Today we handle the husbandry aspect of the restoration process. Linda starts by cutting some of the coral that are grown enough.
Barbara and I then tie the new bits of coral with filaments and hang them back in the tree. With proper care and conditions, the new fragments will grow by 1cm per month. Outside a nursery condition, the growth is much slower and estimated at 1cm per year.
On our way back, I spot a moray eel under the rock.
In the afternoon, we will implant some corals back to initiate a new reef. But before that, we make a quick detour to see a seahorse.
After Linda has selected some of the coral that are fit to be implanted, Barbara and I start preparing the rock very accurately on the chosen spot to fit the coral.
Once the coral is stable by itself on the set area, we will fix it firmly with an epoxy resin to ensure a firm attachment that it is not getting displaced by the current or by anything else.
Linda checks every single coral have been properly placed and the work we’ve done is thorough.
The new implementation site is marked for reference. Thanks a lot for this great experience, I will share it and participate as much as I can.
Starting my Coral Restoration specialty with Linda (Wanna
Dive) at the Eden Beach.
We start with a bit of snorkeling around the deck, there are a lot of different fishes around here, and they’re not scared. It’s almost like we could cuddle with them.
The coral trees are just a few meters off the shore at around 4 meters deep. Before getting there, I spotted few blennies (I love those guys) so couldn’t resist a quick picture.
The trees require to be cleaned with brushes and pads, and some remove some unwanted fire coral in order to leave the nutriments for the Staghorn and Elkhorn corals that re grown here. It’s quite a work, in about an hour I manage to clean approximately one third of a tree as it requires delicate and thorough cleaning.
On our way back, a scorpionfish hiding under a rock caught my eye.
We left the beach as the sun was setting.
The mangrove in Bonaire is part of the protected area and it is formally restricted to enter it without a guide. The ecosystem here is so fragile that any disturbance can be fatal and without proper explanation and guidance, you can cause a lot of destruction by ignorance.
Today I got to visit the mangrove in a canoe. I was quite interested to find out how trees can grow in salted water. The Bonaire mangrove has three different types of tree, but the one that we see in the bay are the red mangrove tree.
The mangrove has three main roles:
- It’s a giant nursery where all sort of species come to lay eggs and have their progeny to grow in a more protected environment.
- It filters the water coming from the land and stops the dirt to get into the sea.
- It protects the coast from the waves and possible tsunamis.
The channels are mostly natural and are there to allow the water to circulate with the twice daily tides. It’s really noticeable when you swim in one of them and you can feel that you have to make quite an effort and you can just drift your way back.
There are not only fishes but also all sorts of birds, the most visible one being the flamingos, but two types of heron nest here as well.
The trip to
Klein Bonaire is very short and easy, there is two water taxis that propose
daily crossing. We chose to go with Epic Water taxi for two reasons: the boat
is much smaller and less crowded and arrives 15 minutes on Klein Bonaire.
We have as well decided to go today as we knew there weren’t any cruise ship mooring on Bonaire; a lot of the people cruising go to Klein Bonaire, and the No Name Beach is not big.
We had a clear explanation of what is allowed and what not to do, especially in regard to the coral reef. It really needs to be protected as we can see how many has died around here.
The snorkelling is great. We found a very diverse and abundant marine life around here.
But there is a sad reality: the coral here is not doing well at all, and sand beaches like this that may attract too many tourists can suffer a lot. One of the things that kill them is the sunscreen. If you use any type that contains oxybenzone or octinoxate (and sadly all sort of other component), they get diluted in the water and will kill the corals rapidly. One of the best ways to protect yourselves from the sun is to use UV protective clothing, there are some now that goes up to SPF 50.
No doubt, one
of my best dives so far in the Caribbean. I would put the East coast of Bonaire
just before Ost punt in Curaçao.
The coral and vegetation are still in very good conditions and the layout of the reef protecting the immense lac Bay definitely makes it THE dive site not to miss when coming here.
A lot of people would prefer the shore dives, for those I would say that if you have to make an exception it’s that one with East Coast diving (http://www.bonaireeastcoastdiving.com/ ). The semi rigid boat is small, but its arrangement is really well optimized. Let me try to convince you:
- I get seasick: most of the navigation to the dive sites are quite short, mostly within the bay which is really shallow so the boat has to go slow (the windsurfers are much faster), there is one bumpy bit when getting out of the bay but it is approached even slower; the remaining time on open sea is around 5-10 minutes.
- I don’t like crowded parties: good news, the boat is small, so no more than 10 divers.
- Briefing are useless to me: we heard more about marine life and facts about the nature, the actual dive profile bit is kept to its strict minimum. The organisation needs a bit of time because it is an unusual boat.
- Gearing up takes forever: the organisation on the boat is very precise, once you’re on it, everything has been well thought in advance and there isn’t any lost time.
- I don’t like jumping in the water: getting in the water is quite simple, it’s a rollback with almost military precision; but from the inflated side, it’s not high at all.
- It’s too difficult to come back on board: here is a bit of magic! I never saw that sort of setup, where a bit of the inflated side can be removed, and a ladder is attached. By the nature of that type of boats, it’s floor level above water is not as high as regular boats. As well the ladder is not on an axis and is firmly fixed, avoiding the wobbly assembly.
Even if you’re really experimented shore diver and you’re used to long surface swim, I would not recommend trying to reach the dive sites from the beach. It’s quite a long way and the waves and the current are making it a real challenge.
But you HAVE to go there, it’s nothing like I’ve seen so far. The variety in the flora and fauna that’s beyond hope.
I’ve seen during my two dives: turtles (lost count), 5 eagle rays, a reef shark, several moray eels, a lobster, a barracuda, lionfishes, and whatever other regular fishes you’ll find in the Caribbean (angelfish, butterflyfish, parrotfish, snapper, durgon, trumpetfish, trunkfish, grouper, etc..).
Fred and Martin are handling the whole operation really tidy and keep the whole thing very friendly. Thank you, guys!
We visit the local distillery in Rincon. They locally produce several sorts of liquors and spirits. The liquors are based on the cadushy cactus and pure alcohol distilled out of local plant (can’t remember the name) and are then flavoured as of the 6 islands of the Netherlands Antilles. They distil agave as well to produce a local mezcal they name the Tequilla of Bonaire as well as a vodka. They produce as well Rhum aged differently and a whisky, but those require imported ingredients.
afternoon I go with Wanna Dive for a boat dive on the Hilma Hooker. You can
reach the wreck from the shore, but it requires a 5-10 minutes surface swim and
I wanted to do it the easy way, in the comfort of a guided dive.
I changed the setup of my camera and used alternatively the red filter and the light. I start understanding the way to operate the assembly, I will continue with this setup for my next dives.
The wreck is 72m long and sits on a shallow sand patch and it’s impossible to miss. It’s surrounded by tarpons. On the way to the wreck, I spot a small lionfish in the reef.
On the way back, a scorpionfish was kind enough to swim that I could clearly see and follow it to its camouflage position.
There are a
lot of private initiatives on Bonaire that are run as non-profit organisations.
This morning we’re going to visit one of them, the donkey sanctuary. There are donkeys in many places in the Caribbean islands, as they were brought in by the early settlers to perform hard labour and for transportation. With modern ages, they became superfluous and the donkeys were just left by themselves in the wild.
The islands like Bonaire are not a good habitat for them, as it is very dry and there isn’t a lot of plants that they would naturally eat. In addition, there is now a high risk of accidents with cars when then wandering around areas having heavy or fast traffic.
The donkey sanctuary is rescuing the ones that are injured, sick, starving or badly dehydrated. They now have more than 600 donkeys on their site that are cared of. When you enter the huge enclosure, you’re immediately met by a crowd of donkeys that are really eager to find out if you have some delicacies. We bought a couple of bags of carrots at the entrance, but we quickly realise that driving though them with the windows opened is a challenge! Most of the donkeys aren’t shy and they pass they heads well into the car to get their due.
We continue exploring Bonaire’s east coast. It’s much less built than the west side and there is basically only one road. We leave the tarmac lane and go on a dirt path that goes around a mangrove. There are smaller salt pans and wild animals here; some flamingos find plenty of food on the shallow swamps.
At the end of the path, we got a beach. And yes, that is what we were looking for. There is a little bar that even serves food, a sandy beach with easy entry in the water. Some places are deep enough to swim, and the water is really warm. There aren’t any sunshade or sunbeds, but we brought a couple of inflatable ones, so all good. A cold beer lying on the beach, what else?
We realise two key elements to take into account when coming to Bonaire:
- There are no sandy beaches having both easy entry into the water and facilities (such as drinks and food).
- Most of the shops and activities open from 10:00 to 17:00, and when cruise boats are moored, everything becomes really crowded
Because Curaçao and Bonaire are so close (geographically and historically), we wrongly assumed we could handle our days the same way than we already did. Here, most of the things to do need advance planning, including the boat dives that may require booking with several days’ notice. Finding a buddy to go shore diving isn’t that straight forward either.
So today, we’re planning for the next few days in Bonaire. We take the opportunity to look around Kralendijk early enough, before it gets crowded by the cruise ship passengers’ land. We visit the Terra Mar museum. It’s a small museum that exposes the social history of Bonaire, from the first Indian tribes to the various colonisation stages until now. Some of the facts can be found in the national park and the salt pans, but we have here a linear exhibition of the past 6000 years.
While walking around the quay, we saw fishermen preparing their morning catch. The medium sized swordfish should have taken them a serious battle to bring back on the small boat they use. It invariably reminds me of the “Old man and the sea”, especially being in the Caribbean.
For lunch, I get my favourite Caribbean dish, the “Kabritu stobba” (goat stew). I remain in a historical mood when pirates had quite simple cooking habits. Basically, the preparation options were stew or barbecue, the main ingredient were fish or goat.
We keep looking for some possible options in the beach department, but definitely couldn’t find something appropriate around Kralendijk. We end up in the swimming pool of the resort. It was quite a surprise to see an iguana had made the same choice! I didn’t know that they fancied going into the water.
Today, we go around the national park. It takes all the northern part of the island. The east is windward side, and some places looks like a lunar landscape (never been on the moon, but that’s a common place to say).
Along the coast, there is display of the geological formation of Bonaire, where the three layers that form the island are clearly visible. When diving, you can see some sorts of similar formation as well, but it’s less common to see them like this.
It has a lot of “boka”, which are very narrow but deep creeks that have been dig into the land by the strength of the waves for millenniums. A majority of those bokas end up with a small sand patch, and they are natural nesting places for sea turtles. But some of them have not been dug long enough and ends up with an abrupt wall, and the waves crush strongly against them; there are some places where some invisible rock formation creates the ideal condition to eject water in the air.
The west side of the park continues to be much higher than the sea level with sharp cliff of several meters. But the bokas on that side are protected from the wind, so some of them don’t have crushing waves. There even is a sandy beach at boka Slagbaai, Jackie goes snorkelling and I decide to go for an easy shore dive. There is quite a lot of current, so I don’t go too far from the shore line and remain at a very conservative depth. Again, I find the variety and quantity in marine life a bit disappointing. I wanted to take the opportunity to experiment some settings with my new TG5 and its underwater case, but I need some more of that…