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Buddy Dive
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Reviewed January 13, 2008

FANTASTIC. Ok, let me calm down because it might not be fantastic for you. If your purpose is other than eat, sleep, dive, you might be disappointed. But if you are going to Bonaire for the only reason to go to Bonaire, Buddy Dive is perfect.

We spent a week over New Years, diving in the new year. It was jam packed, but I wouldn’t have known. I am always skeptical of anything “unlimited.” My life experience is they always find a way to limited you—long line, etc. But unlimited air/nitrox at Buddy Dive really is. I never went to the tank storage locations and found a shortage. I never waited behind more than one or two other divers to analyze my nitrox tanks. And the stations are set up for bing bang bong analysis. A yoke is permanently attached to both a pressure gauge and an oxygen analyzer with about a six foot hose. You tighten it down on your tank, turn on the air and 10 seconds later you have the pressure and oxygen percentage. You write down the tank number, the O2 percentage, sign your name and you are gone diving—all on the honor system.

We got a one bedroom rather than the efficiency. I suppose we didn’t really need the extra space because we didn’t do much other than sleep in the room. But it was nice to have. Air conditioning worked well. Bed was nice and firm.

All was not perfect, but most of what wasn’t didn’t directly impact us. We were on a group trip and the package included air fare, room and a truck rental. (By the way I recommend that if you go to Bonaire you go with a group. It is nice to have a selection of Buddies to dive with. Even if you think you only want to dive with your spouse, maybe she is tired and doesn’t want to do a night dive or maybe her ears are getting twitchy and she wants to take a day off to dry out. There are plenty of people to dive with in Bonaire but it is nice to have some affiliation.) Ok back to the issues.

First, Buddy dive didn’t have enough trucks for all of the rooms they rented. What the heck? It isn’t like we were a surprise. They made good on it, but a couple in the group had to wait a day to get their truck. I am not sure what Buddy dive did to make up for that delay

Second, check-in is a bit chaotic. They are not computerized. You fill in the same information about 15 times as part of the check-in process (I am exaggerating but you get the picture). With everybody checking in on Saturday evening it got a bit tedious. Ok, now then, I should give them points for trying to smooth that out. You were allowed to go to your room before checking in and that did someone alleviate the madness, but it will be nice when they join the 21st century and get a computer.

Third, the same chaos from the night before starts up again the next morning at the dive shop. Everyone is buying their park tags, and nitrox at the same time. Bonaire requires the operators to give a “respect the reef” briefing and test dive before you can dive. Buddy dive waits until 9:00 to start that process. That is 9:00 the morning after you arrive. By the time all the rigmarole is done the morning is about shot and you have been in Bonaire for 18 hours before you get in the water. I don’t know why we couldn’t have done some of that the night before.

Fourth, if you are looking for a “bar scene” it is down the road (walking distance) at Captain Ron’s Habitat. I wasn’t, but a few of our group was single and they made the trek. A few said they would prefer to have stayed at Captain Ron’s.

Fifth, if you do have a non-diver in the group, the three pools are adequate but just barely. There are a few other resorts with a semblance of a beach that might be better. But I can’t believe any of them treat the divers as well as Buddy’s does.

One place I would avoid is the Lion’s Den, an independent restaurant on the grounds of Buddy Dive. The prices are way in excess of the quality but worst of all the service is atrocious—beyond atrocious—hour long waits between appetizer and main course for example.

  • Stayed: December 2007
    • Value
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10  Thank Kerwin G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 3, 2008

This was our 4th dive trip to Bonaire and we stayed at Buddy Dive once again. As usual we had an awesome vacation. Over-all the resort was very nice but they have let the rooms go a little. The breakfast was all inclusive and was the same everyday, but they gave you several things to choose from so that way you could have something different everyday. The food at the restuarants was very good but a little expensive, I guess you pay a little more for the view and atmosphere. The diving was excellent. We dove everyday and did not have one bad dive. We love the freedom of shore diving because you can go when and where you wish. The people on the island are very nice and most have lovely accents. We ate in town a couple of times, the food was good but expensive and the service was very slow because they are on island time. If they say 3 minutes they mean 25 minutes. I would defintely recommend a trip to Bonaire.

6  Thank landrydog
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 31, 2007

I've been to Buddy Dive/Lion's Dive (merged a few years ago) four times in the past few years (between 2004 and 2006. Key points:

* The dive operation is efficient to the point of setting a high standard against which I compare all other dive resorts. The drive-thru tank station (air and nitrox) is perfect. Rent a truck when you get there, either on your own or through the resort (I say rent your own truck at the airport, leave it there when you fly out). Get up in the morning for chow, get your dive buddies, grab two tanks each, and head out for dive sites ALL OVER THIS ISLAND. Go somewhere or come back for lunch and surface interval, then grab two more tanks and go! They also have packages with boat dives, which is the only way to get to the dives around the uninhabited Klein Bonaire island in the middle of the bay.
This is the place for beach diving. The entire island has been a protected sea park since the 1970s. The sea life is abundant and the reefs beautiful. My first dive trip outside of the states was to Bonaire, and it spoiled me for all other places. I will keep going back.
As you drive around, yellow stones mark named dive sites. Shore diving can be hard on the feet -- you need boots, not footy fins. Most of these beaches are coral and stone at the water line. Some are sand all the way in. It won't be as easy as boat diving, maybe, physically. On the other hand, you are on you're own schedule and not subject to the whims of the boat captain or the desires of the other 10 divers on the boat. Go where you will and dive as you wish.

* Rooms I've had have been 50/50. Some have been well furnished. Some have had problems with lighting or ventilation. Some have skeeter problems. The maids open the door to clean during the day and the mosquitoes hid in the cool darkness behind the fridge -- they do come out at night. So, get a separate bedroom (i.e., not studio-apartment style room) or, better yet, take your own mosquito netting -- I do.
Some of the rooms have lighting problems. Some are damper than others. Some are fantastic, clean and comfortable. I try to adapt because I GO FOR THE DIVING!

* Hotel service ranges from exception to horrendous. Realize that it's not the operation, it's the individual. I met several hotel/restaurant interns at Buddy Dive who were there to complete their education in that field from their universities in the Nederlands. They were, without exception, the stars. The teenagers who come down to work as bartenders, waiters, and party for six months or a year varied from friendly and helpful to just-here-to-party (but haven't met too many of those, thankfully). The locals I met have been uniformly friendly and helpful. I speak about a teaspoonful of Spanish (local languages are Spanish, Dutch, Papamiento (sp?) patois, and English), so that helps.

* Some fellow travelers have had problems getting the rooms they want/reserved. I have had such problems before ('two beds? only one bed . . . you can share, yes?' no American guys do not share beds as they apparently do in Europe -- those crazy Europeans!) Fortunately, it doesn't happen every trip and is usually resolved in reasonable time. The leader of my favorite dive group has not always been so lucky -- he has sacrificed sometimes to accommodate his dive customers on the trip, at loss of his convenience. These are all issues we've dealt with on dive trips, but they are most certainly NOT exclusive to Buddy Dive, or even Bonaire. I've seen equally irritating service in Mexico, without doubt.

* The breakfast restaurant is a buffet. Get the breakfast only meal plan. It's about $10/day, you get a good breakfast, then you're out on the island diving the rest of the day. If you're back at Buddy Dive and want to eat lunch at the beach restaurant, charge it to the room. At night, have dinner at the restaurant (separately owned) at least one night, if only for the beer and seafood selection. Other nights, DO NOT MISS the many and varied European-style restaurants on this island. Downtown has a fantanstic Italian place (make reservations or they'll hate you -- can't remember the name), Guernica, Richard's, the Blue Iguana, City Cafe -- I'm probably misremembering half of these names. Suffice to say, there is plenty of great food in Bonaire.

As for the breakfast, there are birds. I read a review of a resort in St. Lucia where my wife and I honeymooned. One major point was that 'there were birds everywhere -- it was like the Hitchcock movie.' Look, you're on the seashore eating outside. I've seen this in Bonaire, St. Lucia, Cozumel, and Curacao. Birds are going to circle your table -- even land on it -- looking for the scrapes they know are forthcoming. Get used to it or eat indoors.

As for Bonaire itself, it is my favorite dive place. Period. There is not much else going on on this island. It's not packed with locals and tourists. Dive operations are the primary source of money. I loathe to think what it might be like to 10, 20, or 30 years if a bunch of resort hotels move in. I know it will be good for the local economy, but the unspoiled nature of much of the island will be lost, I think. A place like Curacao, where diving is at best a secondary industry to other types of tourism -- or even the oil refinery processing Hugo "I'm A Communist Idiot" Chavez's Venezuelan oil -- simply cannot compare. There is poverty on all the Carribean islands and Mexico -- much of this is the Third World. I've read many reviews griping about being harassed on beaches by shell- and drug-selling locals (Jamaica, mon, would take the prize for that one). Well, you're a rich American (or whatever). What do you expect? To it's credit, Bonaire is a place where I've seen very little if any local "harassment" of tourists. I've never been hit up for money in Bonaire. I've never received the hard sell to purchase shells, jewelry, drugs, or anything else in Bonaire, unlike the others places I've visited. If you don't like to be bothered by the Third World, try Bonaire. There are many poor people there, but they seem to keep to themselves, in my experience. Maybe they haven't learned that rich "First Worlders" are willing to hand out bills to beggars if only to get them out of their faces. Maybe they're too proud to beg. The latter, in this case, I say.

Other points to make:

* The Dutch, and thus Bonaire drivers, are on the correct side of the road 8), that is, the right. Don't try driving in St. Lucia and other former British isles on twisty mountain roads -- might ruin your vacation. Rent a truck at the airport and enjoy. You'll pay about $120/week, as I recall.

* Flamingo Airport is a Third World airport. It's not going to look like Hartsfield-Jackson or Kennedy, or Dulles, or LAX, and thank God for that. There is no air-conditioning at the airport. Customs and baggage might take a while. There is a departure tax (as with every Carribean vacation I've taken) -- keep that cash aside.

* Europeans occasionally sunbath topless. If you are frightened or offended by the sight of the female nipple, European vacation spots are not for you. That said, there isn't too much of that going on in Bonaire, and the only "naturalist" (aka, nudist) resort on the island, the Sorobon (sp?), has a fence around it to keep out prying eyes.

* You're on a desert (not "deserted" -- desert, as in cactus) island very close to the equator. USE your sunscreen religiously and DO expect to see bugs. You might be carried away by mosquitoes -- skip the perfumed soap and lotion and try SkinSoSoft or some other bug juice, preferably with sunblock in it.

* You're on a desert (not "deserted" -- desert, as in cactus) island very close to the equator. It's going to be HOT. Dress comfortably and lightly, but cover yourself when you're not sunbathing. Try 100% cotton, loose fitting clothing and plan to sweat. Drink lots of water. WATER to replace what you'll lose when you drink alcohol. I generally never drink alcohol during the day -- certainly never when I'm diving -- and then enjoy myself at night, whilst still tanking up on water with every beer or glass of wine.

So, thanks for reading this mouthful. In short, yes, there are better hotels than Buddy Dive. There are also much worse places to stay. If you get a bad break and have a difficult time with your room at Buddy Dive (and the room seems to be the number one complaint, if there is one, that I've heard), then be the squeaky wheel until things are fixed or you're moved to a new room. It might not work, but it can't hurt to, politely, insist that the hotel take care of business. And, to reiterate, you will not find a slicker dive operation than Buddy Dive's drive-thru. Their boats are also top-notch and their diving personel/masters very experienced.

  • Stayed: June 2004
    • Value
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    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
9  Thank macanes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 17, 2007

We just returned from Buddy Dive this AM, our 7th trip to this resort. We were disappointed with the accommodations this time however. We usually stay in the 3 BR condos, Room 209 which is in the building closet to the Sunrise restaurant. It looked as if the common kitchen/dining room had been repainted with new light fixtures. The ceiling fan was now gone, so no air could be circulated to cool it off. There is an air conditioner in the downstairs BR, but that doesn't reach the common room.
I found a large cockroach in the closet shelf in my clothing, ants on the kitchen counter. Upstairs there were cockroach sightings in one of bathrooms. Water leaked on our clothing in the closet shelf, so watch this area carefully. Use the dresser drawers instead. The refrigerator cold section didn't work, but a quick call to the front desk prompted a visit from their handyman and it was immediately fixed.
Friday night, 12/14/07 there was a great thunderstorm and the roof leaked onto the beds in both upstairs bedrooms. An insufficient number of towels were left for us or the maid didn't come until late in the day after we had already returned from diving. It's hard to dry off with towels that are still wet from the day before. She spoke no English so it was hard to communicate our needs.
The diving is great, although not as much marine life as in years
past. Saw only one small lobster, but did see several turtles,
seahorses, one spotted eagle ray, two octopuses. Not as many spotted eels at Buddy Reef this time. Water temp was 82. The diving operation is terrific....very friendly and helpful staff who go out of their way to accommodate your preferences.
A lot of rain this past week, the most ever on any of our
trips-perhaps due to Hurricane Olga?
BECAUSE OF ALL OF THE STANDING WEATHER, THE MOSQUITOS ARE HORRENDOUS.
Prepare yourself well and read up on the no-see-ums and other bugs on Bonaire talk for more info.
Hope that this recent report helps. And oh, the Flamingo airport is a real disaster. Spent 2 hours standing in one line or the other to check out on our return home. The departure tax is $32 per person. Years ago it used be only $10.

  • Stayed: December 2007, traveled with friends
    • Value
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    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
7  Thank scubakramers
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 1, 2007

Went to Bonaire with a group of photographers. We shared a two bedroom unit with another couple, we were stuck with the dark rooms. Bathroom and air conditioner were covered with mold. I asked that it be cleaned, it was not and I cleaned it myself. Also mold was growing outside of our room, making the walks very slippery. We both got sick, probably from sleeping in the room with mold spores. Room was dark, gloomy and not clean. Food was marginal to bad and the service was very slow. But the diving was spectacular, not very much service, but once in the water it was great.

Would go back to Bonaire again (this was my second trip) but not to Buddy Dive.

  • Stayed: March 2007
    • Value
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5  Thank llamamamabzn
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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