On the south side of the entrance to Bonaires Harbor Village
Marina is a dive site not known for its topside beauty, but for the
incredible abundance and variety of marine life that school just offshore.
In the shallows, I stalked squid with my 15mm lens and spotted a giant
Cubera Snapper with an entourage of baitfish. During a dusk dive, we
revisited a place where two orange frogfish had been lounging. This
time, though, there was only one, which sat motionless while I took
its portrait. A steady, seemingly unending parade of Creole Wrasse streamed
past us, a prowling Sharptail Eel hot on their tracks. Spotted Morays
peeked out from rocky lairs to witness the brief commotion and then
slipped away silently, oblivious to my flashing strobe.
This isnt how I expected to spend my summer. I planned to sit
at my computer day after day, writing mystery novels. Instead, I spent
nine and a half weeks on Bonaire: diving, reading, housesitting, taking
care of two dogs, four cats and a jungle of plants...and then, diving
some more. My benefactor, Linda, a dive instructor and boat captain
at a small resort, and the owner of the house, was hiking in Peru. Mysteries
would just have to wait. Paradise had called.
Week 13: Everyday, at 6:30 am, the animals gathered outside
my bedroom door. The dogs, Puppy (15) and Tudy (4), wanted to go outside.
The cats, Toffee, Monet, Rembrandt and Dante, wanted breakfastimmediately.
A typical day would bring about reading, checking e-mails, writing articles
and preparing my underwater camerasall before lunch. Several times
a week, Id cruise down to the Kralendijk supermarket in Lindas
little Suzuki, suffer a bit of sticker shockBonaire is a desert
island, 50 miles off the Venezuela coast, and everything is importedand
load up on kitty litter (I was fearful of running out because its
not always available). And after lunch, I would head for Bruce Bowkers
Carib Inn for an afternoon dive. (Hey, I wasnt in a rut. Sometimes
I would vary the routine by making a morning dive and/or a night dive.)
The boat was moored at Joannes Sunchi (Kiss), off Klein Bonaire.
Gearing up, I noticed that the water was full of translucent creatures
with little black dots in thempelagic tunicates. They were just
below the surface, floating past on a slight current. There were hundreds
of the 2- to 6-inch animals, reminding me of Palaus Jellyfish
Lake. I shot nearly an entire roll of film before descending to 20 feet.
After my afternoon dive, I watered Lindas plants, then took the
dogs for a walk along the shore. This was the highlight of their day
and one I also enjoyed. Tudy sat in the front seat of the Suzuki like
a human passenger.
In the evening, I just sat back and enjoyed a good book. Within the
first seven weeks on Bonaire, I had read a dozen novels. I became so
relaxed, I was nearly comatose.In the middle of my second week, my friends
Mike and Vici visited. We went on a diving and dining extravaganzaup
and down the island during the day and out on the town every night.
What a pleasure to talk to creatures who didnt answer by wagging
Week 4: Linda was back, so I moved to a room at the Carib Inn.
I had no responsibilities, no vehicle or a computer. Island time had
permeated my being. Every morning I woke up, smiled a giddy grin and
thought, Im in Bonaire. Living the island life. And, no, this
is not a dream. To celebrate that thought I grabbed my wetsuit and gear,
and practically leaped to the sea.
I dived with Linda, who specialized in frogfish and seahorse location.
Once a week, she took guests to see the two frogfish she found at Sampler
dive site. One was yellow, the other was an unusual coral color. Unfortunately,
they were impossible to photograph because they sat in the middle of
a gorgonian. So I admired the stumpy and
bulbous frogfish but ended up training my viewfinder on myriad juvenile
Spotted Drums, a Slipper Lobster, a baby Goldentail Moray and a scorpionfish.
Week 56: Bruce Bowker was on hiatus in the States, leaving
his energetic 2-year-old dalmatian, Tinker, with me. Tinker and I hit
the beach every afternoon to swim andone of her favorite gameshusk
coconuts. We quickly bonded and soon she followed me everywhere, even
to the pier as donned my gear and got on the dive boat.
Calabas Reef was right in front of the Carib Inn/Divi Flamingo Beach,
and I made many dives there. Huge, silvery tarpon patrolled the depths
and a barracuda guarded the shallows. Spotted Morays foraged for food
while a Sharptail Eel slithered through the cracks and crevices of the
reef. Schools of baitfish, curious squid and a huge Cubera Snapper that
looked like the one at Something Special accompanied me through the
dive. I even encountered a little turtle finding its way through the
wide world of the sea.
Week 7: My daughter, Pamela, joined me. She was certified a
dozen years ago but had never dived in warm water. She couldnt
wait to get wet. Karpata was the last morning dive in June. The vis
was great. I was photographing a French Angelfish swimming back and
forth in front of an orange sponge. Above them was a brilliant sunball.
The photos looked so wonderful in the viewfinder. I thought it couldnt
get any betteruntil a Manta Ray glided through the scene! In nine
trips to Bonaire Id never seen one here before. Truly, a magical
I returned to L.A. and for three smoggy months. I counted the days until
I would return to Bonaire, again housesitting for Linda, who was off
to Vancouver for a wedding. Dante and Rembrandt were mischievous kittens
during my first visit, but had grown up and had become much less active
and destructive. Tudy remembered me and our tail-wagging conversations
The tanks were waiting in the dive shop, freshly filled. I wasted no
time and took the first opportunity I could to visit my old friends
on the reef.
I hooked up with Kitty (Carib Inns manager), whose friend studied
coral spawning. We were told that the corals would spawn that night,
so we were in the water by 9:45 pm. The little round packets that contained
sperm and eggs were clearly visible in the mouths of the star coral
polyps. As planned, the polyps began releasing their packets one by
one and soon the water was filled with them. They floated to the surface
where the casings dissolved, allowing sperm and eggs to mingle and produce
a new generation. Not all of the cases made it to the surface. Brittlestars
were snagging all they could eat. The spawning was over in 15 minutes,
but we stayed in the water for more than an hour, finding crabs, lobsters
and other critters. As soon as Id shot my last frame I found an
octopus. It was probably fitting I didnt get any photos of itnow
Ill have to go back.
Anybody out there need a good housesitter?