Bonaire and the Diving is Easy

text and photography BY Joel Simon

Its Bonaire and the Diving is Easy

Text and Photography By Joel Simon

The small Dutch island of Bonaire, only 50 miles north of Venezuela, attracts nearly 30,000 diving enthusiasts each year. In fact, recreational scuba diving is Bonaires largest industry. On the protected western shore of the island, just a few miles north of the main town of Kralendijk, a string of hotels offers visitors an infrastructure finely tuned to address the needs of the sport. One of the most progressive is Buddy Beach and Dive Resort.

What makes Buddy Dive so special? I asked. And with characteristic grace, Jean Paul ter Maat, Buddys marketing director, replied, Where would you like me to start: accommodations, ambiance, amenities, dive programs, staff, guests, grounds? Perhaps a cold Amstel, he suggested, and we can go from there.

We strolled over to the open air poolside bar. The place was filled. A musician strummed tunes of the tropics: Jimmy Buffett, Bob Marley and Belafonte. Friday afternoon happy hour, said Jean Paul anticipating my question. But its usually pretty festive here. We have some of the lowest drink prices on island. Lively conversation, punctuated by the clank of toasting Amstel bottles (including ours), saluted the end of a good week. Jean Paul continued, Our guests become friends among themselves and with the staff. Its the focus of our service and the spirit of our name. Were all buddies here.

At an adjacent table, a man with a Texan drawl was extolling the morning dive. He said, pointing to Murphyn, the smiling hulk of boat captain across the bar, He really pulled off a Murphyn today. During the site briefing on our boat, he told us where to find the seahorse. Then, after we were all under the water, he made a 40 foot freedive, flashed a big smile and pointed it out to us!

Buddy is a resort built by divers and operated for divers, Jean Paul told me. Everyone here is strongly committed to providing the best experience possible for our visitors. We call it the Buddy way of life.

As I learned, both from the staff and the clients, this means personalized assistance coupled with innovative programs. This is perhaps best exemplified by what Jean Paul calls Buddys 3D Package—Dive, Drive and Dine.

We believe divers can take best advantage of Bonaire by a combination of shore and boat diving, explained Jean Paul. For many thousands of years, our island has been surrounded by lush fringing reef. A system of well marked roads makes driving around Bonaire very simple. Also, the Bonaire Marine Park has placed brightly painted yellow stones along the roads to mark all the easiest access points.

In addition to a fully equipped dive shop and three boat departures daily, Buddy maintains a fleet of rental vehicles so guests can experience Bonaires fabulous shore diving. These include rugged extended cab pick-up trucks capable of navigating the dirt roads of Washington/Slagbaai National Park.

Getting full tanks for shore diving is really easy with Buddys roadside drive-through fill station. Jean Paul and I walked over to a wooden structure near the street. A pick-up had just arrived at the facility and the driver was already pulling tanks out of the back. We keep full tanks available here for our guests. Simply replace the empty tanks with full ones and drive out to your next dive.

My tour continued with a look at accommodations. We climbed the steps to a second floor apartment, walked through the kitchen and living room onto a large balcony. Below us spread the central garden containing two swimming pools, the bar and a large sandy beach, where people relaxed in lounge chairs on a bluff above the sea.

In 1984, Buddy Beach was just a single 10 unit building but, in the past few years, three new structures have been added, housing one, two and three bedroom apartments. There are now 40 units for a maximum of 140 guests. The apartments all have comfortably furnished living areas, fully equipped kitchens with microwaves, air-conditioned bedrooms, cable TV, international direct dial telephones and private balconies.

As we looked out on the calm water reflecting the final glowing rays of sunlight, Jean Paul reminded me of the excellent diving and snorkeling just in front of the resort. Many people take advantage of our 24 hour shore diving by going in from our wooden dock or the ladder on the bluff. Its especially great for night dives since a hot shower and a warm meal are just a short walk away.

That reminded me of the final D and I asked Jean Paul about the dine in their 3D package. He explained, In addition to our own restaurant/poolbar, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, weve made special arrangements with some of the restaurants in town. Each offers us something different. Some include discounts on wine, others a free dessert or a free companion meal. After a day exploring the reefs, these great incentives encourage our clients to explore Bonaires finer dining at night.

If you would like to learn more about the Buddy way of life, give Jean Paul a call at 599-7-5080. You can fax 599-7-8647, e-mail buddydive@bonairenet. com or check out the Web site at www.