The Travel Lion Goes Back To Bonaire Again Part 1

Friday 10/5/18
We begin with an uneventful flight to Atlanta to start our journey back to Bonaire. After arriving, we decide to check out the Atlanta aquarium again, mainly because the huge tank is so impressive. There is something special, yet sad about seeing huge whale sharks and manta rays in an aquarium. The only reason I’m fine with it is that the Whale Sharks were going to be sold for food, the aquarium offered the fishermen a better price. A quick dinner in the hotel, and an early bedtime so we’ll be fresh and ready for the flight to Bonaire in the morning.

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Shot giving the Whale Shark some scale against the crowd at the Atlanta Aquarium. 

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Clown Fish Atlanta Aquarium

Saturday 10/6/18

 

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Sunrise in Atlanta

We arrive at the airport after a filling but uninspiring room service breakfast. No issues on our flight, and K has booked us into the extra room seats for all of our flights on this trip. We land at the Flamingo airport, and are processed by customs rather quickly. Our bags come out quite fast, which is also unusual, and before you know it, we’re in a taxi heading for the Divi Flamingo Resort, our usual haunt on Bonaire. We arrive around 2 pm, but our room is not ready, so K hangs out in the lobby while I go to the Hertz counter at the hotel to get our car.  A very nice porter takes pity on us at 3:40 and goes to check on our room, which is ready. Who knows how long it would have taken the new guy at the front desk to find that out. The porter gets a really nice tip, as we might still be waiting if not for him.

 
After taking the stuff to our room, we whisk off to the Van de Tweel grocery store to get some breakfast and lunch stuff, as well as the Dutch goodies we love to get on Bonaire, wine gums, Knoppers, and Dutch peppermints. Weirdly, the store does not have any Amstel Brights. There is a guy who sells smoked chicken in the parking lot, and we get one for dinner tonight so we don’t have to go out later. We head back to the Divi, unpack our groceries, and head for the water for the first snorkel of the trip. K is having issues with her snorkel, it’s letting in water, much like mine did a few years ago, so she gets out and sits on the pier. I snorkel around a bit on my own. Just the usual suspects, but following a small white spotted moray leads me to an arrow crab. My camera keeps giving me an SD card error, however, and though I’m able to clear it by turning the camera on and off, it still is happening. I decide that tonight after the snorkel, I’ll switch out to the other 64 GB card that I have, since this one is obviously acting up. That card never worked, and nothing that I thought I took was on it, so I’ve included some pictures from Sunday here, so no one has to read this long-winded diatribe without seeing some pretty fish pictures! Incidentally, this year, I am putting the pictures as close to the order I took them as possible. Trying something new, tell me what you think.

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Honeycomb cowfish @ the  Divi 

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The same Cowfish 5 seconds later,, showing how quickly they can change colors.

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West Indian Sea Egg Urchin @ the Divi

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Juvenile Slippery Dick @ the Divi 

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Yellowtail Parrotfish Initial Phase @ the Divi

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Orangespotted Filefish @ the Divi

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Spotted Scorpionfish @ the Divi

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Spotted Scorpionfish swimming away. Note how beautiful the fins are.

We have our complimentary rum punch, and a few Amstel Brights at the bar and watch the sunset. We go to the room, and reheat the smoked chicken and have some sliced cucumbers with it. The room is missing the knife block, so the only knives we have are butter knives. I’ll have to rectify that tomorrow. The chicken is excellent. The cable TV is out, so we read for a bit then hit the hay, ready for a full day of snorkeling tomorrow.

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Bonairian sunset

 
Sunday 10/7/18
Since I can’t chop veggies for our usual breakfast, we settle for scrambled eggs with ham and cheese, English muffins, and coffee.  After breakfast we stop at the front desk, to talk about the cable, and the lack of knives. We find out that cable is out on the whole island. They apologize about the knives and promise they’ll have some brought to our room today. We go to the little grocery store across the street, and they have Amstel Brights, so we buy a case there, and bring it back to the room. We stop at the dive shop to get K a new snorkel, and do our second of many trips around the house reef (officially known as Calabas reef). Again, nothing too unusual, except for the Yellowline Arrow crab which is in the same place as yesterday. We do see a nice Golden Chain moray, but I didn’t get any usable pictures of him.

 

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Scrawled Filefish @ the Divi

 

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Yellowline Arrow Crab @ the Divi

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Juvenile Longfin Damselfish with Yellowline Arrow Crab behind

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Top Brown Chromis, center Horse Jack, back Stoplight Parrotfish, throughout Yellow Goatfish, just one example of the plethora of species found on Bonaire

 
We take a quick dip in the pool, and then head back to the room for lunch. We’ve decided to have the reminder of the smoked chicken in sandwiches for lunch. Still no knives, but the chicken is so tender; you don’t need a sharp knife. After lunch we head back to the water. Again, nothing too unusual, but we do see a nice large White Spotted Moray who keeps looking at the camera. I hope that footage comes out! We also see a small tarpon in the depths, about 4 feet long. We head out of the water, take a quick pool dip, and I go back to the room to make rum drinks from our duty-free stash to take down to the pool to watch the sunset.

 

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White Spotted Moray Eel out in the open. A big one, over 2 feet long

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White Spotted Moray Eel Smiles for the camera

 

 

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White Spotted Moray Eel

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Ocean Surgeonfish (top), French Grunt (bottom left) juvenile French Angel (bottom right)

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The nightly KLM flight arrives as the sun sets

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Another beautiful Bonairian sunset

After the sunset, we return to the room to shower and straighten up for dinner. We walk to Mezza, a Middle Eastern restaurant run by a wonderful Syrian man. We discovered this place on our last trip in 2016, and it doesn’t disappoint. We share some awesome meaty hummus, excellent hummus with a scoop of spicy ground beef in the center. The owner tells us that this is a common way they serve hummus in Syria. We also get tuna sashimi, beef and lamb kafte, and a Greek salad. Afterwards, it’s off to Gio’s for some gelato. It’s not the best gelato I’ve ever had, but the best I’ve had isn’t in the Caribbean, and it makes a nice night cap after dinner. We eat it sitting by the water, listening to the waves. A short walk back to the hotel, and it’s off to the land of Nod. We find out that there’s a regatta in town from Wednesday through Saturday, and we’re not sure how it will affect us.

 
Monday 10/8/18
Still no knives. Have some English Muffins with peanut butter and Clementines for breakfast, K asks me to call the Woodwind to see if we can get out with them this week as we don’t know how the regatta will affect them either. They say it’s fine, and they are actually leaving on a trip in 40 minutes, and there is room for us on it. Since they leave from the Divi Flamingo where we stay, we agree, dress, and walk down to the Woodwind dock on the southern end of the property.
There is a new Woodwind boat, a catamaran that is larger than the old boat, and we climb aboard with 19 other intrepid snorkelers to the magic that is Klein Bonaire, a small island off the western coast of the main island where there is still beautiful coral and sponges. The boat is owned and run by Dee, an amazing woman who is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. There’s a bigger crew now with the bigger boat, but Ziggy the captain is still a part of the crew, as is Alejandro, the professional photographer.
As we are sailing out to Klein Bonaire, we hear Ziggy say “Dee, do not scream…there are dolphins in front of the boat.” In all our many trips on the Woodwind, we’ve never seen dolphins before. It’s a small pod of 6-8 individuals, and Alejandro jumps into the water to capture some shots as they swim around us. He also spies a shark sucker that has attached itself to the bottom of the Woodwind. We soon arrive at the first snorkel spot, a new spot for us, further south than we usually go, available to us only because the seas are very calm today. Normally it’s too rough to snorkel this area. This area is especially beautiful, and it is plain why Dee has brought us here. We see an octopus almost immediately upon entering the water. I dive down to try to capture some pictures and video of him, but won’t know what I have until we get home. We are treated to a pair of curious, dinner plate sized French Angelfish who approach everyone quite closely. These are beautiful fish, and it’s nice to get such closeups for the pictures. The rest of the snorkel is beautiful, but uneventful, and we finish, get back to the boat, and enjoy a snack of some fig filled crackers and mango juice.

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Dolphins photo by Alejandro Guttierrez  www.athoyo.com

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Dolphins photo by Alejandro Guttierrez  www.athoyo.com

 

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Shark Sucker photo by Alejandro Guttierrez  www.athoyo.com

 

 

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Octopus near coral off Klein Bonaire

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Yours truly filming friendly French Angelfish photo by Alejandro Guttierrez  www.athoyo.com

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French Angelfish off Klein Bonaire

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French Angelfish off Klein Bonaire

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French Angelfish off Klein Bonaire

The second stop is one we’ve been to before, and since I didn’t completely charge my camera before we left, I’m conserving power for the third stop where we normally see turtles. I spot a Queen Angel for K, but it’s too deep to take pictures of. Dee had entered the water early, as she says there has been a seahorse hanging out near some elk horn coral, and she hopes to find it for us. She does, and we are treated to a rare sight. They are very hard to see (K really never gets a good look at it), plus it’s in about 12 feet of water. I dive down to grab some pictures and video. In any case, I know Alejandro will get some shots of it. We head back to the boat for more snacks and drinks before our third snorkel stop.

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My poor photo of a Seahorse off Klein Bonaire

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Seahorse off Klein Bonaire photo by Alejandro Guttierrez  www.athoyo.com

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Chub off Klein Bonaire

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Queen Parrotfish off Klein Bonaire

We arrive at the third snorkel spot, and it’s one that we love, both because we usually see turtles here, and because it’s a gently sloping reef, where on one side it’s only 5-6 feet deep, but it quickly descends to 30 feet deep or more.  I hang close to Dee, as she usually will be the one to spy something first. I’m right next to her, when she announces that there is a turtle nearby. It’s right below us, and I am very close to it, without any other snorkelers around to disturb it. The turtle rises to the surface right near me to get some air, and then dives down again before the rest of the group can get too close. K sees it from afar, but I assure her that there will be some nice video and pictures of it. K has been hanging near the back of the group, as she has spied three Queen Angels in the deep that she is observing. They are too deep for pictures, but are beautiful nevertheless.

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Green Turtle off Klein Bonaire

 

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Honeycomb Cowfish off Klein Bonaire

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Alejandro Guttierrez doing his thing, free diving for great shots

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Green Turtle swims away off Klein Bonaire

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A pair of small 2 foot Barracuda of Klein Bonaire

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Brain Coral with Christmas Tree Worms off Klein Bonaire

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Spectacular Purple Tube Sponges, and Fire Coral (right)

Third snorkel over, we head back to the boat for the sail back to the main island, and Dee’s famous Chinese food lunch. It’s a chicken/veggie/noodle dish that is quite good, and we wash it down with a few beers on the sail home. When we get off the boat, we head up to pay, and book another trip for Wednesday. The three-stop snorkel is still an incredible bargain in my book, as it costs only $65 per person which includes the three stops, a nice long sail, lunch, snacks, and an open bar! She also has masks, fins, and snorkels for those who do not, as well as prescription masks, boogie boards, noodles, and other flotation devices.
After paying, we head to the pool for a quick dip, and then back to the Calabas reef for one more house snorkel. The Arrowhead Crab is in the same spot again, and we see lots of other stuff including a nice two-foot-long white spotted moray eel. Since there are no dive boats near the Divi dive dock, we decide to snorkel around it, as there are often some cool things under it. As we come around the back side, I look down and see a juvenile Queen Triggerfish. We have never seen any Queen Triggerfish on Bonaire before, so this is a rare and welcome sight. A beautiful fish, I spend some time free diving down to get some video and pictures of it. Another quick dip in the pool, then I go up to drop off the gear, and get some rum drinks. We sip our rum drinks, and watch the glorious sunset.

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Sergeant Majors and Yellow Goatfish  @ the Divi

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Spotted Filefish @ the Divi

 

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First try at a picture of a Queen Triggerfish under the dive dock at the Divi

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White Spotted Moray Eel with Red Banded Cleaner Shrimp @ the Divi

After the sun goes down, it’s back to the room to shower and get ready for dinner. We head into town to go to a favorite of ours, Mona Lisa. The only problem with this restaurant, is that it’s always stifling hot inside, and tonight is no exception. The overhead fans provide scant relief, but I am here for the “special” which has been a “special” on every trip we’ve had here, a smoked wahoo carpaccio with wasabi mayonnaise. It really is one of my five favorite things to eat on Earth. K has the tuna sashimi for an app, and the beef carpaccio for her entrée. After my wahoo, I have an excellent NY strip steak with a green peppercorn sauce. We share one of their ethereally light chocolate mousse desserts, and walk back to the Divi.

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After a trip to look at the tarpons looking for food in the lights of the dive dock, we head back to the room, so that I can watch Game 3 of the LDS, where my Boston Red Sox beat the hated New York Yankees, 16-1! K’s favorite player Brock “The Brockstar” Holt hits for the cycle, the first player to do so in the postseason in baseball history. Happy my team is victorious, I shut off the TV, and drift off to sleep.

Tuesday 10/9/18
We’re up early for breakfast. Still no knives, so I use a butter knife to chop some peppers, onions, ham, and tomatoes to add to our scrambled eggs I hope I can convince someone, ANYONE, to give us some knives today.  It’s a cruise ship day, so we head into town to do some shopping as there is a really nice craft show that fills the city square on cruise ship days. There are cruisers everywhere, as usual, and because of the regatta, the small city square where the craft show is usually set up is filled with portable amusement rides. We can’t escape amusements, even here in Bonaire! K is looking for a new rash guard, but she can’t find one in any of the shops we look in.

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Carnival ride being set up in the town center of Kralendijk

I see a nice shirt in the window of a shop as we head back to the Divi, but it’s only available in women’s styles/sizes, so K gets one instead of me. We stop at the Carib Inn dive shop to pick up our Bonaire calendars for 2019. A local woman puts out these amazing calendars each year which show off her incredible underwater photography. We walk back to the Divi, and get in the water. We snorkel all the way to the Plaza resort, about a third of a mile away. We see a nice big barracuda there, maybe 5 feet long. They are scary looking, but they still don’t want anything to do with you, and swim away any time we get close. We swim back, take a dip in the pool, and then head in for lunch. Unbelievably, we finally have a knife block in the room.

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Stoplight Parrotfish Initial Phase @ the Divi

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Spotted Filefish @ the Divi

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Sharptail Eel @ the Divi

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Queen Parrotfish Initial Phase @ the Divi

We have a lazy afternoon of reading and drinking rum drinks. We discuss the possibility of a night snorkel this evening, but neither of us is feeling it, so we just relax, and bum around until dinner time. I make some burgers in the room, and we eat while watching Game 4 of the ALDS. The Sox grab an early 4-1 lead, and all looks great, until they bring in closer Craig Kimbrel for the 9th. Last year he was untouchable, but this year has been difficult, with most post season saves a struggle. He gives up a few runs, and almost blows the lead, but the Sox hold on 4-3 and defeat the Yankees in 4 games. It’s on to the ALCS versus the Houston Astros next. We drift off to sleep, dreaming of all the nice fish we’ll see on our second Woodwind trip tomorrow.

Wednesday 10/10/18

We awaken, have breakfast, and ready ourselves for our second trip on the Woodwind. The sky is overcast, and K says the forecast is for drizzles with overcast skies all day. We arrive at the Woodwind dock, and it’s a larger group than on Monday, 26 people. K wishes to sit in the front of the boat today, in the open, as she found the back where we sat on Monday a bit claustrophobic. We start off towards Klein Bonaire, and the drizzle begins. Within ten minutes, it’s a full-fledged deluge. Most of the people up front move into the covered back area of the boat, but as we’ll be wet in the ocean soon, we just deal with it, as the back is even more crowded and claustrophobic than it was before. K and I and a few other hardy souls tough it out in the weather. The rain really isn’t the issue, it’s that it makes you so cold. I tuck my arms into my rash guard and pull it up to my eyes, trying to keep as much of my skin covered as possible. The rain lets up just a few minutes before we get into the water for the first snorkel.

Getting into the water feels wonderful, as the 78-80-degree water is so much warmer than we feel from all the rain. The first stop is awesome as we see three turtles, including one that is too far in the shallows for the others to get near, giving K and I a private show. We also see a Queen Angel, and I free dive down to see if I’m able to capture any clear video of it. We get back on the boat and are treated to some snacks (cookies and crackers), and drinks. This is a hardy drinking group of mostly Dutch tourists, and before we got to the first snorkel spot, most of them had been drinking gin and tonics. K and I always wait until we are done snorkeling on the Woodwind before we start drinking, but this group has another round of G&T’s before we get to the second stop, and before we get there, they’ve drunk the boat out of gin! They switch to beer, and K and I are worried that we might not get one of those with lunch!

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Coney off Klein Bonaire

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Peacock Flounder off Klein Bonaire

The second stop is the same one where we saw the seahorse on Monday, and he’s still there today. This time, he’s a bit further up in the coral, making him a bit easier to see. I make a few free dive passes at him to try to capture some images. We also see two small turtles including a Hawksbill. Most of the turtles we see in Bonaire are Green Turtles. We also see another Queen Angel, and unfortunately, a Lionfish.  The third stop is always nice, and we are fortified by cinnamon bread and watermelon before hitting the water. The coral is truly spectacular here, and is the best in all of Bonaire. We get back on the boat for lunch and the sail back. K likes the lunch Dee serves, but she doesn’t like eating the same things too often, so she decides to pass on lunch. I’m not nearly as picky, as I enjoy it, and I’m hungry after swimming around for the past few hours.

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Seahorse off Klein Bonaire

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Barracuda off Klein Bonaire

I ask for a rum punch, but Dee’s new helper forgets it. Oh well, no worries, I’ll just have some water. Of course, there’s always dessert, and some light cream and fruit filled cake is passed around. We pull into the dock near the Divi, and it’s a little challenging, as there are boats on both sides already. We jump off, and we start to head up to pay. All of a sudden Dee is grabbing K. “My darling, what can I get you that you’ll eat for lunch in the future?” K explains that she just wasn’t very hungry, not to worry, and that just being in Dee’s presence is enough for K. They hug again, and we go pay.

We take a dip in the pool, as usual and decide to take one more snorkel around the Divi. We don’t see anything too crazy, just the usual stuff.  One quick pass there, and one more dip in the pool, and it’s time for rum drinks and sunsets. After another spectacular sunset, we head back to the room to get ready for dinner. Tonight, we decide on At Sea, another close restaurant with excellent, interesting food. We opt for the four-course tasting menu with the only caveats being no octopus for either of us, no squid for K, and no banana for guess who.

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Foureyed Butterflyfish @ the Divi

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Nimble Spray Crabs @ the Divi

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Fish assortment @ the Divi

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Barracuda @ the Divi

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Sand Diver @ the Divi

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Yellow Grunt @ the Divi

First is an amuse of excellent gazpacho, and some nice crackers and dip. The first course is tuna tartare with assorted gels and sauces with an awesome crumbly black onion powder. Second is shrimp bisque with assorted veggies. Excellent, though I could do without the big edge bowls that tip too easily. Third is a duo of pork with slow roasted pork cheek, pork belly, and various permutations of cauliflower. Each course is paired with an excellent choice of wine.  Finally, dessert is a playful take on all thing’s watermelon, with gels, mousses, and yogurt ice cream. A fantastic meal, and served by our waiter, who to me looked like the younger brother of Rob Gronkowski!

We walk back to the Divi, and walk to the dive dock to see if there’s any interesting fish to see. Just as we arrive at the end of the dock, three tarpon start cruising about. The large silvery fish can be seen in the moonlight, and dock lights, and their large eyes glow as they pass by. Every once in a while, a large school of smaller fish jump out of the water in various directions, escaping from the large silver predators.  After watching for a while, we head back to the room for a good night’s sleep, bummed that it’s all moving so fast as it always does, but heartened by the fact that we are here for two weeks, instead of one.

Thursday 10/11/18

After breakfast, we decide to go to some of the southern snorkel sites, since the regatta is in full swing, and there is a cruise ship in town, which raises the population of the island by nearly a third. We head down to Tori’s reef, a popular spot where we’ve seen some cool stuff in the past. The entry and exit can be a bit tricky which always makes K a bit nervous. I get my gear on sitting on a rock, and tell her that I’ll help her once we’re in the water. I scoot forward and here a tearing sound. I feel the bottom of my suit, and I’ve tore one of those perfect right angle tears. It’s going to have to be fine for the day, and it’s pretty far down my leg.

Oh well. I get in the water, help K with her fins, and we swim off towards the north, where there is some of the nicest shallow coral on the west side of the main island. We always see tons of fish here, including some very large schools of grunts and other fish, as well as some rarer fish to see in the daytime, such as a small school of Glassy Sweepers, a fish we only see at night at the Divi.  We also spy an adult Spotted Drum, and a yellow moray, which are apparently a color variation of Goldentail moray eels. We swim back over the deeper water, as there’s a big expanse of sand here, just the type of topography preferred by Spotted Eagle Rays, another of K’s favorites, but to no avail. Out of the water and back to the car for a short drive back towards the north to the Salt Pier.

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Goldentail Eel (yellow variation) at Tori’s Reef

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Adult Spotted drum at Tori’s Reef

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Blackbar Soldierfish, and a juvenile Queen Parrotfish @ Tori’s Reef

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Goldentail eel @ Tori’s Reef

The Salt Pier is exactly that, a working pier for huge boats to load up on the salt that is created from the sea by Cargill industry, the largest export the island has. You can’t dive or snorkel here if there is a boat at the pier, but they must not come too frequently, as I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a boat at that pier.  We get in the water, and see a small turtle almost immediately in the shallows, maybe five feet of water. He’s feeding on some sea grass, that looks more like sea moss on the bottom. Unlike all the other turtles we’ve come in contact with in Bonaire, this one seems rather nonplussed by our presence, and surfaces right near me to get some air, before swimming back down to continue eating. I’m getting such great footage, including some nice footage of the turtle swimming right next to K, much like what happened in Hawaii last year. He finally tires of us, and swims off. We head towards the pier.

The end of the pier is in 40-50 feet of water, and is supported by huge pillars, each two feet across, that crisscross each other. There is abundant sea life that is swimming around the pillars and the sponges and corals growing upon them. The only problem is that I can see great stuff far below me, but I really can’t take any video or pictures of them, so the huge Ocean Triggerfish exists only in our memories. We come around the back side of one pillar and see three beautiful Queen Angels. We have seen many of these on this trip, and like the others we’ve seen, these are too deep for quality pictures. They are spectacular, however, and I make a few free dive passes, in the hope that I may be lucky enough to capture anything footage I can use to get a quality still frame.

I decide to try one more pass, when the camera beeps at me. I look down and it’s reading that the SD card is full. This is weird as I usually use one 64GB card per week, and have extra room on it when I switch. We’re content to observe the Queen Angels, and decide we’ll come back to see if they are still here later this trip. On the way out of the water we find the turtle eating once again, and I love how he uses his front flippers to sweep the sea grass before eating. Is he fluffing it up to make it easier to eat? Is he sweeping the extra sand off the top? Only the turtle knows for sure.

Speaking of eating, we’re hungry and thirsty, so we head out towards Donkey Beach near the airport to go to the Cactus Blue food truck for lionfish burgers. The lionfish, an invasive species, has no natural predators in the Atlantic or Caribbean. They eat everything around them that’s smaller than their mouths, and have decimated some places, like off the Florida coast, where you can watch YouTube videos of reefs where all you see are lionfish. Bonaire has been very aggressively spearing them, and even with that amount of effort, you still see them on the reefs, though in far lower numbers than in other places. It’s a mild flavored white fish, and the Cactus Blue truck makes an excellent lionfish burger as well as an excellent, and very hot, spicy cheeseburger. Sated, we return to the Divi. K heads down to the pool, but I want to go to the room and check out this SD card issue. After getting to the room, the problem is apparent. I haven’t deleted the Hawaii pictures from this card yet. Since I have tons of videos and pictures I don’t want to delete, I carefully start to delete the Hawaii pictures to make room for newer stuff. I’m frustrated, and moving too quickly, when I realize that I’ve accidentally deleted some of today’s files, including the turtle encounter at Salt Pier. Time to bring K and myself a beer and sit near the pool, being far more careful while delete the files. I see what I had done wrong before and now am easily deleting only the old files. It’s tedious, as it will only let me delete them individually, with any attempt of selecting multiples to delete, fails. I get enough space on the card and we go out for a house snorkel.

The dive boat is away, and we snorkel towards the dive dock to see if the juvenile Queen Triggerfish is there again, and it is. As I’m free diving making camera runs at it, I notice a juvenile spotted drum under a rock formation. These are cool fish. Their top and bottom fins are nearly their entire length they will be in life from when they hatch. The center of the fish fills in between the fins, the older the fish gets. Seeing the juveniles, with a whisper of flesh between those fins is a rare sight. Out of the water again, we sit by the pool, have another beer, and watch the sunset, again a poor one due to the heavy cloud cover. Back to the rooms to ready for dinner.

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Juvenile Queen Triggerfish @ the Divi

 

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Juvenile Spotted Drum @ the Divi

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Redband Parrotfish Initial Phase @ the Divi

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Balloonfish @ the Divi

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Juvenile French Angel @ the Divi

We walk around the craziness of the regatta crowd, enjoying the terrific smells of the local foods, and the smiles and laughter on the locals faces. We see a school marching band tuning up in an alley, and a small parade of revelers is marching down the street. We’re early for our reservation at Donna and Giorgio’s, a great Italian restaurant. We stop at an outside bar we’ve wanted to stop at before but never had, the Diver’s Diner, which K calls the Diver’s Paradise, for reasons unknown. It’s Happy Hour and the drinks are cheap and strong. The folks working there are nice, and the clientele is a nice mix of locals and tourists. The food also looks pretty good. We decide we’ll be back again on this trip, next time to eat as well.

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Portable bar set up for the Regatta on the street!

We head over to Donna and Giorgio’s for another wonderful dinner. It’s very small, and you need reservations if you want a table for dinner, one of the few places here with that problem, a good one to have, probably. K has spaghetti and meatballs, and I have a tagliatelle with creamy garlic sauce and chicken, we also split a large caprese salad. A few glasses of wine, and we leave, stopping at Gio’s on the way back for dessert. We eat it while walking through town, enjoying watching all the Regatta festivities. After spending some time listening to a few bands, some good, some not, we head back to the Divi for some well-deserved sleep.

Friday 10/12/18

We have a hearty breakfast this morning as the plan is to drive south and snorkel Lac Bay. Lac Bay is a very shallow bay of water that has some nice coral as well as schools of juvenile and adult fish of all types, and it’s where we usually see some Rainbow parrotfish, and one of K’s favorites, Squid. The drive down the Southern edge of the island is a pretty one, there is a shorter inland route, but we prefer driving on the coast for the views. We pull off the road and gear up to walk into the bay. It’s a long walk of about 300 yards in uneven sand to get to water that’s deep enough to swim in. Then it’s another 150-200 yards to where the reefs are. Once in the deeper water, you start to see loads of marine life. Almost immediately after reaching water over six feet deep, I see a Southern Sting-Ray swim very quickly away from me.  Too fast to do anything but admire it. K was a bit behind me and missed it. We both see some conch shells around a hole nearby, which is the usual sign of an octopus den. Yup, he’s home, squeezed into the small space with only an eye and a bit of tentacle showing.

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Yellowhead Wrasse @ Lac Bay

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Puffer hiding under coral @ Lac Bay

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This one Surgeonfish didn’t get the message!

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Banded Butterflyfish @ Lac Bay

We continue and encounter three small Rainbow Parrotfish. These are small ones, only about 18 inches long. These can grow to 5 ½ feet in length and are the largest Parrotfish we see. Only the 3-foot-long Midnight Blue Parrotfish are anywhere near as large, and we’ve only rarely seen those here. At any size they are skittish, and difficult to approach, mostly seem swimming away from you. We also encounter two squid, but these are also wary, and do dot demonstrate the common squid curiosity. Generally, they will approach warily, but these keep their distance. We spend some quality time looking at all the staghorn coral and the baby fish. There are tiny parrotfish as well as Sergeant Majors the size of K’s pinky nail. These fish can grow up to 7 inches in length! After a while we swim back out, going a little further in than we did going in as the tide has been on the rise, but still having to walk the final 150 yards or so.

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Schoolmaster @ Lac Bay

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Juvenile Longfin Damselfish

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Surgeonfish and Yellowhead Wrasse @ Lac Bay

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Banded Butterflyfish @ Lac Bay

There is a resort here called Sorobon, and they have a nice beach bar, so we stop for drinks and some lunch. K has a prosciutto, sun dried tomato pesto and olive tapenade sandwich, and I have a spicy chicken and cheese panini, and we split some fries. A few Brights each, and it’s a wonderful lunch. Over lunch we discuss our next stop plans, and K feels that we should go back to the Salt Pier, to see if both the turtles and the Queen Angels are still there. We head back north to the Salt Pier and notice a lot of dive trucks in the parking lot. We park, reapply sunscreen, and head into the water.

In almost the same spot where we saw the turtle yesterday, we see three feeding on the same patches of sea grass. I’m very happy that I’ll be able to replace some of the footage I lost when I deleted the previous day’s files. They both rise to the surface near us to breathe, again not giving us any mind at all, to return to the bottom to feed. We watch for a bit before heading towards the Salt Pier itself. We see several smaller 2-3-foot Barracudas, and a few Porcupine fish, or commonly, puffers. We swim along the deep edge of the pier, and I think I see a fast movement deep below me that looked sort of shark like. You rarely see sharks on this side of the island. K grabs my flipper to tell me she’s just seen a Blacktip Reef Shark. It’s disappeared into the deep, but I guess I sort of saw it, anyway. It’s a smaller species of shark, six feet or less, and it wouldn’t have bothered with us even if we weren’t 50 feet above it.

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Green Turtle feeding @ The Salt Pier

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Green Turtle saying hello @ The Salt Pier

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Green Turtle exhaling @ The Salt Pier

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Green Turtle surfacing @ The Salt Pier

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Barracuda @ The Salt Pier

We continue around the pier and head in, but instead of heading straight back, we head over to an area just north of where we entered, where there are several snorkelers milling about. We swim towards them and see why, it’s a Turtlepalooza! We crisscross over the sands, and there are at least 8, maybe 10 turtles all out feeding. These are smaller turtles with 1-2-foot-long shells, and I get loads of footage and pictures of them feeding and coming up for air. We head out of the water and tell some divers and snorkelers entering to make sure they see the turtles in the shallows. We drive back to the Divi for our usual pool dip, shower, and prep for dinner. There is an ominous looking sky, so we decide to go into town early for dinner and happy hour drinks at Diver’s Diner.  This place is awesome. K is drinking Bombay Sapphire gin and tonics that are 2/3 gin for $3.50 each, and I’m drinking $1.75 a bottle El Presidente beer from the Dominican Republic. With K’s $16 BBQ Ribs plate, and my $20 mix BBQ plate special (amazing pork chop, chicken leg, ribs, and sides), the total check was only $58! Crazy tipper K wants to give them $100 total. I love the place, but I nixed a nearly 80% tip and gave them a nice 20% tip of $12. I do love watching the Europeans tip, though. A German couple has $26 of food and three $2.50 beers each, and left a $5 tip, which at least was more reasonable than the one American couple leaving $10 tip on a $120 bill. Come on cheapskates, the minimum wage on this island is less than $4 an hour, help these people out!

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Two Green Turtles feeding @ The Salt Pier

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Aw Shucks!

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Ready for m

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Green Turtle coming up for air @ The Salt Pier

We stop at the cigar bar next door afterwards and buy a nice Cuban cigar which we share as we walk back to the to the Divi. The end of the pier is rife with Tarpon trying to eat the Needlefish that swim along the surface. We watch for a while, before returning to the room to sleep. Tomorrow is Saturday, but it’s not the Saturday we have to leave, so we’re content as we drift off to dreamland.

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The author, enjoying a Cuban cigar.

This concludes part one of The Travel Lion Back to Bonaire Again 2018. Part two will arrive soon.

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The Travel Lion Goes to Hawaii Part 2 Maui

It takes about 20-25 minutes to board the plane to Maui. It takes 20-25 minutes to deplane. All for a 20-minute flight. They had beverage service on this plane, with 4 oz. cups of water, the type with a foil seal on top. I really don’t see why they bothered for a 20-minute flight, but oh well, they did. We take the shuttle to the car rental place, get our car, and head off for the Four Seasons Wailea where we’ll be staying.  The valet takes our car, and tells us that the bellman will bring our bags to the room. We are greeted by a woman who gives us leis, tells us that she’s happy we are spending our anniversary with them, and asks how long we’ve been married. She’s impressed when we say it’s been 30 years. She asks us to wait about 5 feet from the front desk. She speaks to the clerk for a moment, and then I see her talking into her mouthpiece. The front desk clerk congratulates us on our 30th anniversary, and takes care of the necessary paperwork. He gives us directions to our room, and we walk down to the elevators. After emerging on the 4th floor, we begin an incredibly long walk to our room. My strides are about 4 feet in length, and it takes 207 of them to reach our room. As we walk down the long hall, it reminds me of The Shining.

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The picture us crummy as the lights were always on, but this is the first part of our journey to our room! All the way to the end, then right for a quarter of the distance seen here!

The long walk is worth it, however, as our room here is larger in square footage than our 2-bedroom Boston apartment! We enter the room, which has walk-in closets along the entryway, and a secondary full bathroom. This empties into the dining area, which has a table with four chairs, as well as a small refrigerator, the mini bar and a coffee pot. There is a complimentary bottle of champagne on the table to greet us. The dining area continues into the living room area, with a large sectional couch, a 60-inch flat screen TV, and sliding doors that lead out onto a lanai, or outside seating area. We are on the garden level, and outside our room is a beautiful garden, with the ocean beyond.  We pass into the bedroom, which is enormous, and the main bathroom, with is nearly the size of our bedroom at home. The area outside the bathroom has bureaus and another walk-in closet. There are sliding doors in this room as well, leading out to a second lanai. The doorbell rings, and I open it for the bellman. He comes in, wishes us a happy 30th anniversary, and places our bags down.

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The view of the water from the lobby level of the Four Seasons Wailea

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Orchids are everywhere at the Four Seasons Wailea

After we unpack and settle in for a bit, we head down to one of the hotel restaurants, Ferraro’s for a late lunch. K has what she calls “the best Nicoise salad I’ve ever eaten” with fresh rare tuna, and I have a grilled Mahi-Mahi sandwich. The fries that accompany it are amazing. We walk around the hotel to get the lay of the land, sit and watch another amazing Hawaiian sunset, and retreat to our room. As we are tired and don’t wish to deal with driving anywhere or dealing with anyone, we get a very good room service dinner and hit the hay.

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Sunset in Wailea

 

Saturday 10/14/17

We get up, have some coffee in our room, and head down to the beach for some snorkeling. The beach is already crowded, much more so than we’re used to in Bonaire, but the beach guy gets us some chairs, and we gather our equipment and head into the water. An example of the crazy service that the Four Seasons provides, is that they water down the sand at the top of the slope to the beach, so that you don’t burn your feet as you approach the beach!

There is some nice coral here, but not a lot of fish. We do see 5-6 turtles, however, and they are as mellow as all the turtles we’ve encountered in Hawaii. I am following one turtle with the camera around the left of a coral head, when I notice an enormous turtle swimming towards me from the right side of the coral. I immediately switch my focus to him, and I know it’s a male by the size of his tail, and start filming as he slowly moves past us. I get some great footage of him as he swims around us. K finds a nice white mouth moray, and we decide to head in and sit on the beach for a while. As we are exiting, K, with her fins in one hand, and mask in the other, is hit by a rogue wave, and I see her fins go flying out of her hand and into the water. At first, she is very upset, as these are her favorite fins, which we purchased in Bonaire just last year, but almost immediately, a group of people on the beach start scouring the water for her fins. Within a few moments, two different people come up with one fin each, and we thank them profusely.  Later a woman loses her sunglasses in the surf, and many of the same people start helping here look for them. I run down as well, as she was one of the women who found K’s fins. Before I can get to the water, however, she’s recovered them herself, and all is well.

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Big Green Sea Turtle at The Four Seasons, Maui, Hawaii

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Close up of his face.

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You can really see his serrated jaw here.

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Here he is again, about a four foot shell from front to back.

 

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The final shot of him as he swims away. Look at the size of his tail!

In the video below, you can see the first turtle that I followed, only to switch over to this large male. The second part of the video was a turtle at the Coral Garden, which we did later in the week. You can also see what I mean about the visibility of the water.

 

When we get back to our chairs, we find that they have placed fresh towels on our chairs, and have put a large cooler with ice water, with two plastic cups on the table between the chairs. I head up to the small beach kiosk to get some breakfast for us. As we sit, and enjoy the beautiful view, someone comes by offering us fresh pineapple on a stick. I didn’t know I wanted pineapple on a stick, but it turns out I did, and it’s cold and refreshing. A second employee comes by with cold facecloths scented with eucalyptus. I think I was made for the life of the 1%!  We do a second snorkel, but the visibility is worse than before, so we head back in and decide to check out the pools. They have three pools at the Four Seasons, a large all ages pool, a smaller pool made for kids, and a 21+ adult pool, called the Serenity pool. We’re not sure why they call it that, since the adults are all louder, drunker, and more obnoxious that any of the kids in the main or kiddie pools.

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More orchids at the Four Seasons, Wailea

We sit at the bar and have some lunch, as well as some tasty Mai-Tai’s.  We split a burger and a crispy spicy tuna roll, both excellent. We swim around the Serenity pool for a while, then head back to the room to freshen up. We walk the grounds a bit, and head back to the beach for the champagne event they are having. We get some of the cheapest champagne at $27 a glass, foregoing the $250 a glass ($980 a bottle) Cristal Rose champagne. After that we go back to the room to change for our dinner tonight at Spago, a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, and one of four restaurants at the Four Seasons.

Our waiter seems disinterested in everything, but we soldier on and order cocktails and dinner. We should have just ordered the cocktails, but the waiter seemed intent on us ordering our food as well. The apps arrive before our drinks, not a great sign. I have braised pork belly, and K has a hearts of palm salad. K prefers sparkling water, so we get a bottle of that. Knowing we’re paying a premium for the sparkling water, we try to make it last through dinner, so we don’t have to pay for two bottles.

Another server, oblivious to the bottle of sparkling water on the table stops by and promptly fills K glass with tap water. We both said “No!” as he started, but he poured it anyway. He apologized, and quickly returned, with a new glass for K, and second bottle of water. I’m hoping I don’t need to argue about paying for it when the bill comes. I have the tuna steak, and K orders a huge pork chop. The chop is so huge that I get about half of it to supplement my rather small portion of tuna. K has a dessert with banana jam (yuck!), and I have Kona coffee ice cream. Luckily, they don’t charge us for the water, but when you’re in a restaurant with those kinds of prices, I expect better service than we received. Oh well, back to the room, and to bed.

Sunday 10/15/17

About three weeks prior to our trip, I had started a new octopus tattoo on my left leg. I notice in the morning that the redness that started the day before on some parts of it looks worse, so I hit it with some Bacitracin ointment, pharmacists are always prepared, and we decide to stay out of the water for the day to help my leg. Tattoos must be kept out of pool and ocean water until they are completely healed, which I thought mine was, but I don’t want to take any chances. We decide to do some shopping today, so we head to the nearby town of Kehei for breakfast at Fred’s, a joint that my co-worker M had recommended. K has fried rice, and I get eggs, sausage, and potatoes. We continue up the road to Lahaina to do some shopping.

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Fred’s in Kehei

The road to Lahaina is beautiful as it winds around the Hawaiian coastline. We arrive in town around the same time as a cruise ship, so the streets are packed with waves of humanity. We duck into a jewelry shop that K thinks looks interesting, and she finds something, and I add to my bone necklace collection with a nice carved manta. There’s a craft fair in a square with a giant banyan tree that is fabulous. Loads of wonderful arts and crafts. We buy a small Tiki painting. K sees one more jewelry shop across the street, and we get the last of her anniversary, birthday jewelry. I steer her towards the car to avoid any other jewelers, and we head back to Wailea.

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Me in one of the many parts of this huge banyan tree

On the road to Lahaina we passed Leoda’s Pie Shop, and we vowed we’d stop for something on the way back. We did, and entered a fast-moving line, and a huge assortment of pies, savory and sweet. We opted for a coconut cream, and pineapple mac-nut pies. The pineapple mac-nut was fantastic. Great crust, and a light filling of pineapple with the nutty crunch of macadamia. Then I tried the coconut cream. This was everything you’d ever want coconut cream pie to be. Ethereally light, with a wonderful fresh coconut flavor, with toasted coconut on top. Perfection. We also had an excellent house made lemonade and unsweetened ice tea.

Close to the Four Seasons on the way back from Lahaina are The Shops at Wailea, and K wants to see what shops are there. She buys some souvenirs, and I get two more Hawaiian shirts, bringing my total to four. We head back to the hotel, have a drink and watch the sunset. We have the Four Seasons car take us to our dinner reservation. Dinner tonight is at Monkeypod, and we have our favorite meal on the trip so far. The cocktails, to start, are very good. Their signature mai tai comes with a lilikoi foam on top. I am sold! We share some great roasted chicken wings. I have tempura style mahi mahi fish and chips, which is awesome, but pales in comparison to K’s smoked tuna steak with jalapeno mashed potatoes. The beautiful tuna is lightly smoked, then seared, still raw in the center. Jalapeno peppers are roasted, then added to the mashed potatoes. Fantastic. We have another round of drinks for dessert, and call for the Four Seasons car to pick us up. We have an early call for a snorkel trip tomorrow to the atoll called Molokini.

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Lilikoi foam covered Mai Tai’s at Monkeypod

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Sunset at the Four Seasons

Monday 10/16/17

 

We have an early morning wake up, as we need to drive a fair way to Maalaea Harbor where our boat is set to depart. The trade winds are howling, and we’re unsure we’ll be going anywhere today. We arrive at the harbor, park, and find the boat we’ll be taking. The captain tells us that he’s listening to chatter between fisherman and other boats on the waters, and a decision will need to be made whether we go to Molokini, or we even go out at all. We do depart on time, but we won’t be visiting Molokini, as the waves there are 5-6 feet, far too big to safely snorkel.  We set sail for the Coral Gardens, north of where we are presently. The trip out is a little rough with the twin hulled catamaran rocking out on the 5-6-foot swells. The Coral Gardens are in a secluded cove, and the water here, while a little rougher than we’re used to, looks manageable. One of the other boats from Maalaea Harbor is also there, Molokini being off the table for everyone today. The visibility is still only so-so, but there is lovely coral here. All the coral in Hawaii is hard coral, so we don’t see the purple tube sponges, or fan coral so prevalent in the Caribbean.

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Green sea turtle at the Coral Gardens

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Green sea turtle at the Coral Gardens

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Green sea turtle at the Coral Gardens

 

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Last one, I promise! Green sea turtle at the Coral Gardens

 

Over the course of the next hour or so, we meander about over the coral, we see four turtles at various depths, two of which come close to us, as other’s here have done. Though it’s expected behavior by now, it’s still thrilling. I was enjoying myself immensely when I saw something that incensed me. Coral is a living animal composed of thousands of tiny creatures living in a hard casing. They exude a slime over themselves to protect themselves from predators as well as viruses and bacteria found in the water. If you touch it, you may cause damage to yourself, and more importantly, you’ll cause major damage to the coral.  By exposing it to the environment, you can permanently damage the coral, and even cause the colony to die.

Therefore, I’m incensed to look down and see a snorkeler from the other boat at the bottom peering under a ledge, probably at a turtle, but I’m just looking at him as he’s clutching a small coral head with both hands, and his chest, to keep himself from rising back to the surface as your body wants to do naturally. I know he will have to come up, so I wait near where he’ll surface. K looks back at me and swims a little further away from me, knowing that I have to say something to him. He was more just “Oh well” than combative, when I told him he’d damaged and possibly killed the coral head he was clinging to, and asked him to not touch the coral in the future. One of the other passengers thanked me when we were all back on the boat.  It’s a fragile world, take only pictures, leave only footprints. We all get ready for the sail ride back.

If you don’t like boats, this ride was not for you. Waves were breaking over the sides of the boat, with the boat going up and down the six-foot swells. One woman looked concerned as the captain changed to a heavier jacket. He looked down at her and said, “Don’t start worrying until I put on a life vest.” It’s a crazy ride back, and the crew is working hard to keep us moving back to port, with the howling trade winds, and wild seas. We arrive safely, though it was far from the normally relaxing times I have on catamaran sailboats. We head back to the hotel for lunch at Ferraro’s, where we share a hummus plate with grilled veggies, and a prosciutto, arugula, and parmesan pizza. Afterwards, we get a cabana at the main pool.

Exhausted from the boat ride, I fall asleep in the shade of the cabana almost immediately. K enjoys the sun and reads, finally waking me up when she’s had enough. We head back to the room, but our keys are not working. A quick call on the phone in the hall, has someone come up, let us in, and come back very quickly with replacement keys, and apologies. We relax in the room and on the lanai for a while, until it’s time for dinner. Since we’re both still pretty spent from our sailing adventure, we just walk down to the Lobby Lounge in the Four Seasons. It’s very nice, and we have one of the best meals we’ve had in the hotel with tuna poke, fried goat cheese croquettes, and excellent beef sliders. We walk down to the waterfront to catch the end of a talk on navigating by the stars, and then it’s off to bed.

Tuesday 10/17/17

Happy Birthday K! We start K’s birthday with an excellent room service breakfast. English Muffin with peanut butter and a fruit plate for K, Corned Beef hash and eggs for me. Wonderful Kona cold brew iced coffee. K has a massage scheduled this morning, which gives me loads of time to relax, reading a bit and enjoying the ability to do nothing. I’m still trying to go in the water as little as possible for the rest of the trip, so we decide to drive south from the resort to see what’s there. We come across two spots that look promising for snorkeling, and decide to try them tomorrow.

We stop at a roadside stand where the brownest white woman I have ever seen sells us a couple shell bracelets. I guess when you sit out in the sun everyday in a bikini selling jewelry, you’re going to get a wee bit tan. The shells are small snail shells are she tells us they are almost unbreakable. She also has a few puka shells, which we learn are the inside top curls of cone shell, and the waves erode the bigger shell around them to reveal the puka shell inside. These are now quite rare and expensive. As we leave the area, we stop at a small beach called Makena Landing. We sit near the beach, enjoying the beauty and chickens, when a woman shows us a short path which leads to a much smaller, rockier beach. On this beach we see five turtles out of the water sunning themselves. Some are smaller, but several have at least a 3.5-4-foot shell length.

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Chickens at Makena Landing

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Five turtles on the beach at Makena Landing

We take a drive towards the airport to check out Tin Roof, Sheldon Simeon’s casual lunch restaurant.  We loved Sheldon on Top Chef, and his quick lunch counter food doesn’t disappoint. K has Mochiko chicken, a fried chicken in a sweet and savory sauce with rice, and I have the spicy ahi poke bowl with an added six-minute egg. We’ve read online that some people say it’s not enough food, and I can’t imagine who these people are, as we’re quite full afterwards.

We drive back and stop at the Shops at Wailea, as K wants to find a Hawaiian shirt for herself. We stop at the Tori Richard store, and she finds one she likes, and I get another one, my fifth. We come back to the Four Seasons, and K lounges in the hotel pool, while I have a drink or two at the bar. We head back upstairs to the room to relax and get ready for our big dinner tonight at Morimoto, one of the restaurants of Japan’s Iron Chef Morimoto. We get the resort car service to bring us to Andaz Maui where the restaurant is located. We walk down a series of steps that are beside a series of terraced pools, all the way to the bottom. There must be an elevator somewhere for anyone who couldn’t take all those steps, but there’s none to be seen.

Since we’re not well versed in Japanese cuisine, we opt for the expanded ten course omakase or chef’s choice dinner. We opt for the ten courses over the seven, as the ten includes a course that uses real Japanese wagyu beef. Before the meal begins, a server brings over a large slab of beef on a tray. This is the piece of wagyu that we’ll be getting a small piece of this evening. It comes with an official Japanese certificate showing the grade and classification. Wagyu is graded on a scale of 1-12, and classified as A1-A5. Only grades 8-12 are classified as A5 or the pinnacle of beef. This piece is grade 8, A5.  In the lower right-hand side of the certificate is a beef “fingerprint” which shows the fat distribution. This is what makes wagyu special. It is so marbled as to appear pink rather than red. I can’t adequately describe each course in detail, so I’ll just list them with quick thoughts.

Course 1: Toro Tuna belly tartare. Phenomenal fatty tuna belly served on a cold glass plate with accompaniments. The server must tell us how to eat it.

Course 2: Amberjack Hamachi -amazing

Course 3: Vegetables with an anchovy paste and garlic olive oil dipping sauce. The anchovy paste is not fishy at all, and the veggies are uniformly delicious.

Course 4: Egg custard with a steamed oyster with uni and foie gras. I loved this dish, but the steamed oyster is not to K’s liking. She did enjoy the custard, uni and foie gras which she normally doesn’t like very much.

Course 5: Intermezzo of herb sorbet to cleanse the palate

Course 6: Sushi course 5 pieces of sushi, tuna, shad, scallop, fresh water eel, and one other fish I didn’t write down. I enjoyed all the fish, except the eel, which I’ve never loved. K couldn’t eat the eel at all. The real revelation, though was the shad. It had a silver skin, and I was expecting it to be very strong flavored, and it was just mild, delicate, and wonderful.

Course 7: Muscovy duck with roasted veggies. Yum.

Course 8: Surf and Turf. At the beginning of the meal, the server asks us if there’s anything we don’t eat, or are allergic to. We don’t have any food allergies, but I hate bananas, and neither of us likes to eat octopus. Once you’ve experienced these amazing animals in the wild, you don’t want to eat them any longer. I won’t order octopus, but in this type of meal I’ll eat it. K opts to not have any octopus. We each get four thin slices of the wagyu, mine with octopus, K’s with scallop. Neither of us really loves scallops that are cooked, so she’s not happy about that, but the beef is amazing, even though with that kind of quality, I think having it as a carpaccio would be even better.

Course 9: First dessert, a French macaron with marshmallow and tropical fruit filling.

Course 10: Final course, a mélange of lime pudding, tapioca pearls, coconut, and mango. A fabulous way to end the meal.

Two funny stories to tell about the meal. We started late, at 8 PM, so by the time we got to course 5 or 6, the restaurant was basically empty, with just us and a table or two left. The waiter came by to ask that since it was our anniversary, and the restaurant was empty, if we wanted him to re-arrange the table so we could eat the rest of our meal sitting next to one another. I told him that we were happy the way we were, as it was our 30th, not our second. Lastly when we were almost done, and were the only people left in the place, the two older Japanese sushi chefs were breaking down their stations in the front of the kitchen. There was just an aisle and stools at the sushi bar that separated us. The guys in the back who were cooking the hot food were getting a little louder when one says “Yeah, I really wanted that trucker hat, but the guy wanted twenty-five fucking dollars for it and…” He’s stopped by a whack on the arm by the older sushi chef, who motions with a finger to lips “Ssshh!” and then points towards us. Chastened, the cook stops talking, and we don’t hear him again while we’re in the restaurant.

We slowly tackle the staircases back up, loaded down with food. The restaurant has called ahead to the Four Seasons to have the car come and get us. They may grow old as they wait for us to negotiate these stairs, but that’s what they’re getting paid for. We finally make it back to the street level, and are picked up and driven back to the Four Seasons, where we quickly fall asleep.

Wednesday 10/18/17

We decide to drive back south, and snorkel the secluded area we saw yesterday. The browned woman we bought the necklaces from yesterday had told us it was some of the best snorkeling on Maui. We park in a small lot near the beach, and walk down. Getting in the water is a little dicey, as the surf is heavy, but once we are in the area has lots of nice coral and fish. It is one of the few spots where we don’t see any turtles, however.

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Orange Band Surgeonfish

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Ornate Butterflyfish

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Spotted Trunkfish

 

We head back to the car, and drive back to Makena Landing to snorkel. The visibility is as poor as any we’ve had, but K still manages to find a small white mouthed moray eel, and of course we follow a turtle about for a short while. The beach where we saw turtles yesterday is empty, but it’s before noon, and the sun isn’t high enough to provide warming yet. We head back to the hotel to relax for a while before our lunch reservation at Mama’s Fish House on the other side of the island at the beginning of the road to Hana. The road to Hana is nearly 65 miles long with 600 curves and 54 bridges. Due to the undulating nature of the road, it takes over 3 hours to traverse it’s 65 miles! We have already decided not to do this, as I don’t want to spend 7 hours nervously worried that I might drive off a mountain road. I say 7 hours, as you must come back the same way.

Luckily Mama’s Fish House is only a mile or so onto the road to Hana, and it’s situated well before the road gets too hairy. We arrive a bit early, to a well-oiled machine. Valets take your vehicle when you drive up. This is a free service, and it’s in place only to keep the traffic moving in and out at a good pace. We check in, but since we are a bit early, our table isn’t quite ready. We walk down to the beach that the restaurant sits on, and we can see a large turtle in the shallows eating. We watch him for a while, then head in to be seated.

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The beach in front of Mama’s Fish House.

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Mama’s Fish House

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Tropical Flower arrangement at Mama’s Fish House

The restaurant has indoor and covered outdoor seating, and we are seated in the outside section. We have some excellent Mai tai’s and start our lunch with a trio of sashimi, ono, tuna, and onago. The onago is served with an onion jam. Our waiter tells us to eat it from left to right, as the onago is last, and is the sweetest, due to the onion jam. All three are fantastic.  Next are crispy mahi mahi tempura rolls, sort of a fish egg roll with tempura batter, also excellent. Next is the lunch special of papia (a local white fish) ceviche with lime juice, coconut, and mixed veggies, served in half a fresh coconut. Words cannot adequately describe how delicious this dish is, easily the best ceviche that I’ve ever eaten.

Next is an intermezzo of Mama’s salad which consists of mixed greens, nuts, strawberries, goat cheese, and hearts of palm. The final savory dish is beef tenderloin, sliced thinly, and tossed with an excellent sauce with tropical fruits, served in a grilled papaya half. We split two desserts, the Black Pearl, a chocolate mousse “pearl” with a lilikoi cream center, housed inside a sugar cookie scallop shell. It’s delicious, but both of us agree that the simple lilikoi crème brulee is far better, even though K generally disdains any crème brulee. Apart from serving the best Mai Tai’s we’ve had in Hawaii, this is by far the finest meal we will end up having on Hawaii.

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Black Pearl dessert

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Lilikoi creme brulee

After lunch, we see signs for the Haleakala Crater, and decide to check it out, spur of the moment. It’s Maui’s highest point at 10,000 feet above sea level. It’s a challenging road to drive with many switchbacks, and tight turns, and it takes us well over an hour and a half to reach the visitor center at 7000 feet. It’s raining, foggy, and very cold up here, especially as we are in t-shirts and shorts, and we use the facilities before asking the staff about the rest of the crater. The trip to the 10,000-foot mark, we’re told will take another 40 minutes or so, and it is supposedly clear on the top. Given how long it will take us to drive up, and back down the mountain, we opt to just head down from the visitor center.

Going down is much faster, and we head across the island to the South Kehei road to get back to the hotel. Though we’re not hungry, we realize we have not had any shaved ice yet, and we stop at a small shop on the South Kehei road to share a lilikoi/coconut shaved ice. We drive down to the beach and watch the sunset, sitting on the sand. It’s time to go, so we perform our annual toe dipping ritual to signify the end of the beach season. We head back to the hotel to get packed up and ready for our departure tomorrow. After packing everything, we have one bag with our clothing and other needs for the two days we’ll spend in San Francisco on the way back. Everything else is placed in the other bags, so that we only must worry about the one bag we’ll need.

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Sunset at the beach on South Kehei Road

We had reservations for Duo, the hotel’s Brazilian style steak house for dinner tonight, but since we loved Monkeypod so much, we change our plans to eat there again instead. K has corn chowder for an appetizer, and I have shrimp and mushroom pot stickers. The special is a 9 oz NY Strip steak, and as K is “fished out”, she orders that. I’ve been dreaming about how good the dish K had when we ate here earlier, and I order that, smoked rare Ahi tuna steak with Jalapeno mashed potatoes. It’s just as amazing as I remember. After several lilikoi mai tai’s, I ask the server if the bartender can make me a Sazerac, my favorite cocktail. He says yes, and they do, but it’s not very good. Not the worst one I’ve ever ben served, but it wasn’t going to crack the top ten, either. We call for the courtesy car, and are whisked back to the Four Seasons for our last night in Hawaii. We crash into bed, not eager to leave tomorrow, but all good things come to an end. I do have one last thing to accomplish in Hawaii, however, and that’s to get the tattoo that I made an appointment for earlier in the year.

Thursday 10/19/17.

We get up and check out of the hotel. We stow our bags with the hotel, and head down to Kehei for breakfast. It’s back to Fred’s for a fortifying pre-tattoo breakfast. After a nice filling meal, we drive down the mile or so to Mid Pacific Tattoo in Kehei. They also have 2 other shops in Lahaina, but I wanted to come to the Kehei shop, because it’s much closer, but more importantly, because I really want to get tattooed by Desmond Alexander as he is a master of Polynesian and Hawaiian tattoo designs. After a brief discussion of what I want, he disappears into the back of the shop. I’m not exactly sure what he’s up to, but after 30-40 minutes, he comes out with a drawing for the stencil.

I am getting a Honu, or sea turtle tattoo in the Polynesian/Hawaiian style. The drawing is awesome, incorporating the traditional Polynesian fish hook design and the Honu. The first stencil is too small, however, and he comes back a few minutes later with a larger version. He has me stand, and he places the stencil on my shin. He looks at it a bunch, mutters under his breath, and then wipes the stencil off. He then reapplies it, slightly differently than the first time. He asks Kaib, the other artist currently in the shop to look at the placement. Kaib asks if he wants his honest opinion, and Desmond says yes. Kaib take a Sharpie, and draws a mark on the top and bottom of the stencil that is about 1/3rd of an inch to the left of where Desmond had placed it. “I see the center line here” says Kaib, and Desmond agrees, wiping off the stencil a final time before reapplying it to everyone’s satisfaction.

I have several tattoos, and Desmond is the quietest artist I’ve ever dealt with before. He never said a word, apart from “move this way” or “stand up for a moment”. After tattooing the stencil lines, basically only the outline of the turtle and hook, Desmond uses a red Sharpie to draw in concentric lines. He then free hands repeating patterns within each line. It’s amazing how he’s capable of repeating the same geometric figures without any sort of guide or stencil. He takes about three nearly silent hours to finish. I’m happy when he’s done, of course, as that’s when the pain stops! I was once told that tattoos should be painful, permanent, and expensive, if all of those three aren’t present, quality cannot be assured.

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Last stencil, you can see the mark Kaib made on top

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Stencil tattooed, drawing lines for free hand work

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The completely healed piece, taken just a few days before posting this blog

 

After being wrapped up in Saran wrap to protect the tattoo, we head over to the shops at Wailea for lunch. We sit down at the bar of the burger place there, enjoy some burgers, beers, and Thursday night football at 2:30 in the afternoon. I could really get used to that. Our flight doesn’t leave until 10 PM, so we have a few hours to kill. We head back to the Four Seasons, where we can use the Hospitality suite, which has comfortable furniture, a TV, and men’s and women’s bathrooms, and shower rooms. After a while, it’s unfortunately time to drive to the airport, drop off the rental car, and get ready for our overnight flight to San Francisco. After passing through several layers of checks to ensure we are not taking any plants or animals off the islands we wait for our plane. When they call for First Class, we head up to the desk. The woman takes my ticket, looks at me and says “I see you’re in First Class. THERE ARE NO PILLOWS OR BLANKETS IN FIRST CLASS ON THIS FLIGHT!” I capitalize, as it was nearly screamed at me, as if it were my fault that these amenities were lacking. I don’t know, “I’m sorry we don’t have pillows or blankets tonight.”, or “Unfortunately, we don’t have pillows or blankets” would have been nicer, but obviously someone skipped out of customer service training at Virgin America. I mean why would anyone need pillows and blankets on an overnight flight anyway? We board and get seated for the six-hour flight to San Francisco.

 

Friday 10/20 and Saturday 10/21/17

Having flown from Tahiti to Boston in one day in 2011, we decide to wise up, and break up the flight on the way home, by stopping at our friend’s L & A’s house in San Francisco on the way back. Since we arrive so early, around 6:30 am, we Uber to L & A’s house in Noe Valley.  We stash our bags that we don’t need in L&A’s garage, as we don’t want to carry all of them up the 60+ stairs to their house.  We crash for a few hours, since it was tough sleeping on the plane without pillows or blankets, and then hang out with L & A, and their Portuguese Water Dog Pasteis. L makes us a wonderful dinner on Friday night, and on Saturday we attend a fund raiser at the YMCA in San Francisco where A sits on the board. Afterwards, we enjoy an excellent dinner with L & A, and some of their friends at a restaurant called The Morris. We get back to L & A’s quite late, and we have a very early wake up time tomorrow, as our flight to Boston leaves at 6 AM. I can’t get to sleep, and when we get up at 4 AM, I’ve barely slept a wink. We thank L & A for their hospitality and Uber to the airport. Thankfully there are pillows and blankets, so I can sleep for a while on the plane after breakfast and a Bloody Mary, and we arrive safe and sound in Boston. It was a wonderful trip, and while we may not rush back to Hawaii right away, I would certainly want to visit the islands again in the future.

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Golden Gate Bridge from Crissy Field

 

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Pasteis (right), with his friend

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Jack O Lantern I carved for L & A

karen with turtle

Taken on the Big Island K said I could use this picture of her and a friendly turtle! Aloha!

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The Travel Lion Goes to Hawaii Part 1 The Big Island

The Travel Lion Goes to Hawaii Part 1: The Big Island

 

Friday 10/6/17 9 PM

One of my favorite musicians, Paul Weller, former leader of classic mod band The Jam, the eclectic, and divisive band The Style Council, and a widely varied solo career was about to hit the stage. After many years eschewing his earlier work, he’s finally begun to soften, and he played three Style Council songs, two Jam songs, and three encores over two and three-quarter hours. It was one of the best times that I’ve seen him over the years, and after a short bus ride home, we got to bed about midnight. Pardon the crappy video, we were in the back. Here Paul plays the Jam classic A Town Called Malice

Saturday 10/7/17

This made the 4 AM alarm especially disturbing, however. One trip, I’m going to insist that we don’t leave at the ass crack of dawn. I tire of it. The only thing that keeps me going is knowing that since this is our 30th anniversary trip, and we booked through an agent, we’ll be flying first class throughout, and will be staying at two very nice places. I’m intrigued to see how the 1% live.

Honestly apart from marginally better food, served on actual plates with actual silverware, booze, slightly less condescending attitude from the stewardess, and the glares of coach passengers, first class isn’t anything special. The one true plus in first are the seats. They are large enough to be comfortable for almost anyone, and can fully recline without incurring the rage of the passenger behind you. We arrive in Seattle on the first leg, and since we have an hour layover, we decide to check out the flight club, which our first-class tickets buy us entry to.  Nice snacks, comfortable seating with loads of electric and USB outlets for charging any of your myriad devices. And a bar. With free booze. And a large no tipping sign. I could get used to this.

The next leg ends on the big island of Hawaii, at the Kona airport. After a short trip to the car rental counter, we’re in a Jeep Grand Cherokee, which I hate, but SUV’s were all they had. The resort where we are staying, Mauna Kea was built by Laurance S. Rockefeller. You know you’re rich when you spell Lawrence, Laurance. It opened first as a golf course in 1964, and as a resort in 1965. At that point, the highway which zips right by the property was only a dream, and the only road available meant a 3+ hour trip to the airport by car. Remember the big island really is big. It’s approximately the same size in square miles as Connecticut, and all the other Hawaiian Islands would fit on it combined. Now it’s a mere thirty-minute drive north, and we arrive.

The local time is about 4 PM, but to us it feels like 10 PM due to the time difference. We do the best thing you can do, which is trying to stay up as late as you can. We admire the beauty of our room, particularly the bathroom, with its huge Japanese soaking tub, double sinks, and especially the shower area, without curtains or walls at the foot of the tub, with a giant rain shower head.  We look abound the property a bit, and head to the Copper Bar, a restaurant at the resort and get a bite to eat. It’s serviceable, the pizza being pretty good, but we’re just faking consciousness by this point. We make it until about 9 PM and crash, setting our alarms for 7 AM so we can get up and get ready to be at the nearby Blue Hawaiian Helicopter tour company by 8:30 AM.

 

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Lower lobby of the Mauna Kea Resort

 

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Buddha Statue at the Mauna Kea Resort

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The ever present Plumeria flower

Sunday 10/8/17

There is a small coffee place that serves some food inside the hotel, and we get a couple egg burritos, some fruit, and coffee for breakfast. The burritos didn’t heat up enough and were stone cold in the center. I wish I’d gone back and had them reheated, but the line that grew behind me as I got my order had now grown to four of five people, and I didn’t want to deal with it. We ate what we could of the burritos and took our coffee with us for the ten-minute drive to the helicopter place. We were paired with a young Californian couple, and an older woman from Australia. They weigh everyone and assign seats based on that to evenly distribute the weight onboard. K and the Australian woman flank me in the back seat, as the couple sits up front with the pilot. After the obligatory safety checks and talks, we take off to the strains of the James Bond film theme. I cannot adequately describe with mere words the beauty of the island, the green expanses contrasting with the alien landscape of molten rock. Seeing the lava glow and spit at the Pu’u ‘O’o volcanic cone is something I won’t soon forget. The pilot remarks that it doesn’t always spew lava the way it’s doing today. It’s a two-hour tour, and for an hour, it was a wonderful experience. At the hour mark, however, I started to sweat, and salivate.  The movement, paired with the warmth of the closed in spaces was bringing on the nausea. I hate to vomit, and I knew if I could keep it together until we got back to ground that I’d be fine once I got into the fresh air. While I was trying that, I looked down to make sure the bag was nearby. For a while I thought it was going to work out. I felt awful, but I wasn’t in danger of losing my lunch. Just 20 more minutes, and I’ll be home free. But it was one last high angle turn into a gorge that did it. I leaned forward for the bag.

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Volcanic cone at Pu’u ‘O’o

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New land formed by the volcanic lava flowing towards the ocean

 

It was over quickly, and when the pilot checked on me to see if I was OK, I didn’t say what I thought of later, which was, “Well my breakfast sucked, so I wasn’t keen on keeping it anyway.”, instead I bleated a half croaked “yeah”, and went about double bagging said breakfast. During the worst part, the nice Australian woman was patting my knee and giving me concerned looks. K was bouncing around looking at everything, having the time of her life. I’m glad she loved it, but it’s likely my last time. We drive back to the resort and freshen up. Feeling human again, and now hungry, we head over to the country club restaurant for lunch. Tuna poke for K, and Opah fish tacos for me. Afterwards we do our first snorkeling of the trip, along the rock and coral on the side of the beach in front of our hotel. The first thing we notice is the visibility. Because there is so much sand here, the visibility on our entire trip to Hawaii is worse than what we consider poor visibility on Bonaire. It’s not insurmountable, but it’s a step down from what we’re used to. I love how there are fish we only see in the Pacific, different ones we only see in the Caribbean, and the few types that seem ubiquitous to all oceans.

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A pair of Moorish Idols

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Ornate Butterfly Fish

Our friends in San Francisco, L & A, have put us in touch with friends of theirs that live on the Big Island. We meet J & B at the Lava Lava Club, a restaurant at the resort where they live, Waikoloa. The restaurant is cool, and we have some great apps to share for dinner, poke, ribs, shrimp, and fries that come in a paper bag to which you add toppings and shake them up. We talk about various parts of the island with J & B, who are just lovely people. K & I are stunned as one of the most gorgeous sunsets we have ever seen is splayed out before us. J & B are nonplussed, but then again, this is their everyday backdrop.  We bid them adieu, and head back to the Mauna Kea. We walk down past the main restaurant to an area where they have a light shining into the water. The light attracts phytoplankton, which attracts small fish, both of which attract manta rays. There are two types of manta rays. These are not the type we saw in the South Pacific, M Birostris, but are the more coastal species, M. Alfredi.

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Sunset at Lava Lava Club

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Manta Rays from the shore at The Mauna Kea resort

Video below of the Manta Rays from the on land viewing platform

This species is smaller with the maximum size being up to 18 feet vs 25 feet for the deeper water M. Birostris. Both have distinct black and white color patterns, and the ones that swim around here, are especially small, only 6- 8 feet or so across. At various times up to four mantas swim in and out of the light, gracefully scooping up food into their mouths. These graceful, beautiful giants are completely harmless to humans, and we can’t wait for our night snorkel tour to swim with them tomorrow. Happy and exhausted, we head off to sleep.

Monday 10/9/17

We head over to Waikoloa Village to a place J & B recommended called Island Lava Java. It’s a funky little joint, obviously popular with the locals, that serves breakfast and lunch. It’s so nice to see linguica on a breakfast menu. The spicy Portuguese sausage of my youth was delicious, but the concept of eggs “over easy” was lost on the solid yolks that arrived. Ah well, ces’t la vie, and mahalo! We stop at a local supermarket to check out any interesting local specialties, and to pick up some stuff for our room. Afterwards we head over to a beach that our helicopter pilot Devin told us about. It has a Hawaiian name, Waialea, but the locals dubbed it Beach 69, because the road that leads to it is near the 69-mile marker on Route 19, and it is very close to our hotel.

After paying our $5 parking fee, we head down to a small, but heavily shaded beach, with large rock outcroppings close to shore, which generally indicate places to find sea life. Fish and other creatures feel, and are, vulnerable on large swaths of sand, so they avoid them. Only slender, fast, light-colored fish are seen over sand, as they’ve adapted to be harder to see there. The best way to see fish and other creatures while snorkeling is to go where they live.  The amount of fish here is impressive, with some large schools of yellow tang, and many other varieties. There are also some impressive corals. If the visibility were the same as Bonaire, I wouldn’t ever come out of the water, but it’s not and we leave both entranced by what we’ve seen, but lament what we could have seen had the water been clearer.

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School of Yellow Tang

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Red Pencil sea Urchin. These are everywhere!

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Peacock Grouper

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Orange Spine Unicorn Fish

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Whitemouth Moray

We decide to stop back by the Lava Lava Club for lunch, both because we honestly enjoyed the food very much the day before, and we wanted to walk down the beach where J & B told us we’d be able to see turtles. K gets an excellent cheeseburger, and I get a combo cheeseburger of linguica and hamburger. We’ve been trying the local beer, and I have a Maui Brewing Coconut Porter that is very good. A lot of people drink Maui Bikini Blonde, a traditional American style lager, but K and I prefer the Kona Brewing Co Big Wave Golden Ale, which becomes our default beer.

After lunch we walk along the beach that the Lava Lava Club sits on, to look for turtles. We’re walking along, peering into the water for turtles, when we come upon what I think is a dead turtle on the sand. Having always believed that sea turtles only emerge from the sea onto a beach to lay eggs or wash up dead, I was surprised when it blinked. We give it a large berth, and continue down the beach. After walking as far as we could with the tide conditions we head back. At this point we notice that a woman who we saw sitting on the beach, wasn’t staring off into space as we first thought as we passed behind her. She was sitting on the sand watching two turtles sunning on the beach. We’d completely missed them the first time since we were looking in the water for the turtles! It seems that Green sea turtles will haul out on beaches to sun in only a few places on Earth, including the Galapagos, Hawaii, and parts of Australia.  We drive back to the hotel to relax a bit before our big activity of the day, our night snorkel with Manta Rays!

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Green Sea Turtle that we thought was dead!

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More turtles on the beach

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Final turtle. That’s what she was looking at!

There are several ways to snorkel with Mantas on the Big Island. The most common way is to go near the airport, where apparently dozens of boats dump hundreds of people in the water with little instruction while a multitude of lights bring the Manta’s prey. We went with the Manta Ray Advocates who previously worked at the airport, but have since decamped to the Mauna Kea Resort. A much more low-key affair, only six people go out each trip. We walk along the beach and into waist deep water where we put on our fins and masks. It’s a short swim to the light, and we line up about 10 feet from the wall looking down at the area it illuminated. At first nothing, then, out of the darkness, beautiful shapes emerge, swooping and diving gracefully below us. We watch as they swoop through the lighted area where the plankton are gathering, eating them by filtering them from the water. There are two of them and the feeling is pure exhilaration. To see these gorgeous creatures, in their world, so close is magical, partially spoiled only by some of the inexperienced snorkelers who ignored the instructions to keep your arms close by. Flailing about only scares the animals, and bothers your fellow snorkeler, stop it! After dropping off our gear, we head for a quick bite at the bar at the Copper Bar. We have a much better meal of warm olives, spicy Asian green beans, and Margarita flatbread. With warm memories of Manta wings beneath us we drift off to sleep.

The short video below gives just a taste of how magical it was.

 

Tuesday 10/10/17

We grab toasted bagels with cream cheese, fruit and coffee from the coffee shop, and head over to the Mauna Lani Resort where the boat the we have a snorkeling trip booked with, is docked. After a bit of confusion as to how to get in to the resort, we arrive and get on the boat with Captain Don, and mates Luke and Joey. There are nine total snorkelers on the trip, and we take off to a snorkel area known as Secrets. This is a great reef system, with nice live coral, and reefs that are deep as 30 feet, and as shallow as 10. We are the second and third people in the water, and we swim away from the boat, heading towards the reef. Less than 30 feet from the boat, on the edge of the reef, we see our first turtle.

Unlike the adolescent turtles we see in Bonaire, the turtles here are mostly fully grown, and have a carefree, unafraid nature that is remarkable. In Bonaire we see a lot of turtles swimming away, here they are just as likely to turn towards you to look at you.  The guys give us free rein to snorkel the large general area in front of the boat, and we try to go over as much of it as we can. Among all the many species of fish, we also see brown and spotted moray eels, puffer fish, and probably 5-6 other turtles, most with shells that would measure 2 ½ to 3 feet from front to back.

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Green Sea Turtle at Secrets

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Another Secrets Green Sea Turtle

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Close up of Red Pencil Sea Urchin

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Long-Nosed Butterflyfish

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Moorish Idol

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Green Sea Turtle

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I could post a hundred awesome turtle pictures!

We head back to the resort, and K and I snorkel the beach out front.  There is an abundance of coral here in the slightly deeper water, and we see some phenomenal stuff, including a brown moray out swimming free, a Crown of Thorns starfish, and a small Spotted Eagle Ray, foraging in the sandy parts between coral heads. We head in, rinse off in the outside shower, and towel off enough to hit the restaurant for lunch. K has a BLT and I have striped marlin fish tacos. It’s back to the Mauna Kea to shower and drive up to Hawi, which J & B said had cute shops. In the first shop we go into, I find a vintage Hawaiian shirt that is made for me, black and white with turtles, and it’s my size! We stop and get a coco frais, a green coconut, that they hack with a machete to allow you to stick a straw in and drink the coconut water. When that’s done, they hack it in half and you can scoop out the cold coconut, that’s almost gelatinous in texture. We’ve loved these since we went to Tahiti.

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Guineafowl or Spotted Puffer

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Crown of Thorns Starfish, about the size of a dinner plate

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Whitemouth Moray

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Spotted Eagle Ray

We stop at a nice shop on the way back, and K gets a beautiful necklace as an early birthday present. We’re not hungry at all after our late lunch, so we go to the beach bar to have some drinks and nibble on their great garlic pretzels, watch the sunset, then walk down and watch the manta rays for a bit, and head back to the room. We have some snacks from the plane that we eat and watch a little TV before heading off to sleep.

 

Wednesday 10/11/17

This morning’s journey takes us south, past the airport to the National Park at Pu’uhonua o Honaunau, also known as the Place of Refuge. Used by native Hawaiians up through the early 19th century as a site where one who had broken an ancient law, known as a kapu could escape certain death by fleeing to this sacred place, and having a priest absolve them of their sin. They would then be allowed to go free. The site has a volcanic rock wall that is 1000 feet long, 10 feet high, and 17 feet wide. It is entirely made by stone laid on stone without any mortar. This was to protect the Pu’uhonua from attack. The grounds abutting the site once was the home to several generations of powerful chiefs. The area has many tiki sculptures and totem poles, and is a fascinating look back into Hawaiian history.

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A small part of the lava rock wall. The path leading to the gate is wide enough for a golf cart

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Some of the many Tiki sculptures

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Me, showing my affinity for the profane over the sacred.

We grab our gear, and leave our car in the parking lot of the National Park to go to the nearby Honaunau Bay for what we’ve been told is great snorkeling. Once we navigate entry, we see why there are so many people here. The coral is in great shape, right off shore, and there is an abundance of fish to see as we swim around. Towards the end of the snorkel we run into two smaller turtles, and like those we saw at Secrets, these are super chill and one surfaces right next to me to get air without a care in the world. I am used to moving my arm forward to get the GoPro, on the end of a stick, closer to what I’m filming. With these turtles, I find myself moving the camera closer to me to ensure it doesn’t hit them.  We stop back at the car to grab some clean dry clothes, and use the public bathrooms to our benefit to change out of our suits. We do a bit of shopping at the gift shop, and head out to grab some lunch.

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Goatfish

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Ornate Butterflyfish

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I’ll never get over how close you can get.

We passed through a small area of businesses on our way to the Place of Refuge, so we decided to stop at a place that looked interesting called Rebel Kitchen. It became obvious they were having a problem with their credit card machine, so we walked about a quarter mile up the road to a laundromat to use the closest ATM. With plenty of cash, we head back to order. K gets an amazing Carnitas salad. A healthy portion of pork over an excellent green salad. I had a very good steak and cheese sandwich on fantastic bread. Add in some local IPA, awesome house made lemonade, and two cookies we split, a Hawaiian Ginger, and a Mac Nut and Lilikoi, and it was a fabulous meal. We learned two things with that last cookie. The locals never use the word macadamia, it’s always mac nut, and lilikoi, or yellow passion fruit, is amazing!

We decide to spend the rest of the day relaxing around the pool, taking advantage of the spritzing they do, where they spritz you in the face with mango scented water. It’s very refreshing, and so not us. They also come around with cold damp face cloths, which even when you’re in the shade, are quite nice. Afterwards, we walk down to beach, pull up two chairs and watch a rather pedestrian sunset, our first unspectacular sunset since we arrived. Off to watch the mantas from the walk again before deciding to just go to the Copper Bar again for dinner. It’s a hike in the car to get to any off-resort restaurants, and after 2 Polynesian Daiquiris at the pool, I probably shouldn’t be driving anyway! We get a fine prosciutto and arugula flat bread, those delicious olives, and a rather sad Caprese salad. Then it’s off to bed to get ready for our last snorkeling trip on the big island tomorrow.

 

 

Thursday 10/12/17

Though I won’t get breakfast burritos any more, the coffee shop can handle bagels and cream cheese, and the Kona ice coffee is outstanding, so we grab some of that and some fruit, and wait for the bus to pick us up for our snorkeling tour with Ocean Adventures. They’re running late, but eventually we are on the move with 24 other eager snorkelers. We drive north and depart on the Ayala, a nice catamaran. On the way out, the captain takes a detour from the route he’s planning, as boats are reporting seeing Spinner dolphins nearby. We soon spy two boats ahead of us, and in the water between, the telltale breaks of dolphins breaking the water’s surface nearby.

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Spinner dolphin in front of our boat

We follow along with several dolphins riding our boat’s wake in the front, while others, near the other boats show how they got their name, as they leap out of the water, spinning wildly in the air. It’s spectacular. After watching for a bit, we turn south and head to where we’ll be snorkeling today. As we pull up to the mooring, K and I realize that this is Secrets, where we snorkeled Tuesday, just a bit more north of where we moored with the other boat. No worries, we know that it’s a nice spot, and we should see some cool stuff, including turtles.

Though the visibility isn’t as good as our trip here on Tuesday, it’s still not too bad, and we see all the usual suspects. We finally find a turtle and we follow him around as he eats on the bottom for a while, and are amazed again as he surfaces for air right next to us, oblivious to us. He swims around us at the surface coming so close to K at one point that I thought he was going to kiss her mask! After he descends, K says she’s getting tired and we start to head back to the boat. Suddenly, I spy a Spotted Eagle Ray on the bottom feeding in a sandy spot. As these are one of K’s favorites, we stop and watch for a while. K says she’s caught her wind, and we stay out for a bit longer. We start to head back, and see a different Spotted Eagle Ray close to the boat. K is surprised as I free dive down about 20-25 feet to try to get a better shot.  Finally, we get back on the boat. They’re serving a deli sandwich lunch, and we eat, have a few beers, and enjoy the boat ride back to dock.

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Moorish Idols

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Raccoon Butterflyfish and Yellow Tang

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Guineafowl or Spotted Puffer

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Male Saddle Wrasse

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Whitemouth Moray

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Hawaiian Whitespot Toby

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Whitespotted or Stripebelly Puffer

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Stocky Hawkfish

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Turtle breathing

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More beautiful turtle

 

After the van drops us off, K has a spa appointment, so I do a solo snorkel in front of the hotel, then go back to the room to watch Thursday Night Football at two in the afternoon! After K returns, we freshen up and head to the waterfront to watch the sunset. We have an 8 o’clock reservation for dinner at the main restaurant at the resort, appropriately called, Manta.

This is by far the best meal we’ve had at the resort. We each opt for the three-course tasting menu. K has a tomato salad, and I have ribs for our first course. We both order the amazing strip steak, cooked perfectly medium rare, and we finish with Kona coffee mud pie for me, and Kona coffee ice cream for K. Afterwards we go down to the manta light, and watch them frolic one last time. The weather reports don’t look good for Maui right now, so we’ll enjoy our last night’s sleep on the Big Island, and won’t worry about what we can’t control.

Friday 10/13/17

The plan this morning is to have a sit down nice breakfast at Manta, then have one last snorkel in front of the hotel before we leave, but the pounding rain is making the snorkel part less likely. We head down for breakfast, and K has an omelet, and I have some awesome house made corned beef hash with eggs, incredible coffee and lilikoi juice. It’s still pouring when we leave breakfast, so we forgo the snorkel and head back to the room to pack up for Maui. All the locals and business people that we have encountered during the week have told us that we are lucky to be leaving Friday, as Saturday is the Iron Man competition, and the highway to the airport is closed. This would mean we’d need to go the old, long route of 3+ hours, rather than the 30 minutes it takes us to get there. Not one of those locals had a single positive thing to say about the Iron Man. They felt that the participants weren’t nice, were messy, and didn’t positively impact the island businesses. They didn’t shop at them, and prevented others from reaching them during all the road closures. We were happy not to have had to deal with that mess, and were glad to board our inter-island flight to Maui.

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Hula statue at the Kona airport

This concludes part one of the Travel Lion goes to Hawaii. Part two will be posted soon!

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Bonaire Under Water 10/2016

Due to a confluence of issues, from my losing many photos and videos from this trip,  the purchase of a new computer, and the subsequent loss of the photo editing software I had been used to using, to my letting my frustration with these issues get to me, prevented me from writing the second half of my blog from last years trip. A friend of mine castigated me recently for not posting it and, as she may be one of only a handful who read every word, I took it to heart that while I wasn’t going to write my usual style of blog, I could at least post some of that week’s pictures (the new editing software works great), and make some sarcastic comments along the way. Let’s be honest, the pictures are why most of you are here, anyway.

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I think this is a school of mackerel scad.

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Baby Queen Angel at the Salt Pier

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Green Turtle on Klein Bonaire

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Green Moray Eel at Wakaya II (a dive/snorkel site in the Washington Slagbaai National Park)

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Mr. Eel again

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Close up of the face of a Peacock Flounder at the Divi Flamingo

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French Angelfish, probably at the Divi Flamingo

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Barracuda, not sure where we saw this bad boy

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A beauty, but it pains me when I see a Lionfish. This one was in Lac Bay. Lionfish are an invasive species, and are decimating reef fish populations in much of the Caribbean. Bonaire has taken a strong, eat them to beat them attitude, and they have far less of a problem than other places, especially the coast of Florida.

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Sand Diver at the Divi Flamingo

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A Forest of Christmas Tree Worms, Divi Flamingo

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Spotted Trunkfish at Klein Bonaire

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Spotted Moray eel at the Divi Flamingo

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Smooth Trunkfish at the Divi Flamingo

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Greater Soapfish at Tori’s Reef. It’s rare to see these during the day, mostly they are nocturnal

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Batwing Coral Crab at the Divi Flamingo

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Blackbar Soldeirfish at The Divi Flamingo

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Porcupine fish, or more commonly a puffer at Lac Bay

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Green Turtle at Klein Bonaire

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Another shot of the puffer free swimming at Lac Bay. 

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Grey Snapper? at The Divi Flamingo

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Tarpon at the Divi Flamingo

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Peacock Flounder at the Divi Flamingo

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Schoolmaster and Yellow Grunts at Tori’s Reef

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Stoplight Parrotfish at The Divi Flamingo

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Slender Filefish at Klein Bonaire

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Chain Moray Eel at The Divi Flamingo

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Reef Octopus with dinner at the Divi Flamingo

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Sharptail Eel at the Divi Flamingo

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Planehead Filefish? at the Divi Flamingo

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Spotfin Butterflyfish at the Divi Flamingo

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School of Palometas at Tori’s Reef

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Juvenile Cocoa Damselfish at the Divi Flamingo

DCIM100GOPROG1153390.    Juvenile Sargeant Majors at the Divi Flamingo. These guys are less than an inch long.

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Scrawled Filefish at Divi Flamingo

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Black Durgeon  (above) and Black Margate (below) At Wayaka II

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Male Hairy Blenny at the Divi Flamingo

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School of Goatfish at the Divi Flamingo

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Reef octopus at the Divi Flamingo

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Spanish Hogfish at the Divi Flamingo

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Puddingwife, note the fins of a Scorpionfish right below, at the Divi Flamingo

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Planehead Filfish? at the Divi Flamingo

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This one is stumping me, even though I know it. My book is not being any help.  

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Your humble author enjoying a great Bonairian view. I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief photo journey of the beautiful waters off the gorgeous island nation of Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles
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Bonaire 2016 Week 1

The Travel Lion Spends Two Weeks In Bonaire: Week 1

 

It’s been over a week since we’ve gotten back, and normally by now, I’d have written about half of the first week’s blog and would have combed through and readied 30-50 pictures for possible insertion into it. But my plans had a wrench thrown into them last Sunday evening, the night before Halloween. I accidentally deleted the entire first week of videos and pictures. 45G of great pictures and video of all the things we’d seen in our first week. Freaking out gave way to panic, gave way to acceptance, then resolution that in this day and age, something must be able to be done to recover the files. After using a free, highly recommended program called Recuva, I was able to recover 40 % of my pictures, and 60% of my videos, though there may yet still be an issue with those. There were three things I desperately wanted pictures of from that first week, and luckily, I did recover nice images of all three. Any videos will need to wait on my impending computer upgrade, as my current machine can’t handle the power needed for video editing.

 

Saturday 10/15/16

So with that over with there was an uneventful trip from Boston to Atlanta, an overnight stay there, and another 4 hour flight, before we’re touching down on our favorite island, Bonaire. Normally we don’t pick up our rental car until Sunday, but we decide to get it today, and head off to the Van De Tweel grocery store for supplies for the week. Our room at the Divi Flamingo includes a kitchen, so we usually do breakfasts, lunches, and the occasional dinner in.

 

We get lucky and score some of our favorite Wine Gums, the house brand, and plenty of the Wilhemina Peppermints for us and for gifts. We stock up on fruit juices to enjoy with our duty free rum, and a case of Amstel Bright. The Dutch love their luncheon meat, and the deli area is well stocked with hams, salamis, and chorizos. A few other staples, and, of course, some weird Dutch Lays chips, and we head back to home base. Parking is tighter since the Divi has blocked off the Casino lot for use only when the casino is open, and we have to park on the street, far from the entrance. A nice woman tells us to cut through the employee entrance, which saves us some precious steps, sweating while hauling groceries and beer in the Bonarian heat.

 

After unpacking the groceries, we get ready to get into the water, and do what we love to do here, which is snorkel, looking for as much diversity of sea life as possible. Almost every day, we snorkel the home reef in front of the Divi, known as Calabas reef. We’ll drift over the beginnings of the deeper reef that the divers visit, about 25-30 feet (7-9 m)of water, but most of our time is spent in depths of 8 feet (2.5 m)or less, sometimes as shallow as 2 feet (0.6 m). We mainly patrol an 800-1000 foot (250-300 m) or so area, stretching from just past the dive dock on the North side of the Divi property, to the dock where the Woodwind docks to pick up and let off passengers, just past the South side of the property. In the center, there is a large concrete slab, built on rocks. The slab provides the sun worshippers, or bronzers, as we were calling them, a place to have a beach chair and sit, lounge, and tan. The rocks that support it also supports a huge variety of fish and other sea life.

 

On our first pass of the end of the pier, and rocks, we spy a nice 5 foot (1.5m) tarpon cruise past us on our right. I turn on the camera, but expect to only get footage of him as he swims away. He fools us both, however, as he circles back, and passes us on our left.  I have the GoPro set to take video, and also pull a still frame every 5 seconds. This hopefully will mean less of the onerous task of finding still frames on the videos that are good, and pulling them from the video. This picture is the first of the three pictures that were most important to me.

Tarpon at the Divi Flamingo

Tarpon at the Divi Flamingo

Bar Jack

Bar Jack

Porcupine fish or Puffer

Porcupine fish or Puffer

We see the usual assortment of parrot fish, tangs, French Angelfish, Scrawled File Fish, Smooth Trunkfish, Honeycomb Cowfish, and the multitude of small colorful fish that dart among the small rocks and broken up coral that forms most of the bottom. It is this amazing variety of life that one sees in such shallow water that always brings us back to Bonaire. That, coupled with the fact that there are many other places besides this that one can drive, pull over, get in the water and see other phenomenal sights and sea creatures.  We see an octopus in the same den we’ve seen them before. Hopefully we’ll catch him out hunting one day.

Juvenile French Angelfish

Juvenile French Angelfish

Spotted File Fish @ the Divi

Spotted File Fish @ the Divi

The first snorkel is deemed a success, especially with the tarpon being so close, and we have a couple Brights while we ready to go out to dinner. Without reservations for the night, we wander into town, and stop at La Guernica, a tapas place that we’ve eaten at, and enjoyed before. The food tonight, however isn’t nearly as good as on previous trips, and we decide to drop this place from our rotation.  It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t the same quality or experience we’d had on two previous visits. This disappointment is allayed by a trip to Gio’s, the wonderful gelato shop.

 

Sunday 10/16/17

 

After breakfast we head out to do the home reef again, this time venturing a bit further south to the dock of Sebastian’s restaurant, where sometimes the remnants of tonight’s fish special have been tossed for the fish to devour. No such luck today, but we do see all of our usual friends. It seems we’re seeing more Scrawled File Fishes, and less Spotted Files, as well as seeing far more Porcupine Fish, or puffers as we like to call them.

Puffer and Smooth Trunkfish

Puffer and Smooth Trunkfish

 

After lunch, we hit the home reef again. When we get out to where we know the octopus lives, we find him in his den. It is quite normal for me to put the camera, which is mounted at a 90 degree angle on the end of a four foot stick, close to the entrance of the den, in order to get nice pictures of the tentacles and eye. In this case, however, the octopus didn’t just sit there, or retreat into his den, as they’ve always done before. Two tentacles shot out, grabbed my GoPro, and pulled it in as far as it would go, yanking my arm forward, where the cord was attached at the wrist. I pulled back with that hand, getting very little back, and getting yanked by my arm once more. In order to get some purchase, I placed one foot on each of the rocks that surrounded his den, grabbed the stick with both hands, and firmly pulled. It was a tug of war, but finally I felt him let go, and the camera came free. Luckily he didn’t mange to open the waterproof case of the camera, which would have ruined it. The camera, which was wrenched tight at that 90 degree angle, now was 180 degrees straight away from the stick. Wow, it was amazing to see just how much power that small animal could generate.

Before the grabbing.

Before the grabbing.

 

Dinner tonight was at Mezze, a new Middle Eastern restaurant that occupies the old home of the awful, and not at all missed Four Seasons restaurant. This new mezze (small plates) restaurant also has entrees. We opt for a bunch of mezze including excellent meaty hummus, sajuk sausage, tabouli, stuffed grape leaves, and a few other items.. Everything except one item is phenomenal, including the date and chocolate dessert. We decide we’ll come back next week, and try some entrees as well.

 

Monday 10/17/16

 

It’s K’s birthday today, and so I give her the reins as to how we’re going to spend our day.  The first order of duty is to get K some new slip on fins. The pair she owns has very stiff hard plastic fins, and she’s looking for something more flexible. When you enter the water directly from the shore in Bonaire, you need a hard soled dive boot, and fins that a boot will fit into and snap around the back of your heel. When we snorkel the home reef, or on the Woodwind, K prefers a fin that you wear directly on your foot, with no shoe needed. We find her a nice light purple pair.

 

That mission accomplished we set out along the long drive along the northern shore past such dive sites as 1000 Steps and Karpata. We stop and look at 1000 Steps, but the sea is a bit rough, and we decide to pass on snorkeling it. It’s K’s favorite type of snorkeling, being 25 feet (7.5 m) or more over the bottom peering down. I much prefer water that’s less than 15 feet (4.5 m) deep, so I can see things better, and be able to film them.  We do see a small turtle in the shallows swimming back and forth. We drive along until we get to Karpata. K has a sheet from a magazine that says that this is a great snorkel site, but she recognizes it as we arrive, and all she can remember was rolling around on that flat rock, trying to put on her fins. Nope, we’ll just look here as well. We reach the road’s end after Karpata, and normally, we would take the right towards Rincon. Today, instead, for the first time we go left to the Goto driving trail. This is a nice road that continues along the coastline towards the oil refinery, then right into the mountains, and around Goto Lake, where hundreds of flamingos reside, dotting the landscape like tufts of pink cotton. We continue on through the town of Rincon, and drive out near the airport to Windsock for our first snorkel. The visibility is sorely lacking at much of Windsock, but the area to the right of the pier is better, so we spend some time there. Mostly we snorkel over the deep reef, watching a tarpon cruise back and forth below us.

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1000 Steps from the top of the stairs

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Flamingo on the shore of Lake Goto

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Lake Goto with flamingos

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The driving trail

 

We head back to the Divi, have lunch, and do another snorkel of the home reef. Notable sightings include a Webb Burr Fish and a Lionfish under the Divi dive dock. Lionfish are an invasive species, and Bonaire is on the forefront of both trying to eradicate them, and spreading the word of how good they taste. Eat them to beat them!  We get separated and K doesn’t get to see the beautiful Gold Spot Eel that I do. Their head and body look like a Sharptail Eel, but they have these beautiful gold spots. We find an octopus sort of out of his den, sucking a snail out of it’s shell. Anyway, we finish up in the water, get ready for dinner, and head over to Sebastian’s for K’s birthday dinner. The food is excellent as it was last year, but last year they didn’t know how to make a drink that was on the menu, this year, they ran out of limes, so I could only have one caipirinha. I am somehow alcoholically thwarted each time I eat at this place! Almost every night we take a walk in the dark around the dive dock. It’s well lit, and you can see the needlefish swim along the surface. Tonight, however was really special, as a small Eagle Ray came up from the depths, broke the surface and swam back down. We never saw it again, but we made sure we did that walk every night after that!

Octopus eating a snail

Octopus eating a snail

Webb Burr Fish

Webb Burr Fish

Gold Spotted Eel

Gold Spotted Eel

Puffer

Puffer

Tuesday 10/18/16

 

K starts to feel like she has a cold coming on. She does, and it persists throughout both weeks. The less said of it, the better. Today is our first trip on the Woodwind, and we are both very excited. Always a highlight of every trip I’ve taken to Bonaire, the Woodwind is a catamaran sailing ship that is owned and operated by Dee, an amazing woman who’s passion for her work is evident. We will be doing a three stop snorkel trip, and because two of Dee’s crew have called in with the flu this morning, it’s up to her, Captain Ciggy, and Alejandro, the professional underwater photographer, to keep an eye on the 18 people or so that are on the trip today. Luckily Dee knows us, and she knows she doesn’t have to worry about us. The Dutch girl next to me (the family doesn’t speak any English), has a bull’s-eye rash on her leg. I hope they’re going to have that looked at.

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The Woodwind at the dock, ready to board!

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The Woodwind’s sails

The first stop on the trip is on the southern end of the island where the reef is deeper. It’s nice to see how all the coral and sponges are in such better shape here, than on the mainland. K and I spot a turtle in the depths, we follow for a while, we’re in the back, and no one else saw it but us.  The second stop is my favorite, as it’s over a very shallow reef, 4-8 feet (1.5-3 m) deep, and you can really see the coral and sponges up close and personal. You do have to be careful to not kick anything with your fins, but if you just lie flat, you never have an issue with that. Dee swims towards some squid, so that they scoot right under us as they evade her.  We see another turtle here, but he’s in the real shallows, where you’d certainly damage something if you swam into them.

Squid at Klein Bonaire

Squid at Klein Bonaire

Butterfly fish

Spotfin Butterfly fish

At the third stop, I’m parallel with Dee when I look down and see a yellow glob on a coral. I think Frogfish at first, but as I’ve only seen them in aquariums and photos, I’m not 100% sure. Dee free dives down to it, and makes circles in the water to indicate where to look. When she gets to the surface she tells us that it is, indeed a Frogfish. Well he’s about 20 feet (6 m) down, and while I’ve free dove that deep with the right type of fins, I’ve not been able to go that deep with my regular ones. I wasn’t planning to, but as I see Alejandro snapping off shots, I know I’ll need to buy his pictures for the Frogfish picture alone. He takes great photos of both the sea life, and the people on the tour, out of the water and in. I’d prefer more sea life, less snorkelers, but many people really want pictures of themselves. We also see some more turtles in both the deeps and the shallows.

 

Yellow Frogfish at Klein Bonaire Photo by Aljandro

Yellow Frogfish at Klein Bonaire Photo by Aljandro Guttierrez  www.athoyo.com

Green Turtle off Klein Bonaire

Green Turtle off Klein Bonaire

Green Turtle off Klein Bonaire

Green Turtle off Klein Bonaire

We also find a fully grown female Hawksbill turtle who is just resting on the bottom. Most of the turtles we see in Bonaire are adolescent and are not born there, but come from other places in the Caribbean and Atlantic. This adult female was born here, and has come to lay her eggs. The nesting season ends in January, but it’s winding down already. Alejandro also gets a nice shot of her, so I don’t have to rely on my poorer shot.  We have the traditional Chinese food and dessert that Dee serves for the trip back from Klein Bonaire, and we’re happy, another perfect trip on the Woodwind.  We head back, go to the store to get a few more things we’ve decided we need, and relax on the porch of the room, drinking Brights, watching the sunset, and having dinner in.

Adult female Hawksbill Klein Bonaire photo by Alejandro

Adult female Hawksbill Klein Bonaire photo by Alejandro Guttierrez  www.athoyo.com

Wednesday 10/19/16

 

A vicious overnight thunderstorm rips through, causing one of the two sets of stairs on the dive dock to break away from the dock itself. There is also a wind reversal which brings in high winds aloft, high surf, and rain. The seas were far too rough to snorkel comfortably, and the sediments on the bottom would be so stirred up that the visibility would be bad anyway. We decide to drive around the island, taking in the nice road that leads south towards Lac Cai, back through the central road, and out of town towards Rincon on the roads we normally travel back from Rincon on. We are going this way, as the Bonaire Cultural Center in Rincon is on this side of the road. We decide that since we’ve always wanted to stop there, the weather isn’t conducive to snorkeling, and we have the time, to check it out.

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The stairs have come loose from the dive dock!

 

The center is housed in the second oldest building on Bonaire. It contains several excellent and informative exhibits about the indigenous people, the slave trade, the local land animals, bats, and birds, and the tools that the Bonarian people would use for their basic living needs. I bought a CD of traditional Bonarian music, and we drove over to Windsock near the airport, as the Cactus Blue food truck was there, and they were advertising that they had Lion Fish sandwiches. We stopped and shared a Lion Fish sandwich, and a Kite Burger, fending off two aggressive iguanas, who obviously get fed here a lot. This behavior is exactly why I’m not in favor of feeding wild animals. They get aggressive towards people who do not feed them. Lunch was excellent, even with our reptilian interlopers.

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Cactus fence outside the Bonaire Cultural Cenetr

 

 

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One of the many exhibits at the Bonaire Cultural Center

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Cactus Blue Food Truck

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Donkeys on the road to Lac Cai

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Iguanas want your lion fish burger!

We headed back home to hang out at the pool until dinner. We call Pasa Bon Pizza for a pizza, the owner hails from New York and makes an excellent pie, but they weren’t picking up the phone, so either they were closed when they were supposed to be open (island time), or they were slammed and stopped answering their phone. In either case, it was their loss, and we had dinner in.

 

Thursday 10/20/16

 

This morning after breakfast we head out to snorkel at the Eden Beach Resort. One of the best things about Bonaire is that since the marine environment is a national park system, the resorts can’t stop you from entering the water and snorkeling in front of their property. You can’t use their docks or beach chairs, but they can’t keep you out of the water. We love Eden Beach, as this is where, in previous years, we’ve found some Yellow Headed Jawfish living in the shallows. We start swimming, however, and it’s pretty obvious fairly quickly that either Hurricane Matthew, which skirted by a week before our arrival, or the previous night’s storms had driven a huge amount of loose coral over what was once a mainly sandy bottom with some small rocks and broken coral. We searched for a while in the area the Jawfish had once been, but to no avail. We swam down towards the resort, where they have rock piles that they’ve been trying to grow coral on. It’s a success for all the fish that swim about them, but there’s far less coral on them now than there was even two years ago. We do spy a large Spotted Drum Fish in the rocks.

Spotted Drum Fish

Spotted Drum Fish

French Angelfish Tango

French Angelfish Tango

We continue to snorkel back towards where we went in, and I noticed that K wasn’t near me, I looked back and found her floating over something, with her arms crossed, a sure sign she’s found something cool. She looks up and sees me coming towards her,  and starts to gesture for me to come closer. As I approach, she points down, and I see something I’d never thought I’d see in 8 feet (2.5m) of water, a Queen Angelfish. These magnificent fish, are K’s favorite, and we generally see them in 25-30 feet (7.5-9m) of water, where you can’t photograph them unless you’re diving.  Here was a full grown specimen, close to a foot (0.3m) long, just swimming around and underneath a rock ledge. This picture is the second of the three that I really wanted to recover. The two videos I shot of this fish are also really important to me. I still don’t know yet if I recovered those or not. As we were leaving the water at Eden Beach, two Honeycomb Cowfish, usually very shy, were staying quite close to us, with one showing off his blue hue, and the other the dark greenish color they usually show. We stop at the beach bar for a few Brights, and the young woman bartender gives us 2 Bonaire Regatta Koozies that fit Brights perfectly. We thank her, and use them for the rest of the trip. Great karma at Eden Beach.

Queen Angelfish in the shallows at Eden Beach

Queen Angelfish in the shallows at Eden Beach

Honeycomb Cowfish in regular and blue variations

Honeycomb Cowfish in regular and blue variations

Peacock Flounder

Peacock Flounder

Blue Honeycomb Cowfish

Blue Honeycomb Cowfish

We head back to the Divi for a quick snorkel out front, but the visibility is still pretty bad from last night’s storm, so we head in and get ready to go to dinner at one of our favorite places, Donna & Giorgio’s Italian restaurant. As usual, I get their amazing lasagna, and K gets a mind blowingly good marinated pork skewer over risotto. A large group of  obnoxious American divers spoils the evening a bit, with their loud conversation and sense of entitlement, (five checks for six people, really?) but nothing will spoil our memory of seeing that Queen Angel, and we toddle off after dinner to try the new ice cream/gelato place, Luciano. It’s tasty, but Gio’s has nothing to worry about.

Sand Diver at the Divi

Sand Diver at the Divi

Spotted Moray

Spotted Moray

Pink Tipped Anemone

Pink Tipped Anemone

Mature French Angelfish

Mature French Angelfish

Friday 10/21/16

We eat our usual breakfast, coffee, scrambled eggs with chopped onion pepper and chorizo and cheese. Toast, fruit juice and sometimes fruit. I want to go to a place called Yellow Submarine, which is at the end of a long road that eventually comes right through the downtown with businesses on the left, and the ocean on the right as you head south. There is a lot of small boat traffic, but most of them have left already by the time we arrive, park and get in. There are a lot of ledges in this area, and normally there are a lot of eels, one of my favorite things to see and photograph.

 

Immediately as we enter the water we see two tarpon swimming nearby. We have already seen more tarpon on this trip than on any trip we have been on before. They circle around, check us out, then take off, then repeat. It’s fascinating behavior.  The storms have forced a lot of broken corals into the ledge areas here as well, and there are fewer eels and fish under them, as there is less space. We still see some eels, especially this one nice big Spotted Moray. Nearly as big as they get at about 2.5-3 feet (0.75-0.9 m) , he almost posed for the camera. I hope I recover some of the video from this encounter, and while it’s my least favorite of the three pictures that I really wanted to make sure I recovered, I’m still glad I have at least one decent one. I show K a baby trunk fish that I’ve found. They look like a small polka dotted ball with tiny fins. The picture is blurry, but I had to include it anyway. It’s probably only half an inch (1.2cm) in diameter. As we leave we see this tree that has dozens of flip flops, Crocs, and other footwear hanging from a tree. We head back home, drop off the car and gear, and head into town to do some shopping.

Tarpon at Yellow Submarine

Tarpon at Yellow Submarine

 

Big Spotted Moray Eel at Yellow Submarine

Big Spotted Moray Eel at Yellow Submarine

 get name of fish

Striped Mullet

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Flip Flop tree near Yellow Submarine

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Your author enjoys his Amstel Bright at an Eden Beach bar

Shopping completed, we have some lunch and relax a bit, as we’re going to do a night snorkel tonight before dinner. After a short nap, we arise just before sunset to do our night snorkel. K likes to do these only at the Divi, as we’re so familiar with the territory. We mainly stay around the stone pier and the southern side of them to the Woodwind dock. The most fascinating thing about night snorkeling is the sheer difference in the kind of fish one sees vs. the day time. The Spiny Lobsters that hide among the rocks all day also come out, seemingly everywhere along the rocks of the pier. While the sun was just setting we see a Sharptail Eel hunting in the rocks. You often see these during the daytime as well, and the ones we see are usually about 18 inches (45 cm) long.  Many times you see daytime fishes just hanging under a rock ledge, sleeping. We do a few passes, and it’s pitch dark in the water. We get out and get ready for dinner.  As we leave we pass by a number of street parties, a curious custom on Bonaire. Nearly every night, but especially prevalent on Friday and Saturday evenings are these street parties, gatherings of 4-20 people with barbeques, food, drinks, music, and laughter. It’s always nice to see and hear.

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Sunset from the water

Tonight we’ve decided to try a island institution for the first time, Watta Burger. Our first trip to Bonaire was in 2009. This blog chronicles our 6th trip there. Watta Burger is one of a number of restaurants that have been here since we’ve been coming, but there is a healthy turn over of places. Watta Burger serves a serviceable burger, with excellent fries, beer, and I much enjoyed my Dutch snack, Bitterballen. Though not to K’s taste, I love the Bitterballen. Basically a thick roux or gravy made with sausage, made into a ball then breaded and deep fried. It’s crispy on the outside, and thick savory sausage meaty gravy within. You dredge them in mustard. K looks at me in disgust. It’s a texture thing for her. I love them!  We stop at Gio’s for dessert. Blood Orange! We walk back home and walk down to dive dock. As we leave we pass the casino, and when the doors open, you smell that distinctive casino smell. A mixture of cigarette smoke and desperation.

 

Thus ends week one. I will continue this soon with week two.

 

 

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Bonaire 2015 GoPro Pictures

Having finally figured out how to take still images from my GoPro video footage, I can finally show pictures of some stuff that I only had video for, and can show higher quality stills than my other camera can usually take. I hope you enjoy them.

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Tarpon near Divi

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Green Moray at Lac Bay

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Six foot barracuda at Windsock

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Arrow Crab @ Divi

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Two shots of a Rock Beauty @ Tori’s Reef

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Golden Chain Moray @ Divi

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Trumpet Fish @ Divi

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Three shots of Yellowheaded Jawfish @ Eden Beach

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Bonaire October 2015 Video #2

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