Tag Archives: dive bonaire

Dive Buoyant

Buoyancy An Art or Skill?

Buoyancy is something you have to constantly practice and perfect while diving.  It is not something you learn once and then move on as there are so many different variables.  The water depth, tank weight, BCD, weights, and your breathing all impact your buoyancy.

Diver buoyancy

Photo Courtesy of Diving Frontiers

Matt has it mastered and can literally site Indian style in the water, gently moving up and down with each breath.  Sign of a skilled and controlled diver and flexible yogi.

My new BCD has helped tremendously.  The original BCD was a unisex BCD which did not fit me correctly.  The torso was too long and it sat below my hips and was overall just too big.  I sold it and bought a female Aqua Lung Pearl which fits much better and gives me far more control.

I am pretty flat (or neutral) while I am diving.  But I do tend to struggle when I want to stay in one place to take a photo, look at a critter, or wait for other divers.

Work needed to be done so I jumped at the chance when Eric on “Ad Astra offered to do buoyancy skills with a few of us.  Eric is a dive instructor and has over a dozen certifications (rescue, first aid, deep, technical, side mount, etc…) and is the perfect person to teach us new techniques.

Me diving.

Me, before I learned my new skills, pretty neutral.

Jane from “Cheetah II,” Daryl and Janet from “Maple” joined me at “Ad Astra’s” mooring where Eric had rigged a little skills course.  He put up a diagonal line creating a space that got smaller as the line met the sea bed on opposite side.

Eric had us practice fin kicks where you leave the tips of your fins on the floor and raise your body up with an inhale and down with an exhale.  After we “mastered” this exercise, he showed us different fin kicks.  Most people do the flutter kick which tends to kick up sand and can disturb the sea life so we were learning alternative kicks that are less disruptive to the animals.

Types of Kicks:
  • Flutter kick
  • Modified Flutter kick
  • Frog Kick
  • Helicopter turn

After displaying our new skills, we used the modified flutter kick to get under the line, then helicopter around and swim back under the line without touching the line or the ground.

Next, we used the same kick to swim barely over the line, then we headed straight down (perpendicular to the ground, head first), then swam under the line belly up (tank closest to the ground).  Of course, I looked at him in disbelief when he demonstrated it and indicated I might not be able to do it, but to my surprise, I killed it!

The next skill I had heard about and swore I would never do – but here I am preparing to do it in front of 5 other people.  You swim slowly, just above the floor (18″), up to a spoon that has been buried in the sand (the top part of the spoon showing).  As you slowly approach the spoon, you gently nudge it with your regulator, then slowly and calmly remove your regulator, grab the spoon with your mouth, look at Eric, and then replace your regulator.  I am not sure what the spoon’s problem was but it kept evading my mouth or jumping out of my mouth- it was comedic for everyone but me. Goin in, miss, goin in again, miss, spoon flops on sand – try the entire move again.  Eventually, I got it, but man it was irritating.

For the last skill we slowly swam up to the mooring, 18″ off the floor, hovered at the mooring for 5 seconds.  We then used our breath to raise up over the mooring then headed upside down, holding for 5 count (basically doing a “U” around the mooring.

Mooring Block

Mooring Block – Not Eric’s, but similar.

When we came up to the surface, we were all surprised to learn that we had been down for 90 minutes!  It was an incredibly educational and useful session that we are all very grateful to have received.  It certainly should be included in the basic Open Water or at least in Advanced training – which it is not.

None the less I feel much more equipped to handle my buoyancy and look forward to putting my new skills to work while diving.

Matt upside down

Matt pretending to be a trunk fish – upside down.

Salt Pier dive

Me at the Salt Pier.

Salt Pier dive

Diving the Salt Pier

Another day out on Ad Astra for a diving adventure under the Salt Pier also known as “Waf di Salina”.  The Salt Pier, one of the best dive sites on Bonaire, is also one of the most photographed sites on the island.

Cargil currently operates the Salt Pans which cover one tenth of the island’s surface and produces 360,000 to 500,000 tons of Bonaire salt every year.  The varying colors of the ponds reflect the various stages of production.  It starts with crystal clear seawater which then turns to green, then brown, and then the salt crystallizes turn pink.  The unique pink color us caused by bacteria which are enjoyed by flamingos.  Did you know, baby flamingos are born white until they eat the brine shrimp and bacteria?

Aerial view Salt Pier and Salt Pans

Overlooking the Salt Pier and Salt Pans. Photo courtesy of We Share Bonaire

Diving the Salt Pier takes you to depths between 5 to 15 meters, where you’ll explore a maze of pillars fully encrusted with sponges and corals shooting up, hanging down, and jutting out.  These sponge and coral covered pillars are in vibrant shades of purple, yellow, and pink.  Each pillar provides you with a unique sea community filled with sea life large and small.  Large schools of fish congregate in the shadows created by the salt terminal overhead.

Our first dive of the day was to get the “lay of the land” and give us Salt Pier newbies a quick glance of what the Salt Pier looks like during in the light.  We anchored at Jeannie’s Glory and decided to swim to the Salt Pier.  It was a pretty big distance, but we were able to mark our path by a large cargo ship mooring which indicated the half way point to the pier.  It also had a distinct “clink, clink” sound as the chain links bobbed up and down off the sea floor.

It was absolutely amazing to see the corals and sea life hanging precariously from each pillar which offered new and surprising communities.  We moved on to the 2nd and 3rd set of pillars to get a quick glance of everything before our night dive.  We were surprised to see the large amount of trash and tires, but I guess that is to be expected below a pier??

Salt Pier Dive

Salt Pier looking up from the sea bed.

Salt Pier Dive

Salt Pier Pillar with coral growth

At dusk, we jumped in the water in small groups as there were a lot of us diving (12 divers), we followed our dive plan and headed toward the Salt Pier with torches in hand eagerly anticipating what we might see.  Our goal was to swim slowly to the huge mooring, then over the reef to the first set of pillars.

New and surprising creatures appear during night dives that were not there during the day.  Flowers bloom, sea anemones pop up, eels and shrimp come out and so much more. It is an exchange of sea life where the day fish go into hiding and the night fish come out to play.

Large tarpon surrounded us checking us out – some as large as our bodies.  They have no fear and will often swim very close to you which is unsettling when you don’t see them in the dark until they are in your peripheral vision or right in front of your face.

A delightful slipper lobster was cruising around the bottom of the sea bed in between the pillars.  You can’t tell from the photo below, but at night his eyes glow and his tentacles reflect the light from your torch.  He moves slowly and methodical – pretty spectacular.

Slipper Lobster dive

Slipper Lobster photo courtesy of Info Bonaire.

Salt Pier dive

Salt Pier Pillar coral growth

Dive Bonaire

Dive Adventures in Bonaire

In an earlier post we posted a list of several exciting dive spots we explored and since then we have had the pleasure of visiting a few more that are worthy of sharing:

  • Small Wall” is a site we had been to a few times, but Jane on Cheetah II had spotted a sea horse that we wanted to meet.  Jane expertly navigated us to the soft coral and even after pointing several times, I still had a hard time finding the little guy.  But, Matt was able to point him out, get a few great shots and even a video of him moving from one branch to another.  The photo below is him in motion moving from the lower branch to the upper branch where he is easier to spot. This is a male sea horse and he is pregnant.  We watched and admired him for close to 15 minutes before tearing ourselves away.  This is absolutely the coolest thing I have seen in my entire life – such a beautiful, delicate, creature and yet so majestic!
Sea horse, male, pregnant

Sea horse floating at Small Wall

  • Salt Pieris a spectacular dive that you can only access when there are no boats on the large pier (cruise ships, cargo, fuel or otherwise).  This is such a special dive site that we will dedicate an entire post on it in a few weeks.
Salt Pier

Salt Pier dive site. Cruising around and exploring.

    • We visited a dive site with no name by car which was recommended by a local diving instructor – which meant a shore dive.  It was located on the north point of the island.  I’m not a fan of shore dives and this one had a dead coral beach, challenging entry around reefs, and a current.  But once you got past the entry, the dive was really pretty with a lot of unusual and large coral formations.
    • Barcaderawas a random pick with our friends on Ad Astra.  We did not know what to expect and it turned out to be surprisingly amazing.  The topography was varied with a splendid array of soft and hard coral forming these majestic mushroom cap hills across the sea floor.  We spotted several lion fish, a couple of huge lobsters and many other beautiful fish.
Beautiful variety of soft coral.

Beautiful variety of soft coral.

  • Sampleris so appropriately named as it has a sample of a large variety of hard and soft coral.  It was a beautiful display of colors and shapes across the seascape.  We discovered a Spiny Box Puffer (also known as a Web Burrfish) which we had never seen before.  He is so amazing cute that I wanted to touch him – but alas we just admired from afar.
Dive discovery of spiny box puffer

Photo courtesy of RockNCritters.com

Spiny Box Fish

Spiny Box Fish blends in with the coral

Spiny Box Puffer

Spiny Box Puffer (Web Burrfish) trying to get away from our camera.

  • Wayaka IIis in the National Park and Matt and I had the pleasure of snorkeling it during Wayne’s visit in June.  We had such an amazing time that we decided to dive it with Ad Astra.  We arrived by car, had a fairly easy shore entry, but a fairly long swim to the mooring.  As we were trying to descend, I realized I forgot my weights so Matt and I had to swim back to get them, against the current.  It was incredibly hard and tiring so by the time we returned to the mooring I was very fatigued.  Unfortunately, the dive site was not all that we had hoped.  The prettiest fish and corals are close to shore at snorkeling level and the dive area is littered with dead coral covered in red algae.
  • Alice in Wonderlandis a double reef dive site which was a bit murky when we arrived, but still exquisite. A beautiful variety of friendly fish willing to swim and play with you.
  • Red Slave”  This dive site is on the southern most tip of Bonaire. It is more of an advanced dive due to its proximity to the point and strong currents.  We had a fairly large group with us (same group from Vista Blue) but we were jumping in late morning so it was pretty clear.  The current was really strong which we noticed the minute we jumped in water.  We swam against the current to start out which was challenging and even though it was a pretty dive site with some big lobsters, it was hard to enjoy while you are fighting the current.  We overshot the boat, but were able to swim back (most of us at least).  We did have to “rescue” three people who tired fighting the current.
  • Vista Blue we did this dive a few weeks ago as a shore dive which was very challenging for me, but this time we came back on the big boat with Ad Astra.  We were with a pretty large group and did not hop in the water in until late in the afternoon so it was not as clear as it was the last time, but it was still amazingly beautiful with a huge variety of soft and hard corals.  This site is absolutely one of my favorite dive spots!

Favorite Things

  • Flowing fauna
  • Fish
  • Diving with Matt