Tag Archives: bonaire 2019

Last Day in Bonaire

by Laurent Yiu

I didn’t know what to expect this morning. We were told that we were going to work with someone to help build a fence. What I was expecting was for us to do it the old-fashioned way, using a lot of wood and a lot of hammering. Instead, we used black, rubber coated chain-link fence that could be rolled out and stretched. As a group, we divided the labor, some of us carrying rolled up fence, some unrolling it, and some of us stretching. It took a few hours to set up the fence in the dirty, hot weather. I was relieved when we were finally done, but it didn’t feel like it was a long time, as a everyone was constantly working. We got treated to sodas and fruit juices and afterwards we went to a food truck named Cactus Blue, which served lionfish burgers and wraps. The afternoon was nice because we went to the Dive Friends dive shop and to Van Den Tweel (coolest supermarket in Bonaire). The best of the entire day was the dive with the ostracods. In order for this dive to be successful, some conditions had to be met: it had to be 3-5 days after a full moon, 30 minutes after sunset, flashlights off, and the area has to have soft coral. The experience was like magic because there were bioluminescent creatures that glowed after being exposed to Chris’ flashlight.  After shining his flashlight around in front of the group, he turned it off for a few moments and then we saw it light up in little blips of dazzling blue light before fading away.  This experience was easily one of the coolest things that I had ever seen, and it really makes me wonder how people discover these things with such specific conditions? Were they looking for something else and stumbled upon this? Why was the timing so perfect and why did they have their flashlights off? Afterwards, we closed off the night by to Gio’s for gelato.

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Bonaire,June 19

by Charlotta Moller

I feel kissed by the sun. My love of the sea takes the form of newly formed freckles and a gentle smile.

We picked up trash by the sea and I cried at night for all the damage I, and those I love have done (taking into account our plastic usage and our carnivore existence). I have decided that I will no longer eat meat.

The fish are so beautiful. You would think that you would get tired looking at them, but I could look for the rest of my life and die happy.

Underwater it feels like there is only light. Not in a literal sense, but in our hearts. Our heartbeats are exchanged for air bubbles, and sometimes, while everyone looks at all the creatures of the sea, I watch them breathe. In and out the bubbles surface and I marvel at this technology human beings created to, as Emma would put it, “cheat God.” Francisco and Claire hold hands beneath the crystal blue, and I wish we could all be this happy forever.

We saw a Hawksbill Sea Turtle and I truly believe that (s)he is the one that has it all figured out and not us. The turtle let us watch as s(he) ate, and eventually, while everyone else was distracted looking at something new, Olivia and I watched as it swim away. It was like a magic I have never known before.

About a week ago we listened to a talk by the Sea Turtle Conservancy of Bonaire and I thought about how we only have one life (maybe) and it would be so boring to do only one thing. I’d like to think that someday I could become a sea turtle specialist or a dive instructor or perhaps just heavily involved in the push for environmental preservation alongside other career paths. To me, this would just be allowing myself to experience everything I love.

On this trip I have learned a lot of things that really matter, but perhaps the one that haunts my dreams the most is the inherent selfishness of human beings. However, today at lunch in Lac Bai we asked the waitress not to put straws in our smoothies and I realized that this trip had changed us, even in small ways like that.

I saw someone drink out of a plastic bottle today and thought about the hundreds we picked up over the past two weeks and how it would never be enough until we stop using plastic all together. It hurts my heart that people don’t care but a few years ago I also didn’t care enough, and I wonder if this needs to be changed through education or experience. Perhaps both.

At lunch in Lac Bai, Emma, Francisco, Claire, and I swam out in the clear water and soaked in Mother Nature’s creation. Sometimes, it feels like it’s here for just us – but I also have a burning passion to share it with everyone I can. I wonder if this is how Chris feels about scuba diving. Like it’s everything and without it, we are blind.

Today was the first day we arrived at a beach that wasn’t polluted, and I felt hope in every breath I took.

I hope in ten years beaches will be clear, but I fear that by then everything we have seen here will only deteriorate and that makes me very sad but maybe more afraid than anything else.

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Bonaire, June 17, 2019

by Olivia Holzman

Today I was woken up at 4:59 a.m. to the beautiful sound of Arran’s voice, yelling “WAKE UP WE GOT TO GO!”. Startled and a bit disoriented, we threw on a swim suit and ran out the door to meet Claire, Barbie, Chris, and Avery for a quick dive briefing. We drove through the dark desert to a beautiful wreck dive at the Buddy Dive resort and started to gear up. The morning dives are so unique because you can see the shift between the nocturnal and diurnal creatures, highlighting the beauty of Bonaire’s oceanic ecosystem. We immediately spotted a Tarpon who had just finished hunting for the night and saw many stoplight parrotfish waking up to start the day. Halfway through the dive we swam over a sunken power boat, watching all the fish who use the wreck as a home. Watching the fish repurpose our wasted materials (plastics, ships, glass… etc.) amazes me. It shows that our carless actions not only damages land biomes, but it forces fish to adapt as well. This was something that has shocked me throughout the trip, our rubbish sticks to coral reefs and creates homes for the fish. Though this can be good short term, it will have long lasting effects on these animals, inspiring me to change my actions in the future to help the marine life, which helps support of all life.

After this amazing sunrise dive, we went back to Lizard inn, met the rest of the group and left around 8am for Jong Bonaire. We were given choices of five different activities to do with the kids. Francisco, Arran, Laurent, Long and went to go play football/soccer with the kids. I introduced myself in Dutch and asked the kids questions about where they were from and how they liked living on the island. I found it very interesting that many of the kids had grown up in Holland and moved to the island for a few years for their parent’s work. Many of us had similar childhoods growing up in Amsterdam and it shocked me to see how different their lives turned out than mine. Many said they did not enjoy living on the island because they had to sacrifice their education and friends in Holland. Playing with them made me realize how fortunate I am to go to a school like George School and have the opportunities that I do. We connected with the kids over football/soccer, we played four games with GS vs Jong. We were crushed by the kids every game; they obviously spend a lot of time playing outside.

We returned around 11 am and after an insane Avery yoga workout, lunch break, and walk into town we did a late afternoon dive at double reef system called Angel City. This was such a unique reef because it is constructed with two different reefs divided by sand channels reaching down to 60ft. We geared up, did a buddy check, and made our way into the water, trying to avoid the fire coral. This was a fish identification (fish ID) dive to help scientists monitor the health of the reefs worldwide and to recognize changes in indicator species. I have been working on fish ID all week and this was the first ID dive I went on without a fish ID card. I felt as if I finally had a very good understanding of each species of fish and their behavior. After descending, I immediately saw a spotted drum, lots of stoplight parrots, fairy bassets, squirrel, and trumpet fish. Though I have seen these fish almost every dive I never get tired of seeing their movements, scale patterns, and behavior. Watching them allows me to understand the importance of reef conservation and sustainable fishing in order to keep them alive and healthy for as long as possible. Later in the dive, I spotted six black dudgeon triggerfish which are endangered but fantastic creatures. It is a joy to see their movements and how they interact with each other. We also saw two Caribbean reef squids expanding to swim to the surface to get food for dinner. Watching the fish in their natural habitat has changed my understanding of the oceanic ecosystem, increasing my level of respect to these creatures, and my future actions above sea level. Already I have made efforts to clean rubbish everywhere I go and to reduce my overall carbon footprint, but these dives have inspired me to do more. We ended the night by watching the sunset over the crystal blue ocean, all laughing and messing around. An end to the perfect day in beautiful Bonaire.

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Bonaire, June 16

by Barbie Walsh

We had another fantastic dive today at Hamlet Oasis. This was the second time I dove the wall located there; however, it was the first time with a large group, which made this a whole new experience. In order to reach the otherworldly reef, you must perform a tricky entry. First you hobble down six stairs carved into the side of a hill that leads to a rocky beach. A jagged rock outcropping signals your spot of entry into the water. The path along the outcropping is deceptively sandy, but if you lose focus then you will be caught off guard by the occasional rock and may roll your ankle. Fencing you in on your other side is a field of extremely beautiful and painful fire coral. If you are nimble enough to come out unscathed, the last step before you descend is to put on your fins (a simple task), but your hands will brush the fire coral if you aren’t vigilant. My first time making this trek was effortless. Only three others joined me on the dive, so we all had ample room to maneuver.  However, with the increased number of persons on the second dive, there was a notable decrease in space. In order to traverse the difficult trudge, we had to work together as a seamless group. I had to anticipate both Mother Nature’s and the other divers’ next move. Fortunately, our group was victorious in reaching the reef unharmed due to our superior teamwork and Chris’s watchful eye.

I felt the trek mirrored the worlds current relationship with finding a solution to pollution in the ocean. When we met with Carolyn a few days ago to talk with her about her work to solve problem of increasing amounts of trash being found on Bonaire she brought up the issue of finding a centralized system of cataloging trash found. I was confused about what she meant, for I had thought the solution to ending pollution arriving at the worlds shores was simple: recycle and preform trash pick-ups. After today’s dive I understand the importance of having a worldwide accessible data base of where and when trash is found. When different counties and organizations do not work together to solve the problem, we run the risk of causing even more damage. Having an intricate system of well informed and eager organizations and countries overseen by one central group is one way we can begin to solve the ever-growing problem of polluted seas.

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Bonaire, June 14, 2019

by Emma Huttemann

Today was a very chill day, I got to sleep in late which I am incredibly thankful for. After I woke up, I made myself some cereal and enjoyed the warm morning air. After that, we went over to Coco Beach and snorkeled until we were satisfied. After we had our fill of snorkeling, we ordered a bunch of pizzas and ate until it was time for the turtle preservation presentation. The presentation was at the Yellow Submarine and was taught by a local volunteer of the conservation. I learned about all of the types of sea turtles found on Bonaire and their life cycle, how they nest and the reasons for their decline. It’s so sad to see how humans hold such a strong effect on all living beings especially sea life and how we have affected them in negative ways rather than positive ones. It reminded me of the ecology group, 4Ocean, and how I feel like it is impossible for me to have a long-term positive effect of the sea life. I really wish I could do more to have a huge impact of saving them. I have decided that I am going to spend my cash for the trip on saving 25 sea turtle hatchlings. I think this is the best way for me to have a long term effected on the ocean.

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Bonaire–June 13, 2019

by Long Pham

Today was a fun and informative day for me— it was the day that I made my first dive as a certified diver. It did not start well at first because I was so confident that I descended way too fast. I didn’t think it was a big deal at first until Chris told me after that I could have ruined the whole dive for everyone if I’m below the depth limit, which I wasn’t. This made me realize how my own carelessness could have negatively affected everyone else’s plan. After that I followed Chris’s instructions and we all had a great dive. That afternoon we met with Caroline from Clean Coast Bonaire to learn about the trash around Bonaire. I didn’t believe there would be so much trash because of how well the beach and the reef here are protected. That changed after we met with Caroline and did a beach cleanup right afterwards. The beach cleanup was only 30 minutes but the number of discarded cigarette butts we found were in the hundreds, along with many other types of trash like bottle caps, plastic, etc. After the beach cleanup we had a chance to either go diving or snorkeling. I chose snorkeling this time and honestly, I had a blast. Many people would think that diving is always the obvious choice, but snorkeling is so much more relaxing to me and still gives you the ability to look at the beauty of the marine life. Also, I think snorkeling helps you to appreciate diving more because diving enables you to be so up close with the beauty that you can only see from a distant while snorkeling.

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Bonaire, June 11

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by Francisco Correia 

Trash, trash, and trash. This was mostly what we experienced today. While I could not dive and pick up trash from the reef, like the rest of the group, I still got to experience this in our evening beach cleanup on the eastern coast of Bonaire. When we first got there, we could not see any trash. However, after 30 minutes, we had found enough trash to fill up all our bags.

After cleaning up, I felt great, but there was something that deeply upset me. Much of the trash that I cleaned up was everyday items that much of us use. While doing these cleanups can be helpful, the trash will just keep showing up. The only way to fix this is to stop purchasing single-use plastic products. However, in today’s society this is nearly impossible. A question that I keep thinking about is: What can we do to stop this problem? Is there even a solution, or are we helpless? I still do not have an answer to this question, but I hope that I do by the end of this trip.

This experience so far has made me feel powerless, but hopeful. I know that no matter how much trash we clean up, more trash will show up. However, if we can learn from this trip and share our knowledge with others, we can make a difference.

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Bonaire-June 12

by Arran Goldman

Because I am a certified Advanced Scuba Diver, I got to go on a morning dive as a safety diver to certify Avery this morning. We stayed at the same location that everyone else had been certified: ChaChaCha Beach. This dive spot is pretty nice, and on every dive,  I have seen something new and amazing. So far on this trip, that was my favorite dive due to  the incredible life we saw. It lasted about 68 minutes which is a very valid length is consistent with my previous dives with my brother. I found a spotted scorpionfish underwater during the dive. He was incredible and blended in perfectly with the rocks. We also saw another rock beauty, one of my absolute favorites, as well. Every time I think about this fish I smile.

At the end of the dive, Avery and Chris took off their fins and staged a fake fight underwater in slow motion. It was really funny, and I finally felt like I was diving at homeThat dive was awesome. We did a second dive later that day, too. This was the dive which changed the way I thought about diving, and proved to be a pivotal dive in my trip so far. When Chris was hovering above the water in a sitting position, I realized how incredible just the action of diving is. We are underwater with hoses and tanks, observing an almost completely different world. It’s really amazing to think about how everyone else is living their lives on land, while the fish and the corals are living separately in a different world underwater. The things and fish that amaze us are just normal, daily life for everything else living sub aqueously. Anyway, after we de-kitted and put our dive equipment away, the small group of us met up with the rest of our service trip at a place called Eden Beach, where everyone else snorkeled and played in the water. Barbie, Olivia, and I hung back to snorkel and flip in the water. We saw a sharp-tail eel, honeycomb cowfish, and countless trumpetfish. We also stumbled across some coral tree farms where there were pieces of staghorn coral hanging on PVC pipes to promote growth. I’ve always heard about the coral farm, but I had never actually seen them before. It’s incredible to think that humans can do good and save a reef, but we can also be mind-blowingly destructive as well.

Later today around 8 p.m. we went to a sea turtle presentation to raise awareness about the dangers to local sea turtles. The presentation was very factual, and I learned a lot about the life of a sea turtle. I also learned how to better tell the species apart. I really hope that we can see a turtle. Even though I have seen countless turtles on dives in Cayman, it would still be amazing!

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Bonaire–June 10, 2019

group

by Claire Schumucker ’20

“It’s too busy, let’s do the paperwork later” was one of the first sentences that we heard two days ago as we were leaving the Flamingo Airport in Kralendijk. The laid-back and casual nature of this comment struck us all. There we were, on a foreign island, about to dump our gear into local pickup trucks with keys hidden under the floor mats and the legal, logistical work was just completely and utterly brushed over.

I share this phrase simply because it encapsulates the general laid-back nature of much of what we have experienced on the island. We were practically the only people at Mi Banana, the restaurant where we had dinner last night, and the owner and the owner’s family walked us through everything on the menu and made jokes and conversation the whole night. This interaction was unique because of the uncharacteristically authentic and warm interactions.

The warmth and positive energy have radiated through our diving experience at Dive Friends Bonaire as well. Today, this morning, we conducted open water dive #2 and #3 off the western side of the island. We practiced navigating with a compass, both at 15ft under water as well as on the surface. Also, in dive #2 practiced surfacing (from approximately 20ft) by using our buddy’s (dive partner’s) alternate air source. We headed back to land, got new air tanks, and headed back into the water for open water dive #3. Here we explored the reefs at around 35ft and various schools of fish swim and float by. Being 20ft underwater with only an apparatus that lets me stay alive forces me to stay present in each of my tasks. I become aware of my position, depth, and I also become more spatially aware. Because of this necessary awareness I am immersed in the spirit of diving and became present in the moment. Since we stepped out of the airport, the busy work and trivial tasks shave been set aside. Both under water and above the water I have felt particularly aware and present. The almost slow-motion experience at 20ft underwater surrounded by only natural rocks and animals is an unfamiliar experience.

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