Saturday: We leave home at 4:30 a.m., take 3 flights with no delays and arrive at Buddy Dive Bonaire with all of our bags in time for an oceanfront sunset and dinner with our friends.
The 1st thing we notice is new and bigger hammocks for the kids that have gotten bigger themselves since they swung in those hammocks at their 1st Kids Sea Camp in Bonaire over 5 years ago. We all take a deep breath. Life is good.
Sunday: The Kids Sea Camp routine begins. Kids separate into their groups: Sasy for the youngsters, Seals for the 8 and 9 year olds, Jr. O/W certification class for 10 yrs+ and the certified kids whose #s seem to be growing every year. The breakfast buffet kicks into full swing by 8, the parents are off on their 2-tank boat dive by 9, and wild and crazy Ron Steven (aka Rogest) is doling out the prizes at the treasure hunt. One lucky camper wins a Sealife Reefmaster u/w digital camera and everyone gets wet.
Monday: Melissa is on the teen boat with old friends Eric, Ryan and Jen, and Austin is in the long anticipated Jr. O/W certification class I promised him last Christmas (see Sport Diver article on Kids Sea Camp, April 2010 issue.) I giant stride off the dock with Margo, Betsy and friends. I wonder why anyone bothers to go any further...easy sloping reefs with plenty to see at every depth. Too many tropical fish to name, with my favorite schools of beautiful blue tang and french angelfish waiting welcome me back. A huge barracuda hangs out and watches us watching him, while some lucky divers spot an octopus, seahorse and turtle.
Tuesday: We make it out on the adult dive boat to the Hilma Hooker wreck and Angel reef this morning. No matter how many times I dive Bonaire the marinelife always delights me, and the signature orange elephant ear and purple tube sponges are colorful tropical homes to many little critters. The juevenile spotted drum looks like a miniature wind-up toy bouncing around the reef.
Wednesday: The weather has been reliably sunny and dry, with a constant breeze. We rent a truck and poke around town today: frozen cappucinos and ice cream cones are also not helping my goal of being healthy. The kids visit the Donkey Sanctuary and what a unique treat that is. Dozens of friendly donkeys greet them looking for a hand-out. Bread is doled out with open hands as photos are snapped. Parents are laying back in between dives and re-connecting with the kids by 4:00. Happy hours are in full swing by 5 and swinging in the hammocks are the kids favorite after dinner activity.
Thursday: Rogest has had several painting classes going on throughout the week, and no matter how much he jokes around, the kids know that bringing home a dot art masterpiece is as meaningful as anything else they do this week. The dinner buffets have gotten better and better, my only complaint is that the french fries are so good, I've totally lost by will power rather than those extra pounds. Watching the sun go down as the teens suit up for a night dive is pure pleasure. The kids are enjoying pizza and movie night, and I get the long anticipated news that all the junior open water kids passed their certification tests today!
Friday: The week culminates with Family Day at Klein Bonaire. The kids get a glimpse of a newly hatched leatherback sea turtle, very unusual to find here. Austin and his group receive their diplomas in waterproof pvc pipes on the dive. We clap, hug and OK sign each other while parrot and butterfly fish pass by amused.
Jumping from the boat and swimming to shore is a big deal for the kids, while the adults cluster on the beach and in the shallow waters with family and friends. After lunch we convene for the closing ceremonies which include awarding certificates for the various programs, kids proudly presenting canvases full of dot art marinelife, and parents reading their poems for the chance to win praise and prizes. No matter how many times I hear them, parents putting their treasured memories into words still brings tears to my eyes.
Saurday: Check out is easy, but the goodbyes are more difficult. We have all shared another amazing adventure and have started to discuss options for where and when we will connect next summer. Kids Sea Camp offers lots of choices and everyone in the family has an opinion, so stay tuned on kidsseacamp.com, make friends on facebook and we'll see you soon!