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Date: 04 Dec 2013 19:46:00
Title: Deep Sea Divers!

Well, if you're going to dive then Bonaire is surely the place! Lots of Islands insist that you only dive with a local dive instructor, which I can understand, it stops people getting into difficulty and breaking up the coral reefs. In Bonaire they actively encourage you to explore on your own. All round the Island the coast roads have occasional rocks painted yellow. They mark the dive sites. There are over a hundred sites, some suitable for snorkelling too, some just for experts and some great for any level. In fact the only places you have to go accompanied are the piers, which considering they have a lot of big ships coming in and out of them, is not unreasonable. 

We started off just snorkelling up in the National Park on one of our expeditions. The fish were amazingly friendly and inquisitive, just like the Sergeant Majors under our boat, they came up to you to say hello as soon as you arrived and then ignored you, letting you get so close. Turtles were the same - a young one swam right up to me, looking at me as if I was a rock or something and I was able to gently touch his shell as he came by. A pair of French Angel fish, a foot across, were particularly companionable, they would swim up to our fingers if we wriggled them.

  
Smiley fish coming to say hello and a French Angel fish.

  
Photographer Phil and a Rainbow Parrot fish catches the sunlight.

Mark and Sarah on Field Trip have a diving hookah. This is not some complicated system to enable you to get high whilst underwater, it's an air compressor that floats on a big rubber ring and pumps air down 4 long hoses to the people under the water. You don't have a BCD (Buoyancy Control Device) or heavy tanks, just a weight belt. The Field Trippers use it to do relatively shallow diving as a family; Mum, Dad and the two kids can dive knowing they'll all stay together and not get lost. Mark offered us a go and we were glad to accept, as a sort of half way house before taking the plunge. We first just explored the drop off just behind our mooring and then took the dinghy over to Klein Bonaire to do a longer deeper dive. It was wonderful, just the thing to increase my confidence. It seemed a long time since my 5 day diving course in Trinidad back in July. We started in sandy bottomed shallower water and went out to the reef drop off, followed along it a while then circled back across the shallows. The photos from when we were deeper all came out blue, with hardly any of the oranges and purples we were seeing, but when you're actually there the place is full of colour: colour from the fish flashing by, from the reds of sea fans, purples and yellows of sponges, creams and ochres of corals...

  
Another Parrot fish hangs out by some brain coral and a five foot Green Moray eel peeps out.

A three foot Barracuda bears his fangs.

I took a couple of video clips as we went along. The first shows Mark and Phil swimming with the hookah.



There was a Yellow Tail Snapper that stuck with us the whole time we were going along the reef drop off, he just seemed interested in what was going on and didn't have anything special to do that day so hung out with us.

  
Our companion fish and a Blue Tang.

After our hookah dive we got one of our tanks out and put on a 50ft hose we had made up with a regulator on the end. This gave us our own version of the hookah, we could go over with just a weight belt to clean the barnacles off, and did we have barnacles after being in the water in Trini! We had barnacles on barnacles on barnacles. They hang down like stalactites on any thing that wasn't anti-fouled, like the depth gauge and the log impeller. The under boat fishes loved us cleaning, they swarmed around us plucking the delicacies we'd dislodged from the water as they slowly sank around us, each barnacle foot glowing iridescent pinks or blues. We discovered that a small colony of tiny blue and yellow fish, along with little trunk fish, had taken up residence between the top of the rudder and the boat. The whole scrubbing the bottom thing took on another dimension. I'm even looking forwards to the next time!

  
Our hull cleaning 'hookah' system.

     
A Trumpet fish hanging around and a big Grouper passing by.

  
Amazingly cute big eyed Puffer fish. It turned out these were living between the blocks our mooring was attached to.

The next day we took the plunge and got our dive kit out and went for it. It was fine! We had no problems getting off or back in the boat, the kit all worked well and we now feel confident to use our dive tanks when ever we want. Perfect.





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