Dive Into Bonaire!

img_6020I’m sitting on the plane back from Bonaire and I still cannot get over the incredible week I just had. I love to travel, as I believe with each trip, you learn something new, whether it’s a new culture, language, or way of life. For me, this trip was truly life changing as I discovered a new world…the one underwater. I have snorkeled and done some introductory dives in the past, but I finally decided to get scuba certified, and I couldn’t have asked for a more enriching and spectacular playground than that of Bonaire.

This past week was filled with so many new experiences, including meeting great new diving friends, boat and shore diving, and my first night dive! I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people with whom to go diving than those at Captain Don’s Habitat. img_5867The casual and open setting facilitates easily formed bonds between people of all ages and diving levels. One of my biggest fears before arriving was the fact that I would be a new diver and everyone else would have much more experience. However, my fears quickly dissipated as experienced divers and divemasters offered to be my dive buddy. They were quick to help me double check that all of my equipment was hooked up correctly or pull me back down if I was ascending too quickly as I started to do on my first dive (you have to do a safety stop at 15-20 feet for 3 minutes so you can slowly let the nitrogen out of your body).

During my stay in Bonaire, I did my four open water dives to complete my certification right off of the pier at Captain Don’s, and did four boat dives to Forest and Keepsake in Klein Bonaire, Kalli’s Reef and the Hilma Hooker ship wreck, which was my deepest dive at almost 100 feet! di-dieter-bonaire_08-21-09_09141The night dive was an experience unlike any other. When I first jumped in off of Captain Don’s pier, I couldn’t believe how dark it was, but with our dive lights we were able to see around us. Again, I had such a wonderful dive buddy, who held my hand for the whole hour. There were four of us that went out and we wanted to make sure we all stayed together. As we ventured through the waters, we had a big tarpon following us, probably using our light to hunt for his dinner. Its skin was shiny and glistened off of our light. di-dieter-bonaire_08-21-09_0911One of the guys the night before had seen an octopus and I was really hoping we would as well. Turns out just as we were heading back, this huge octopus was beside us morphing into different forms and colors. The color changes were amazing, a new one every few seconds. It’s probably the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!

Since this was my first time diving, I didn’t want to buy an expensive underwater camera or video camera just yet, as I knew I would need to concentrate on my buoyancy (making sure you don’t hit the coral or float to the top). However, I also wanted to capture this amazing underwater world and my first experience on tape, so I called Hendrik Wuyts, owner of Bonaire Film Productions, and the best underwater videographer on the island of Bonaire. He came with his very high tech HD video cam and captured the whole dive for me. Not only did he get great footage, but he knew all the right spots to look for the best fish and coral. p1010025 On this dive, I saw two turtles, one that was swimming and one sleeping, which I was really excited about, and a flounder making his way along the bottom of the ocean. He was the same color as the sand, but you could see his eyes open and close as he scurried along. In addition, we saw beautiful butterfly, cowfish and trunkfish. It was a remarkable experience and Hendrik makes you feel completely at ease so you can explore while he takes care of the rest. He has a way of getting the fish to come to him, as he captures their true essence. Even if you are an experienced diver, you should bring him along on one of your dives or if you are in a group, he will film you all jumping in and interacting with the fish. I know I haven’t been to many other dive spots yet, but I can’t imagine one more beautiful. It is ranked as one of the best spots in the world for its sustainability. ta_dushi_film_frontHendrik also just released a DVD entitled Bonaire Ta Dushi which talks all about Bonaire’s past and present, the Bonairean people and their history and highlights all of the things you must see and do in Bonaire. A naturalist teaches you about their birds and beautiful flamingos, while marine park gurus explain why Bonaire still has such pristine reefs.

This was “Celebrate Our Planet Week” in conjunction with Bonaire’s “Dive Into Summer” program and featured famed oceanographer, Dr. Sylvia Earle, who I had the honor of diving with twice and attending her seminar. img_5986 Dr. Earle is an extremely interesting and accomplished individual who has worked practically her whole life studying marine life and trying to teach so many what is going to happen if we don’t work on conserving our lifeline.   Dr. Earle has led more than 60 expeditions worldwide involving over 7000 hours underwater in connection with her research and is known as the ambassador to world’s oceans.

So if you’re thinking about getting Scuba certified, I would recommend contacting DEMA and get on board their  “Be a Diver img_59151Program.” They will help you find a dive shop in your area. Do the classroom or e-learning work at home as well as your pool dives and then complete the rest in Bonaire. You’ll be certified within a day or two of your arrival and will have the rest of the time to explore. If you are an experienced diver and have not made it to Bonaire yet, what are you waiting for?! After you discover some of the 80 dive spots in Bonaire and Klein Bonaire, you’ll see exactly what I mean…a whole new world like you’ve never seen before.


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Two Dives Down, Two Dives to Go!

img_5870We arrived in Bonaire yesterday after we island hopped from Aruba to Curacao to Bonaire. The flight from Aruba to Curacao was 25 minutes and from Curacao to Bonaire, 12 minutes.  Located in the Netherland Antilles,  Bonaire is part of the Southern Caribbean and is known for it’s incredible scuba diving, windsurfing, and kitesurfing.

We had a great BBQ buffet dinner at the Divi Flamingo Beach Resort and Casino, one of the first properties on the island of Bonaire.  We have set up shop at Captain Don’s Habitat where they call themselves the home of diving freedom.  What makes Bonaire and Captain Don’s so special is that right off the shore there is incredible marine life, so while boat diving is great, you can also go right off the pier of Captain Don’s Habitat.

img_5921Today, I started the part of my confined water certification, which includes four dives in the ocean.  Roger Haug is my instructor and he does a great job teaching the scuba skills and making you feel comfortable and confident from the start.  Bonaire is a great place to learn how to dive because you can go from shallow to as deep as you want in increments right off the shore.

I was excited to use my new equipment from Sherwood Scuba and Henderson, a local New Jersey company that does a great job with their wet suits.  Many of the other divers had Henderson wetsuits as well.  img_6102Sherwood supplied me with my mask, snorkel and fins, as they are a sponsor of DEMA’s “Be a Diver Program.”  The kinesis fins cut the water really well and the frameless mask folds up easily, so it makes for a great second mask.  I can’t believe the variety of fish in size and color, some that can be seen close to the surface.

img_5898Captain Don’s Habitat has a real homey feel with people from all over the world becoming friends as they dive together.  In my certification group there is a mother and daughter from Washington D.C. getting certified together and a 12 year old boy whose parents have been diving for years here in Bonaire.

I can’t wait to finish my last two dives! I’ll officially be a certified scuba diver with the rest of the week to enjoy the beautiful marine life of Bonaire!


Get Scuba Certified!!!

I am a huge water person…always have been.  I’ve done some introductory scuba diving in Israel where I swam with the dolphins and in Turks and Caicos, but I’m headed to Bonaire in a week, and since they are known as one of the top three places in the world for their marine life, I decided to finally get PADI certified.  www.padi.com I hooked up with DEMA’s (Diving Equipment and Marketing Association) “Be A Diver” program.  You may have seen their 20×40 15,000 gallon mobile pool at various events, fairs, and sports expos around the United States, which allow you to try scuba for the first time.   You can learn more about what they do at www.beadiver.com.

I’ve always talked about getting certified, but for some reason I was little hesitant, maybe because I cut open my foot on some coral during an introductory dive, but I can’t be more thrilled that I finally went for it.  PADI along with The Dive Shop in Cherry Hill is making the process so easy! www.thediveshopnj.com With PADI, you can choose to do the e-learning which takes up some time, but you go at your own pace online.  After each of the five sections, you’ll be given a test to make sure you comprehend everything.  If you get anything wrong, they will give you the opportunity to go back, clarify, and take it again.  There is no failing…they just want to make sure you understand everything for your own safety.

The second component of the certification is your training in the pool.  You can find a local dive shop in your area that runs the classes and instruction.  If you choose not to do the e-learning, they usually hold group classes.  I went to “The Dive Shop” in Cherry Hill for my pool instruction and I have to say, they made my experience phenomenal!  David Barnes was my instructor and not only is he so knowledgeable, but he really makes you feel confident with all of your equipment in the water.  In just two three hour sessions, we were able to go through all of the skills and he always asked if I had any questions and if there was anything I wanted to do over.   Each day I left class, I was so excited that I was one step closer to my certification and that much more psyched for my trip to Bonaire. www.tourismbonaire.com

When it came time to picking out my mask, snorkel, fins, wetsuit, and boots, Arin Centrone, the owner of “The Dive Shop” was so incredibly helpful.  This is all new to me, so of course I had a lot of questions and she went through everything in the store  and explained the differences in the gear.  We also emailed back and forth a bit and any question I had, she or  David was also a huge help in pointing me in the right direction.  I would highly recommend getting your certification there.  They really know their stuff, are so patient, friendly, and excited for you to explore this new world!

For the third and final part of my certification, I’ll be doing four open water dives in beautiful Bonaire! I’ll be sure to tell you all about my adventures  and hopefully get some great pictures and video!

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