Bonaire daily life, part three.

In parts one and two of this series about Bonaire daily life, I described what it is like when you wake up in paradise and what a day in my office looks like. But fortunately it is not only office work that I am doing. A couple of times a week I work as a dive master at Bonaire East Coast Diving. We start at 7 AM, auch! As I told you before, I am not a morning person, and I don’t like to be rushed. To not be rushed, I have to wake up before the birds do, which brings in the need for an alarm clock. My diving days are days starting with irritant beep beep beep wake up calls instead of the much more pleasant bird sounds that awake me on other days. Dive master is a tough job! By the time the birds wake up I already sit on my breakfast bench.

Work is at Sorobon, the Lac Bay area. It is far away from where I live: a 20 minute drive, which is about as far away as it gets on Bonaire. But the last half of the drive gets me along the outskirts of the mangroves. Patches of water are varied with Red and Black Mangrove trees. Early in the morning pink flamingos still feed alongside the road there. As do Herons, Egrets, Stilts and other water birds. It does not make the drive any shorter, but it compensates.

At Sorobon my colleague Ger and I prepare the boat: an oversized dinghy (30 foot Zodiac Hurricane), and welcome our divers at the fisherman’s dock. The boat is a real boy’s toy. The aluminum rigid hull makes it very sturdy, and two 225 HP outboard engines give it flying capacity. It is the kidney shaking landing part of the flying that constrains us.

When everybody is on board Ger slowly drives to the other side of the bay, where there is an opening in the shallow barrier reef. Slowly, because we do not want to damage the sea grass nor the other marine life on the bottom. It gives us time to brief our divers on safety and on other aspects of the dive. Once out of the bay, the powerful engines make it a short drive to our favorite Reef.

If you get the impression that I get carried away writing about my job, here is a warning. You ain’t seen nothing yet. I have not even started with the underwater experience.

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Bonaire daily life, part two

In part one of this series about Bonaire daily life, I described what it is like when you wake up in paradise. But after waking up, real life starts, and real life on Bonaire, like in the rest of the world, means work. As you may have read in my resume, I work as a Dive Master, an underwater guide. It is a fantastic job, the best I ever had, but to make some money I have to do it part time. On my non-diving days I work from my office. Not that I ever wanted to work in an office again after quitting my job in Holland, but my Bonaire office is different. It is indoors, a corner of my living room. But since my house only has open shutters and wide sliding doors, it feels like you’re outside. The trade winds still blow around my head. If I do not use paperweights, everything on my desk blows away, into the garden. Tropical Mockingbirds and Bananaquit fly in and out to see if there is something to eat for them. Or to just use my office as a shortcut, come in on one side and fly straight out on the other. They love to sit inside and use my room as an amplifying sounding board! And when I look away from my computer screen, I have an awesome view over the lower part of Bonaire, the small island of Klein Bonaire and the deep blue Caribbean Sea. Not your average office!

My office work is not tax law anymore, I quit that 12 years ago. Nowadays I rent out my Sea View Apartment, write articles and interviews, do translations and some consultancy. Nothing too much, mind you, I only do the jobs that I like. I discovered that when you let go of the idea that you must join the rat race, good things come to you automatically. Even on Bonaire.

When I have had enough of sitting behind my desk, there always is my garden to go physical. But I already wrote a blog about that! Or I go out and drive five minutes to the sea, to have a swim in crystal clear 27C/81F degree water. I don’t want to make you jealous, but I told you this blog is about why Bonaire is so special!

My next blog will be about working as a Dive Master.

To be continued.

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Bonaire daily life, part one

Since this blog is about telling the world why Bonaire is so special, maybe I should elaborate a bit on my daily life here. I know I posted some highlights that corroborate my opinion on this island, but these highlights are only an icing on an already very tasteful cake.

So let me start at the beginning. Around 6AM hundreds of birds start their brave effort to wake me up. Not an easy job, but I don’t make it too hard for them, I do not have glass windows and the wooden shutters of my bedroom are always open to let the cool trade winds in. Did I tell you the climate is one of the happiness factors on the island? At night the temperature drops to 26C/79F which is very comfortable when a tender breeze blows around your head. No need for blankets: a single sheet will do.

So I wake up with the sound of birds. Looking out my window I see the rising sun illuminating distant clouds, and about 260 days in the year it promises to be another beautiful day. I must confess I am not a morning person, so still sleeping, on the autopilot, I shower and go to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. The front porch is the place to be now. That is where I sit down to break my fast. From the front porch I look out over the shrub garden. There are a lot of blooming shrubs and trees, attracting all kinds of birds.

Hummingbirds are my favorite. They hover around the purple Raspa`s and then shoot to the white flowers of the Ben Tree. The seed pods of that tree are a favorite for Yellow Shouldered Parrots and their nosy nephews, the Caribbean Parakeets. A flight of doves is still sleeping high on the electricity lines further away. I sympathize with them, as sleep is still roaming my system. But I have to wake up, because little yellow and black birds are preying on my breakfast. They are Bananaquit. In Dutch we call them Sugar Thieves, but they are not limiting themselves to sugar! What a way to wake up! Now that I am awake I also see the inconspicuous Black-faced Grassquit under the bush. After a short song it opens its beak wide and emits a piercing high note. Now I realize what sound succeeded in getting my mind to consciousness this morning.

How can you be unhappy when you start the day like this…

To be continued.

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Bonaire from the air

When I started this blog, I already confessed that I am a sucker for scenic views. I love being on an elevated point with a breathtaking view below my feet. What I did not tell you yet: there is nothing like the scenic view from a small airplane flying at an altitude of 1000 feet/ 300 meters!

Bonaire is an island of unexpected possibilities. So it happened  that I was in the Little Havana bar with my friend Gijs, and after quite a few beers he convinced me that I wanted to learn how to fly. On Bonaire. There was an FAA flight instructor on the island, but he did not have a plane. No worries mate! With a couple of guys we bought a Cessna 172, founded the BonAeroClub and started to learn how to fly. Flying is easy, nothing to it, but the theory is a bitch! But I managed and now I am a certified pilot.

I love flying over Bonaire. The trade winds make you take off to the east, and right from the start you have a great view over the mangroves. The water of shallow Lac Bay shines in different shades of blue and turquoise. The southern part of Bonaire is flat. In these flat lands, Cargill operates the biggest solar salt works in the hemisphere.  The colors of salt lakes are unreal from the sky: blue, turquoise, all shades of pink. On the south western shore you see the grid of the ancient salt ponds. Only to be seen from the air. They dwarf in the much greater ponds of the industrial setting we have nowadays. The slave huts are next to them. A bit further you see the kite surfers flying, and you are grateful they do it at a much lower level.

From this angle the fringing reef is very clear. The dark blue of the deep and the light blue of the shallow terrace that surrounds the entire island. You can see why Bonaire is popular with divers and snorkelers.

My house is on the hill that separates the southern lowlands from the elevated northern part of Bonaire. When I fly alone, I always check my garden from above. Pictures taken at different times in the last couple of years show how fast everything grows on Bonaire if you give it enough water.

The best time to fly is early in the morning or late in the afternoon. The low sun casts a fairylike light on the red roof tiles and the colored walls of the houses of Kralendijk, the main town of Bonaire.

When I am up in the air, enjoying the beauty of Bonaire, a feeling of happiness comes over me. Some times, drinking a bit too much in a bar ends up in something very good.

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Rincon Day

As long as the Dutch Kingdom exists (we started 1813, not that long ago), Bonaire has been part of it. For most of the time (since 1890) the kingdom has been ruled by queens. And they like to celebrate their birthdays worldwide, or at least as wide as the kingdom stretches. So on April 30 the whole kingdom celebrates Queens Day.

The whole kingdom? No, not the whole kingdom. A little village in a faraway corner of her realm resisted the royal pressure and started its own Day: Rincon Day, some 22 years ago. I don’t know what caused it; the Bonairians are pretty loyal to their queen, but maybe the macho culture caused this act of rebellion against a female king. Anyway, Rincon Day has been a hit ever since. People from all over the Lesser Antilles come to Bonaire to enjoy live music, folkloric dancing, meeting each other, eat and … drink.

Now there are different ways of getting to Rincon from my house in Kralendijk. I can go by car (dull), or join the 10 km run that starts at 7 in the morning and ends in Rincon (fatiguing), or join the Bonaire Bikers Club on their parade to Rincon.
Now bikers all over the world know, that riding a motorbike means you will have an accident; you will fall. You just don’t know exactly when it will happen. That is why all over the world bikers use protective clothing and helmets.

All over the world? No, not all over the world. A little island in the Caribbean resists common sense. Bikers here do not wear helmets or heavy clothes. The feeling of freedom with light clothing and the warm trade wind in your hair is much more important! And we have a maximum speed of 40 kilometers (25 mph) in the residential areas and 60 outside, so who cares…

You probably guessed my choice how to get to Rincon for the last couple of Rincon Days in a row. Join the parade! It is great to join the other bikers in a tour over the island that ends in the centre of Rincon.

Members of the Bikers club drive Harleys. My Yamaha is affably tolerated for the occasion, but it is clear I don’t really count. When we park the bikes in Rincon, spectators look at the bikes admiringly, but not at my Yamaha. I know my place, and join the celebrations. Rincon day is even bigger than Carnival in February or the Bonaire Day in September and everybody is having a great time. I chat with friends, help Rincon in the effort to get rid of all Polar beers on the island, eat excellent Kabritu Stoba (goat stew) and look at the colorful costumes of the dancers.
When the parades start I see this is a family day. The drum band has all generations, the youngest must just have learned how to walk! And later everybody walks behind the trailers with live bands.

When it is time to go it is already dark. Extremely careful I join the line of cars going back to Kralendijk. Thank God everybody is driving slowly and defensively on this dark road tonight. I survived another Rincon Day.

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Bonaire Jeep Safari

This gallery contains 22 photos.

Only part of Bonaire is residential area, most of it is what we call Mondi (unused land) or Kunuku (small farm lands). The roads in the mondi are dirt roads, only accessible with a sturdy truck or jeep. When you … Continue reading

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The joy of gardening on Bonaire

This gallery contains 11 photos.

After a wearing and long construction period my house was finally done in the spring of 2008. The garden was completely vacant, so I could start from scratch. Before the construction started the terrain had been “cleaned” with a bulldozer, … Continue reading

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