Bonaire, Part Four: Moving On

Filed under: — Anastasia @ 6:54 pm

Despite the loss of our precious camera, Larry’s Wildside still offered up some great diving! On our way to shore for a surface interval, Larry suddenly slowed the boat down and pointed off to the side, yelling, “Manta ray!” Sure enough, a manta was frolicking just below the surface, waving its fins in the air as it swooped up snacks. Common in Hawaii, they’re a bit more unusual in Bonaire – I guess it just happened to be the time of year when a migrating manta turns up every now and then.

Jeff and I were a) blind above water, b) bummed about the camera, and c) not TOO excited by a single manta after our recent trip to Hawaii where we got to swim with about 20, so we stayed on the boat while everyone else jumped over the side to snorkel with it. I think this, on top of the turtles, put Kathy in a pretty great mood! It was fun to watch (though blurry) as everyone paddled around the friendly manta. Finally Larry called everyone back on board, and beached the boat at the entrance to Lac Cai.

Where we pulled up, there were three enormous piles of empty conch shells on the beach. Apparently, the locals gather conch as a staple of their diet, and chuck the leftover shells on the beach instead of tossing them in the water (so they don’t mistakenly start picking up empty shells while out hunting). It makes for a rather sobering view, especially knowing that conch aren’t as common as they used to be in the wild!

While we hung out on shore, Larry put in a call to his buddy Tim at Fish Eye Photo to ask what digital systems he had available for rent. Although he didn’t have anything as nice as our Rebel, he did have a 3Mpx Sea&Sea with external strobe, so Larry told him to expect us to drop by later that afternoon.

Our second dive was more eventful in terms of marine life. The boat moored in about 30 feet of water, and we all followed Martin off over a field of fan coral waving in the surge until we dropped down the side of White Hole. This is a pretty good-sized depression in the sea floor, sandy-bottomed and surrounded by coral-covered walls. We saw, in no particular order:

  • Huge schools of tarpon hanging out in shady areas
  • A big moray hanging out behind a rock, palling around with lots of coral shrimp
  • A turtle sleeping in a cavern (Jeff got some video for Kathy)
  • The resident balloonfish, who is huge – a good 4 feet long, and pretty darned thick around. Pretty doofy-looking, especially since he’s getting kind of ratty after years of fending off other fish. He had a little balloonfish friend keeping him company.
  • Conch crawling around in the sand. They stick out funny-looking antennae and a “tongue,” and slowly hump their way across the ground. Too bad we didn’t have a camera to catch these nifty little critters!

Since the “wild” part of east side diving was missing that day, Larry made up for it by slamming the throttle and giving us a bit of a bouncy ride back to harbor. It didn’t take very long, between the short distance and the super-fast boat!

After another dutch-meat lunch, Jeff and I left Ben and Kathy to check out their video while we paid a visit to Tim at Fish Eye Photo. Jeff didn’t seem too enamored of the camera he offered, but it was a lot better than nothing, and pretty affordable for rent. The only real bummer was that we weren’t allowed to open the housing; we had to return to Tim every time we filled up the card to download photos and replace the batteries. So after every two dives or so, we had to visit him – and he worked roughly 8:30-4:30, but “call me first to make sure I’m in.” Ack.

For our first trip with the Sea & Sea, we returned to Andrea II, determined to find the channel on the way in this time. I took our crappy Reefmaster camera along as backup. Alas, the easy entry was not to be. We walked in right in between the two sticks we thought marked the edges of the channel, and wound up in the same situation as last time. Coming out, we realized that the channel runs up to the edge of ONE of the sticks; we have no idea what the other stick is for. In between, we had a nice dive, spotting a Pederson cleaner shrimp (funny little translucent-purple dude) and some territorial damselfish that “attacked” our strobes.

We still had time for another daylight dive, so the four of us headed further north to Karpata again. Ben and Kathy took off in one direction (video cameras like to cover ground) while Jeff and I stayed pretty much directly under the mooring line playing with our cameras. I had fun shooting a yellowtail snapper who hung out with us the whole time, and spotted some more of my blennies on the way out.

Wednesday was a full day of diving with Menno. He took us out for a two-tank boat dive in the morning, and we were signed up to do Town Pier with him in the evening.

We originally hoped to do Carl’s Hill again so we could show Kathy the seahorse, but since we headed out a bit later than planned (because we had to wait until Tim was available to change out the camera), the mooring was taken by one of the resort boats. So instead, we puttered over to nearby “Forest,” named so because of the pine-tree-like black coral found at depth. A big french angel came over to greet me as I dropped down in the shallows under the boat, and kept doing swim-bys as long as we were in the area.

After a long surface interval while we slowly motored over to the other side of Klein, Menno dropped us all off at Jerry’s Place for a drift dive. The current wasn’t too strong (ie, you could swim against it easily enough), but it made for a pleasant and relaxed ride past beautiful sponges, more black coral, lots of angelfish, barracuda, and a turtle.

After a few hours relaxing back at the hotel (and looking over our pictures with the new camera, which in no way compare to the D-Rebel), we met up with Menno at Town Pier for our night dive. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed, but only because this dive had been built up so much in my mind after seeing it show up in all kinds of Top Ten lists all year long. It’s definitely a cool dive: all the pilings are completely covered in sponges and soft corals, so that you seem to be swimming through many layers of graffiti. There were several grumpy-looking eels, beautiful cup coral, a parrotfish sleeping in a cocoon, and some octopi. There were also a few other groups of divers, which got a bit confusing!

When we walked up the boat ramp at the end of our dive, I noticed lots of big black things scuttling around on the ground. Remember, out of the water after a dive, I’m blind with no contacts in and no curved-water lens outside my mask.

“Jeff, please tell me those are crabs. They’re crabs, right?”

They were enormous cockroaches. You’ve never seen someone in full scuba gear jump up on a wall so quickly! I made Jeff fetch (and shake out) my clothes and gear bag, and eagerly awaited my glasses while we went to fetch the truck. In the meantime, Ben enjoyed himself by pointing out blotches that were “Just spots on the ground – see?” and then poking them with his foot to make them run. Yuck.

After rinsing our gear and showering, we piled back into the truck to go get dinner. There was a small adventure in the car when I discovered a small cockroach on the front seat. Ben took a swipe at it, and was 80% sure he knocked it out of the car, but I made Kathy ride up front just in case.

It was Wednesday night, which we’d been waiting for – because Pasa Bon Pizza was open again for dinner. Mmmm, pizza: nice, safe food. It was as delicious as promised, and we washed it down with some chocolate lava cake. And only a few mosquito bites.

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