Wakeup Call | Sport Diver

Wakeup Call


Geri Murphy

A morning dive on Bonaire's south coast highlights the island's underwater diversity As the sun comes over the eastern horizon, the water turns from slate gray to luminous turquoise. You perform a final equipment check, wade into waist-deep water to don your fins, then begin the short swim to the reef. At a depth of 30 feet, the sand bottom gives way to a rich coral slope, a gentle current nudges you to the right. You fall into formation with a slow-moving school of blue tangs, weaving your way through a forest of purple and orange sponges. Five minutes into the dive, the current dissipates and you run into an aquatic traffic jam. A dozen species of reef fish intermingle in a swirl of colorful confusion; around the edges, jacks circle in anticipation of a morning meal. With a flash of silver a 6-foot tarpon comes on the scene. The schools scatter, then regroup as the big predator passes. Back on the surface, you savor fresh muffins and coffee while listening to Eric Groenhart's summary of the dive. Here on Bonaire's southern coast, he tells you, currents mix and mingle to create one of the island's fishiest dive sites. "You never know what you might see," Eric tells you. "Big jacks and tarpon are common, and there's a chance of seeing rays, dolphins and sharks." The site Eric has brought you to this morning is known as Red Slave, so named because it lies just offshore of a collection of abandoned slave huts that date back to the island's Dutch colonial period. The morning is still young, and a number of underwater adventures lie within a few minutes' drive. Head east and you could experience Bonaire's only true drift dive, as west-flowing currents carry you from Willemstorne lighthouse around the southern point of the island to the slave huts. Or, you could head north and dive under the massive, sponge-encrusted support pillars of Salt Pier. "There's a lot more to Bonaire than most divers know," Eric tells you. "Sure, you can make great dives without getting far from your hotel, but there are great sites all around the island just waiting to be explored. "When the weather's right, you can see eagle rays and sharks on the island's east coast. There's always a chance of seeing big animals when you are diving the south, and going north to dive in the national park is like being on safari. When we dive in the park, we take lunch and make a day of it, getting over the dirt roads to some really remote beaches. It's a whole different world." FAMILY-STYLE DIVINGIt was the desire to show divers all that Bonaire has to offer that prompted Eric and his wife Danielle to start Green Submarine Scuba Diving three years ago. Drawing on the their backgrounds in the local hospitality and diving industry, this husband and wife team created a casual yet professional diving operation that is part dive shop, part guide service and part social club. Green Submarine caters to individuals and small groups by offering flexible itineraries and a family-friendly atmosphere. Working with a number of local guesthouses and apartments, the Groenharts can create a customized dive vacation package for singles, families or groups of up to 10. Boat charters are available, but a special emphasis is placed on exploring less-known dive sites that can be reached by road. Divers can opt for guided trips or rent a vehicle and take advantage of the shop's "drive in" tank exchange. A PADI International Resort, Green Submarine is located on the waterfront at the northern end of Kralendijk town, adjacent to a colorful shallow reef. The shop's shaded courtyard is the focal point of daily diving activities and evening social gatherings. Childcare is available, and both SASY and Bubblemaker programs are offered for children age 5 and up. Adult training programs range from resort experiences to specialty and divemaster certifications. Dive trips are created with the individual customer in mind. This allows anyone from timid beginners to experienced repeat visitors to get the more from their diving vacation. For more information about diving with Green Submarine, click on the home page below.