PhotoJournal For Dive Travelers
Bonaire is the Garden of Eden for two of nature's strangest and most lovable creatures; the Shore Diver and the Donkey. FIRST THE DONKEY: Hundreds of donkeys roam the berms of Bonaire's highway and biways, enjoying the prairie grass and strolling along. Several years ago, Marina Meliis decided to grant a more satisfying life to many of these wonderful animals, especially those who had been injured or were starving, and she started the Donkey Sanctuary of Bonaire. Today 91 ill, wounded, lonely, older, and new-born donkeys roam her sanctuary in peace, living alongside lizards, Iguanas and the cactus. Marina has been a godsend to these gentle creatures, and I hope that all who come to Bonaire will visit her sanctuary. Please click on the picture of the brand new donkey and her mommy to learn more about the sanctuary and how to help. By the way, this baby was born the morning we visited the Sanctuary in March 2004.
The other strange creature is the shore diver. March 10-24, 2004 my wife and I enjoyed two wonderful weeks of shore diving in Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles. We stayed at Hamlet Oasis and rented tanks from Photo-Tours Bonaire which had an annex at the North end of the place. Our one bedroom apartment was very comfortable for the two weeks, and with the help of one extension cord, provided enough electricity for recharging batteries for my digital camera, my digital camcorder, my flood/dive light combo, my strobe, and kept my laptop running.
During the week, we did many dives directly from the beach at Angel City, Andrea II, Bachelor's Beach, 1000 steps and often from Windsock or Belnem North. At night, or when we were feeling less adventurous we dove from the Flamingo, Sand Dollar and Buddy's Docks covering Calabas, Bari Reef, and Front Porch. Actually we could dive the Machaca and Cliff Wall easily from Buddy's Dock. As usual, (our sixth trip to Bonaire,) the people of Bonaire were wonderful, friendly, courteous and helpful. The dive shop staff at the Flamingo Buddy's and Sand Dollar knew we weren't staying there, but were very friendly nonetheless, showing the courtesy that makes Bonaire famous throughout the world. I've never been to another place where people regularly allow others to use their facilities, knowing that their customers will be able to use other docks reciprocally, making diving better for all and adding to the reputation and economic growth of the island. My wife and I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible, getting on and off the docks quickly, not disturbing anyone, thanking the dive staff and not using the water, (except to dip my camera lens on the way out.)
There was one exception to the friendliness rule, Habitat. My wife and I had spent our honeymoon at Habitat in 1987 and loved every minute. We met Captain Don the moment we arrived and have seen him on occasion over the years. He has always been interesting and extremely hospitable. We had dinner with him one night on this trip. For those who don't know, he is the man responsible for the Marine Park on Bonaire and the creation of this diving mecca. During dinner, he told me, "It's time Bonaire turned to other ways of making a living apart from the dive industry." Though this shocked me, it also explained the one low point of our vacation, the unfriendly attitude around Habitat.
One morning, in the middle of the week, about 11 AM my wife and I had suited up, tossed on our tanks and BCD's, grabbed our fins, mask and cameras and strolled the 50 yards or so to Habitat's old shore diving dock, (separate from their boat dock.) As we started down the steps we were informed that Bonaire's old tradition is no longer true at Captain Don's habitat. We walked back to our truck and headed out for some shore diving. I believe, that if the other hotels follow Habitat's lead, Bonaire reputation will suffer. Shore Divers will no longer come year after year to Bonaire. The Captain's remark had explained this unfriendly phenomenon. They were no longer looking to serve divers.
So far, the other hotels have not adopted this attitude and are still extremely friendly to those of us who choose to dive without the benefit of seasickness medicine in this shore diving paradise. I only hope they will not follow suit. The Captain had made this island prosper when he realized that you only get a few dollars from selling a fish, but you can make millions by getting thousands of people to come down again and again to dive with the fish and the sponges and the coral and other marine life. It would be a shame if the place that bears his name became the seed of the destruction of the prosperity of Bonaire, dive paradise.
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