Manta Divers, February, 2015 Bonaire Report
It sure was a rude awakening when, after a 13hr delay, Team Manta finally landed at O’Hare. We trudged to the baggage claim, collected our gear and walked out to the waiting limo, only to be slapped in the face with a 60° drop in temperature. This snow only adds insult to injury. Thank goodness I have my photos and videos to remind me of the fun we had and the many new experiences we had in that warm sunny spot.
For this trip to Bonaire, we again stayed at Buddy Dive Resort, groups of four people sharing 2 bedroom condos. We flew out in the early hours Saturday, January 17 and arrived at Flamingo International Airport at 3PM Local time. We caught the shuttle to the resort and checked in. After settling into my room, I checked in at the dive shop, showing my C-card and Nitrox certification, obtaining our boat dive schedule and paying my marine park fee. This proved to be a good strategy to beat the after-orientation rush on Sunday. After a trip to the grocery store for supplies, it was time for a cocktail and dinner with the group.
We started our Sunday with breakfast at “Ingridients” the new restaurant at Buddy’s. Next, we made our way to the bar area to hook up with a staff member for a tour of the resort and to be apprised of procedures for getting tanks, analyzing nitrox and how to best explore the house reef. Finally, we were ready to dive.
Our first order of business was to do a good buoyancy check. This was particularly important to me due to a new scuba kit. Because I am frequently cold, I usually bring a 5mm wetsuit for tropical trips. The 5mm keeps me warm, but it takes up a fair amount of room and weight in my baggage. In addition, I need to use more lead than I would with a lighter suit. This year I decided to try something new. Huish Outdoors (They own Atomic, Bare, Stahlsac, Zeagle and Liquivision) recently added a product called Sharkskin. It is a thermal garment that can be worn by itself or under a wetsuit. It is not neoprene and its effect on buoyancy when added to your set up is negligible. Sharkskins are available in anything form a vest to a full jumpsuit. I went with the hooded vest that I wore underneath a 3mm Bare jumpsuit.
I dropped about 4 pounds from my baggage and 4 pounds of lead for diving. The best part, though, was that I was warm! The water in Bonaire was 79-81° and I was averaging four dives a day. Usually, towards the end of a week like that, I am adding a lycra hood and/or a beanie and making shorter dives because I am cold, but not this time! An added plus for me was that my hair, tucked under the hood, was not getting in my way. It was a win all around! The rest of the day, was spent exploring the house reef, searching for the next shore diving spot and, for me, working with my open water student, Ricardo.
Monday morning, we had the first two of our six planned boat dives. Our boat, Beyana, was a bit cozy with our 11 divers, but we made it work. As we headed to Klein Bonaire, I mentioned that I was trying to hit as many spots that I had not dived on previous trips. Consulting my list, we decided on Bonaventure and Just a Nice Dive for our sites. We were capably led on these dives by Nathalia, a Brazilian transplant. I was happy to see that Bonaire’s reefs are still as healthy as ever and their marine life remains diverse in spite of the lionfish invasion that is threatening much of the Caribbean. After these two dives, were able to welcome Ricardo to the ranks of open water scuba divers!
For our remaining boat excursions, we went to Barcadera, Small Wall and Rappel and Carl’s Hill on Klein. Rappel was one of the sites I needed to check off my list. This site is on Bonaire, but is accessible only if the weather conditions are right and only by boat. Since the mooring is so close to the sheer wall that gives the site its name, if it is windy, it is not safe to moor there. Fortunately for us, the morning we planned to visit this site, towards the northern tip of the island, was a calm one. This site was beautiful, teeming with juvis of all species. Most of the week I was using my Go Pro camera with a red filter for better color, but today, I took my Sony. This camera is better for still and macro photography. It also gave me a chance to really see how well my Scuba Pro Ladyhawk BC would work when I needed to be steady and sure to get good photos. I was not disappointed. The BC fit perfectly and I felt as though it and the tank were simply part of my body. There was no slop when I moved and it never shifted during the dive leaving me annoyed that the tank valve was hitting the back of my head. The back inflation streamlined my underwater profile and held me steady when I needed to wait for that perfect moment to snap the shutter. At the surface, I had plenty of buoyancy to comfortably wait my turn to return to the boat.
Our shore dives all presented unique challenges as far as entries went. It doesn’t take long when diving in Bonaire, to learn that it is worth taking time pre-dive to plan your entry and exit routes. We always took the time and even at the most challenging spots, we worked together to get everyone in and out without incident. Especially with so many of us bringing camera on our dives, it was often necessary to get one of us in the water, then hand all the cameras to that diver to hold while the rest made their way in.
In addition to checking a few new sites off my Bonaire list, I revisited my favorites, Oil Slick Leap, Karpata, 1000 Steps and the wreck, Hilma Hooker. I had plenty of opportunities to learn about my Scuba Pro Chromis wrist watch style dive computer, too. I was never a fan of wrist mounted computers since I have a relatively small wrist and I did not have to wear some honking behemoth around, but the Chromis is reasonably sized, and not bad to wear. I also liked knowing what time it was when I was out of the water: I would hate to be late for the boat! The display is easy to read and the menus not difficult to navigate. Best of all, for you techies out there, it is downloadable!
This trip provided many discoveries for the group. I got to experience several dive sites new to me while trying out new pieces of equipment. We trained a new Open Water diver, three Advanced Open Water divers, and certified two Night Diving specialists and an Underwater Navigation specialist. It is so great to see divers interested in pushing their personal limits and continuing their training beyond open water. That is the difference between a vacation and an adventure!
In Other News…………………
If you want to extend your bottom time and would like to be less tired after a day of diving, you need to dive with enriched air. Learn all about Nitrox diving in our next Nitrox Specialist course, February 25 at 6PM. This is not a hard course, but there is a little book work, so be sure to give yourself enough time to study before the classroom session.
As requested, we scheduled another Buoyancy Clinic. The classroom session will be March 21 at the shop starting at 1PM. The Pool session will be at the Rec Plex at 2PM. Spots are limited, so register soon. This course can be taken as enrichment or as part of the Peak Performance Buoyancy Specialist certification.
Congratulations to Ricardo Hildebrand for earning his open water certification, Anthony Townsend, Dan Gappa and Annette Balestreri for completing Advanced Open Water, Ken Welch on his Night Diver specialty, and Ken Jeep on earning both Night Diver and Underwater Navigator specialty certifications.