mountainous star coral
In 1979 I made my first dive in Greece. Back home (the Netherlands) I learned to dive in cold waters. 3 years later I had my 2* CMAS license and was ready to explore more exotic places. Bonaire was the best place to go. So I bought a (open) plane ticket, booked the Hilltop hotel and flew all alone to the tropics (September 1983). Joop Rauwers had started Buddy Divers a few years before. The sons of the hotel owners operated “the base”: a compressor and tanks. In his free time, Joop would take divers out on his boat to Klein Bonaire or take us to special dive places. With me another Dutch couple was at the hotel. They took me to Play Lechi for my first dive. Beautiful! The next day Hans arrived. He had missed the plane. He was alone too but had a car and been on Bonaire before. The next 2 weeks we dove together and had a great time. When he left, I wasn’t ready to leave. I met a group KLM divers, who stayed at Bonaire Beach Bungalow, which is now known as Bellafonte, and stayed with them another 2 weeks. My enthusiastic stories back at my own diving club made 3 others divers wanting to go too. In 1986 I was back with Chris, Hans & Herma. Again in September and again with Buddy Divers. Joop moved the tanks to his own holiday apartments. The minibus was then popular with divers. With 4 photographers we made hundreds of slides in 2 weeks. In 1996 I was married to Chris and came back again (in August/September), this time his sister and her friend joined us. In 1999 we went to the Galapagos and met a group Americans. Nancy & Rich became good friends of us. They go to Bonaire almost every March. They didn’t understand why we didn’t go there more often, Bonaire being Dutch. But in those days, the flight was long, going through Caracas and Curacao. It’s not cheap. But we did go in March, low budget! We got addicted too! We’ve been back almost every year since then. Only skipping a year if we had other (expensive) trips planned.
A lot has changed through the years. More and more tourists come. Lots of houses and holiday accommodations have been built. The traffic is more. Wind and kite surfers have discovered the island. More choice in restaurants, car rentals and dive shops. Big cruise ships have found the island. There are wind mills now and solar energy is finally embraced.
2 tropical storms, Lenny (1998) and Omar (2008), destroyed a lot of the reefs. The first 10 meters was wiped out. Also on the deeper reefs you can see the damage. The hard corals suffered most. Some dive areas in Slagbaai NP were complete destroyed. Before the storms, Karpata was my favorite dive spot. Since then, I hardly go there anymore. The mountainous star corals are all gone. All you see are the left overs. I feel lucky to have seen the reefs before the storms hit Bonaire. The enthusiastic stories of new divers make me realize Bonaire is still the best place to dive. That’s why, I suppose, I keep coming back. It’s great to see the corals coming back, with a little help from Stinapa.