Bonaire: Marine Parks, Uninhabited Islands, Lionfish & Goodbyes

Yesterday morning I spent with the older dive team and we went diving on Klein Bonaire! Klein Bonaire is a smaller uninhabited island off the coast that is home to some pretty spectacular reefs. Free from human stressors and part of the STINAPA Marine Park, the reefs are in excellent condition and house a wide array of marine life. We took the boat out to the island and completed two dives! The first was along the ledge and I was absolutely enthralled with the sheer number of fish here. Far more than I had seen anywhere else on the island and there were large heads of brain coral and towering tube sponges that protruded from the reef. Christmas tree worms of all colors dotted the substrate and thousands of chromis swimming in unison with one another gracefully moved over the reef. I was entranced by the natural beauty of the reef and could have spent the entire day underwater.

I even spotted an invasive lionfish under a stand of montipora coral. Lionfish are endemic to the Indo-Pacific reefs, NOT the Caribbean. Likely introduced by accident from an aquarium enthusiast, the lionfish have multiplied and spread rapidly throughout the Caribbean, decimating the small fish populations. With no natural predators, humans are beginning to hunt them and Woody actually speared several while diving over the course of the week! They are an airy, white meat fish that is easy to serve (once the venomous barbs are removed). Lionfish culls are necessary to bring down the populations and help the local fish species to recover.

After spotting the lionfish and giving a science lesson to the kids, we headed into shore and completed a second dive along the ledge in front of Captain Don’s dive resort and continued along the shore until we reached Buddy Dive! That afternoon I helped Woody with the Zombie Apocalypse dive (yes, you read that correctly haha). Woody came up with the idea and even had it PADI certified as a course! From inflating lift bags to recovering a diver, there are many useful skills to obtain from the course. In usual Woody fashion he was able to spice it up by adding some exciting aspects of it for the kids, including an underwater bubble gun that shoots out surprisingly powerful bubble rings. We also had to rescue a diver and patch a zombie bite, all while dodging other zombie divers underwater. After completing the course I took the photos of the divers and Woody smeared green make-up and fake skin on them! It was really entertaining to see everyone pretending to be zombies while diving! That evening, I accompanied Woody and Danae to the restaurant while Rowan and Bryon-Bell were at the kids show for the evening! They truly are the salt of the earth and I was so happy to be able to spend some quality time with both of them. I later went on a night dive with Woody and he spotted a squid hovering near the surface and was able to get an awesome shot of its luminescent eyeball!

This morning we completed our last dive on Klein Bonaire as the family dive! All the families for the week met on the docks and took the boats over to the island. We leaped off the boat and swam ashore to the uninhabited island and I walked along the shoreline reading the Marine Park’s signs about the sea turtle nests here and the bird colonies inland. Walking along a shell and coral covered beach on an uninhabited island in the Caribbean adjacent to turquoise-blue waters felt like an absolute dream. The natural beauty of Bonaire is unrivaled by anything I have ever seen and seeing all the joyous families playing with their kids in the shallow water or snorkeling offshore was a fulfilling way to end this unforgettable week. I was giving Rowan and Bryson-Bell piggy back rides in the water and snorkeling over the reef with them pointing out the various fish species and teaching them about the marine life. Back at Buddy Dive, Woody and I certified another batch of Zombie divers and then attended the award ceremony! From a poetry contest to spirit awards, the event kept the kids entertained while recognizing their achievements over the week. They then had a beach dinner to conclude the week and we are now beginning to pack for out flight home in the morning. I am so grateful to Woody and Danae for their unwavering kindness and support all week. Woody is probably the wittiest and most wholehearted people I have ever met and he deserves so much credit for pulling off an incredible week for all of these families! Danae is a doting mother and gentle soul and I have loved her sarcastic humor and wholesome personality. I have gotten so close to the enthusiastic Rowan and Bryson-Bell this week and I’m going to miss them terribly. The Tinsley’s have shown me nothing but love and I am blissfully happy to have met each of them.

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