Bonaire Day 2: May 4 2008

Filed under: — Anastasia @ 5:03 pm

I spent most of Saturday looking forward to Sunday: a full day of diving, after a real night’s sleep. And as a special bonus, the day I’d hit dive #400; I’m a total sucker for meaningless milestones.Jeff and I made noises about attempting an early morning dive, but opted to sleep in a little instead and do our first dive after breakfast. This also meant we didn’t have to haul our dive gear up the night before; Sand Dollar has the rather annoying policy that you can only access the gear storage area from 8:30am-9:30pm, making it a bit of a pain to dive early or late.

We had fond memories from our last trip of one of Bonaire’s best-known dives, the wreck of the Hilma Hooker, so the four of us drove down south to check it out around 10am. We got off to a bit of a false start when Michael realized he’d left some crucial gear at the condo, and had to make a quick run back up north. It actually worked out for the best, as we didn’t descend until nearly 11am, after most of the morning divers had already departed. In fact, for most of the dive, we had the whole wreck to ourselves!

As would happen over and over again throughout the week, I was amazed to discover how easy this dive seemed now that I had some more experience under my belt.

When we dove it in 2004, even the entry was horribly challenging for me. The surf is generally zero-to-ankleslappers, but there’s a bit of a step down right where the water hits the shore. You’re hobbling around on rocks that are full of holes, slippery algae, and spiny urchins, and once you’re past the obviously tricky part you still have a ways to go in knee-deep water with random holes and rocks trying to trip you up. I used to need Jeff’s hand to hold all the way in to keep from wobbling and falling over, and that was when I wasn’t dealing with a camera.

Carol still had a bit of tricky time with the entry (her camera is the heaviest), but I found it to be much easier than I remembered. I took my time feeling out the good spots to step, sat down as soon as it was comfortable to do so, and didn’t expend nearly as much energy worrying about tipping over as I did last time.

Likewise, the “long” surface swim just didn’t seem that bad after a few summers of LA county’s ADP program. And the dive itself, which was super-short and stressful for me on our first trip due to its depth, felt like a total breeze now that we were diving on Nitrox. All in all, I just felt infinitely more relaxed and comfortable with all aspects of diving. It’s amazing how much difference a little experience can make – and how the exact same dive sites even looked different to me when sizing them up.


We took advantage of the extra bottom time (Nitrox!) and checked out both ends of the Hilma Hooker. I actually spent most of my time in between, cruising back and forth through the hold that’s open at both ends, with a neat window where you can look out at the rest of your dive buddies. (Something else that was scary to me last time.) We spent about twenty minutes at depth, then slowly cruised our way back into the shallows, with a nice long stop for me at the top of the ship’s hull to check out all the nesting fish.

We didn’t have far to go for our next dive: Angel City is just next door to the Hilma Hooker. We took our time setting up gear and soaking up a little sun, and I dug out a couple of paper party hats for Carol and I to don for our underwater birthday photos.


Angel City boasts easy access to Bonaire’s second fringing reef, which comes to its highest point in this area before dropping off. You can see the second reef from the first one at this site (and the ones on either side), so it’s an easy swim to go check it out. Being a little deeper and a little less-dived, the second reef is downright lush with coral and sponge growth. There were strange coral formations everywhere, each with its own cloud of little fish. Up above, schools of larger fish cruised the area, teasing all the photographers up into the water column as we tried to get closer.

It was a gorgeous place to celebrate dive #400!


It was already mid-afternoon by the time we left Angel City and headed back up to our condo. After scarfing down a late lunch from Sand Dollar grocery, Carol was ready for some down time. The rest of us decided to hop in at Bari Reef to see what we could find.

My favorite thing about Sand Dollar’s house reef is that you really don’t have to go far at all to start seeing interesting things. On this dive – and every dive – we basically landed right on top of interesting subjects. I spent the start of the dive in 15 feet of water watching a sharptail eel hunting through the coral rubble for his dinner.

I had the macro lens on for this dive, which is equal parts fun and excruciating; lots of neat little critters to shoot, but focusing on them can be a serious bitch! I’m still learning the ropes in that department. But I was excited to spot what may be the tiniest fish I’ve ever seen, and I found it entirely be accident. I was shooting some interesting texture on a sponge when I noticed something with eyeballs on my monitor – which was zoomed all the way in and at close range. Sure enough, it turned out to be some sort of juvenile blenny (like blennies aren’t small enough when they’re grown up), not any longer than my pinky joint. I have lots of blurry footage to prove it. As well as this photo from Jeff:


Jeff was dying to hop back in for a night dive, but I pleaded exhaustion. (I know! After just three dives!) I blamed the previous day’s travel schedule. And so ended Day 2 in Bonaire…

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