I’ll be the first to admit that the thing I really don’t like about diving is all the set-up. It’s just so much equipment, and the process of wiggling in and out of a wetsuit, setting up all your gear and then strapping it all to the tank…well, it’s just that: a process.
It’s definitely no lazy man’s sport and, cost aside, is the only thing that stops me from doing more diving than I already do. Angie, a long-time friend with whom I got my open water certification in the Bahamas nearly a decade ago, and I were on the same page. The first day we arrived on Bonaire, she said: “I’d just like to go somewhere for my honeymoon where I have a butler. Is that too much to ask?” No, Angie, it’s not.
So Alex and couldn’t help but giggle when we arrived at VIP Diving on our third full day on the island to find that they call themselves “the dive butlers.” They’re so serious about this claim that a tuxedo is painted on the front of their dive trucks. The Dutch owner, Bas, runs what’s essentially the Four Seasons of dive shops. Seriously, I’ve been diving all over the world and never seen an operation as clean and streamlined as this one. There’s even a nice back lounge area by the pool and a herb garden for mint for mojitos (the way to my heart!).
VIP also rents out top-of-the-line equipment, and as someone who doesn’t own her own gear, you have no idea how much this is appreciated. There’s nothing worse than getting out on a boat and finding you have a squeaky octopus or damaged o-ring.
After we were outfitted for the day, our Belgian divemaster Steven loaded up all our gear—and us—into his truck and we set off for a drive around the island.
Shore diving is what Bonaire’s known for, so I was glad this is what we were doing as we’d gone out on a boat the first day of the week. In fact, shore diving is all they offer as one of the valet diving service’s biggest draws is that their instructors take you off-the-beaten path. The first dive Steven took us on wasn’t even a marked site. He just pulled up to the side of the road and said, “this looks like a good spot.” This is the beauty of diving with VIP; they take you places you wouldn’t discover on your own and ones where you won’t encounter other divers.
Once Steven had set all of our equipment up for us, he strapped each of us to our tanks, and we waddled out over the rocks to the ocean’s edge. I’ve been to plenty of Caribbean islands, but there’s something so distinctly clean and appealing about Bonaire’s water that it’s hard to put your finger on. I’ve never seen coral so healthy, and the islanders definitely always have sustainability at the front of their mind, as evidenced by the fact that no one offered us a paper cup or bottle of water all week long; we were always served reusable plastic glassware instead.
And then, we were off on a drift dive! The current was a bit strong that day so we swam out a bit to the drop-off and then let it take us with it, through the coral forests of Bonaire National Marine Park.
While I love spotting big stuff—hey, I’m only human—the macro life often appeals to me more as a diver as it’s like finding gold in a mine. Who doesn’t want to be the one to coax an octopus out of his hole or spy the odd seahorse?
On this dive, we didn’t see many usual creatures, but we did see a lot, from blennies and eels to shrimp and trumpetfish, plus a number of other kinds of colorful Caribbean fish that eyed us suspiciously as our bubbles entered their domain.
While not necessarily rare, the honeycomb cowfish is always one of my favorite creatures to stalk. Would you take a look at his patterns? So pretty and geometric.
When our hour of bottom time was up, we took our safety stop as we swam to the shore, using the opportunity to check out what was hiding among the shallow water corals and anemones.
It was tricky getting out of the waves and tiptoeing over the craggy rocks, so I was doubly glad we had Steven with us as our guide to literally guide us out by hand so we didn’t topple over along with our tanks.
When we were all safe on solid ground, we looked back down the coastline, and I couldn’t even see our truck. I dreaded the long walk back, though I shouldn’t have even stopped to worry. This was VIP! Of course, they wouldn’t expect us to walk back on our own! Steven would do that for us.
He made the 15-minute trek back to the truck, then returned to collect us and pack up all of our gear in the back of the truck. Talk about five-star service!
It was nearing lunchtime, and diving really brings out the appetite in you, so we stopped at Jibe City for the second day in a row. I had the biggest, juiciest, tastiest hamburger you ever did see as we watched the windsurfers rock and roll out in Lac Bay.
I also got to share a Coke with a VIP! What are the odds?
But the day was far from over, as the next dive would prove to be my favorite on Bonaire, if not favorite dive to date. Stay tuned until next time…