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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Bonaire: Spring 2009

This vacation was originally supposed to be to Honduras. We planned and selected, but because I only just recently started a new job, I needed to wait a while before we could book. Then, when the time came... the resort was running a special so great that they were full and we couldn't get a reservation the week we wanted. So, we thought and thought and ended up deciding to go back to Bonaire. We wanted warm water, we wanted to feel at home, and when I was in Bonaire 6 months ago, it was not long enough to really make me happy.

We left on Friday, March 27th from Baltimore, and flew to Houston. Like our last trip, we were taking the red eye to Bonaire, but unlike last time, we were in coach. I did manage to snag us an exit row, though. The flight was uneventful, and I got a tiny bit of sleep, but not much. While we had more legroom, we couldn't recline our seats.

Our Hotel
We arrived in Bonaire on Saturday, March 28th at about 5:30am. We picked up the rental truck and headed to our hotel, the Bellafonte. Previously, we had stayed at Harbour Village Beach Resort, but there were a number of reasons that we chose the Bellafonte this time:
  1. First and foremost, the Bellafonte is cheaper. HV is known as being the most expensive in Bonaire. Although, some research showed me that the Plaza Resort is almost as expensive as HV.
  2. We had a full kitchen and therefore were able to take home leftovers, and eat breakfast and lunch in the room.
  3. We had a LARGER room!
  4. We were overlooking the ocean, which was wonderful.
  5. The house dive at the Bellafonte was SO much better than the house dive at HV.
  6. Harbour Village is a little like a "compound" where I felt locked up inside. At the Bellafonte, I felt like we were able to interact with the island and get out a little more.
The Bellafonte was beautiful. I loved our room and our kitchen was really nice. We had full maid service, so it was that perfect balance between condo and hotel.

Some photos of the Bellafonte, outside and inside:
From Bonaire 2009 - Kim Topside

From Bonaire 2009 - Kim Topside

From Bonaire 2009 - Kim Topside

From Bonaire 2009 - Kim Topside


Restaurants/Food
Even though we had a kitchen, we ate out quite a bit. Having the full kitchen was nice because we ate almost all of our breakfasts in our room overlooking the ocean. We had eggs (need to remember to bring salt and pepper next time, and to buy oil or butter to grease the pan) and toast or cereal.
  • Cultimara - We went shopping at the supermarket called Cultimara, despite the fact that it's known to be the more expensive market. Still, they have excellent breads and baked goods and a decent selection of fruits and vegetables. The deli case was interesting - it was like potluck. I wanted turkey, but everything was in dutch. I ended up buying something labeled kipfilet, which ended up being chicken breast (close enough). Hooray! I also found some HFCS-free coke for my co-worker.
  • City Cafe - This was our first meal on the island. We ate breakfast there while we waited for the office at the Bellafonte to open. We had eggs and toast and they were... well, runny. I can't say we were overly impressed, but it was good enough. The orange juice was delicious, but expensive. $30 for breakfast for two is too much money. All of our other breakfasts were in the room.
  • Wil's Tropical Grill - I love Wil's. Sadly, he didn't have any fresh tuna to make the ceviche that I was craving, but we still had two wonderful meals there (our first and last dinners on the island). Todd did get his smoked marlin salad that he loves and we both enjoyed the delicious BBQ ribs. So good! Now, we're going to have to plan yet another trip to Bonaire in order to get the ceviche!!!!
  • Casablanca - I always give Casablanca a "just ok." We didn't eat there last time, so this was my second time having the mixed grill. It does give us way too much food, which was why we went early in the trip (Sunday night), so that we could have leftovers. We enjoyed the leftovers for two lunches - Monday and Tuesday. Awesome!
  • Mona Lisa - Still my favorite. I love this restaurant. We were sad to find that our favorite waiter, Rudy, is ill. We wished him a speedy recovery and hope to see him next time we're on the island. Still, we got to see Monique and talk to her. We had the fish and shrimp platter - Wahoo, Drado, and Tuna. The appetizer of tuna sashimi was so good that we couldn't share - we had to order two. AND - the desserts were so good that we ended up coming back later in the week for dessert.
  • Cactus Blue - Always good. The appetizers (Todd had arepitas and I had pumpkin & plantain fritters) were just OK, but the entrees and dessert were delicious. I had chicken curry and Todd had Jerk chicken. So delicious, and we picked up t-shirts to take home.
  • Richard's - This was the site of what was one of the best and most memorable meals in my life in 2007. Then, Todd had made reservations at the single pier table and we'd spent 3 1/2 hours sharing a meal and bottles of wine, watching the sunset and chatting. It was absolutely perfect. Two years later, Richard's pier was destroyed in Hurricane Omar and is not yet fully rebuilt. We had dinner oceanside and enjoyed delicious food. However, the ambiance was just - ruined. We were looking for a romantic meal, but didn't get it. Richard was blaring horrible music - motown and country. "Achy Breaky Heart" played three times while were there, along with "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and a number of other motown hits that were totally inappropriate for a romantic evening. We were disappointed - so much so that I didn't even order dessert. And I always order dessert. We left and went into town to have dessert again at Mona Lisa. Much better!
  • Rum Runners - We had a lovely lunch with friends at Rum Runners, which is located at Captain Don's Habitat. It was very nice. Great service, great food, highly recommended. Monday night, we also attended the Captain's Rhum Punch Party at Rum Runners. There, we met up with the same friends and got to meet Captain Don. What a character he is! Plus, we were sitting at a bar with Captain Don - who has a PEG LEG! - and across the bar? A guy with an eye patch, I kid you not.
  • Bobbejan's BBQ - We had lunch here on Sunday. Very delicious local BBQ, perfect for your surface interval. We were between dives and thought that the food was spectacular. The ribs were not quite as good as Wil's, but were still delicious (and I thought they were better than Casablanca). I was on quite the meat kick this trip.
  • Paradise Moon - This used to be Papaya Moon, but has renamed itself and changed locations to the marina at Harbour Village. It was delicious tex mex, and one of our best meals on the island. Our waitress was friendly and fun, and the food was great. I had fish tacos made from fresh Wahoo.
Diving
From Bonaire 2009 - Kim Topside - Todd is a badass.

So much diving! We ended up doing 3 dives a day, except for one day where we dove 4 times. We did 6 daytime boat dives with Dive Friends Bonaire, and an additional night dive on Tuesday night. The rest of our dives were shore dives, including a couple of dives in the northern part of the island with friends that we met on Bonaire Talk.

Highlights?
  • Margate Bay was beautiful as always. The southern dive sites are so pretty, with tons of Gorgonians. We always have spectacular dives here, and at other sites nearby such as Red Beryl. I took a spill at Margate that left my legs bruised and cut up for the rest of the trip, but it was all fine. Battle scars!!
  • On Klein Bonaire, we separated from the group on a boat dive to spend about 35 minutes alone, just the two of us, in the shallows with a turtle. He was having lunch and being very generous about letting Todd photograph him.
  • We met Bonaire Talk friends Bill and Cathy to dive at Candyland, which is an unmarked site north of BOPEC. This was a challenging exit and entry, with some large surf, but I did it and it was truly spectacular.
  • Bill and Cathy also took us to try LaDania's Leap, which is a drift dive where you have to make an 8-10 foot jump into the ocean from a cliff in order to enter the water. I admit, I was scared and shaking before I made the jump, but I really didn't want to embarrass myself by chickening out in front of new friends. It was beautiful, but I am not sure that I will be doing it again. Yep, I was that scared. Did I mention that I've been in the water with 8-10 foot Caribbean Reef Sharks? They didn't scare me like that.
  • Another boat dive off of Klein Bonaire, we saw a lone squid at about 70 feet that also let Todd take plenty of photos. I love the cephalopods!
  • Speaking of cephalopods, we saw an octopus right behind our hotel diving at dusk off of the pier at the Bellafonte. He was tucked up in some coral rubble, and of COURSE, Todd didn't have his camera on that dive.
  • On Monday Night at Captain Don's, we ran into Alfonso, who was our divemaster at Harbour Village. We shared a joke with him where I said, "Hey, Alfonso!! Todd brought back the SAME GIRL THREE TIMES!" - this being a big joke because Todd came to Bonaire for the first time with someone else the year before we went down for the first time. He congratulated me on my success. Anyway, he also told us where we could find a frogfish, so Wednesday morning we went looking for him at Windsock. We ended up finding him, but he was hostile and swam off of the sponge he was sitting on to try and attack both Todd and me. Very strange, as frogfish don't usually move.
  • We did a night dive off of Klein Bonaire that was truly spectacular. We saw basket stars, brittle stars, shrimp, and a beautiful orange seahorse. It is always also really nice to surface on a night dive to see that black sky filled with stars.
We spent some time on our last day (Friday) driving around the island taking photos. We saw a beautiful sunset and really got a lovely tour of the island.

This is me at my favorite part of the island, down south:
From 2009 Bonaire - Best of Topside Resized


From Bonaire 2009 - Kim Topside


From 2009 Bonaire - Best of Topside Resized


NOTE: There are NO laws against drinking & driving in Bonaire!!!
From Bonaire 2009 - Kim Topside

Want to see more photos?? See Todd's post over here that shows his topside photos and our underwater photos.

There were so many things to take in on this trip. I almost think it was our best trip to Bonaire yet. It was too short, and a good time.
From Bonaire 2009 - Kim Topside


More photos:
Kim's Topside Photos:
Bonaire 2009 - Kim Topside


Todd's Underwater Photos:
2009 Bonaire - Best of Resized


Todd's Topside Photos:
2009 Bonaire - Best of Topside Resized

1 comment:

V- said...

Love the vacation report! I was wondering how you ended up going to Bonaire when I remembered you mentioning planning a trip to Honduras. Once again, your vivid and detailed write-ups blow me away. The pictures are wonderful! Thanks for the post! V-

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