And now we return to our regularly scheduled Bonaire program: diving! Because while we managed to tour the island by electric car, get our asana on with Sorobon’s yoga class, go underground with Flow and do a snorkel-and-sail with Compass, ultimately diving was the purpose of our trip. And what a wild dive our last day turned out to be.
We were actually supposed to go out with East Coast Diving on my second full day on the island, but while the skies were blue and the weather glorious, it was extremely windy on Bonaire throughout our entire visit. I mean, it’s always mildly windy there; that’s why windsurfing and kitesurfing are such popular pastimes. But this wind, it meant business. You’d never know it from the calm shore.
And with East Coast Diving, we would be diving, well, the east coast (duh), and what you need to know about that is that it’s consider “the wild side.” Enough said, right? Let me start by saying: This is no dive for a beginner.
Getting to the east coast of Bonaire
I was actually pretty nervous to start the day, so nervous in fact that I nearly sent myself into a state of panic. Not because of the diving per se, but because both I hadn’t been sleeping well (always a trigger for my anxiety) and the conditions were so rough, I was worried I’d be stuck out at sea while violently ill (wouldn’t be the first time). I prepared by putting on a scopolamine patch the night before and I wound up escaping without getting even mildly nauseous. Success!
East Coast Diving has no shop, nor rental equipment; it’s run by a couple of dive pros who have a truck and a zodiac (though they do provide both nitrox and tanks). The boat picked us up near Lac Bay and Jibe City where the water looks like this.
And then motored out on the gentle bay through the break where the water looked like this.
Holy waves, Batman! They were actually a lot higher than I could even capture in a photo. Let’s just say, we were rocking and a rolling.
Since we were in a zodiac and the waves were so high, we had to back somersault out into the surf, at which point we quickly descended as being on top wasn’t a whole lot of fun with the swell being the way it was. The first dive site was a drift, and we saw much bigger marine life than we had on the other coast, like a few massive moray eels, schools of jacks, a bumphead parrotfish or two.
And a spotted eagle ray! He glided just out of capture on my camera but you can see his silhouette.
Peaceful diving beneath the ocean — until it wasn’t
It was a surprisingly peaceful dive given the surface conditions. But then something funny happened: I ran out of air! I was coasting along when I happened to glance at my gauge and see it was nearly 50 bar, the point at which you make your exit. I’m usually the one who has a half tank left when we surface after an hour, so I have no idea what happened (unless my panic earlier on during the day translated to sucking more oxygen than usual underwater).
I motioned to Stephanie, and she being the good dive buddy that she was told the instructor we were surfacing and up we went, after the obligatory three-minute safety stop, of course. Only, this was a drift dive and by the time we came out on top, we realized we were far from the boat. We inflated our flotation device so the boat driver could see us and started yelling to get his attention. Our sounds were drowned out by the waves. My tank was below 50 PSI so there was no way I could go back down and swim my way over. I started fearing we might have an Open Water situation on our hands.
But we both remained calm, put our masks and regs on and started kicking hard toward the boat. Twenty minutes or so later, Hans spotted us and motored our way. Crisis averted! Hollywood would not be doing yet another biopic of two divers lost at sea after all.
For our hour-long surface interval, we motored the 10 minutes back to shore, switched out our tanks then were back into the waves for a second dive at Turtle City. Now Turtle City is pretty self-explanatory; it’s the one part of the island you’re guaranteed to see those amazingly beautiful creatures en masse.
And see turtles we did! They were everywhere: coasting along the surface, swimming on the horizon, lounging beneath every rock.
They’re pretty well camouflaged so you often wouldn’t see them until you’re right upon them, then BAM! Turtle in the face. I’m so glad I went out on the dive after all as I had seriously considered bailing that morning. It was like our honeymoon when we dove Sipadan and saw a good 50 turtles in one dip.
Salt Pier is lovely and docile, the shore dives on the west are great fun, but the east coast is where you go if you really want a challenge. Let’s say: We got just that! And I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Thanks, Bonaire East Coast Diving for being such great guides!
For more Bonaire travel tips, start here:
- Taking the Plunge: Becoming an Advanced Diver in Bonaire
- Island Living: 16 Reasons Bonaire Rocks
- Going on an Island Tour of Bonaire by Twizy
- #Bonaire247: Shore Diving, Yoga & Food Trucks
- Getting Schooled at Bonaire’s Salt Pier
- Going Underground: Caving in Bonaire
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So true! I recommend diving to any traveler, no matter their age or hobbies =)
Diving is just about one of the things I have yet to try. I am somehow scared by it, I read and hear so many horror stories about it. The most recent one has been about 3 Italian divers who got lost in Indonesia. My ex is actually on a mission to dive the best 100 diving spots on earth, he is a PADI divemaster and OBSESSED with it!
My recommendation would be to go somewhere with SUPER clear water. I started diving in the Maldives, then got certified in the Bahamas. Both great spots to do so! I am extremely claustrophobic so have trouble diving in places where the vis isn’t great (like Cabo or California). And if you go with a good dive shop, there should be no horror stories 😉
Then Sardinia may be a good place to get started. Waters are very clear here 🙂 Thanks for this Kristin! I appreciate your recommendation.
Ahhh being stuck in the open water would have really freaked me out!!
Your pictures look so great- I really need to get around to getting an underwater camera.
Right??? I don’t get scared easily while diving, but this was definitely a bit of a scary one (the first tank, that is; the second tank was a breeze).
Woooooo! Been waiting for this one 🙂 You girls are so brave – I do NOT like diving off Zodiacs. Looks a little rough out there for sure, but the dive looks worth it. It’s been really interesting reading everyone’s posts about it… I have a lot of people here comparing the diving in Roatan to Bonaire. I would love to be able to shore dive, but it looks like you guys had a great experience with these guys too. And yay for not getting queasy!
Me neither! Though it was totally worth it in this case =)
For needing an upgrade on your underwater camera, these are amazing – especially love the second photo from bottom. Is that an anenome? My underwater plant recognition skills are about as good as my diving skills – null. It’s so much fun to live vicariously through people having fun doing things that I’m a total amateur in…there are just so many things to do!
Thanks so much, Julie! It is indeed an anemone (and my plant skills are few, too, ha!). You should try out diving…as someone who once was terrified of the ocean, now I can’t imagine not knowing what that feeling of submerging is like =)
These dives look epic! I would definitely be freaking out about hitting the surface sans boat though, did you have an SMB with you?
We did have an SMB! It seemed to be swallowed up by the waves, though. We kept joking, “Hans, do you not see my sausage?!?!” And the fact that he didn’t kind of drove us into panicky mode there for a hot minute…
Awesome pictures, Kristin! I noticed that on your GoPro, you had a red lens attached on the front – I’ve never seen that before, is it specifically to help improve underwater shots?
Funny you should ask. I never did have a filter before, but my pal Angie was using one while we were in Bonaire and I noticed her colors were MUCH better than mine, more true to what we were actually seeing down there. (Love my GoPro but have never figured out how to adjust the colors in post…totally falls flat in Lightroom and PS.)
Then, I realized I left my charger in the US so had to trek about three miles round-trip into town to the only photo shop that sold batteries and while there, they had filters so I impulse bought one. I only got to use it on our final afternoon of diving, and it was pretty cloudy there so hard to judge how well it did, but I’m excited to see the differences when I go to the Bahamas next month. You can get the filters on Amazon for $10 or so =)
Awesome! I’ll need to look into purchasing one! Thanks Kristin 🙂