First timer Bonaire Trip Report Aug. 11-18
Aug. 10/11 – Took the Continental red-eye from Houston to Bonaire after a short flight from Austin and a three-hour layover. Flight was on time and had no major problems.
Husband got rental car while I waited for what seemed like forever to get the bags. Paid our departure tax. Got to the Bellafonte Chateau de la Mar finally around 7:20. There was no one to greet us but after using the courtesy phone our host Marikka drove up a few minutes later and showed us to our room.
Wow! We stayed in the third floor junior suite and had a sweeping view of the sea, Klein and north part of the island. Can’t say enough great things about the staff at Bellafonte and the great accommodations. It was wonderful and really suited our casual and quiet style. The grounds are beautiful and the hardscapes throughout give it a very upscale feel. The airport noise never bothered us and I only heard the KLM red-eyes once when I happened to already be awake. Would definitely stay at Bellafonte again.
Husband did a check-out dive that a.m. with Photo Tours out of Port Bonaire and I snorkeled along with him. Saw a school of squid right there in the harbor. Surely a sign of good things to come.
Went grocery and beer shopping at Warehouse and then he dove and I snorkeled at the Bellafonte house reef. Immediately saw a snake eel, which I’d never seen before and thought was a sea snake. We napped and then went to Bobbejan’s for takeout. Portions were ample and the food was really good, but not quite as good as Texas barbecue.
(photos from first day …google.com/kword1962/BonaireAugust112007
Aug. 12 — Husband took two-tank dive with Photo Tours to Klein and I went with Renee snorkeling. She first took me to Yellow Hut at Windsock and then in front of Yellow Submarine in town where she showed me everything I wanted to see on my list, and much to my husband’s disappointment everything on his list too — seahorse, octopus, frogfish, eels, scorpion fish and two huge tarpons. I could have ended the trip there!
Met back at the room for lunch and then to Tori’s where we both snorkeled. The visibility was not great and we stayed shallow, good but not great.
Then we drove the rest of the southern tip and to Lac Cai for a Polar. We watched the windsurfers briefly, drank our beer and left. Neat place and great beach for a family to hang out but not really our style.
Dinner at Donna & Giorgio’s. I had my favorite, chicken alfredo, and it was outstanding! Husband’s mixed grill was really good too but not a huge portion.
(photos from second day …google.com/kword1962/BonaireAugust122007
Aug. 13 — Went early to Thousand Steps and I snorkeled and husband dove. This was my favorite site on the island! It looks like a forest and the visibility was outstanding. I could see him diving at 50-60 feet the whole time. We were the only people there and just three got in as we got out.
Then drove to Ol Blue but the entry looked really rough so we headed to Karpata, which I was really nervous about the entry-exit. But it didn’t look that bad when we got there. We had to wait behind the block for several divers to exit and saw how not to do it! Ha!
Karpata also was outstanding — my husband’s favorite site. I saw a huge Hawksbill swim right around him while he was diving but he didn’t see it. The turtle was tagged on both flippers. My only complaint at this site was there was heavy surge, which got tiring even just floating. For the rest of the day I felt like I was still moving. And it wasn’t the beers!
Oh I also saw one thing at Karpata that I didn’t want to, a jellyfish pulsating near the surface. I kept my eye on him throughout the snorkel and made sure he didn’t have any friends. I later learned from Renee that he was not an extremely poisonous jelly.
After Karpata we drove around Gotomeer Lake. We got pictures of flamingoes that were right by the road. This landscape was stunning and an odd contrast to the underwater and rocky shore we’d just left.
Drove back through Rincon and stopped at a gas station, can’t remember the name, just as you come into Kralendijk, where the clerk tried to overcharge us. I realized the “mistake” and went back to the window to demand the correct change. She complied and I felt better. It is confusing getting guilders back from dollars, but I knew she wasn’t confused.
Went back to the room and ate lunch then walked to Windsock where we snorkeled back to Bellafonte. Saw a small green turtle around North Belnem.
Dinner at Papaya Moon. The service was outstanding and the owner was really nice but the food was just OK. We are kind of Tex-Mex snobs since we live here and eat it all the time so we are probably more critical than most, but it’s disappointing when a so-called Mexican restaurant doesn’t even have salsa. And I’m not sure what that queso and chips is supposed to be but it’s not queso. The portions here were really good though.
(photos from third day …google.com/kword1962/BonaireAugust132007
Aug. 14 — I had another snorkel with Renee at Andrea II & I, where I really enjoyed the shallows with tons of stuff hiding in the elkhorn, and then Front Porch, where she showed me a nursery. Another great time! Snorkeling with Renee is like having a living, talking fish ID book with you.
Husband did two more dives at Klein with Photo Tours. Met back at room then went to town for lunch at Wattaburger, which was good.
Then we did our T-shirt shopping and needed to call home. We were directed to the phone company a block or two away for phone cards. The clerk there was less than helpful and I had to buy a card with more minutes than I needed but better than dialing direct. The phone bank outside had spotty service. I eventually got through later using the card back at the room.
Dinner at Chibi Chibi at the Divi. I was still full from lunch and got the vegetable linguini. Can you tell I like pasta? Can’t remember what husband had, something from the sea, but again the food was excellent. Enjoyed throwing bread to the fishes even though it’s probably not good for them but they seemed to enjoy it.
(photos from fourth day …google.com/kword1962/BonaireAugust142007
Aug. 15 — Worried a little about Dean bringing rain to Bonaire so we moved our trip to Washington Slagbaai National Park up a day. We made a picnic, took three bottles of water and gassed up the car and headed out, arriving at the entrance a little before 9 thinking we had to wait. But they actually opened at 8 so we went right in after checking in. The security is really tight here as you have to show ID with your park pass and they write your license down and ask your purpose for visiting. Guess that’s a good thing.
We did the long tour and stopped at every site except Boka Chikitu. The park is absolutely spectacular and such a contrast from the rest of the island. It really looks like Arizona and it’s hard to believe it’s still part of a “tropical” island with such great underwater life.
We snorkeled at Wayaka II and had the beach and site all to ourselves. Beautiful! Ate lunch at Playa Slagbaai in the nice shaded picnic area. On way out stopped at the entrance to view the small Bonaire museum, very educational, not to be missed. Also be sure to visit the bathrooms at the park entrance if you go. They have the most hilarious signs for men and women. You know what I’m talking about if you’ve been!! Ha, ha!
Then back to Bellafonte for a dive / snorkel at our house reef.
Dinner at Patagonia. The steaks were outstanding and sauces were a unique complement. The service was excellent as well and we enjoyed the view of all the huge yachts in the harbor.
(photos from fifth day …google.com/kword1962/BonaireAugust152007
Aug. 16 — Headed south to snorkel/dive Margate Bay. I was a little concerned as a single kiteboarder was speeding up and down the coast here so I stayed near the dive buoy while snorkeling. The visibility was way down with lots of particles near surface and I couldn’t see my husband diving and I got a little vertigo looking into the deep too long. I also got stung on my leg by something floating on the water that pricked, turned a little red and then went away shortly after with no itching or other effects.
I had high hopes for this site but it wasn’t that great due to the poor visibility. The most entertaining thing was watching a group of novice divers in a packed boat flop in and flounder under water. I even saw a few kick the reef. Morons!
Also the kiteboarder came back and rode right next to the moored boat. I thought they were supposed to stay south of a certain point? This guy went up and down the coast, going several sites north of Margate!
Finally caught up with my husband in the shallows and agreed to head in where I kept looking up to watch a couple coming from shore to do the dive. They too were absolutely clueless. When I got up next to them I had to pull my snorkel out and say “Oh, by the way, you’re standing on fire coral" to the man who was totally oblivious. My husband and I headed to the car and laughed about the moronic divers we saw and I told him about the fire coral guy. As we dried off the shore couple came back in and apparently had aborted the dive, probably better for all concerned, especially the reef.
Then we headed north where I wanted to go back to Andrea but it was quite crowded so we continued to Weber’s Joy/Witch’s Hut. It wasn’t as crowded and I really enjoyed this snorkel. Much like Thousand and Karpata.
Ate lunch at City Cafe really good quesadilla WITH salsa, and husband had chicken fajitas, which he said were better than beef ones at Papaya Moon.
Since it was husband’s last day to dive he wanted to do one more so after I had a nap we went to Yellow Hut. I saw another jelly here, the same kind as Karpata, but I still kept my distance. Also I saw a tarpon hunting the bait ball at the Windsock pier.
Dinner at Pasa bon Pizza. We were prepared for the 40-minute cook time and weren’t disappointed. The pizza was outstanding, however, the service was the worst on the whole island. They never checked on us to refill the water and I had to wave furiously to get another beer. It wasn’t even busy, only two other tables and a few takeouts. Great pizza, lousy service.
(photos from sixth day …google.com/kword1962/BonaireAugust162007
Aug. 17 — Breakfast at Great Escape, a la carte with pancakes for me and French toast for him.
Then the 9 a.m.-1 p.m. tour on the Woodwind. It was threatening to rain all morning but captain Ulf was able to skirt it on our way to Klein. We did what was supposed to be a drift snorkel from Ebo’s to No Name but there wasn’t any current that I could tell and we had to kick pretty much the whole time. I certainly was glad when it was finally over and we got to the beach, but then Ulf brought the boat over and we all got back in right away.
While we did see about 10 turtles, mainly small ones, on this snorkel it was otherwise just OK. I did see Black Durgons and a Queen angelfish I hadn’t seen on Bonaire but I thought the reef was really trashed and there were a lot of tires along the way. It was disappointing for me.
Then we motored over to Andrea and did a brief snorkel, which I wish had been longer.
The Woodwind really does treat you well though. They fed us snacks and warm lunch and kept us well hydrated, I downed a few Polars, and Dee was such a sweet and personable guide. It was a good way to spend the last day all in all.
Dinner at Wil’s Tropical Grill, which was really our best meal on the island! I had the pork loin and mixed green appetizer and husband had jumbo shrimp and prosciutto wrapped salad appetizer. This food was so good!! Wil is a great chef and his wife is a great host.
(photos from seventh day …google.com/kword1962/BonaireAugust172007
Aug. 18 — Got to the airport 2 1/2 hours early and still waited in long check-in line. Husband returned the car with no problems. Security was a breeze.
The flight was an hour late taking off and we had only about 40 minutes to clear customs, get our bags, recheck them and go back through security to catch our next flight. We were hurrying as fast as we could only to find out once we got back through security that our Austin flight was delayed over an hour. It would be nice if they had departure screens in the bag claim area.
Anyway we finally made it home and the PBD began to set in. Bonaire is a great island with incredible underwater life and we certainly will go back and stay at the Bellafonte again. There are few other islands on our list first but I can see Bonaire becoming our Caribbean mainstay. What a great place!
Addendum: While I was overly paranoid about theft while shore diving and every time we parked the truck, we never had any problems. Of course I put our sunglasses and keys, etc. in a small dry bag around my neck while snorkeling and I even hid my $3 flip flops I bought specifically thinking they might go missing.
We also never felt unsafe walking around in town, day or night, or driving all over the island. It was a refreshing change from our visit last year to St Croix where I did not feel safe in many parts of that island.
Also, I was really shocked at how expensive our dinners were -- $50 to $60 a night --except for Bobbejan’s, the best value. Even the pizza was around $35. We had a few beers and one or two appetizers but it all seemed really pricy for the portions and compared to similar meals to what we pay here. I realize it’s harder to get ingredients there but it still seemed about 2 ½ more in most cases. I think most of the reports I read beforehand about prices being similar must have been from East Coasters who pay more to eat than us Texans.