Mike has come down to Curacao to escape the rain and cold of a Vancouver October. His first day here we decided to just jump in the ocean at here at Blue Bay Beach. Saw lots of fun stuff, including flying gurnards, octopus and turtles. A really fun first snorkel.
The weather has been a bit, shall we say, volatile? We’ve had some crazy rain, and some awesome thunder and lightning. But it sure is amazing how quickly the place greens up with just a little bit of water. Although, I wouldn’t quite say it was a little water! Tropical rain showers really do dump a ton of water in a hurry.
Playa Lagun is a smaller bay, near Westpunt. It has a couple of nice restaurants very close by – one behind the parking lot, and another that requires climbing a rather long set of stairs up to the Bahia apartment complex. Both have pretty good food, but the Bahia Beach Bar has much nicer views. The beach itself has a few palapas, a masseuse, a batido (smoothie) food truck, and a place that sells fresh fish. There is no shower, and restrooms are in the restaurants only.
It’s always quite busy. Lots of sun tanners on loungers, that are for rent. The bay is quite narrow, but there is usually always something fun to see in the ocean. The best way to enter the ocean is on the far left side. It’s very sandy there, and is quite easy to get in. The right and middle of the bay is quite rocky with lots of bigger chunks of coral that hurt your feet, so definitely enter and exit on the left side.
The coral starts to get better the further out you get. Both walls are quite fun, and today we saw a large school of squid, a flying gurnard and a turtle. It was a fun snorkel, and there was lots of other fish to see, what we call the usual suspects. After our snorkel, we grabbed a batido from the little food truck, like we normally do – she does a great job!
Small turtleFlying GurnardStaircase to the barThe bay is a star too!
Pam and I spent a nice afternoon snorkeling around Playa Jeremi. It is a beach out Westpunt way. There is a small unpaved road you have to travel on, for maybe five hundred meters. There is plenty of parking, but there are no resources here: no bathroom, no shower, no dive shop, no restaurant, and just a couple of broken down palapas. Hopefully, as the Playa Jeremi resort gets established, they will improve this lovely little beach.
The beach is quite picturesque, with a long sandy stretch. On the day we were there, we shared the lovely bay with six other people. The entry into the water is very easy, with a rather level, sandy stretch. The visibility was quite good during our visit. There were lots of fish to see, but the coral was not stellar. Further out it’s quite nice, and especially on the left side of the bay. Still we saw a big coronetfish, which we don’t often see. As well, we saw a black durgon, a type of triggerfish which we rarely see here in Curacao.
We saw a little turtle in close to shore as were coming out of the water. Always fun to see turtles! Certainly Playa Jeremi does not have the coral like Blue Bay, but it was a nice diversion.
We have been looking for the Stone Castle Cameo studio for a few days. The lady who told us where it was, said we couldn’t miss it. And we did. Over and over again. Finally we discovered we were looking on the wrong road! VERY tough to spot a building from five miles away!
It is a teaching studio, with several local artists working in the ancient art form of cameos using seashells. Ranging from giant conchs to small snails, the range of items carved is truly staggering. If you come to Roatan, even if you don’t like cameos, you have to see this place. I didn’t want to leave.
There were four cruise ships docked today, so we decided to see what West Bay would look like with so many people in port. And it didn’t disappoint! The place was jumping with every store open, every vendor out, and even a couple of guys with monkeys!
We had lunch at the Grand Roatan, a beachside cafe right in front of where there is amazing snorkeling. It’s basically the last restaurant on the beach. We had Garifuna Soup, on the recommendation of the waiter. And he was so right. Totally amazing – shrimp, lobster, conch, fish, plantains, peppers, carrots, in a coconut cream base. Really really good – we’re coming back for it, you can bet!
The water was not as crowded as we expected, and the visibility was quite good. We saw tons of cool things like a Caribbean reef squid (a cephalapod) and of course, our favorite chelonian, a hawksbill turtle!
There is a little mammal here, that is part of the guinea pig family, and is called the Hiata. It’s often called the Roatan Rabbit, because of the large rear legs which makes it hop around, rather than run. We’ve spotted them in lots of places, but never managed to get a decent shot. So here is the best we’ve gotten so far…
We switched back into the unit we had last week. Changing units has been quick and painless. We have only had to move one unit over, so it’s been easy. The maid knocks on the door, letting us know the unit is ready, and we wheel our luggage over, swap the stuff in the fridge and we’re ready to snorkel!
We headed over to Boca Catalina, saw turtles, and assorted other fun stuff.
Here’s a brief movie of a flying gurnard. They have these cool wings they spread when they want to head out in a hurry.
Here is yet another little turtle movie.
We also checked out Frenchman’s Pass, in the southern part of Aruba. There is an old abandoned gold mine there. It’s still an impressive structure.
And lastly – how about these kayaking buddies? The navigator looks ready for anything, does he not?
On Friday, our last full day in Bonaire, we took the morning trip to Klein Bonaire, an uninhabited island just off the coast of Bonaire. We had wanted to book a trip earlier on the Woodwind, a trimaran, but they have gone to three sailings a week because it’s the low season I guess. Anyway, I can not recommend this trip highly enough! WOW. The young lady who owns the boat, Dedrie (Dee for short) is so passionate about the waters around Bonaire, and it came across so clearly. She really cares about the island, and doing her part to protect the environment there. She gave great talks on the history of the island, about the creatures in the water, how to snorkel, how to apply your mask – she really was an amazing person.
We got on the boat right at the docks of the Divi resort, so it was easy for us to get there. They had a mango drink ready for us, before we even got on the boat! They quickly got a couple of sails up and we made the crossing very quickly. Along the way we got to see flying fish skimming along the surface. Those little suckers can really fly long distances! Then after a talk about the history of the island (cholera quarantine, goat/donkey sanctuary, to uninhabited protected site) we jumped in for a drift snorkel. The coral there is absolutely wonderful which is nothing unusual for Bonaire, of course.
Dee told us the names of fish or coral, then would dive down and point out them out. She would literally latch on to people, and take them over to see various things. She is a powerful swimmer, an awesome diver, able to stay deep under water for longer than I thought possible! Also along on the trip was LeAnn, from a photo place on Bonaire called BonPhoto. Most of the pictures in this post were taken by her, with her underwater camera, fitted with a fisheye lens. She was amazingly personable as well. And she could dive deeply, and hold her breath a long time too – some of her pictures were taken at incredible depths – especially the ones of the turtles. Remarkable stuff.
After two snorkels, one in the area known for turtles nesting – we saw four turtles that day – we had another quick sail back to Bonaire and grabbed a mooring ball close to the lighthouse. They served us a hot lunch, a kind of goreng, with chicken and noodles and plantains. Then they gave us a brownie with caramel sauce and whipped cream. There was plenty to drink, and the conversations were of the fish we had seen. It was a really nice day. HIGHLY recommended if you ever go to Bonaire. Take the tour early in your stay – it will make you appreciate the island even more!
I’m including a slideshow of the pictures taken by LeeAnn of Bon Photo here – I’ve put her pictures in the one gallery, separate from our Bonaire gallery. She used a Nikon P7000 with Fisheye lens to take the photos.
In the late afternoon, we took a quick swim around the reef by the Divi. It was our last swim, so we just slowly wound our away around the place. We saw some cool stuff – the most remarkable was a permit fish. He’s quite a large fish, and while we’ve seen permit fish in the past, we’ve never seen one close up. Usually they swim away quickly, before we can even get a half way decent shot of them. This guy didn’t even care if we dove right down into his face and took a picture. He just continued sifting through the sandy bottom!
Another unusual thing we saw was this crazy jellyfish called the tamoya ohboya, also know as the Bonaire banded box jellyfish. It’s a recently discovered jellyfish, officially described in 2011, and it’s sting is quite painful. It’s quite long, eighteen inches at least, and quite active in the water. There have been only fifty sightings of tamoya ohboya, so we’re kind of in a very select group!
It’s always cool to see different things in the water, and this trip to Bonaire was certainly fun for that! It will definitely be hard to go back home after all the fascinating stuff we’ve seen here! One thing we did not want to see was a lionfish, an invasive species, not indigenous to the Caribbean. We had not seen one the whole week, but our last day, last swim, in the last twenty minutes in the ocean, we spotted one! Heavy sigh… We reported it right away to the special “Lionfish Hunters” group.
Here’s a traditional shot for us… the last sunset… I’m thinking we will be back here, sooner rather than later. It’s a great island for snorkeling of course, but the people were really terrific. The island itself is much bigger than Aruba, but with less than ten percent of the population! We both felt comfortable there, like we were “regulars”…
Thursday was Three beach Thursday! We started by heading down south and jumping in at the Invisibles. I have no idea why it’s called that, but nothing was invisible! The water clarity was very nice, and there was lots to see. We’ve found that the way to snorkel here in Bonaire is to swim out to the dropoff, and swim against the current over the dropoff. When you are ready to get out, swim back into shore and drift back along the coral that is close to shore. That way you see “everything” and save energy!
After a couple hours, we got out and headed further south, past the salt plants. Bonaire, like most countries, has an unfortunate slave trading history, and their use in the salt industry is well documented. There are four different colored obelisks, representing the different qualities of salt available. When a ship stopped to pick up their product, they came to the colored obelisk corresponding to the salt they purchased. A flimsy temporary dock was quickly constructed. Female slaves would kneel, get loaded with heavy baskets of salt, and were pulled to their feet by the male slaves loading her. She would then carry it to the end of the shaky temporary dock to waiting crafts that were then pulled via rope to the offshore ships.
Travelling the south end of the island is on a single lane road, through wild lands, passing by one of many lighthouses on Bonaire, dotted with lots and lots of wild goats, donkeys, horses, flamingos, parrots and other birds.
The herds of goats are everywhere, and you better be ready to brake for them crossing the road, or simply milling about! It makes driving quite an experience! The roads are ok, not great, but the goats certainly add another dimension.
The parrots we saw are called Lora Parrots, a rare parrot, seen in very few places other than Bonaire. It used to be on Aruba, but is now extinct there due to poaching and poisoning. They estimate fewer than one thousand are left in the wild.
We dove in the water at Lac Cai, near the mangrove trees. It is supposed to be an amazing snorkel, but this was the one disappointing place we entered the water in Bonaire. Later, we discovered that we had missed the route through the mangroves to the great snorkeling! Ah well – next time we’ll find it.
We headed back to the Divi resort, and took a final dip in the ocean. And I’m sure glad we did! What an amazing snorkel it was! We swam over to the big main docks, where huge tugs are docked. Under that dock was an amazing world. Huge tarpons glided by, big barracuda hid under the tugs, huge schools of barjacks stalked the baitballs, and the pillars were lined with coral that was really amazing to see. Colorful and unique, teeming with tiny creatures, the pillars were a world all to their own.
Leaving the dock we went by a small pier. Under the pier was a huge snook. I’ve included this movie, because it’s kinda funny… about sixteen seconds in, you’ll see the movie take a big jerk… well it’s because I smacked my head on the pillar holding the pier up! And trust me on this one – it hurt! haha
Common snook movie…
Keeping close to the shore, we were in VERY shallow water – about two feet deep, and what did we spy? A turtle! He was probably getting some sun! He lazily wandered around us, taking his time. He was completely unafraid, completely unconcerned. We followed him around as he lazily swam around the beach. Just love to hang around a turtle!
Turtle movie with a barracuda too, from right in front of the Divi Flamingo Resort…
There was really so much we packed into this day. It was certainly busy, but oh so wonderful. So many great shots… so I remind you once again that the posts do not contain a link to all the pictures we took. You can access the gallery for Bonaire by clicking here or you can get to the gallery by clicking the gallery link on the menu line at the top of every page.
This last little movie is of a parrotfish being cleaned. I’m not sure how the fish know where to go to get cleaned, but they kind of “hover” and little fish dart out and nip off the stuff that is bothering the “victim.”