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  • Stay With Your Buddy on Bonaire :
    Theres Prime Snorkeling at Their Doorstep
    by Joel Simon
    The small Dutch island of Bonaire sits just 50 miles off Venezuelas coast and comfortably below the hurricane belt. The peaceful tropical weather, often freshened by gentle trade winds, mirrors a stable political climate that, combined with a lush band of fringing reefs, has fostered one of the most active diving and snorkeling communities in the Caribbean.

    Bonaire has long been recognized as a Mecca for scuba enthusiasts. Clear, calm water, healthy corals, friendly fish and a pro-active conservation ethic attract roughly 30,000 divers each year. But, theres another distinction. The extensive shallow regions of Bonaires fringing reefs make this island perfect for a growing number of dedicated snorkelers.

    Recognizing this valuable market, many of Bonaires hotels and watersport operators are implementing special features that directly benefit snorkelers. One of the most progressive is Buddy Dive. North of the main town of Kralendijk, the facility occupies a splendid stretch of shoreline.

    I asked Bart Snelder, the dive shop manager, what the name Buddy refers to. He grinned, Many people ask. Most folks think there was someone called Buddy who started our operation but it simply means we are all buddies here. The whole place is run like a family, its very personal....

    Bart continued with a short history of the facility. Buddy began in 1979 with a single VW bus, six tanks and a lot of vision. There was just one small structure with 10 small apartments. I looked out on the current buildings;large pastel colored three story structures flanking a large swimming pool and expansive grounds. Soon we will have a saltwater swimming pool in addition to the freshwater one. This will be excellent for diving and snorkeling instruction. We now have 25 one bedroom apartments and an additional 15 one, two or three bedroom suites. When full, we can handle up to 140 guests. All the bedrooms are air-conditioned. They have kitchens and balconies overlooking the sea. They also have cable TV.

    Were proud of our facility but its really the water that brings our visitorsÉ.Right out here is some of the best snorkeling on the island. The entire area in front of the resort is roped off with lines and buoys and features a large floating platform only about 30 yards from shore. Its really great, no boats, only snorkelers;and fish!

    He then pointed along the coastal bluff to a large solid metal ladder leading from the shore into the sea. There is one of the best improvements weve made recently. This ladder allows our guests to get in the water anytime they like, especially at night. Weve put lights under the steps to make night snorkeling very easy.

    Near the big patches of Staghorn Coral there are schools of grunts and Schoolmasters in addition to coneys, hinds and a wandering family of squid. At night Spotted and Goldentail Moray Eels are out feeding along with several resident octopus, lobsters and lots of shrimp. We had a group of snorkelers get in last evening. In fact, theyre just downstairs in the classroom if youd like to speak with them.

    We went down to the dive shop and entered the small classroom where Bart introduced me to the snorkelers and Andre Vegner, one of Buddy Dives multi-lingual instructors.

    Andre utilizes the tools provided by Bonaires Guided Snorkeling Program to educate visitors. Almost a year ago, with sponsorship from the islands government, hotels and watersport operators, Bonaire implemented one of the most ambitious projects in the world of snorkeling. The program combines 12 entertaining half hour slide lectures with water training and snorkeling at some of Bonaires premier shallow water destinations.

    To take snorkelers to Bonaires best locations, Buddy Dive now has two fully equipped boats: the 34 foot Gutu and 28 foot Buddy. Both are fast, open boats with sturdy ladders. Because Buddy Dive is able to easily combine snorkelers with divers, no minimum group size is needed. However, if there are small groups of snorkelers, a designated snorkeling boat will be made available just for them.

    Combining the best of both worlds, Buddy Dive has its own rental vehicles. In addition to several small buses for up to nine people, there is a fleet of 28 rugged double cabin pick-up trucks that guests can rent during their stay. The trucks can go anywhere on the island, including the rough roads in Washington-Slagbaai National Park. Just throw the gear in the back, along with some food and water, and take advantage of Bonaires excellent shore snorkeling.

    Buddys resort offers a number of attractively priced dive and drive packages, which include accommodations, vehicles and rental equipment if needed. Meals and boat outings can be added as desired.

    Buddy Dive was founded on the principle of friendly service offered in the spirit of a large family. When planning your next snorkeling vacation, for flexibility, great value and excellent facilities, consider Buddy Dive. Bart invites you to call him directly at (599) 7-5080. You can also call either of the U.S. based booking agents: Rothschild Travel at (800) 359-0747 or Caribbean Adventures at (800) 433-DIVE.