The Scuba Place team hosted a group of 16 divers for a return visit to Bonaire in August 2023. We first visited Bonaire in 2021 during a break from the COVID lockdown. We had a great time then (read our trip report here) and wanted to experience the Shore Diving Capital of the World once again.
Our group met for an early morning flight from London Heathrow to Amsterdam with KLM. It was a short 90-minute flight and a two-hour layover in Amsterdam gave us enough time to do a little shopping for those few items we forgot to pack and a stop at duty-free. The second leg of the flight was 10 hours with a short stop in Aruba before continuing on to Bonaire. We arrived just after 7:00 pm and were efficiently and quickly transported to the resort by the Buddy Dive team.
We chose to stay at Buddy Dive again after a great experience last time. We split our group into two three-bedroom apartments and one two-bedroom. The resort is just the right size… every apartment is close to everything… reception, the restaurants, the drive-thru tank station and the dive centre. We got our keys, checked out the digs and then met at Blennie’s for a bite to eat before calling it a night.
In the morning, we headed down to the breakfast buffet at Ingredients. Every morning we had our choice of sweet and savoury breads and pastries, meat and cheeses, cereal, yoghurt, fresh fruit, eggs, pancakes, sausages and bacon and made-to-order omelettes. The doughnuts were a personal favourite!
We stopped into the dive centre to grab our tank cards and locker keys. An orientation and tour by the dive staff for our group had been prearranged and we were shown how to check the pressure and analyse the NITROX tanks. The drive-thru tank station has tanks at the ready, rinse tanks and lockers for dive kit.
The team at Buddy’s shared with us that Bonaire’s reefs are experiencing coral disease and the national parks foundation STINAPA is working hard to educate and conserve. While the disease hasn’t been officially identified, it is affecting six out of the eight coral species vulnerable to Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease. Protocols had been put in place in an attempt to help stop the spread including a Red Amber Green system for dive sites and decontamination tanks for dive gear. Divers were asked to rinse gear in specified decontamination rinse tanks before entering the water. When we planned our shore dives, we were careful to make sure we went from Green to Amber or Red and not the other way around and rinsed our gear again at the end of the day. Buddy’s had special rinse tanks at both the drive-thru and down by the dive centre. If you’re interested in more information, check out the interactive map of Bonaire dive sites here.
We learned a lot when visited Bonaire in 2021 so we were prepared with our shopping lists and made quick work of our favourite grocery store Van den Tweel. We grabbed all the bits for our surface interval lunches along with drinks and snacks. Soft sided cool bags worked perfectly for lunches.
When it came to the diving, we relied on our past experience and our dog-eared guidebook and enjoyed sites from north to south and everywhere in between! We saw all the favourite suspects – turtles, frogfish, seahorses, trumpet fish and puffers, filefish, and trunk fish. Salt Pier – a top site – delivered a school of more than 30 Caribbean reef squid! We spent ages with them – such a special experience.
Shore diving allowed us to visit the sites we wanted, when we wanted, for as long as we wanted. Some sites were more challenging than others when it came to entry and exit with the rocky shore and surge, but we had some tricks to help… collapsing walking sticks were a great help for John who was just 8 weeks post hip surgery. After entering the water, the sticks collapsed and were tucked under bungees wrapped around the tank. Putting gear on once in the water helped more than one of us too!
We timed our trip to make sure it included a full moon. Why might you ask? If you haven’t read our last Bonaire trip report you can here. But let’s just say, our ostracod dive was out of this world! We chose to dive Aquarius, a southern site with loads of soft coral and it delivered! Twenty minutes surrounded by thousands of magical twinkling lights that evoke memories of Tinkerbell waving her wand at the beginning of childhood Disney films – just mesmerising!!! We had of course waxed lyrical about this experience to our group of divers, most of whom hadn’t seen this before, and to see their faces at the end of the dive was our reward – smiles everywhere!
All of the great underwater experiences we had on our previous trip were repeated, and we stretched our legs and took in some more dive sites. Bonaire really does deliver some excellent diving, and the new sites we tested out kept the bar high.
Above water, food and drink are the key things to take into account, and we revisited some old favourites and checked out some new eateries too. Given the apartments at Blennies are set up for self-catering, getting a takeaway is a great way to control the spending!
Blennies – the onsite bar and restaurant at Buddy’s is still great for a post-dive beer, light (and heavy!) lunches, and a good evening dining menu too. There are also numerous themed nights; Taco Tuesday, Steak and Pizza Nights and All-You-Can-Eat BBQ, so you really don’t have to venture out of the resort if you don’t want to. Additionally, a more upscale offering is Ingredients, a lovely a la carte eatery sitting overlooking the bay. The food here is delicious, and the wine list is excellent.
Out of the resort, we hit our favourite El Bigote a couple of times – the authentic Mexican fare and jugs full of cocktails are too good to miss! The staff are excellent, and this really is a super-friendly casual eatery that caters for groups brilliantly.
Turning left out of Buddy’s, and less than a mile up the road we visited as highly recommended Dragon City Restaurant and Bar. Food here was delicious, huge portions, and great value – and takeaway is available too. According to the dive staff, this is the best Chinese food on the island, and we have to agree.
Finally, another newcomer to us – a former food truck about to open a new permanent location, the Fat Dog Tacqueria and BBQ. If you like authentic Texas BBQ, slow roast everything and pulled beef and pork, this is a place you cannot miss. A huge platter, including burnt ends, pulled pork, spicy sausages, brisket and much much more, plus coleslaw and a potato salad fed four of us for two meals for just $50……delicious food and excellent value!
On our off-gassing day, we decided to get busy and play with toys – speedboat toys! Splitting into two groups, we hired two virtually brand new 16’ centre console sports boats with 70 HP engines and an inner tube of course – and off we went! We packed up cooler bags with picnic lunches and drinks, and spent four hours zipping around the bay, towing those brave enough to jump onto the tube at speed! This was great fun and a very different way to spend a non-diving day. $70 plus fuel was the cost per person, and this was well worth the spend!
In summary, Bonaire delivered the goods again – this is an excellent destination for dive clubs and group travel. Our hosted trip group was made up of people travelling from London, Cardiff and Manchester – all via Amsterdam, and there are plenty of other regional offerings too, making it easy for anyone in the UK to get to.
Bonaire has a host of hotels and apartment offerings, and numerous dive centres too. We dived with Buddy’s two years ago and they were excellent then. This year, they were even better! Having everything under one roof and on-site is the real benefit to visitors – accommodation and dining, plus vehicle rental, tank filling stations and of course a very easy access house reef all add up to a very streamlined operation, and this makes great sense for those travelling the distance to get there.
And we can’t leave out the value for money – it is just too good not to mention. A week, including flights, costs from as little as £1799, including truck rental, unlimited nitrox, and breakfast. Two weeks starts at £2999pp. In terms of cost per dive, one of our gang did 52 dives in 14 days…..that’s just £60 per dive. Realistically though, 24 dives in a week equates to £75 per dive. For direct comparison, a Red Sea liveaboard with 22 dives comes in at around £90 per dive, and a Maldivian liveaboard with 17 dives equates to close to £165 per dive. Bonaire might not be the Red Sea, or the Maldives, but it really does deliver the goods.
If you or your dive club is looking for a new destination don’t overlook the Shore Diving Capital of the World, Bonaire! Get in touch and let us help you plan your next dream diving holiday! And check out our 2021 Bonaire Trip Report for more information here.
Key Facts :
Getting there : Our flights were with KLM Airlines flying from Heathrow to Bonaire via Amsterdam and a quick stopover in Aruba. The first flight is a quick 90 minutes. A quick two-hour layover before our 11-hour flight onto Bonaire arriving at 7:15pm. We were greeted by Buddy Dive staff and after a quick 15-minute drive we arrived at the resort. We were quickly given our room keys and off to the restaurant for some food. Our flight home left after dinner arriving in London in the early afternoon. KLM offers flights to Amsterdam from many UK airports so regional airport departures are plentiful.
Air temperature : Tropical – average daily temperature throughout the year is 31°C. Rainfall passes quickly and the sea breezes are most welcome!
Water temperature : 28-30°C. A 1-3mm full suit or shorty is recommended to protect from scratches and stings and to keep the sand out.
Visa requirement : UK passport holders are permitted to enter Bonaire without a visa for a period of 90 days.
Immigration : A Bonaire Tourism tax of $75 is required to be paid before arrival and can be done online. A QR code is provided and must be shown to airport personnel on arrival and departure.
Tourism : The STINAPA Marine Park of $40 is required before arrival and can be paid online. You are required to have your marine park QR code on hand should you be asked by the authorities.
Currency : US Dollars are accepted across the island. Some establishments accept only cash so be sure and have some on hand. ATMs are easily found.
Electricity : 120V with European 2-pin plugs.
Internet and Wi-Fi : There is wifi in resort and worked well in our room and all over the resort. We were able to email, WhatsApp and post on social media without issue.
Price Guide: For 2024 expect from £1799 per person for 7 nights at Buddy Dive with bed and breakfast plus unlimited NITROX and truck rental. Two weeks from £2999 per person. Includes flights and ATOL protection.
Our Advice: Get your dive club together and visit Bonaire! Shore and boat diving are available and the area is suited for all levels of diving experience. Buddy Dive is perfect for big and small groups. A well-equipped dive center and amazing house reef can't be beat!
Packing tips :
Bag for Life : $4 in the supermarket! And you will need a quarter ($0.25) for the shopping trolley!
Cool Bag : Great for keeping your sandwiches and snacks cool in your truck, especially if you have a frozen water bottle in it too. Buy two big bottles and freeze one, chill the other.
DIN adapter : Tanks in Bonaire are A-clamp.
Dive Boots : With ultra-thick soles – you will be walking across rocks and dead coral, so good protection is needed.
Insect repellent : We’ve made a habit of throwing some repellent in our dive bags every trip but with the lovely breezes we didn’t suffer the mozzies much at all!
Rechargeable fan(s) : If you’ve read any of our recent trip reports we recommend these over and over again. We can’t believe we travelled without them for so many years! Join the fan club and grab one off Amazon… you won’t regret it!
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