Note: This review mostly applies to the Buddy Dive resort dive activity operation; not the hotel per se.
The once beautiful full-of-life reefs of Bonaire are now about 50% destroyed apparently for a variety of reasons. From “WBD” (White Band Disease) and abnormal hurricane activity since 2005 which have done significant damage.
I was last diving on Bonaire in 1984 and the reefs and animal life were stunning. Now there is evidence of severe problems at all of the 13 dive sites I visited (including some on Kline Bonaire). I’m a long time, globally experienced diver-photographer and was hard put to find decent subjects. (Oh yes, some macro critters if that’s of interest.) Not just the cancerous-looking coral heads and bone-white Elkhorn coral skeletal remains strewn over the ocean floor, but the lack of sea life also. No large animals were encountered at all. No sharks, no dolphins, no large turtles, no mantas, none of the big groupers I remembered. Really sad and unfortunately it may never recover. There are groups such as the Coral Restoration Foundation (the hotel adds a dollar donation to your bill) and other organizations trying to save the reefs but success so far is minimal.
On accommodations: I stayed the week at the Buddy Dive overflow associate resort, Caribbean Club Bonaire which is about five kilometers away in a remote area of the coast. Nice if you desire quiet and isolation but a pain because of the 10 minute drive to the Buddy Dive dock. You are provided a pickup truck with the package which is essential since there are no taxis (unless called ahead of time) and no busses or other transportation. So you drive yourself to dive and eat and shop and party. My Caribbean Club room was excellent, however. Large, spotless, and the A/C and other accoutrements worked fine. The pool which I never used is three feet deep and no other guests used it either.
At the Buddy Dive resort my friend had her regulator stolen from the condo balcony (and a ho-hum from resort staff). And signs on the rental car dashboards strongly admonish keeping the windows rolled down, doors unlocked and nothing at all left in the vehicle. (Applicable mainly for shore dive excursions.)
About the Buddy Dive diving operation: It is a major assembly-line-like facility, well equipped with several dive boats, hundreds of tanks, and a large, experienced staff. It is like a well-oiled machine. Clockwork. Divers swarming the docks awaiting their turn on a boat, plenty of gear-washing facilities, a large equipment locker room, and a reasonable dive-photography shop. But there are problems:
1. Our boat took us West along the coast to a site near “Thousand Steps”. Our group (about 10 divers) stuck together pretty much and the divemaster swam us up-current for 25 minutes, then completed the round trip nearer the shore in shallower water and led us back to the mooring-buoy anchor for a safety stop. HOWEVER, upon surfacing; no boat in sight! After a few minutes a boat appeared on the horizon and the captain circled to pick us up. She had left to pick up a snorkeler from another boat miles away who had strayed from the herd. Unfathomable lack of professionalism and responsibility.
2. Attitude issues. Not from the staff. For the most part they all were very considerate and helpful, with the exception of the photo shop “guru” who seemed disinterested unless you were toting a mega-bucks professional camera-strobe setup engaging in techno-speak. That a real turnoff for casual recreational underwater photo-buffs who simply want some interesting snaps to brag about back home.
3. My dive buddy on our boat got all geared up for our second tank and discovered that her tank was half full! The valve dust cover was on which is supposed to indicate that the tank is full. Fortunately she noticed this before entering.
But also annoying was the high-and-mighty attitude from “seasoned” Bonaire-recurring guest “arrogant-professional-recreationist” types, of which there were more than a few. (Flashing lots of expensive equipment, self-asserted expertise, and no smiles.) Amusing for me to feel that. I’ve logged over 850 dives all over the world in many dive situations and have never sensed such attempts at intimidation. Why such a concentration of these folks at Buddy Dive? By far the diving community is generally a great bunch of people.
Summary: I’ll not be back to Bonaire but instead will seek those wonderful, colorful, teaming underwater scenarios which hopefully remain elsewhere. It seems the reef damage situation is world-wide, to varying degrees. Other venues I’ve dove in the last few years have exhibited some reef degradation, but nothing as severe as Bonaire, unfortunately. But if your main goal is a highly structured operation, Buddy Dive Bonaire will suit you. By the way, I normally write reviews which are sincerely positive, but in this instance that’s not the case.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC