Wednesday 10/12/22

It’s the first cruise ship day of our trip, and the ship is there very early in the morning. After breakfast, we head into town to check out the craft fair that sets up in the town square on cruise ship days. They are doing renovations on part of the square so there is less space for the vendors than in years past. Several that we like are not here today, including the nice people who make clay impressions of coral and plants, which they fashion into jewelry and plaques. K finds a bracelet and necklace that she likes, we walk around the downtown area looking at the other shops. We don’t really need anything, as we’ve been here so many times, but K finds a blouse she likes, and we stop back at the craft fair to get some Hawaiian shaved ice from two Americans who have started the business here.  K gets Passionfruit, and I get a combo of passionfruit and mango. It starts to rain, and we head back to the Divi. It’s starting to come down harder by the time we get back, so we dive into the dive shop for cover. I find a new rash guard and Turtle conservation hat. It’s really pouring by the time we leave, and in the 100 yards or so to our room we get completely soaked. 

Where the cruise ship rope meets the road.
From this street angle you can see how the Divi dive dock is sinking on the right side.
Rasta tour bus Mon!

We strip out of our wet clothes, put on some dry clothes, and sit on the veranda waiting for the rain to stop. After it does, we decide to do a house reef snorkel. Our original plan was to go to Tori’s reef today, but the weather precluded our plans. We snorkel south to the Woodwind dock, then out to the deeper water where we see a small green turtle. I dive down for some footage. We also see the telltale signs of an octopus with the coneys and bar jacks circling, and I dive down to get some more footage of that one. 

Redband Parrotfish (initial phase) at the Divi **
Coney at the Divi **
Red Hind at the Divi **
Schoolmaster at the Divi **
Green Turtle at the Divi

We swim in towards the jetty, then north to the dive dock. Because the cruise ship is here, we can’t go too far past the dive dock, as they don’t want anyone swimming, snorkeling, or diving near the mooring dolphins that the ship is tied to. The squid squadron is back under the dock, and I film some more. I likely have way too much footage of these squid, but they let me get so close that I can’t resist taking more. 

Octopus in the deep at the Divi
Octopus at the Divi
Purple Anemone at the Divi **
The deteriorating Divi dive dock from the water
I seriously can’t stop putting pictures of these guys up.
One more!

We swim back to the jetty and get out of the water. It’s about 1 pm, so we decide to get a bucket of beer and some snacks from the bar. We order some bitterballen, coconut shrimp, and Bonarian cheese balls. While waiting for the food I talk to a Dutch guy I met at the bar, and he asks if we saw anything interesting on our last snorkel. I tell him we saw the baby squid and an octopus, and he says he’s never seen either one here before. I tell him where the squid are and explain how I usually find octopus. He’s happy with the tips, as he has guests, and he wants to show them some cool stuff. He swims over to the dive dock, and has the other people join him in the water to look at the squid. They return to the jetty, and they are looking in the rocks and trying to take pictures of something with their phone. It’s a Batwing Coral Crab, and I put my GoPro in the water near it to take some pictures.

Batwing Coral Crab in the rocks of the jetty at the Divi
Peacock Flounder at the Divi **

K is tired, so I head in for a solo snorkel. I go around the jetty and head north towards the dive dock. I see some small flounders, two small scorpionfish, and a sharptail eel near the jetty. As I pass under the dive dock, a small green turtle passes below me, probably the same one we saw earlier. I get a bit of film of it before it swims away towards the cruise ship. There are no restrictions as to how close turtles can get to the ship! I swim back around the dock, say hello to the squid (no film for once this time), but I do duck under the dock to film a small French Angelfish.  I pass a small piece of elkhorn coral and underneath is an octopus. I get some film of it in its den. Near the jetty, I try to get some footage of a very shy puffer fish that lives underneath in the rocks. I turn south toward the Woodwind dock, then circle back, trying to get some footage of the usual suspects. Returning to the jetty, I get out and let K know what I’ve seen. 

Banded Butterflyfish at the Divi **
Spanish Hogfish at the Divi **
Green turtle at the Divi
Octopus under some Elkhorn coral at the Divi
Puffer in the rocks at the Divi
Stoplight Parrotfish (terminal phase) at the Divi **
A Night Sergeant (larger darker fish) and Sergeant Majors at the Divi **

We head to the pool for a dip, and cabana boy gets some rum drinks for the sunset. Dinner tonight is at Sebastian’s, a restaurant a few hundred yards south of the Divi. We asked the server about the missing dock, and apparently a few weeks before we arrived, they had a very windy storm and it wiped the pier away, table, chairs and all.  For dinner we shared a beef carpaccio appetizer (better than at Cuba Compagnie), K has the chorizo linguine, and I have the mango tuna steak special. The food is fine, but the service is a bit wonky, and we walk back to the Divi exhausted and ready for bed.

Thursday 10/13/22

It’s our first mostly sunny morning of the trip, and after breakfast we decide to go to Tori’s reef and the Salt Pier today. On the way to Tori’s reef, I stop at a dive shop to get K a new snorkel. She doesn’t love the emergency snorkel, but she’ll use it today until we get back to the Divi, where she can try it out in a place that she’s very comfortable. 

Tori’s Reef is one of our favorite spots to snorkel, even if K doesn’t love the entry and exit, and it’s where we saw the big green moray eel last year.  The coral and rock ledge that hugs the shore has tons of places for little and larger fish to hide and is rich with aquatic life. We don’t see anything too unusual, but we do see two Golden Moray eels, and a nice live cowrie shell.  A big Permit also swims by, and I hope I got some good footage of it. I help K out of the water as she’s wary of falling on her new hip. We put our gear in the car and head back north to the Salt Pier. 

Orangespotted Filefish at Tori’s Reef. **
Golden Moral Eel at Tori’s reef
Live Cowrie shell at Tori’s Reef
Squirrelfish at Tori’s Reef
Flamingo Tongue at Tori’s Reef
Large 2+ foot long Permit cruising by at Tori’s Reef
Yellow Trumpetfish at Tori’s Reef **
Still not sure what this is, but I love the way it moves in the water like fur.
Juvenile Yellowtail Damselfish at Tori’s Reef **
Whitespotted Filefish at Tori’s Reef

We get into the water at the Salt Pier, another challenging entry and exit, and almost immediately stumble upon a small green turtle feeding on the sea grass in the shallows. I dive down to film it, and it rises to the surface to breathe, giving me ample opportunity for some quality footage.  Overall, we see 5-8 turtles, a relatively small number for the Salt Pier, but it is the one place on Bonaire that you are pretty much guaranteed to see them. There is a Dutch man exiting the water at the same time as us, and he compliments my free diving skills and asks me for some tips, as he’s having trouble doing it. I explain my technique, and he says he’s going back to his hotel to practice in the pool.

Green Turtle at the Salt Pier
Green Turtle at the Salt Pier
Green Turtle eating sea grass with Smooth Trunkfish and Blue Tang at the Salt Pier
Green Turtle surfaces for air, with the Salt Pier behind.
Green Turtle with Blue Tang at the Salt Pier
Love the shadow!

We return to the Divi for some lunch and rum drinks, after a dip in the pool. After lunch we do a house snorkel, and I forget I’m wearing my crocs and not my diving shoes. Since I’m lazy and don’t want to return to the room to get my boots, I snorkel barefoot in my fins which, while doable isn’t very comfortable on my toes, so we only go the usual route, even though the original plan was to go past the Woodwind dock. 

It doesn’t matter much, as we see lots of cool things on the snorkel including a goldspotted eel, a larger Spotted Moray eel, and one large 2–3-foot long snook (with its smaller mate), which we rarely see. A woman swimming near the jetty taps K on the arm to point out the “blowfish” as she calls it, which is a porcupine fish or puffer. K calls me over to look, but it’s moved into the rocks out of sight. I do notice the Batwing Coral Crab we saw the other day, and I dive down to get some film of it. We get out of the water and have a conversation with the woman who tapped K on the shoulder. She’s a mom who does half iron man competitions, whose husband dives. She’s been doing laps in front of the Divi for practice. We say our goodbyes, head over to the pool for a dip and some drinks to watch a disappointing sunset, then head in to get ready for dinner.

Batwing Coral Crab in the rocks of the Divi Jetty
Goldspotted Eel at the Divi
Whitespotted Moray Eel at the Divi
Two large Snook under the Divi dive dock
Schoolmaster with Sharptail Eel at the Divi **
I enjoy a Cuban cigar at Little Havana

Dinner tonight is at Donna & Giorgio’s a nice Italian restaurant we haven’t been to in a few years. We share a Caprese salad, K has excellent braised lamb shank with risotto (marred only by not being particularly hot), and I have spaghetti and meatballs, as they do not have their phenomenal lasagna tonight. We walk back and stop at Little Havana, a Cuban cigar bar, and have caipirinhas and share a Cuban cigar. We wanted to come here last year, but it was packed every night. It’s busy this evening, but we manage to snag one of the last outside tables. We walk along the water back to the Divi, once again exhausted by a busy day. Our first Friday of the trip is tomorrow, and the time is flying by.

Friday 10/14/22

After breakfast this morning we decide we need a few more groceries. Eggs are still non-existent at Van De Tweel and Warehouse Bonaire, which is odd as they are a local product and not imported like most things on Bonaire. This changes our morning routine as we only have enough eggs for two more days of “island eggs” as we call them. I guess I should have bought three dozen when I could instead of two. Both Warehouse and Van De Tweel seem hotter inside than normal, and we are sweaty by the time we leave. We stop in the parking lot of the small grocery store near the Divi, but they are smart and have a “No Eggs” sign up in English, Dutch, Spanish and Papiamento. We get back to the Divi and unload the groceries. I have gotten some muesli for myself, but I see a lot of peanut butter toast in K’s future. 

After we finish, we decide to do the long house snorkel today, which entails going south all the way to the Plaza resort and back, maybe 500-600 yards in each direction. The current isn’t very strong, and we’re heading into it going south, so the return trip will be easier with the current at our backs.  We see a few tarpons cruise by us, and we see only our third White Spotted Filefish of the trip. This fish is normally one of the usual suspects, so seeing so few is quite odd. I saw my first at Klein Bonaire on our first Woodwind trip, but it was too deep to film, the second at Tori’s Reef. I take a lot of footage of it to insure some nice pictures.

Puddingwife (juvenile initial phase) at the Divi **
School of French Grunt south of the Divi Woodwind dock **
Whitespotted Filefish south of the Divi
Christmas Tree Worms on Brain Coral south of the Divi **

On the return trip we bump back into the Ocean Triggerfish. We swim north and see more of the usual suspects. We swim around the jetty to the dive dock. Since there are no snook or barracuda under the dock today, the squid squadron has returned. I resist the urge to film them as I have so much footage of them already. We circle back to the jetty and get out of the water. As usual, it’s over to the pool for a dip, then back to the room for lunch. After lunch we hang out by the pool for a while reading, before heading into the water for another house reef snorkel.

Ocean Triggerfish south of the Divi
Purple Mouthed Moray Eel at the Divi
School of Blue Tang at the Divi **
Adult Yellowtailed Damselfish at the Divi **
Soapfish hiding under a rock at the Divi
Scorpionfish showing its fin colors as it swims away **
Sea Urchin at the Divi **
Octopus in its den with what was probably dinner.
Red Lipped Blenny at the Divi **
Yup, more squid
Red Hind at the Divi **
Tarpon at the Divi
Invasive Lionfish at the Divi

Staying with the confines of the dive dock and the Woodwind dock, we see some nice things, including a purple mouth moray, a big Whitespotted Moray and the octopus in its den beneath the staghorn coral. K wants to try to stay in the water until sunset, so we swim past the dive dock going as far as the second boat mooring dolphin the cruise ships use. On the way back, K gets brave and decides to go under the dock to see the little squid closer. She does but is uncomfortable and exits quickly. I go under as well, and yes, film them a bit more. One of them has had enough of me and inks towards me, I hope I got that on film! We circle the jetty twice, seeing a tarpon swim by, and unfortunately seeing a lionfish in the rocks. This is our first sighting of this invasive species. We swim a while longer, but we’re still a half hour from sunset, so we get out, head to the pool, and cabana boy gets some rum drinks to watch the sunset.

K’s tuna sashimi at Mona Lisa
The heavenly Chocolate Mousse at Mona Lisa

We head back to the room to get ready for dinner, which tonight is at Mona Lisa, the only restaurant we have dined at on every trip we have made to Bonaire. One reason is they have a dish that is normally on their specials board that is my single favorite dish I have on Bonaire. Smoked Wahoo carpaccio with wasabi mayo. It’s not on the specials board, but I am happy to see that it’s been added to the actual menu. I order that and K gets some amazing fresh tuna sashimi. K has the rack of lamb for her entree, and I have the tuna steak special. We get some excellent fries and some of Mona Lisa’s amazing scalloped potatoes as sides. For dessert we split a chocolate mousse. They really know how to make it here, light and ethereal, the best I’ve ever had.  Sated we head back to the Divi for bed. Our second week starts tomorrow. It is going way too fast.

Saturday 10/15/22

Due to the lack of eggs on the island, we decide to do the breakfast buffet at the Divi this morning. Afterwards we book a trip on the water taxi to Klein Bonaire. We get picked up at Karel’s (pronounced Karl’s) dock by the very entertaining captain Boyd. We have a private boat trip out to No Name beach, one of the few white sandy beaches on Bonaire. We drop our stuff on the island, then Boyd brings us south and lets us off in the water so we can do a drift snorkel back to the beach. 

Green Turtle off Klein Bonaire
Green Turtle off Klein Bonaire
French Angelfish comin’ in for a look see at Klein Bonaire
Whitespotted Filefish at Klein Bonaire
Black Durgeon at Klein Bonaire
Chub off Klein Bonaire **

The coral on this part of Klein Bonaire is in much worse shape than the places we normally snorkel with the Woodwind, but there is a ton of sea life anyway, and I get some nice footage of black durgeons, squirrelfish, and a small green turtle. We approach the beach just as Boyd is returning for a pick-up, but K wants to wait an hour for the next boat. I hang out on shore while she swims in front of the beach. I watch some lizards as a local feeds them Cheetos, which they love, apparently. We catch the next boat in and walk back to the Divi. I put together some cheese and crackers for a snack. We’ve been lollygagging a bit today, and the original plan was to go to Windsock, watch the Delta plane leave without us, and then snorkel there.

Lizards on the beach at Klein Bonaire
Lizards like Cheetos, apparently
The main island of Bonaire from No Name Beach on Klein Bonaire

We’ve lollygagged too much, however, and have missed the plane leaving. With no plane to watch we scrap the Windsock plans for today, and head out to the house reef for a snorkel. We head south towards the Woodwind dock, and I go under as K goes around. I see a single baby squid near a rope, and film it for a bit. I point it out to K as she comes around so she can see it, and I go out along the dock, while she goes under, and we meet on the north side. We swim back around the jetty and towards the dive dock. I swim under the small pier near the dive dock and K swims around it. I’m filming an eel when I notice K in her “something’s interesting posture”, floating in the water not moving, with her arms crossed. I look down to see what she’s found, and it’s a Flying Gurnard, a ground dwelling fish who only “flies” along the bottom with beautiful blue fins. The only other one we’ve ever seen was years ago in Cozumel.

Single baby squid under the Woodwind dock
Sergeant Major at the Divi **
Squid and squid reflections
Bait ball at the Divi
Flying Gurnard at rest
Flying Gurnard showing off its fins!

They are an oddly shaped fish with a blunt square head, and two small and two large fins on each side. They open the larger fins as the swim away from you, showing off the beautiful blue color, and making them large and harder to eat. I dive down twice to get some footage. It’s truly spectacular. Her head out of the water, K asks me what it was, and I tell her. It’s exciting to see something we’ve never seen here before. We also see two baby squids under the dive dock walkway (yes, I film them), and a few more under the dock (I resist!). We sit on the jetty for a while, and these three drunk Dutch people come very close to shore in their boat twerking. They are in past where boats are allowed and luckily no one is snorkeling in the water where they go. It’s dangerous, stupid behavior, but not unexpected for drunk folks. Afterward we go to the pool for a dip and some rum drinks. Hey we’re not driving a boat!

After sunset, it’s back to the room to ready ourselves for dinner, which is tonight at Trocadera, a new place for us.  We are seated and order drinks (gin and tonic for K, passionfruit caipirinha for me), and food. We share a tiny portion of piri piri shrimp (4 small shrimp), and K has an overly dressed beef salad, and I have Jack Daniels BBQ ribs with fries. The ribs are fine (cooked not smoked), a full rack, and the fries are very good. K’s salad is fine, but the greens are swimming in dressing, and she doesn’t eat many of them. The food is only OK, and the service is terrible, so this will be a one and done for us. We head off to Gio’s for some gelato, Salted Crunchy Caramel for K, and Passionfruit for me, eat them along the water, and then head back to the Divi for bed. Our second week has started, and I have no idea where all the time has gone.

Part two of the blog will be published shorty, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it, and looking at the pictures so far!

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Bonaire 2021 Week 2 A Post-Pandemic Tale Part 2

Saturday 10/23/21

It’s Saturday, and we’d hoped to go to the Dash food truck for breakfast. They make incredible breakfast sandwiches, including fried chicken sandwiches, and amazing doughnuts. Unfortunately, they are closed for vacation. We turn back and go to the Papa Smurf Pizza food truck for ham and cheese arepas, chased with a passionfruit/blueberry/orange smoothie for me and a lemonade with mint and cucumber for K. We decide to see if there is any parking near Eden Beach for snorkeling. Eden Beach s next to Coco Beach, where they are building the behemoth Chogogo resort. Several locals we have spoken to (including Dee) have denounced it as an eyesore, and unnecessary. As I said before, the sleepy island of Bonaire is unfortunately waking up. 

Mural in downtown Kralendijk, Bonaire

Luckily, we find a spot in the Eden Beach lot that is not marked for hotel guests only and head towards the water. The entire ocean within 200 meters of shore is protected on Bonaire, so even if you aren’t staying at a particular resort, they cannot prevent you from crossing their property to access the water. They can keep you from using their chairs and docks, but they can’t keep you out of the water. The snorkeling here is good, but there are often strong currents. We head south towards the stone piles that the resort put in over a decade ago to try to ​reestablish a coral reef. It’s not going so well, as there are small coral heads on the rocks, but far less than anticipated.

We see lots of elkhorn coral on several “trees” which they use to grow coral upon. Apart from a Spotted Drum, we see just the usual suspects. The current is running south, so we must fight it when we turn north. We get out earlier than we wanted due to the strong current. It’s been very windy the past few days, and it’s affected both the currents and the visibility in the water. We drive back south and stop at one of my favorite spots, though K is less enamored of it than I.

Queen Parrotfish at Eden Beach
Orange Cup Coral at Eden Beach
Spotted Drum at Eden Beach

It’s called Yellow Submarine, and it’s along the shore where lots of small boats moor, and you must snorkel around their lines and such. Still there is much to see here, including a resident group of Tarpon that cruise the shallows. At one point I have five or six of these beautiful large fish swimming around me. They are about 5-6 feet in length, silver and iridescent. 

Tarpon at Yellow Submarine
Close up of Tarpon at Yellow Submarine

We also see two Golden Chain Moray Eels, a few Spotted Morays, and a nice Bandtail Pufferfish. We leave the water and make our way back to the Divi to grab some lunch. Fortified by sandwiches, we decide to do what we normally do on the first Saturday of a two-week trip, which is go to the snorkeling beach across from the airport, called Windsock, and watch the Delta plane that we are not on leave, and then snorkel.

Golden Chain Moray at Yellow Submarine
Bandtail Puffer at Yellow Submarine about 6-8 inches long
Pink Tip Anemone at Yellow Submarine
Social Featherduster at Yellow Submarine
French Grunt with Pink Tipped Anemone behind at Yellow Submarine
Another Golden Chain Moray at Yellow Submarine

We nix the idea of snorkeling here quickly, as the wind has caused the surf to be quite rough, and you can see from the surface that the visibility is going to be poor. Also, there are several large areas of Fire Coral here, which if you brush up against them will let you know how they got that name. We decide to head over to Van De Tweel supermarket for the last supplies we’ll need for the week, and some more smoked chicken from Kip Tukkie. I cannot express just how good this chicken is. We get back to the Divi, put our provisions away and head down to the stone pier for a house reef snorkel. We see a nice tarpon, who cruises by us, as well as some sharptail eels, and the usual suspects.

Smooth Trunkfish at the Divi
Scrawled Filefish at the Divi
Cocoa Damselfish juvenile at the Divi
Peacock Flounder at the Divi

We get out of the water, do our usual dip in the pool, then off to the small dock for rum drinks and sunset. It’s another rather disappointing sunset, and we head into the room to shower and get ready for dinner. Dinner tonight is at At Sea, which prior to a new place, that was fully booked, called Chef’s Table was the highest end restaurant on Bonaire. They have a very eclectic menu, and you can either order a 3,4, or 5 course chef’s tasting menu or ala carte. We order ala carte. First, we are given a delicious welcome bite of candied pumpkin seeds with lemon gel and a pumpkin macaron. Next is the amuse bouche, which is an oyster shell filled with apple granita, apple slices, and soy sauce “pearls”. It’s an amazing bite.

We order lionfish ceviche, beef tartare, foie gras flan (for me, K doesn’t like foie), smoked duck breast (served under a smoke-filled cloche), braised veal cheeks, truffle risotto with soft boiled egg, and fries with truffle mayo. We share an excellent dessert of three passionfruit and pineapple preparations and two glasses of port. It’s an amazing meal, as usual.

Sunday 10/24/21

We awake to another windy day. The winds this week have increased the amount of heavy surf, which in turn, lowers the visibility in the water. After breakfast we decide to try to snorkel Windsock near the airport again, but the surf is even worse than yesterday, so we head further south to see the turtles at Salt Pier once again. The surf is heavy here as well, but much calmer looking once you get past the break. There are a lot of divers and snorkelers, and everyone is having some difficulty. I go in first, scraping my hand a bit steadying myself, so I can help K with her flippers. She wipes out when a wave hits her and gets scrapes on her hand and knee. We finally get past the break so I can help K get her flippers on, and we can snorkel away from shore.

We snorkel about for a while watching the turtles feed. We notice there is a lot less sea grass here than in year’s past, and although we always see turtles here, we’re seeing less on this trip than on others. The water underneath is still wild as even the turtles are having a hard time staying upright all the time while eating. We decide it’s been rough enough and head out of the water. I help K, as this type of exit makes her nervous. We exit unscathed and decide to see if the more protected beach next to Windsock is any better, but it isn’t. We decide to head back to the Divi and hang out for a while on the stone pier. We have a bucket of Amstel Brights, and I get some Bitterballen.

Green Turtle at the Salt Pier
Green Turtle at the Salt Pier
Green Turtle at the Salt Pier
Two Green Turtles at the Salt Pier

After a while we do a house reef snorkel. We see several Spotted Morays, and K spots an octopus living in the end of a pipe. She noticed it by the pile of shells nearby. Octopuses tend to discard the shells of their prey nearby, so it’s a tell-tale indicator of an octopus den. We return to the stone pier for anther bucket of Brights, as well as some snacks of Bonairian Fried Cheese (a cheesy fritter that’s amazing), and some excellent coconut fried shrimp with mango/chili dipping sauce. Far superior to the ones at Umbrella. I read my magazine, and K finishes her second book of the trip. When she is finished, we head up to the pool for our usual quick dip. Cabana Boy (me) brings the gear to the room and returns with rum drinks for sunset watching. It’s better than the past few nights. We were going to go out for dinner but decide instead to stay in and have half of the smoked chicken we bought yesterday. I see my Patriots have destroyed the NY Jets, and I settle in to watch some of the Tom Brady led Bucs (why can’t we get players like that?) dismantle the Bears. I watch the first half of the Colt’s/49’ers game and drift off to sleep. We’re back aboard the Woodwind tomorrow, so time to rest.

Blue Tang Juvenile at the Divi
Honeycomb Cowfish at the Divi
Octopus in pipe at the Divi
Octopus in pipe with shell at the Divi

​Monday 10/25/21

Today is our third trip on the Woodwind. ​After breakfast we head down to the Woodwind dock, and do the routine, check in with Ulf, see Dee on the dock. Since this is our third trip, and it is obvious K is having some difficulty getting on and off the boat, Dee has been letting us get on early before everyone else. We are aboard when the rest of the 16 passengers (all Dutch once again!), join us onboard.

Once again Captain Sandor motors us out from the dock and raises the sails, and we’re on our way to one of the most beautiful snorkeling spots on the island. Today, it’s Dee and Isa as the guides, with Alejandro back as photographer.

We snorkel the same three spots as before North, East, then South, but only the terrain remains consistent, the sea life changes each trip. There are two small children with us on this trip, and Dee is in her element. One is a toddler, maybe three years old, and the other an infant. Of course, Dee is outfitted with kids sized wetsuits (she tells me the one for the infant was her son’s when he was little), and they also have life preservers and baby floats so the parents can push the kids along with them. I’m amazed they are going in the water in the first place. Somehow, I don’t see American parents doing this, but the Dutch have no such qualms. 

French Angelfish over Pencil Coral off Klein Bonaire
Black Durgeon off Klein Bonaire
Purple Stovepipe Tube Sponge off Klein Bonaire

Dee tells the first group to get ready at the back of the boat, and K and I are sitting waiting for the rest of the group to gather. Dee looks at us, and has us to jump in, points out what direction we’ll be going, tells to have fun and that the rest of the group will catch up. This is awesome, as it takes almost 10 minutes for everyone else to get ready, and we get extra time in the water free from other snorkelers. We probably go about 100 yards with unfettered access to the reef. It’s wonderful. Eventually the rest of the group catches up to us. We see some small Black Durgeons, and a small Green Sea Turtle. We get back on the boat for snacks and drinks as we head to the second spot. This Eastern side is always the roughest, and the baby doesn’t like it much. The toddler is having a grand time, however. We see a nice Queen Angel, and a Green Turtle, but both too deep and surrounded by too many snorkelers for me to safely free dive down to get close enough for quality pictures.

Rock Beauty off Klein Bonaire
French Angelfish off Klein Bonaire
Green Sea Turtle in the soft coral off Klein Bonaire
Christmas Tree Worms on Brain coral off Klein Bonaire
Bar Jack with coral background off Klein Bonaire

We enjoy more snacks and drinks back on the boat on our way to the third stop, the Southern side. At this spot we see a squid squadron of 8-9 squid all seemingly floating in the water. I circle around from the shallow end, so that they will move closer to the group when I dive down to get video of them, and not towards the shallows. I think that I got the best video of the squid that I’ve taken so far, but I won’t know until I get back and look at everything. A bit later we see our only Hawksbill Turtle of the trip, just sitting on the bottom. I dive down to get a bit closer, and then a second time when he moved slightly making him a bit more visible. A short while later and we’re back in the boat having a few beers and the chicken lo mein lunch. K refrains again, but I am always famished after expending all the energy snorkeling and free diving down for video. We have a nice sail back towards ominous clouds over the main island on the horizon.

Branching Tube Sponge off Klein Bonaire
Sharptail Puffer off Klein Bonaire
Reef Squid off Klein Bonaire
Reef Squid off Klein Bonaire
Squid Squadron! off Klein Bonaire
Hawksbill Sea Turtle off Klein Bonaire
Hawksbill Sea Turtle off Klein Bonaire

It starts to sprinkle during the cheesecake course, and everyone except K and I who are on the area next to Captain Sandor rushes to the back of the boat where the only cover is. I find it ironic that people still wet from being in the water almost constantly over the past three hours are rushing to get out of a little rain. Isa asks if we are coming for our last trip on Wednesday, and she tells us that it will be her and Lotte onboard as Dee will be volunteering at her daughter’s water polo match. It will be our only trip on the Woodwind without Dee, and it will be a strange experience without her. We give Dee big hugs since we won’t see her on Wednesday and wish her continued good luck with her health. We pay our bill and walk back to the pool for a rainy dip.

It soon stops raining, the sun emerges, and we head down to the stone pier for a house reef snorkel before calling it a day. Nothing too crazy, though we do see more eels, and the pipe octopus is still there. We hang out on the pier for a while, then head into the room to change and get ready for dinner. We decide that tonight we’ll be dining at Diver’s Diner, a dive bar on the waterfront in downtown that we discovered a few trips ago. It’s lost a bit of the specialness it once had, now that bartender

Juvenile High Hat at the Divi
Smooth Trunkfish saying hello at the Divi
Scrawled Filefish at the Divi
Juvenile Puddingwife at the Divi
Coney at the Divi
Spanish Hogfish at the Divi
Octopus in pipe at the Divi

Luis has departed for the Netherlands, but they always had good food and cold beer. We pull up to the bar and order two Brights and some food menus. We each order BBQ pulled Pork tacos, and some Bitterballen for me. The food is all good, but the tacos are thermonuclear and require a long time before they are cool enough to pick up, never mind eat.

The American couple at the other side of the bar are showing why we are often referred to as “Ugly Americans”. Waving his beer can at the server for service, banging it on the bar when he didn’t get her attention (I had the distinct feeling she was ignoring him on purpose). Banging his credit card on the bar for his check. We have no such issues getting a second round of Brights or our check as I just look over at her and wave. Amazing how you get better service when treating people like people and not servants.

We were planning on having a drink and a Cuban cigar at Little Havana next door to Diver’s Diner, but they are packed, so we head back to Gio’s for more gelato, mango again for me, and black raspberry for K. We walk back to the Divi, and walk out onto the dive dock, but do not see any tarpon. We head back to the room for another early night. Unlike home, we are usually in bed by 9 PM here, and tonight is no exception. The only cruise ship that will arrive during our stay comes in tomorrow, and we’re intrigued if the pop-up market that appears in the town center square will make an appearance or not.

Sunset from in front of Divers Diner, downtown Kralendijk, Bonaire

Tuesday 10/26/21

The cruise ship is in port when I arise. It is moored at the more Southern dock, which means it looks like it’s right on top of the Divi. After breakfast we wander down to see if the pop-up market has survived the pandemic. The ship is the Celebrity Equinox, which caters to an older crowd. We skirt the phalanx of vendors selling tours of the island, scooter or golf cart rentals, and other sundry excursions, and head to the open-air market that has indeed opened in Wilhelmina Square. There is a stand that sells jewelry and wall hangings that are made by pressing leaves, coral, and driftwood patterns into clay. They are very nice, and we pick up some stuff for us and for gifts. We also make sure to stop at the awesome Hawaiian Shaved Ice stand, run by a nice American couple that have been living on Bonaire for the past five years or so. They are always nice to talk to and suggest a new snorkel spot for us to try in the future. It sounds a bit challenging to find, so we store away the information for a future trip. We also buy a cool original Bonaire license plate from them. K eats her tamarind Hawaiian ice, and I eat my pineapple sitting on a bench near the sea.

Mammoth cruise ship (is there any other kind?) in port
One of the small yellow green birds we see that are usually too fast to get a photo of.

After walking back to the Divi, we decide to stay close, as cruise ship days can be a nightmare on the roads between all the tour busses and vans, and people who shouldn’t be driving scooters or golf carts.

We gather our gear and head down to the stone pier. We relax on the pier for a bit before heading into the water for a house reef snorkel. K’s hip feels better in the water than on land, so for the first time on this trip we snorkel past the Woodwind dock and continue south another 300 yards or so to the edge of the Plaza Resort property. There’s not a huge amount to see in this stretch, but we often see passing tarpon, and have occasionally seen some very cool stuff. I’m just happy K can do this as; in the past it was a common occurrence. We see the usual stuff, though we do spy a nice Golden Chain Moray, as well as a beautiful pink/purple anemone. We return to the stone pier to relax.

Butter Hamlet at the Divi
Pink/Purple Anemone at the Divi
Queen Parrotfish Initial Phase at the Divi
Purple Star coral at the Divi
Sand Diver at the Divi as you usually see them
Sand Diver swimming away at the Divi

We decide to get lunch from the beach bar today, and order a bucket of Brights, some chicken wings, and more of the delicious Bonairian cheese fritters, and coconut shrimp. As the pier begins to fill up, we decide to head over to the pool near our room. It’s crowded there as well, but we find a couple chairs, and have a quick dip. I return to the room with the gear to store it and make rum drinks. I go back to make more, but the room key isn’t working, so I return to K with the still empty glasses and tell her I need to head over to the front desk to get the key situation rectified. The woman at the front desk asks if the door light flashed red when I tried to enter, and I tell her it had. She says this indicates that the batteries in the door need to be changed, and she calls maintenance while I wait. No one answers, so she tries again, and a third time, then a fourth. She apologizes to me and promises to keep calling until she gets someone. She offers me a free drink coupon for the bar, as it’s 5 pm, and we have a 7:30 pm dinner reservation. I ask K what she wants from the bar, and she wants a frozen mango margarita. As I walk over to the bar, I notice the card says it’s good for a free rum punch only. K doesn’t care for their rum punch, so I ask the bartender if he can give me the frozen mango margarita instead. As he knows I tip well, he says sure, and makes her one.

I return to K with her drink, and keep an eye peeled for the maintenance guy. At least I have my phone with me to keep me occupied. At about 5:45 PM I see the maintenance man heading towards our room. I follow, but he starts to go up the stairs, and we’re on the first floor. I ask if the door has been fixed, and he says it has. I ask him to wait for me to check. It’s working, so I thank him, and get a second drink for me and a third for K. We head back to the room at about 6:30 PM to get ready for dinner. Dinner this evening is at Joe’s a nearby place, which we would normally walk to, but with K’s hip, I decide to drive there. It’s a 1-2-minute drive. Much like all the restaurants we’ve been to this trip, they are very busy.

We start with a house gift of marinated olives and fried plantains with red bell pepper puree. Next is the amuse bouche of a dollop of goat cheese with pumpkin puree. K orders the goat cheese appetizer, and the rack of lamb as her main. I order the special appetizer of pulled pork, wrapped in Parma ham with various accompaniments. My entrée is the braised veal cheeks. We share a dessert of red fruit cobbler with passionfruit and coconut ice creams. As usual at Joe’s, dinner finishes with a small glass of their house made liqueur called Yess! (Pronounced Jess), which is a combo of local fruit, vanilla, and black pepper. It’s very good. We pay our bill and drive back to the Divi. We hit the hay thinking about how weird tomorrow will be on our first ever trip on the Woodwind without Dee.

Wednesday 10/27/21

It’s our last trip on the Woodwind today for this year and our first one without Dee. We figured out later that in our 9 total trips to Bonaire, this trip today will mark our 20th trip on the Woodwind. First thing after breakfast, however, is our pre-return COVID test. Luckily the testing site at the Divi is directly next door to the Woodwind dock. While we wait to be a tested a cockroach runs over my foot. I step on it and kill it. The woman thanks me, and I grab a tissue to pick it up. She sprays my hands with alcohol, then tests us. It’s a rapid test, so we have the results in about 10-15 minutes, both negative, and we head to the Woodwind dock to check in and get on the boat.

We go down the dock and are greeted by Lotte, Isa, and Sandor, who let us on the boat early again. It’s been great that they have done this on all our trips, as K’s hip makes getting on and off the boat difficult. The rest of the guests get on, and Lotte and Isa give the speech. They ask if we mind if they give it in Dutch, as we’re the only Americans once again. We say sure, as I could probably give it in English myself having heard it so many times over the years. Captain Sandor puts up the sails and we head one last time (for this year) to the waters off Klein Bonaire. At the first stop Lotte tells us to head into the water, and the rest of the group will catch up with us. Immediately when we drop into the water, I see a Green Turtle on the bottom. I dive down to get some video, and he swims away before anyone else is even in the water. I hope we see another turtle on this trip so the rest of the group can see one. We snorkel along, and behind us I hear Lotte call out “Turtle!”, so I don’t feel as bad that we made the first one swim away before anyone else saw it.

Lotte, Sandor, and Isa (left to right) the awesome crew of the Woodwind! Photo courtesy of the Woodwind’s Facebook page

Green Sea Turtle off Klein Bonaire
Honeycomb Cowfish off Klein Bonaire

Elkhorn coral growing on a coral “tree” off Klein Boniare

There are a lot of Rock Beauties at this first stop and hopefully between all the trips I will get some quality video of them for pictures. Back in the boat for drinks and snacks, and we’re off to the second stop on the Eastern side of the island. This side is generally the roughest, and it’s especially bad today, with one to one and a half foot waves. We find ourselves bobbing in the ocean like a corked bottle. We see some cool stuff, but it’s tough going, and I notice on the third trip that several of the Dutch tourists opt out due to the strenuous swimming on the second stop. I notice that many of the Dutch refuse to se swim fins for some unknown reason. Snorkeling, especially deep-water snorkeling is much easier with fins, as you don’t even need to use your arms to propel yourself through the water. Without fins, you must use your arms, and scissor kick as well. This is much more tiring than swimming with fins.

The third stop is once again on the Southern side of the island. The squid squadron which has been hanging around this third stop are missing today, but K and I see two nice large Rainbow Parrotfish. The more common Parrotfish we see are about 6 inches to 18 inches in length, but Rainbow Parrotfish can be huge. The first one we see is about two feet long, and the second at least three feet long, maybe larger. As big as they are, hey are the most skittish of all the Parrotfish, and though I dive down to film them, I’m not sure I ever got close enough for any quality pictures. We both forego the Chicken Lo Mein lunch today as we still have a lot of food in the fridge to eat. We head back to the room after saying our goodbyes to Lotte, Isa, Sandor, and Ulf, and enjoy the last of our Kip Tukkie smoked chicken on sandwiches. Neither K nor I slept particularly well the night before and are both a bit tired after the Woodwind trip, so a nap is in order for both of us.

Donkey Dung Sea Cucumber off Klein Bonaire
Branching Tube Sponge and small Elephant Ear sponge (yellow) off Klein Bonaire
Coral and gorgonian seascape off Klein Bonaire
Large Elephant Ear Sponge with Purple Stovepipe Sponge an coral off Klein Bonaire
Barracuda off Klein Bonaire
Black Durgeon off Klein Bonaire

We awake at about 6 PM and get ready for dinner. Dinner tonight is at Mona Lisa, one of our favorites. It’s been raining this afternoon and evening, and our outside table reservation must be moved inside. The restaurant has open walls to the outside, but it still gets quite warm inside, though they’ve replaced their old ceiling fans with newer models which work far better. I am bummed that they don’t have my favorite dish on the menu tonight, smoked Wahoo carpaccio with wasabi mayo. Oh well. K’s felt a bit queasy all day, so she opts for the grilled beef salad appetizer as her entrée. I have beef carpaccio as my appetizer and braised pork shoulder with their wonderful, scalloped potatoes as a side. They do still have their amazing chocolate mousse for dessert. The best chocolate mousse I’ve ever had, so light, it’s like eating chocolate air. We walk slowly back to the Divi and do some paperwork that we’ll need for the trip home before calling it a night. Just two more nights on the island, these two weeks always fly by.

Thursday 10/28/21

We awake to another mostly cloudy day and have breakfast. We decide to try Windsock one more time. There’s boat at the Windsock dock which we’ve never seen before so we decide to get into the water at Te Amo beach instead, the beach just North of Windsock where the Kite City truck sets up. The water is calm here today, and we head into the water. In the shallows here there is some dead coral and rocks with lots of small fish and in the deeper water there are several live coral heads with larger fish around them. We see lots of fish but nothing too unusual. We get out of the water and drive south. We stop at the Salt Pier to take some pictures and continue to drive down to Sorobon. This time we get out of the car at the area near the mangrove trees. It’s next to Lac Bay where we normally snorkel. We didn’t this year as it’s a long walk over uneven sand in ankle to shin deep water to get out to the reef, and I convince K it’s not a good idea with her hip. We take some pictures and then head north back to the Divi for lunch. After lunch we head down to the stone pier to relax and snorkel. K sits in a chair and reads her book, and I head into the water for a solo snorkel. I see a few Spotted Moray Eels, and then I notice a Bar Jack hovering over a rock. Bar Jacks generally swim away from you if you approach, but not when they are hovering over a predator like an eel, a goatfish, or an octopus. They do this hoping that the predator will rile up small prey that they can snap up with little effort. This one is following an octopus, and I film him for a while.

We passed this little “store” every time w went south on the island. It always made us smile.
The same artist did this piece a bit further down the same road.
Art made from plastic detritus along the southbound road to Sorobon.
Looking at Lac Bay from Sorobon
Conch shell pile at Sorobon. These are actually old, or dead from natural causes as conch fishing is forbidden on the island due to overfishing.

Trumpetfish at the Divi

Black Bar Soldierfish at the Divi
Large Permit at the Divi
Harlequin Bass at the Divi

Banded Butterflyfish at the Divi
Coney shadowing a Spotted Moray Eel for opportunistic feeding at the Divi
Octopus attempting to disguise itself as a rock at the Divi
Octopus at the Divi
One more octopus because I love them

I get out of the water and tell K what I’ve seen. I take a nap in a lounge chair and K continues to read her book. After a while K decides she wants to snorkel, so we get back into the water. K finds a Coney hanging around a rock. Coneys are also opportunistic feeders, so I start to investigate the rock, and see a very small octopus hanging out under the edge of the rock. Another nice find by K! We swim out towards the Woodwind dock then back to the stone pier towards the dive dock. There are boats at the dive dock currently, but they should be leaving soon, so we continue north past the dive dock, around the cruise ship mooring dolphins and over the rocks bordering the edge of the cruise ship terminal. We return over deeper water and notice some divers below us. Man, some of these people really don’t have a good grasp of what they’re doing. Their buoyancy control is awful, and they rarely use their fins properly. It makes me want to scream.

Spotted Moray eel at the Divi
Bearded Fireworm at the Divi
Redband Parrotfish Initial Phase at the Divi
Trumpetfish Closeup at the Divi
Small octopus hanging under a rock at the Divi

The boats have finally left the dive dock, so K swims around it, and I swim under it as usual. I usually see something interesting under there, and today it’s a juvenile French Angelfish. We check the pipe for the octopus, but he’s not home, so we turn south back towards the stone pier. As I’m often in the lead, I often check over my shoulder to see if K is keeping up with me, or if she’s stopped to watch something. I look back and see her hovering over one spot with her arms crossed, a sure sign she’s found something interesting. I return to her, and she’s watching a rather large Scorpionfish at the bottom. Scorpionfish are ugly fish that lay on the bottom and wait for prey to come close to them. They look like rocks under the water, except when they swim, as their pectoral fins are beautiful.

Longfin Damselfish at the Divi
Juvenile French Angelfish at the Divi
Pink anemone at the Divi
West Indian Sea Egg sea urchin at the Divi

K is hovering over this one in the hope that he’ll swim off and she can see those pretty fins. Just as I arrive a second large Scorpionfish comes out from the rocks. Most fish are territorial, and Scorpionfish are no exception. The two fish face off against each other in a game of dominance that I like to call who has the biggest mouth”. Since fish don’t have arms or hands with which to fight each other, they will often charge each other with their mouths as wide open as possible. They parry back and forth, their mouths pressed against each other pushing the other fish back if possible. These two go at it for a while, as I film them. It’s a fascinating display, and their beautiful fins, as well as the inside of their mouths are exposed as they “fight” each other to a standoff. We leave them when they are just sitting near each other but no longer mouth fighting.

Mouth war between two Scorpionfish at the Divi
Intimidation is key!
I love how you can see inside it’s mouth!

I’ve included a link to the raw video of this fish encounter as the pictures don’t do this Scorpionfish battle justice!

After leaving the Scorpionfish war, we swim back around the stone pier and check if the little octopus is where he was previously. He isn’t and we decide to swim back around the stone pier to check if there is only one Scorpionfish, or if there are two and they’ve reached some sort of Scorpionfish détente. Both are sitting near each other. We watch them for a while to see if they will fight again, but they have apparently come to a peaceful agreement. We swim back around the end of the stone pier towards the stairs and get out of the water. We grab some chairs near the water, and I bring the gear to the room, and return with rum drinks to watch our penultimate sunset on Bonaire. We had planned on going out to dinner at Donna & Giorgio’s, a nice Italian restaurant tonight, but we still have too much food left in the refrigerator, so we cancel our reservation, and eat in. It’s a mezze plate of prosciutto and melon, salami, olive tapenade hummus, Taleggio cheese, Boursin cheese, and crackers. We finish the rest of the ice cream for dessert. I pack up the hard cover carry-on bag that we brought with all the snacks we bought to bring back with us. We hit the hay, sad that tomorrow will be our last full day on the island.

Friday 10/29/21

Our last full day on Bonaire begins as most of the previous ones have with breakfast in the room. We decide once again to see if Windsock is doable today, and when we pass by, we notice that it’s still rough, as the wind has picked up again. Instead, we go further south back to Tori’s Reef for a second time. It’s low tide, so it’s a little more challenging getting into the water than normal, but we do it without issue, and snorkel north from the entrance. We stay on the reef close to shore, and see the usual stuff, though we do spy some Flamingo Tongues, and a baby Rock Beauty. We snorkel north for a while before turning back south, past the entrance towards where we saw the big Green Moray on our first trip here. We don’t see the Eel, but I do see an octopus hanging out under a rock near the exit, and a baby Spotted Drum. Getting out is more difficult than the entry, and I slip and bang my knee into the rocks as I try to help K get out of the water. It’s red, but not too bad, so I shrug it off, and we drive back North.

Dusky Squirrelfish at Tori’s Reef
Coral with Christmas Tree Worms in the back, and I don’t know what it is in the front! Anemone? Coral? I couldn’t find a picture that was similar in my references.
Flamingo Tongues at Tori’s Reef
Baby Rock Beauty saying hello at Tori’s Reef
A fish I can’t quite ID. It looks like a type of Blenny to me with the long pectoral fins, but I can’t see a comparable picture in my reference. Any help?
Whitespotted Filefish at Tori’s Reef
Juvenile Spotted rum at Tori’s Reef
Octopus at Tori’s Reef

We stop at a beach that is popular with locals called Bachelor’s Beach. We’ve never stopped here before. The staircase to the beach is way too scary looking for K in her current state, so we just look at the water. The area is slated to be developed in the future, which will remove another beach used by the locals, for the benefit of tourists. We stop at Donkey Beach, just South of Windsock, but that water is also very rough, so we head to the gas station to fill up the car before we return it to the Hertz counter at the Divi. I return the car while K hangs out by the pool. Afterwards we have lunch in the room then head down to the stone pier. We grab some chairs and K starts her third book as I take a solo snorkel. I see some nice Spotted Morays, but for once I don’t see anything else that is too unusual. I return to the pier, and we hang out in the chairs for a while until K is ready to head into the water.

Longfin Damselfish Juvenile at the Divi
Juvenile Blue Tang at the Divi
Sand Diver at the Divi
Spotted Moray eel at the Divi
Longfin Damselfish at the Divi This fish would nip at us when we were getting in and out of the water on the stairs of the stone pier, as it was protecting it’s field of algae on the bottom step.
Get away from my algae patch!

We start by heading South towards the Woodwind dock, then across the deeper water towards the dive dock. I dive down to try to capture some video of a big Porcupinefish or puffer. We’ve seen less of these fish than normal this year. We also, unfortunately, see our first Lionfish of the trip. These non-native fish are a huge issue in the Atlantic and the Caribbean, but they’ve done a great job on Bonaire trying to limit their impact, by spearfishing them for food. The Bonairian motto is “Eat them to beat them”. We see two Lionfish around a coral head in about 25 feet of water, one small and one larger one. We swim into the Divi dive dock, and I see a Brittle Starfish wrapped around a small purple tube coral on a support under the dock. We swim back South around the stone pier, and K asks if I mind going back around the stone pier one last time. I’m always willing to snorkel, so of course, I agree.

Queen Parrotfish at the Divi
Smooth Trunkfish at the Divi
Orangespotted Filefish at the Divi
Sharptail Puffer at the Divi
Lionfish at the Divi
Large Lionfish at the Divi
Porcupinefish or puffer at the Divi
Brittlestar around coral under the dive dock at the Divi
Pink tipped anemone at the Divi
Bluehead at the Divi
Honeycomb Cowfish at the Divi

As we clear the end of the pier, I see a Bar Jack doing its opportunistic feeding behavior over a Spotted Moray near a rock. Suddenly a second eel comes out from under the rock towards a small coral head nearby. The Bar Jack follows that eel, and so do we. It looks like a Spotted Moray, but the spots aren’t quite right, and neither is the color. It looks up at me, and the inside of its mouth is deep purple. Ah, the elusive Purple Mouthed Moray Eel! We have never seen one in any of our previous Bonaire trips. I dive down to get video of him and of the Bar Jack, which are very hard to get close to unless they are trying a feed opportunistically. After watching it for a bit we head back to the stone pier steps and get out of the water. We grab some mango margaritas at the bar, and then head over to the other side of the property as the bar is getting packed for happy hour. I make us rum drinks and we watch a rather meh sunset before going back to the room for showers before dinner.

Bar Jack over Purple Mouthed Moray Eel at the Divi
Purple Mouthed Moray at the Divi
Purple Mouthed Moray on the move at the Divi

Dinner tonight is again at Mezze, the Syrian restaurant near the Divi. On our way to the restaurant, Dee and Ulf drive by us, and Dee shouts out her window to K “You look beautiful!”. K thanks her, and we continue walking towards Mezze. We are seated and K has a gin and tonic, and I have rum punch. Our order tonight is the meaty hummus, beef carpaccio, beef sausage, tabbouleh, garlic shrimp, and truffle fries. We see Dee and Ulf walking into town, but they don’t notice us sitting at the restaurant. We say goodbye to the staff at Mezze and return to the Divi, where I finish packing up everything except what we’ll need tomorrow.

Saturday 10/30/21

It’s a sad morning as we arise for our last few hours on the Bonaire. After breakfast we head down to the stone pier for our traditional final snorkel of the trip. We get into the water, and I notice that my camera’s SD card says it is full, but I checked it last evening and it said then that I had about 30 minutes left on it. Later I find that when I set it down for the night, I accidently pressed the shutter, starting the filming process. I find out when I get home that I have just under 30 minutes of black video, as the lights were off in the room. K asks if I want to head in and get a new card, but I don’t want to waste any time, as we need to be checked out by 11 am. In some ways it’s quite nice to just snorkel and look at things without thinking about filming stuff. We see an abundance of Spotted Morays, and perhaps another smaller Purple Mouthed Moray, though I have no way of verifying that. After getting out of the water, we check out, store our bags with the front desk, and head down to the stone pier until it’s time to get to the airport for the long journey home. We eat lunch at the bar, more Bitterballen, Bonairian cheese fritters, and coconut shrimp, then do our traditional toe dip in the ocean to signify the end of another beach season (we generally toe dip into the season at a Massachusetts or Maine beach).

The airport is a zoo, as the Delta plane to Atlanta that we are on, the American flight to Houston, and a Tui flight to the Netherlands all leave within an hour and a half of each other. We arrive close to boarding time to both avoid the long lines, and to limit our time in the airport. We walk out onto the tarmac as the new Tui flight disgorges its passengers before filling up again for the return trip. The flight to Atlanta is uneventful, though I’m bummed that the movie I had hoped to watch on the way back, Summer of Soul, is no longer a choice. I end up watching A Quiet Place 2 (4 out of 5 stars), and re-watch a few episodes of the hilarious TV show Party Down (see this show, if possible, it’s great).

The processing center through customs in Atlanta has long lines, but is surprisingly efficient, and we make it through in about 40 minutes. There are hardly any restaurants open inn the airport. K isn’t hungry, but I am, and I end up at one of the only places open, a Wendy’s. Not great, but serviceable. The ride home is also not an issue, and we wait for a cab at the cab stand, as it’s now about 1:30 AM. We’ve been in an airport or on a plane since noon. A cab pulls up and the cabbie gets out and opens the trunk. He watches as I load the baggage in (I guess they’re not putting it in for you during COVID, though Carlos did on our trip to the airport). We head out of Logan, on a rainy cool night. The cabbie is obviously not comfortable driving in this kind of weather as he constantly takes his glasses off then puts them on again. He’s driving 40 MPH in the left-hand lane of the Mass Turnpike, making me worry that someone will fly up behind us, smash into the back of his cab, and potentially put a snorkel through the back of my head. He gets close to Newton Centre, and I tell him we’re taking a left onto Langley Road. He says something, but between his mask, his accent, and the 1-inch-thick plexiglass between us, I do not hear. He then stops halfway down the block towards Langely Road. I ask him why he’s stopping here, and he starts screaming that I didn’t answer him when he apparently asked, “A left at the shopping center?” There are several stores on this stretch of Langley Road in Newton Centre, but I wouldn’t characterize it as a shopping center. I explain that I was sorry that I didn’t hear him, and he goes on yelling about how bad the driving conditions are. This was obvious to me as I was in the car, and the fact that he drove horribly the entire way home. I don’t want to piss him off any further as we’re still half a mile from home, we’re tired, we have three big suitcases, two backpacks, a carry-on, and K with her balky hip. Those who know me well will be surprised I managed this whole interaction without using any profanity, mainly because I was sure he’d kick us out of the cab if I did. We finally get home, and now he’s happy to help get the luggage out of the cab, so he can get rid of us. Normally I am a very good tipper. Having already done a round trip to Logan and back from Newton Center for $110, I knew the fare would be somewhere around $50-55. I had a $50 bill and a $5 bill and some twenties. The bill came to $48.50. My initial thought when we got in the cab, knowing my cash situation was to give him the $50 bill plus an extra $20 bill as a tip. After this debacle, however, I was less inclined to do this. I gave him the $55. All he had to do was not be a jerk, and he’d have earned himself a $20 tip, but he couldn’t do that. After he left, and K and I were carrying the bags into the house, K told me to feel her butt. It was soaking wet! All I can imagine is that he had the back windows open while waiting in the cab pool at the airport, so the windows didn’t get steamy. All well and good, but on a rainy night, it means the seats might get wet. Had I known this before I paid him, he’d have only gotten the $50 bill. We decide that in the future, we will book the same livery service we used to take us to the airport to bring us home as well. It’s a bit more money, but after that cab ride, it will be completely worth it.

Since I did not have any footage from our final snorkel, I’m putting some of the extra shots I didn’t use in the blog from this trip, so that this entry doesn’t end with a terrible cab story. I’m also including two pictures of the island, one of the whole island, and one of downtown Kralendijk to give you an idea of where everything I talk about is on the island. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this, and/or looking at the pictures. We can’t wait to return to the beautiful island of Bonaire soon. It really is our happy place.

Map of Bonaire showing places mentioned in the blog
Map of downtown Kralendijk showing restaurants we went to.
Sharptail Eel at the Divi
Yellowtailed Damselfish at Salt Pier
Octopus at the Divi
Octopus at the Divi
Balloonfish under the Divi dive dock
Honeycomb Cowfish at the Divi
Foureye Butterfly fish at the Divi
Octopus at the Divi
Queen Parrotfish at the Divi
Spotted Trunkfish at thee Divi
Scorpionfish at the Divi
Juvenile French Angelfish says hello at Tori’s Reef
Dusky Squirrelfish at Tori’s Reef
Green Moray at Tori’s Reef
Spotted Moray at the Divi
Scrawled Filefish at the Divi
French Angelfish at the Divi
Yellowtail Damselfish at Pink Beach
Spotted Filefish at the Divi
Spotted Moray at the Divi
Honeycomb Cowfish at the Divi
French Angelfish at the Divi
Tarpon at Yellow Submarine
Tarpon at Yellow Submarine
Smooth Trunkfish at the Divi
Squid off Klein Bonaire
Coney at the Divi
Coney and Spotted Moray at the Divi
Spotted Drum at the Divi
Yellowfin Mojarra at the Divi
Christmas Tree Worms at Tori’s Reef
Juvenile Rock Beauty at Tori’s Reef
Huge Smooth Trunkfish at Tori’s Reef (the one behind is the normal size that we see often).
Goatfish at Tori’s Reef
Yellowtail Parrotfish at the Divi
Purplemouthed Moray at the Divi
Purplemouthed Moray coming at ya! at the Divi

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Bonaire 2021 Week 1 A Post-Pandemic Tale

Saturday 10/16/21

The COVID procedures have thrown a wrench into our usual plans. Our Friday night plane to Atlanta has been cancelled, and we’ve been re-booked on the 6:30 am flight out of Boston. We generally eschew taking this flight to reduce the stress of only a 45-minute layover in Atlanta. Since our flight leaves so early, I set the alarm for 3 AM to be ready for our 4 AM livery service pick-up.

Carlos arrives at 3:45 AM, and I help him load our luggage as K finishes getting ready. We get to Logan and go to one of the self- help kiosks. When I put K’s passport into the machine, I see a screen that includes the words passport and expired, and I get the same message with mine as well. It says we must see the ticketing agent. 

We get in line, and I look at my passport. Probably due to the hour, the weird message on the self-check kiosk, and my relative lack of sleep, I see the top line which has the date of Feb 9th, 2019. I immediately freak out. “K, you brought the old passports!” K has had even less sleep than I, and just looks at me blankly. “We better get out of line.” I say, grabbing the bags and heading to an area near the door. I ask K where the passports are in the house, I grab my keys and glasses and run out to catch a cab.

There is one cab at the stand. I tell him I need him to go fast, to Newton Centre, and then right back. He waits outside while I scour the house for the passports. Frantic, I call her, and tell her I can’t find them. She finally looks at her passport and realizes my error. “Get back here now! These are fine! February 9th, 2019, is the issue date, they’re good until 2029!” I jump back into the cab, and $110 in cab fare and a $30 tip later, I’m back where I started. We should have taken a short time out to let our emotions calm, and to look at everything a second time. We did not!

By the time I arrive back at the airport, the long line has dissipated, and we quickly get to the ticketing agent. It seems that the computer still had our OLD passport information (now expired), and we needed to see the ticketing agent to show our negative COVID test results, and the Bonairian health forms that we had to fill out prior to flying. I make a quick stop on our way to the gate to buy some cheater glasses, as I’ve left my new prescription glasses on the dining room table while looking for passports we already had. By the way $4 cheaters cost $20 at the airport. We make it to the plane with about 10 minutes to spare and are soon on our way to Atlanta. I still haven’t eaten anything. We are given a snack and some water on the two hours plus trip to Atlanta. 

Again, 45 minutes is a tight layover window, especially in an airport the size of Atlanta’s. We come in at Gate A8 and are leaving from Gate E13. K’s hip has been bothering her, so after we arrive on the shuttle train from the A concourse to the E concourse, I tell her to walk to the gate, and I’ll run into Duty Free to grab some rum for the trip. Much needed after the passport fiasco! I get some dark and light rum and am walking to the gate with it in hand when they announce the Bonaire plane is leaving soon, and the doors will close in 5 minutes. I am at gate E 36 when that announcement is made. I am jogging through the airport at this point, and I see K near the gate waving at me. I arrive with 2 minutes to spare, and we’re the last two people on the plane. 

The four hours plus ride to Bonaire is uneventful. I watch Black Widow, my grade 3.5 out of 5 stars, about par for Marvel movies for me. We arrive in Bonaire and are processed by immigration. Our bags come out quickly (probably since they were some of the last bags put on the flight), and we gather them and head off to the Divi Flamingo, our usual home base for the next two weeks. 

The Lobby Entrance of the Divi Flamingo Resort, Bonaire

We always end up waiting for our room to be ready, as the check in time is 4 PM, and the plane gets us to Bonaire at about 2 PM. I use this time to secure the rental car that I have reserved. We finally get into our room. I run to the grocery store for a few provisions, and we unpack, put the provisions away, and get ready for the first snorkel of the trip. As I stated earlier, K’s hip has been bothering her, so she’s unsure of how snorkeling is going to feel. She says it’s better than walking, but she feels like we won’t be able to spend quite as much time in the water as we usually do. We see all the usual suspects, parrotfish, Sergeant Majors, Goatfish, a small flounder, a sharptail eel, and a nice spotted drum hanging out under a rock at the end of the stone pier. We get out of the water and watch an underwhelming sunset while sipping a few Amstel Brights.  We get back to the room, shower and change for dinner. It’s very busy on the island this year, and we can’t eat at Mezze, one of our favorites, as they are fully committed for the rest of the night. We make a reservation for tomorrow. We head next door to Patagonia, an Argentinian restaurant, and they can accommodate us, so we sit down for dinner. 

Juvenile French Angelfish at The Divi about 4 inches long
Anemone at the Divi
Queen Parrotfish saying hello at The Divi
Unusual brown colored Smooth Trunkfish with Spotted Drum below at the Divi
Juvenile Longfin Damselfish and Sharptail eel at the Divi
Older French Angelfish about 8 inches across at the Divi
Banded Butterfly Fish at the Divi
Smooth Trunkfish in the more common black and while coloration at the Divi

We share a melon and Parma ham appetizer, and K orders the New York Strip steak, and I have the rib-eye. Both are excellent and are served with piping hot crisp French fries. The Argentinian’s really love their beef! We walk back to the hotel to crash, it’s been a long (and expensive) morning, but we are here on one of our favorite places on Earth, so all is well.

Sunday 10/17/21

It’s K’s birthday! We get up and have our usual breakfast of an onion/pepper/chorizo/cheese egg scramble with English Muffins, and yogurt and fruit for me. It’s K’s day, and I ask her what she wants to do. At first, she says we should just snorkel the home reef, but I suggest we go to the Salt Pier to see turtles. I figure if it was my birthday, I’d want to see turtles. K agrees, and we gear up and drive south down to the Salt Pier. It’s much busier on the island than we’ve ever seen at this time of year before, and it’s probably due to the pandemic. People are just sick and tired of staying home and are exercising their ability to go somewhere.

The Salt Pier from the shoreline. The area the divers are in is where we see turtles. The large structure in the middle is the central pier.

The turtles, as usual, are out in force today. We see at least a dozen turtles swimming and eating sea grass in the shallower area in front of the pier. The depth at the end of the pier is about 50-60 feet, but here it’s about 15-20 feet. We usually swim around the entire end of the pier, but with the snorkeling still such a new thing with K’s hip, we decide to swim only along the central pier, and K waits for me as I circle around the outside of the pier. We head back to the shallows to see the turtles again, and then it’s out of the water and back to the car.

Green Turtle eating sea grass at the Salt Pier
Green Sea Turtle at the Salt Pier
Bait ball at the Salt Pier
Juvenile Yellowtail Damselfish at the Salt Pier
Green Turtle swimming at the Salt Pier
Green Turtle feeding at the Salt Pier

We drive south, along the water towards Sorobon, and notice the vast amount of new construction of luxury houses, and condos on both sides of the coastal road. It seems people have finally discovered how beautiful and special Bonaire really is. We circle back north to the Divi, and take a quick dip in the pool, followed by lunch in the room. We walk down to the stone pier and K sits in a chair to read. I get very bored sitting with all that ocean around me, so I take off to do a solo snorkel around the home reef.

Needlefish at the Divi

I always get bummed out when I see something cool on a snorkel that K isn’t with me, and this time, as I swing back towards the stone pier from the Woodwind dock, I notice a dark colored Bar Jack swimming to my left. Knowing they often swim over predators, I head over, and as I’m swimming closer, I see an octopus swim across my field of vision to the south. He stops near some rock and coral, and I take quite a bit of video of him, diving down to get closer. I shoot video on my GoPro camera, and then download still photographs from that video. This allows me to find the best shots possible, rather than relying on hitting the shutter at just the right time. It also means I can extend my arm forward, and with the GoPro on the end of a selfie stick, get that much closer to my subjects.

Octopus on the hunt at the Divi
An octopus will spread out it’s arms and turn white in an attempt to make itself bigger and more imposing. This guy is about a foot across at its biggest.
More octopus action!
Balloon Fish under the Divi dive dock.
Honeycomb Cow Fish near the Divi dive dock.
Porcupine Fish or Puffer under a ledge at the Divi.
Spotted Drum at the end of the Divi stone pier.
Bermuda Chub under the Divi dive dock.

Eventually I return to the stone piper, go around it and follow north to the dive dock. K doesn’t like to swim under the dive dock, but I do, and I head underneath. I see a nice 2-foot-long barracuda, and a  Balloon fish, maybe 6 or 8 inches long, with beautiful blue eyes. I swim back around the stone pier, and up the stairs to give K the bad news. After a short rest, K decides she’s ready to get into the water, and we head south towards the Woodwind dock. On our way back I spy an octopus (same one? Who knows?). I yell K’s name to get her attention, she’s gotten ahead of me, and she circles back to see what I’ve found. It’s weird that I’ve seen octopus out of the den twice today. Usually, you only see a tentacle and two eyes looking at you from a crevice in the rocks. I’m happy that K got to see an octopus out and about. We hang out and watch him for a while before heading back, around the stone pier, and towards the dive dock. We circle back and get out of the water at the stairs on the stone pier. Our placid area on the stone pier is now inundated with Dutch tourists. I normally wouldn’t care, but the Dutch couple next to us have decided that none of the three other chairs at their table are good enough, and have taken the one near our table that I was sitting in. Oh well, we pack up the gear, and head over to the small dock near the dive dock. The stairs on this dock are missing. Too bad as it made for a nice entry and exit to the water, and there are far fewer seats for people to steal.

Foureye Butterflyfish at the Divi
Bar Jack, Goatfish, and Octopus. Can you see him?
Octopus at the Divi.
Octopus camouflaged. Notice the skin texture changes!
Princess Parrotfish at the Divi
Red Lipped Blenny at the Divi
Intermediate Phase Stoplight Parrotfish munching on algae

K grabs two chairs, and I take the gear back to the room, make some rum drinks (light or dark rum with various fruit juices), and head back to K to watch the sunset. We watch a much nicer sunset tonight, while enjoying more rum drinks. Finally, it’s time to head in, shower, and get ready for dinner. We’re looking forward to eating at Mezze tonight, a lovely Syrian restaurant, close to the Divi, with excellent food.

Sunset over the Divi dive dock

We walk into Mezze and are seated outside (nearly every restaurant in Bonaire has outside seating available or is completely outside seating. K gets a gin and tonic, while I have a rum punch. We get the meaty hummus (one of my favorite things to eat on the island), tabbouleh, beef carpaccio, Syrian beef sausage, Persian chicken, and a Greek Salad, accompanied by the excellent house-made pita bread. After Mezze, we stroll downtown to Gio’s to get gelato, mango for me and Blood Orange for K. We eat it on a bench looking over the Caribbean. We walk back to the Divi, and crash for the night. Another day in paradise tomorrow!

Monday 10/18/21

After breakfast we decide to head out to one of our favorite spots to snorkel, Tori’s Reef. It’s on the Southern end of the island a bit past the Salt Pier. Over the years we’ve figured out the best way in and out here, sometimes a challenge with Bonaire’s rocky shoreline. We head out to the North for a while along the shallow reef. We see tons of great fish, but nothing too unusual. We then snorkel south along the deeper side over the sandy bottom. There is less to see here, but the sand provides a chance to see a Spotted Eagle Ray, a type of ray that loves stretches of sand to root around in for food. They are one of K’s favorite things to see, but incredibly rare. We don’t see any, and as I always say to K, “it isn’t a zoo”. We head back into the shallow reef after a while and start swimming north back towards the exit.

One of the yellow rock markers that let divers and snorkelers know at which site they are

Barracuda at Tori’s Reef
Rock Beauty at Tori’s Reef
Gray Snapper under a ledge at Tori’s Reef
Surgeonfish at Tori’s Reef
Smallmouth Grunt over Elkhorn coral at Tori’s Reef

A short time after turning north something remarkable happens. A five-foot Green Moray Eel comes out from under the coral ledge, and swims out completely to an outcropping of rock about 8-10 feet away. My camera has a bit of a lag from when you hit the shutter, so my video starts when he’s already around the outcrop of rock. It’s rare for these fish to venture out in the daytime, and you generally only see their heads protruding from wherever they are hanging out. As imposing a fish as they are, however, they are scaredy-cats, and as soon as he sees us, he literally turns tail, and heads back under the rock from whence he came. He had some sort of deformity in his lower jaw, or it was bitten off by a predator or rival, but it doesn’t seem to have bothered him, as he’s huge, and quite thick as well. We spend a minute or so talking on the surface about how cool that was to see before continuing northward. Because of the distance we were from him, the footage wasn’t great, and the pictures are not quite up to my usual standards, but it was so unusual, I had to include them here anyway.

Large Green Moray swimming free at Tori’s Reef
Another shot of the Green Moray The yellow and purple fish nearby are about 8-10 inches long!
Here is the raw video of the Green Moray Eel heading back home after seeing us.

We see some cool stuff including a Flamingo Tongue, a type of snail, Squirrel Fish, and just before we are leaving K spots an octopus in its den. We happily swim back to the exit and get out of the water, exhilarated by the beautiful sight of the Green Moray. We hop into the car, and as it’s about lunch time, we head back North to stop at one of our favorite food trucks. We pass Cactus Blue first, but decide we’ll do that another day, as we’re in the mood for beef burgers, and head a bit further north to The Kite City food truck. Cactus Blue specializes in Lionfish burgers, but the beef burgers are better at Kite City, and they also usually have fresh tuna sushi and sashimi.

Flamingo Tongue on a Gorgonian at Tori’s Reef
Long Spined Sea Urchin at Tori’s Reef
Octopus in it’s den at Tori’s Reef

We order a cheeseburger to share as well as a tuna trio plate, Sashimi, tuna tartare, and seared tuna, and two Polar beers. I am always amused by impatient Americans who expect things to move at the same pace as the US. The guy who ordered just before me is pacing around grumbling. There are at least five people in front of me, including Mr. Grumpy. The food takes about 25-30 minutes to come out, not bad considering how busy they are, and the fact that everything is cooked to order, but it’s not fast enough for our friend, who complains bitterly to his wife that “if they didn’t spend time talking to all their friends, we’d have our food by now”. Now they were talking to their friends, but only the guys who were taking orders, putting together the plates and getting drinks. The guy cooking was just cooking! He finally gets his food and tears off in his truck. Relax dude. We get our food, and it’s excellent as always.

We get back to the Divi, and after a dip in the pool, we head down to the small dock. It really is a pity that the stairs are missing. K reads her book, and I go around to the stone pier to get in the water for a solo snorkel. I see the usual suspects, and my first two White Spotted Moray Eels of the trip. I head back to shore and after a while K joins me on another house reef snorkel. One of the first things we see is a Goldspotted Sharptail Eel. We see them here very rarely. I’ve never seen more than one in any one trip to the island, and this one would prove to be the only one we’d see this year.

Sand Diver at the Divi
Spotted Moray at the Divi
Spotted Trunkfish at the Divi
Spotted Moray at the Divi
Pink anemone at the Divi
Pink Tipped Anemone at the Divi
Adult French Angelfish at the Divi, about a foot long
Goldspotted eel at the Divi

At one point I notice K looking out into the depths, and as I look past her, I notice a turtle swimming away. He’s too far away to film him, but I watch as he’s swimming, and I notice a big chunk of his shell is missing on the left side in the back. He’s either had a close call with a predator or a boat propellor, but he’s survived either one. We get out of the water just in time for the Manager’s special night with free rum punch and Dutch snacks. I manage to snag some Bitterballen , a fried croquette filled with sausage meat in a very thick gravy, and a cheese fritter that is particularly nice as well. K passes on the snacks, as inexplicably, she detests Bitterballen. We leave after two free watered down rum punches amidst the throngs of Dutch tourists clamoring for free bar snacks.

It’s back to the room for us to get ready for dinner. Tonight, it’s at Ocean Oasis, a restaurant where we had lunch last time on the island. We have had to make reservations for all our dinners, as the restaurants are booking up fast. We have never had to do this on our earlier trips, but this year, the island is so busy that reservations are a necessity. The Divi is normally 60-75% full when we are here. They are fully booked for both the weeks we are here. We order cocktails and food. The place, like everywhere we’ve seen is hopping.

Our drinks arrive quickly, and soon after we have the Shrimp cocktail that we both ordered. It’s very nice, and cleverly served in a half of a glass bottle cut lengthwise. Then we wait, and wait, finally deciding to wait some more. Our reservation was for 7:30 PM, and we had finished our apps by 8. We have another drink, but that’s all I can have as I must drive back to the Divi after dinner. The server comes to apologize, and say she’s never seen it so busy in October before. The high season starts November first, but she says it’s been like this since September. We finally get our entrees, risotto, mine with added foie gras at 9:15. K has an espresso martini for dessert, and I skip the dessert I was planning on getting as I don’t want to risk it taking another half hour to arrive. We finally pay and leave a bit after 10. Back in the room, I put on the TV to see if the Red Sox ALCS game is on. They are up 9-0 in the third inning, and I feel confident they should win, so I shut the TV off and drift away to sleep.

Shrimp Cocktail served in half a bottle at Ocean Oasis
K’s perfect Espresso Martini at Ocean Oasis
Funny No Smoking sign made from cigarettes over the bar at Ocean Oasis

Tuesday 10/19/21

After breakfast we decide today will be a chill day.  We take a ride along the north through downtown Kralendijk. We used to love going to a place called Coco Beach, which was just north of Eden Beach Resort, but that area is being developed by the owner of Tui, the discount Dutch airline. It’s a behemoth hotel and resort comprising of four, four story buildings. There is construction going on everywhere. Signs of progress for the island, but also signs that the days of the sleepy island of Bonaire that no one’s heard of may be coming to an end. 

We drive the crazy one lane, two direction road past the northern dive and snorkel sites, including 1000 Steps, one of K’s favorites. We have decided to skip 1000 Steps and it’s approximately 100 steps down to the beach as a gift to K’s balky hip, which would not do well on these uneven stone steps. We stop at another site called Tolo to take a few pictures, then drive further north towards Gotomeer Lake, where you often see flamingoes. Bonaire is one of the few spots in the world where wild flamingoes are found. They are skittish, and don’t get very close to the road, so taking pictures of them is difficult without a powerful zoom lens camera. 

The view from Tolo on the north side of Bonaire
Gotomeer Lake

We continue through the original capital city of Rincon, where the majority of the native Bonairians live. Even here we see signs of more development. We head into Kralendijk to get some more supplies at the Van de Tweel supermarket, then back to the room to drop everything off.  We have a light lunch, then head back to the stone pier to snorkel. When we get in the water, I notice that the new battery I put in the camera says it is out of power. I’m always bummed when I can’t take pictures, as I’m afraid we’ll see something cool, but we just see the usual suspects, as we do our normal house reef snorkel, which is off the southern side of the stone pier, south to the Woodwind dock, then back north to the stone pier, around it, north past the small pier and the dive dock, then back south around the stone pier, and up the stairs. Grateful we didn’t see anything I would have been bummed to have not photographed, K sits in a chair with her book, and I return to the room to exchange batteries on the camera. 

I have two older batteries from my older model GoPro, and though they look the same, they do not work in the newer model GoPro. I put another newer battery in, and head back to the stone pier and K. I jump in and do a solo snorkel around the house pier. I’ve been trying to make sure I photograph all the fish I refer to as the usual suspects, and I use this time to get some of those taken. I leave the water, and we sit on the stone pier for a while. It’s getting hot in the sun, and we spy some seats near the small beach out in front of the stone pier in the shade, so we grab those.  An older Dutch couple smiles at us as they walk by us to go into the water. When they come out, the gentleman points towards my turtle tattoo and says, “I remember your tattoo! You were here two years ago, right?” I say yes and compliment him on his memory. Now that I’ve spoken to him, I realize that I recognize them as well. 

K wants to try to snorkel until the sun sets, but we’re in the water too early for that. We swim towards the deeper water, as K likes to float above the coral heads in the depths. It’s pretty, but I know If I see anything I want to photograph, I’m going to need to free dive down to get any pictures.  We swim around for a while, and I convince K that there’s way too much time until sunset for us to still be in the water. We get out and head to the small pier, where K grabs two chairs, and I head back to the room with the gear and return with rum drinks. We have a couple rum drinks and watch the sunset from the small pier before heading in for dinner. It’s dinner in the room tonight as K only finished half of her steak at Patagonia the other night, and we’re having steak and cheese sandwiches, with some ice cream for dessert. When I go to bed, the Red Sox are leading Game 4 of the ALCS, but by morning I see that they’ve lost. Oh well, it’s 2-2 in a best of seven series. Tomorrow is our first trip on the Woodwind this year. We’re looking forward to seeing Dee, the owner and primary snorkel guide on the boat. She had some health issues in 2020, and we’re anxious to give her a big hug. She’s one of our favorite people on Earth.

Christmas Tree Worms on coral at the Divi
Lettuce Sea Slug at the Divi
Spotted Moray at the Divi
Greater Soapfish at the Divi
Orangespotted Filefish at the Divi
West Indian Sea Egg sea urchin at the Divi
Banded Butterflyfish at the Divi
Scrawled Filefish close up at the Divi
School Master at the Divi
Sharptail eel eating at the Divi
Stoplight Parrotfish Terminal Phase at the Divi
Spotted drum at the end of the stone pier at the Divi
Queen Parrotfish at the Divi

Wed 10/20/21

Today is our first of four trips on the Woodwind! We have a quick breakfast as the trip starts at 8:45 am.  We trek to the far southern end of the Divi resort to the Woodwind dock. We check in with Ulf, Dee’s husband, then make our way down on to the dock. Dee is giving some other folks drinks on the dock. When she sees us, she puts her tray down and comes over and gives us both big hugs. It’s so great to see her, back to doing what she loves to do, and healthy again. We get on the boat with 14 Dutch tourists and set off for Klein Bonaire. The Woodwind would often take as many as 30 guests out on a single trip in the pre-pandemic days, but they are now limiting it to 16 guests, which is far more manageable. 

The Woodwind at the dock

Klein Bonaire is a small island off the Western coast of Bonaire. It means Little Bonaire in Dutch and was once owned by Harry Belafonte! In its past it was used as a way station for travelers to insure they did not have cholera before coming onto the main island. It’s now a protected site owned by the Bonarian government, and no building or commerce will ever take place there. It will be naturally wild forever. Unlike the mainland, where the coral is still recovering from a devastating hurricane over 30 years ago, the corals and sponges off Klein Bonaire are beautiful and vibrant.  We are the only Americans on the boat, and Dee does not speak Dutch. Most of the Dutch onboard can speak English, and Dee’s other guide, Lotte, speaks Dutch, so she can help fill in whatever they didn’t understand. We leave the dock under motor power, but soon have the sails up and silently glide towards Bonaire on the beautiful breeze. Her previous captain, Ziggy, has moved on to own his own shop in town, and she has a new Captain, Sandor, who is awesome. Alejandro the professional photographer is also on hand. He took some of the pictures that I used as references for my Bonaire sea life tattoo sleeve.

The trip consists of three snorkel stops, the Northern end of the island, the Eastern, and lastly the Southern end. Each has its own topography, and its own wildlife.  The Northern side has a lot of pencil coral, as well as a variety of different smaller fish species. The Eastern side has quite a few sponges, both purple stove pipe sponges, and orange elephant ear sponges. Sponges act as the ocean’s filter, filtering the water to remove any microorganisms that the sponges ingest. The Southern end of the island has many sea fans and larger species of fish.

On the first stop, I notice a large amount of plastic in the water. I grab whatever I can, as I float along, stuffing it in my pockets. You are not allowed to remove anything natural from the reefs of Bonaire, but you are encouraged to remove any plastic you might find.  I ask Dee about it later, and she tells me that the Atlantic current has been strong this autumn, and as it mixes with the Caribbean currents, it brings both much needed nutrients, but also a lot of trash. Humans are awful.  We see a lot of different types of fish on the first stop as well as our first squid sighting of the trip. K is excited as squid are one of her favorite things to see.  Soon after we see two Queen Angelfish, another of K’s favorites. They tend to stay deep, and I dive down to try to get some video. I do, but I’m still far away from them, so it’s unlikely I’ll get anything usable. I do also see Black Durgeons, which are beautiful fish, but difficult to get close enough to for quality pictures. Hopefully I have something that looks good. 

Pencil Coral and Fire Coral off Klein Bonaire
Black Durgeon off Klein Bonaire
Rock Beauty off Klein Bonaire
Fan Coral Klein Bonaire
Purple Stovepipe Tube Sponges with Bicolor Damselfish and a xenophyophore, the largest single celled animal in the ocean (the large round glassy object center left)
Coral panorama on Klein Bonaire
Spotted Filefish Klein Bonaire
Black Durgeon at Klein Bonaire
Brain coral with Gray Chromis Klein Bonaire
Dusky Damselfish Klein Bonaire
Baby High Hat at the Divi
Spotted Moray at the Divi
Peacock Flounder at the Divi

Dee is a consummate host, and she supplies snacks, soft drinks, and a full bar after the first and second snorkel stops.  After the third she provides a Chinese noodle and chicken lunch. We see many cool things on the three stops and have a chance to catch up with Dee as we sail back towards the Woodwind dock. We hug her goodbye for now, and tell her we’ll see her on Friday, for our second trip. After we disembark, we stop by the pool for a dip, then it’s off to the house reef for another snorkel.  We see some white spotted moray eels, a large puffer, and baby High Hat. After the snorkel I run to the grocery store for more provisions and for smoked chicken from Kip Tukkie. Kip Tukkie is a local Dutchman who makes the most amazing smoked chicken that he sells at a food truck just outside the Van De Tweel supermarket. After rum drinks, I carve up half a smoked chicken, which we have with microwaved baked potatoes. The other half chicken will be for lunch on another day. It’s been a long busy day, and we both crash into bed, and are asleep in minutes.

Thursday 10/21/21

We have appointments to get COVID tests this afternoon. We don’t want to do anything that will take too long so we decide to try a new place, Pink Beach. It’s just south of Tori’s Reef, where we saw the big Green Moray Eel. It’s an easy entry and exit as there is a white sandy beach here. A couple of divers tell us that the reef is in 20-25 feet of water, a bit offshore. It’s like the reef at 1000 Steps, and K loves floating high above the reef like a plane flying over a city. There are nice soft corals, but surprisingly relatively few fish. We swim over the depths for a while, then head in and snorkel closer to shore. We don’t see much, but we do see a nice big school of Bonefish, and an enormous bait ball of small mackerel or sardines, which envelope me as I swim through it. We exit the water and get back into the car. We had planned on stopping at Cactus Blue for Lionfish burgers on our way back, but there is a red exclamation mark light on the dashboard, and a beeping noise as we travel along. I stop and pull over to see if I can figure out what’s causing the issue, but nothing is obvious, and we decide it’s best to go back to the Divi and talk to the folks at the Hertz counter to see if they can figure out what’s wrong with the car. It turns out that the parking brake is a bit wonky and didn’t completely turn off when I disengaged it. 

School of Bonefish at Pink Beach
Sergeant Majors and Long Spined Sea Urchin in Fire Coral at Pink Beach
Huge bait ball at Pink Beach

Happy that I know what was causing the issue, we head to the room for smoked chicken sandwiches for lunch.  It’s about 1 PM, and we have some time to kill before our 3 PM appointments, so we head downtown to walk around and check out the shops. We park on the main road and walk around. It’s amazing just how many shops the pandemic has closed. There are a few new ones, but there are still many empty storefronts. It starts to rain, and we head into an open-air market that has cover. We wait a while outside the Rhumba Cafe, until we decide to stop and have a drink while the rain continues.  I order a mango daiquiri and K orders a rum and Coke. It’s amazing to me how everyone always puts the fruitier drink in front of K, and not me! We stop at a few shops. We don’t really need anything, but I want to replace a lost Bonaire baseball cap (left on the T shuttle back home in Boston). We also stop at Art by Jan to pick up two more ceramic tiles with her underwater art on them. If you’ve ever been in my bathroom, you’ve seen these over the window. We usually see her husband, but Jan is there today, and it’s always nice to speak directly to the artist. 

The rain picks up again as we get into the car and drive to the drive-through testing site. If you are staying on Bonaire longer than one week, you must get a COVID test on day five of your trip. These are free, paid for by the government. If you miss your appointment, however, you must pay for the test. If you don’t show up on day six at the latest, they force you to quarantine. We drive into the testing area, and one nurse swabs me in the driver’s seat, and a second goes to K in the passenger seat. It’s the deep swab, but it’s so fast that it really doesn’t bother me. K has a very sensitive nose, however, and she is greatly bothered by this test. It brings her to tears, and she can still feel it the next morning. 

We head back towards the Divi but stop at the Carib Inn first to buythe Bonaire calendars made by a local photographer named Ellen Muller. I love these calendars as they remind me of Bonaire all year long.  Back at the hotel we decide not to snorkel the rest of the day, and we relax with rum drinks watching the sunset. It’s the nicest sunset so far, and afterwards we head back to the room for cheeseburgers that I cook in our kitchenette. It’s an early night and we drift off to sleep dreaming of our second trip on the Woodwind tomorrow. 

Friday 10/22/21

Today is our second trip on the Woodwind. We have breakfast and then head to the Woodwind dock. I will say that the decrease in number of guests to 16 is well worth the slight increase in cost for the trip. Considering that the island was pretty much closed for a year, the slight increase to make up for lost revenue due to both the pandemic, and the smaller number of guests per trip, is more than understandable.

There are 16 guests again today, and Dee is joined by her other Dutch speaking snorkel guide Isa. Captain Sandor revs up the engines and pulls away from the dock. Within minutes, we’ve cleared the dock and boats moored nearby, the sails go up, the engines go off, and we begin our sail towards Klein. As usual we see lots of Flying fish as we move towards Klein. They don’t really fly but jump out of the water and glide for an impressive distance before slipping back into the water, far away from any predator or perceived threat.

At the first stop on the Northern side of the island we mostly see similar things to the first trip. The coral is still beautiful and is really our main reason for taking these trips. Well, that and Dee. I shoot some video of a small Black Durgeon in the shallows, and Dee tries to find two frog fish that she pointed out on the first trip (they were quite deep, and there wasn’t an opportunity for me to free dive down to try to get video of them). There is far less plastic floating in the water today, a good thing. Back on the boat for soft drinks and snacks. At the second stop on the Eastern side the current is going south, but the wind is flowing north, so the water surface is very choppy. This side is usually the roughest, but it’s particularly bad today. We see another Queen Angel in the depths, and K, who tends to swim ahead of the group sees a Rainbow Parrotfish, one of the largest kinds of parrotfish. She also sees a turtle, which I see as it swims away, too far for video. Ironically, the only people who see a turtle on the first stop was Captain Sandor, and an older Dutch couple who stayed on the boat rather than snorkel.

Christmas Tree Worms with adult Yellowtail Damselfish Klein Bonaire
Flamingo Tongue on Gorgonian Klein Bonaire
Queen Angelfish Klein Bonaire
Donkey Dung Sea Cucumber Klein Bonaire

The third stop is a slightly different one than on our first trip, so the terrain is a bit different. I spy some squid near a stretch of Elkhorn coral that scurry away as I approach. I hope I got usable video. This area has the most Black Durgeons, and I spend some time chasing them around trying to get video. They are skittish, but so beautiful, as they do appear black, they have a myriad of colors in their skin when you get close enough.  After the third stop we get back on the boat and are served the Chinese chicken and noodle lunch. K will eat this on her first trip but doesn’t after that. She does steal a bite of my cheesecake dessert (see I told you Dee keeps you well fed!). With lunch K and I enjoy a couple beers as we sail back to dock. We see the old Woodwind, which Ulf and Dee sold in 2020. The new owners have painted her pink!

Bar Jack (also know as a Skipjack) with coral Klein Bonaire
Spotted Trunkfish Klein Bonaire

We say our goodbyes until next week, and head to the pool for a dip. K hangs out on the pier while I head to the room to book our exit COVID tests for three days before we leave for home. After that is done, I rejoin K on the stone pier, and we head into the water for a house reef snorkel. We see a lot of smaller fish as well as a big Tarpon who swims by. For such a large fish (4-6 feet), Tarpon are stealthy. One minute they’re nowhere to be seen, then bam, they’re in your field of vision for a few seconds, then they slip away as quickly as they appeared. I get some video under the dive dock of another Balloon fish, and a Soapfish, which are rare to see in the daytime. We get out of the water, have a few rum drinks while watching another disappointing sunset, then returning to the room to shower and get ready for dinner.

School of small Bermuda Chubs at the Divi
Queen Parrotfish eating at the Divi
Scrawled Filefish at the Divi
Pink Tipped anemone at the Divi
Balloon Fish under the dive dock at the Divi
Greater Soapfish under the dive dock at the Divi
Spotted Drum at the Divi

Dinner tonight is at a new place for us called Umbrella. It’s very close to the Divi, and near Mezze, so only a short walk for K. We are showed to a nice table overlooking the water and say hi to Dee and her family who are eating at the restaurant as well. It’s a strange menu, and we start with a Greek salad and coconut fried shrimp. The first server who comes to the table tells us the fish of the day is Mahi Mahi, but the second says that she is wrong and its Wahoo. I order the Wahoo with fries, and K has the beef fajitas. We accompany that with two Caipirinhas. The food is fine, and the outside seating with water views is beautiful with a nice breeze, but the vibe is weird. After dropping off our entrees and a second round of drinks, no one approaches our table again.

Finally, the server comes near, and I ask her for the check. She tells me that I must go inside to settle the bill. It might have been nice to know that 10-15 minutes ago while I was trying to get someone’s attention. Also, we would have ordered another drink and dessert, but no one thought to ask. We will probably not return in the future. We head back to the room and after a quick check of my phone shows that it’s unlikely the Sox will be able to send the ALCS to a seventh game. It’s off to bed for the beginning of our second week tomorrow.

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The Travel Lion Returns (again) to Bonaire 2019 Part 2

Sunday 10/20/19

After breakfast we head north to Eden Beach, the site of last year’s dry bag incident.  With new dry bags in hand, and a disdain for repeating my errors, we will soldier on.  We rent two chairs so when we get out of the water we can lounge around a bit before lunch. The snorkeling here is always great, and we often see something out of the ordinary. We see some nice tarpon, a huge school of what looked like to me to be Spanish Mackerel, which are about 18 inches long, some spotted morays, the iguanas that hang out near the restaurant, and our first two spotted drums of the trip.

Yellowline Arrow Crab in the rocks at Eden Beach

School of Spanish Mackerel? at Eden Beach

Peacock Flounder at Eden Beach

Spotted Trunkfish at Eden Beach

Blackbar Soldierfish at Eden Beach

Two Intermediate Spotted Drums at Eden Beach

Two Intermediate Spotted Drums at Eden Beach

Iguanas hang out near the restaurant at Eden Beach.

After we get out of the water, we hang out on our chairs for a bit. There are about 100 chairs on this part of the beach in three rows.  We are in the first few seats in the second row. There is on