Colorful Creatures Invite You To The Reefs of Bonaire
Sand Dollar Condominium Resort
by Walt Stearns
Sheltered from the steady, easterly trades in the protective west facing crook of this thick, boomerang shaped island is a coralline community befitting the pattern and pageantry of a rainbow. Up and down Bonaire's entire leeward side, including its much smaller sister island, Klein Bonaire, one-quarter mile offshore, the reef topography customarily falls at an angle of 75 degrees to depths sometimes greater than 300 feet. Adorning these walls are tangles of Giant Split-pore Searods, Devil's Sea Whips rising with serpentine grace, an abundance of Orange Elephant Ear Sponges and tall sprays of Purple Tube Sponges, four to five feet tall. Adding to the profusion, Yellow Tube Sponges appear like giant bouquets of bizarre golden flowers. With a bounty of schooling Creole Wrasses and Bogas, sponges and Orange Cup Corals (Tubastraea coccinea), purple, orange and yellow are everywhere.
Bonaire is known for its wondrous sport diving. Like its neighbors Curacao and Aruba to the west, Bonaire's position close to the equator ensures almost year-round summer temperatures in the low to mid 80s (F), with almost zero rainfall.
Because of Bonaire's desert-like terrain, one of the largest misconceptions about the island is that diving is all there is to do. Actually, Bonaire is great for those who love the outdoors. Besides diving and snorkeling, visitors can choose from fishing for Bonefish, hiking, birdwatching, mountain biking and windsurfing. Run your fingers through a windsurfing publication and youll more than likely find Bonaire cited as a fabulous spot to catch wind. In addition to diving, Bonaire is rated as the number one choice destination to learn this exciting sport.
Home Away From Home
Everything about Sand Dollar Condominium Resort and Sand Dollar Dive and Photo, from accommodations, dive and activity service to eateries, combines to make the most complete and complimentary setup for families, groups of friends or couples seeking the perfect Caribbean vacation.
Overlooking the ocean atop a shoreline fronted by a 15 foot high bluff, providing a clear view of Klein Bonaire, Sand Dollars' 73 unit condominium resort is run more like a posh hotel, with a front desk, switchboard, daily maid services, etc. The accommodations range from studio style apartments to three bedroom condominium units with private balcony or terraces, all complete with large bathroom, living space and full kitchen. In addition to furnishings and charming individuality, they have air-conditioning, cable TV and telephones, cooking utensils and glassware.
On the resort property is a freshwater pool with wood sundeck, tennis courts, a small grocery store, ice cream parlor, bank and rental car facility.
A cooked meal is a matter of a short walk down to the water. Adjacent to Sand Dollar Dive and Photo Center, virtually on the water, the Green Parrot Restaurant is a romantic vantage point for watching sunsets during happy hour. More importantly, it also happens to be one of the islands choice eateries, offering everything from breakfast to dinner.
Dive and Photo
Sand Dollar Dive and Photo is the ideal setup for shore based dive operations. On Bonaire's calm, leeward side, the large facility is at the waters edge. Laid out smartly, the dive operation includes both a full retail dive shop and beachwear boutique, equipment rental center, photo center (complete with E-6 processing, rental photo equipment and supplies), classrooms, gear storage for guests and, of course, the dock from which Sand Dollar's fleet of four dive boats makes its departure. With Klein Bonaire such a short distance away, the boat dive excursions run single tank format, with scheduled departures at 8:45 and 10:30 am, 1:30 and 3:30 pm. With boat dive itineraries staggered throughout the day, guests can dive from both boat and shore, in a time frame that best suits their needs.
Right off the dock is Bari Reef, featuring a steep drop-off 50 feet from shore in 30 feet of water; it drops sharply to a depth of 150 feet. In addition to its convenience for warm-up/orientation dives and for reviewing buoyancy skills, the site is also excellent for day and nighttime critter hunts. For example, in the shallows near the foot of the dock, schools of Bonefish, Crevalle Jack, Snook and even a few Tarpon and Permit are in almost constant attendance. Farther out, where the sand floor terrace terminates next to the drop- off, the bottom has a display of small, scattered coral heads and sponges housing such wonderful oddities as Spotted Drums, Golden Tail Morays, seahorses and frogfish. Sand Dollar pretty much runs an open policy; you can go diving anytime, day or night.
Sand Dollar's Photo Center is one of the top notch facilities in the Caribbean, which is why it is chosen year after year as the host of the Bonaire Nikonos Shootout. In addition to the centers large inventory of photo equipment; from Sea & Sea MX-10 and Motormarine IIs to complete Nikonos V and RS systems for rent; longtime pros Jim Brandon and Julie Morgan can guide anyone from introductory to advanced level. Highly service oriented, Jim and Julie are always doing something special, be it private photo or video instruction, putting on slide shows two to three nights a week or orchestrating one of Sand Dollar's photo contests. November is Sand Dollar Condominium Resorts Photo and Video Month, during which a photo/video contest with prizes comprised of dive trips and additional nights of accommodations at Sand Dollar are offered. The event categories include housed cameras, Nikonos or Sea & Sea cameras and video.
Sand Dollar Dive and Photo's comprehensive infrastructure is the product of Andre Nahrs dedication to creating one of the most reliable and reputable facilities on the island, capable of satisfying a variety of diver needs. Making the whole thing function so well is Sand Dollar's knowledgeable and dedicated staff of instructors and guides.
Between their philosophy of preserving the marine environment and ties with PADI, NAUI and SSI, Sand Dollar has formatted one of the largest certification and fun educational programs in the Caribbean. The list consists of more than 20 subjects, ranging from one day learn to dive instruction to divemaster, with specialties in medic first aid and rescue. It also includes a number of custom designed underwater naturalist and fish identification and behavior courses for both divers and snorkelers. Sand Dollar features one of the most progressive snorkeling campaigns in the world, with such fun activities as a free, on-site, reef fish identification tour (Tuesdays and Sundays) hosted by Sand Dollar's two naturalists, Jerry Ligon and Dot Fundock.
In addition to these activities, Jerry directs a special program for outdoor and nature enthusiasts, with naturalist classes in both topside and underwater subject matter, combined with excursions around the island. Add to that Sand Dollar's unique Adventure Package, comprised of diving and snorkeling, ocean kayaking, nature hikes and mountain biking, and you have a full vacation that can leave you with more than just a suntan.
Often, with a large number of resorts, kids are left out of the fun. As a highly family oriented resort, Sand Dollar Dive and Photo provides two great programs; the Sand Penny Club, for younger children (ages three to six) and Oceans Classroom for those ages six through 15. While the Sand Penny Club can keep the youngest members busy with supervised activities all morning, the Ocean program provides guided snorkeling excursions that include hands-on exercises to learn more about the ocean's inhabitants. For those ages 14 through 15, the program can even include a junior scuba course.
For more information or booking, call Sand Dollar's reservations office in Longwood, Florida, at (800) 288-4773, (407) 774-9292 or fax (407) 774-9322. For direct, on island service, call (011) 599-7-8738; fax (011) 599-7-8760.