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SAND DOLLAR DOCK (BARI REEF)
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Linda, Mercedes, and Myron (buddies)
Sand Dollar Resort
The trip to Sand Dollar is a quick 1/2 mile in the minivan. We move into condominium C-3, which is immediately seen to be much better equipped than our Habitat cabin. There is a full kitchen, full-sized refrigerator, adequate utensils, assortment of pans and pots, electric stove and oven, microwave, and dishwasher. There is even a television with a cable connection and HBO. Separate bathrooms exist for each bedroom, and a screened-in porch faces the ocean at an angle.
We've already paid the rent for our condo to its owners, but the Sand Dollar front office has us also prepay for a week of maid service at a seemingly high rate of over $20/day. It's around 12 noon and we visit the Sand Dollar dive shop to check out the operations. We make a request to forego the usual diving orientation since we've already been diving at the Habitat. The head instructor Leo will have no part of this suggestion and insists that we must attend an orientation session prior to diving here. Leo does accommodate us, however, in arranging a quickie (otherwise non-scheduled) orientation for us at 2PM.
Since we can't do any diving in the interim, we fix a quick lunch of pasta with garlic sauce and canned tuna, which is very satisfying for all. At 2PM, we find ourselves waiting on the Sand Dollar dock with our gear, and Leo is nowhere in sight. Around 2:20PM, Leo finally shows up and goes through a brief description of Sand Dollar operations.
We learn that all night dives must be reported to the shop prior to closing time, and that all night dives after 10:00PM also require issuance of a locker room key in order to retrieve equipment, since the rooms are locked after that time. It's against the rules to use an air tank after hours if the dive is not already arranged. We find these rules bureaucratic and unnecessary, effectively eliminating the possibility of a spontaneous evening or night dive. It seems these rules exist as a convenience to the shop, to cover themselves in the event of running out of filled air tanks. To overcome this obstacle, we decide to sign up for night dives every night, whether we use them or not. On the "unlimited" plan, this practice will not cost us anything except the inconvenience of doing it. We also decide to store all of our diving equipment in the condo (and away from the equipment locker) so that it remains accessible.
We set up a running dive account with the two ladies at the desk, and quickly discover that they are apparently overworked and unhelpful heifers of the first degree. Our introduction to the Sand Dollar diving operation is certainly less than expected, particularly when compared to the flexible and diver-friendly operations at Captain Don's.
Even getting our weights is not straightforward. We head to the weight desk and find no one attending it. No problem - we seek out Leo again and ask him about obtaining weights. Leo accompanies us over to the weight desk, and then enters the room and procures our weights for us, but he explains that it is not really his job to do this and that he's actually doing us a favor. Gee thanks.
We immediately suit up and enter the waters off the Sand Dollar, known as the Bari Reef dive site. Once again, the beauty of the Bonaire reef is revealed to us and we enjoy a very nice late afternoon dive to about 63 feet. We see two big spotted moray eels. We catch sight of three different juvenile spotted drums doing little curly-Q swimming patterns - very cool. We watch for minutes as a grouper stops at a cleaning station, and several gobies hop off their coral perches and onto the grouper, picking and cleaning parasites from its skin.
The girls have a combination facial and massage scheduled late this afternoon. Mercedes has even arranged to experience some exotic and mysterious procedure called a lymph node extraction. When they leave the condo, Myron and I decide to take off on our own adventure, and hit the road in the van.
We head south, along the beach road called Kaya J.N.E Craane through Kralendijk and on to the Hotel Plaza Bonaire just north of Flamingo International Airport. Myron has heard that there may be a clothing-optional pool or beach adjacent to the resort, and we scour the place in search of it. The complex is very luxurious, complete with a casino (closed), expensive shops, a lagoon, and lighted tennis courts. It is practically devoid of patrons. Their dive operations appear irregular, based on the posted schedules, and not well patronized either.
We proceed south, past a few potential rental places including Happy Holiday Rentals and Bonaire Bungalows. Off the road in a murky shallow marsh, we spy our first two flamingos, both of which are a very pale shade of pink, almost white. Bonaire is one of the largest flamingo sanctuaries in the western hemisphere, home to over 10,000 flamingos. We also catch sight of several wild burros grazing off the side of the road, inside the Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire just south of the airport. It is advisable when driving on Bonaire to always be on the lookout for both burros and goats.
We continue following the coastal road counterclockwise around the southern end of Bonaire. This portion of the island is very flat. Its predominant feature is the AKZO Solar Salt Works containing acres and acres of shallow sea water in evaporation pools. The pools become progressively shallower and lighter in color as they get closer to the central processing facility, with the final pools a curious pink color. In the center, a pier is constructed that ramps slowly up towards the beach over a distance of perhaps 1000 yards, then out over the ocean another 200 yards using long angled pilings, culminating in a large tee-shape parallel to the beach. An imposing structure, used to transfer salt to cargo ships, no doubt. Along the line formed by the pier are huge mountains of bright white salt, several stories high.
As Myron and I continue further south, we pass numerous dive sites on our right, marked typically by a round rock painted yellow with the site name painted on it. Most of these shore dives look very do-able, with easy entries and exits. We spy four more flamingos, and this time they are the beautiful bright pink color we'd expect. We pass two series of tiny stone huts, the White Slave huts, then the Red Slave huts. These huts were used around the 1820s to house slaves that worked in the salt operations, and each tiny hut, about the size of a large doghouse, sheltered 6-8 slaves.
As we round the south end of the island, the surf gets noticably rougher. The last dive site we see starts from the beach off Willemstoren Lighthouse, and based on today's conditions, it would be a difficult dive due to excessive surf.
It's time to head back to meet the girls, and we continue around the southern lobe and head north towards Lac Bay. Passing quickly through the community known as Sorobon, we scour the roadsides for any unusual flesh, since Sorobon is known as a naturist hangout. None to be seen - oh well. We continue back to the Sand Dollar and ready ourselves for an evening in the kitchen, since it is Myron and my turn to cook tonight.
I head first to the Sand Dollar grocery for supplies and find it closed, and so I jump in the van for a quick trip to Cultimara. Myron stays in the apartment to begin kitchen preparations and to greet the girls. At Cultimara I pick up wine, salad fixings, dressing, beer, and spaghetti, and when I return the girls are back from their afternoon adventure. Linda is grinning from a very good massage, while Mercedes labels hers as "so-so." I am excited to hear details about the lymph node extraction, but learn from Mercedes that the lymph specialist is in Venezuela.
Linda steps in to help with dinner preparation, and we enjoy an excellent meal of penne pasta with turkeyburger, and a special garlic sauce prepared by Myron, french bread, salad with Italian Casaer dressing, and white zinfandel wine. Great stuff!
The girls hit the sack early tonight, and Myron and I stay up to surf the 20 or so cable channels beamed in to the Sand Dollar. It is also a time to fill in more entries in both dive logs and travel journals.
Mares Avanti Quattro
U S Divers Matrix
80 ft3 Al
SeaQuest Spectrum 4
Body of Water:
U S Divers