19 February 2010

The Vacation Photo Essay You've Been Pining For



So, yeah. Bonaire. It's this tiny scrap of land 50 miles north of Venezuela. The island is 28 miles long and 7 miles wide and shaped like a boomerang. The land is arid, scrubby, and populated with cacti and nothing resembles the tropical vegetation we all think of when we imagine exotic islands. But it's this dry, scrappy land that gives the reefs a chance for bounty. Bonaire's reefs are so special that they are protected as a national park. As far as I know, there are no HOAs. I mean, come on! People paint their houses pink, aqua blue, yellow, and purple, sometimes all at the same time! All of this put together makes this island my second-favorite place on Earth.

The marine life is rich and diverse. Sharks? Never seen one. Fish? The reefs are positively teeming. Seahorses like the one above? All over if you know where to look.

One of the best dive sites on the island is known as "1,000 Steps". The steps that take you down to the shore, from which you enter the water, are built into the cliff face of the island and even though there are 63 steps down, it feels like 1,000 when you're climbing up with your scuba gear (and tank) on your back.

See the baby octopus? Right there? Squished in the coral? It was trying to nap and not at all pleased that I was hovering above it, taking pictures, blinding it.

This is the Windward/East side of the island. There are a few dive sites on this side of Bonaire, but the current is rough and you really need to be in shape. Maybe I'll try it in a few years. The locals like to frequent this side of the island for their late-night bonfires and they build funky shrines out of driftwood and garbage. It's like a cross between the Neverland Beach of Lost Things and a Caribbean Blair Witch Project. Can't decide which.

That bright blue thing? It's a Lettuce Sea Slug. No, you don't put it in your salad and no, you don't put salt on it to get it off the reef.

The friggin' iguanas are everywhere. When you drive down the road, it's like a messed-up version of Frogger. But that's OK. I get back in my own special way:

That's right. Iguana soup. Yummy! But look out! Little tiny iguana bones are waiting for you...

Bizarre Foods with Coal Miner's Granddaughter!

There are wild donkeys on the island, left over from the 19th-century salt industry. When cars came to Bonaire, the donkeys were set loose and are now feral. So, I was rather surprised when this one let me walk right up to her. She even sniffed my hand.

Ah, eels. They're my favorite underwater animal and I love drifting over a reef and seeing one poke its head out when you least expect it. These are gorgeous animals that flow over the reef, sinuous and quiet.

Did I mention the Bonaire salt industry? It's still going strong! The entire south end of the island is taken up with evaporation pools. The salt melting the snow on your highway or the gourmet salt on your table could be from Bonaire.

And as a fitting end to this photo essay, I give you the biggest lobster I've ever seen on any of my dives. This one was hiding under a coral shelf, 60 feet down.


HEATHER said...


Dave2 said...

I loved SCUBA after getting certified in Maui, but was never able to keep up with it during my travels.

This post makes me sad I stopped diving... what an awesome trip!

Barbara said...

Loved your pictures and your commentary!

Anonymous said...

Mayyyyyyyyyybe I am jealous but I still love seeing these pictures!!!

Unknown said...

Yes, I'm jealous. But happy for you at the same time. And the pictures are lovely. so ... who's the fine lookin' woman eating the soup? ;)

Clint said...

I am so jealous. I have not been diving in so long.

Megan said...

Duuude... you can EAT Iguanas? Dayum, girl, if I'd known that I'd have sent you a case of them. Unfortunately it got really cold here and they all fell out of the trees and died. We were once overrrun with 'em, now you can't find one.

This was very educational. I didn't know much about Bonaire before. Thanks!

sybil law said...

Minus that iguana soup.
But everything else - awesome!

Logical Libby said...

I want to go to there... The water looks lovely.

Kim said...

Dude that is AMAZING ! Great pics and all, and how was the iguana? Did it taste like chicken? (boooooo) Glad you had a good time and the donkey - sooo cute !! I love a friendly ass !

Michael from dadcation.com said...

cool! glad y'all got to do this after all the work ty had to put into his big project the last few months.

Anonymous said...

What? Where are the bitterballen?!?!

Little Mrs. Jonesss said...

That salt sure does look like cocaine! hehehe
The pictures are amazing lady! Glad you enjoyed the trip.

Ashlie- Mommycosm said...

OMG!! You did NOT eat the iguana soup?!?!?

Seriously. Our friends in Aruba insisted I try their traditional New Year's Donkey Soup a few years ago. I got an e-coli infection. Great for weight loss. Not so great for a relaxing and enjoyable vacation.

They keep joking with me about making iguana soup. Not.Gonna.Do.It.

I'm curious though - was it really yummy?

metalmom said...

I almost cried when I saw you eat the soup. My friend Ozzy was rolling over in his grave/box buried in the back yard!

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

Other Heather - It totally was!

Dave2 - See, this is why I'm thinking we need to plan a blogger diving trip. Seriously. Plan something two years out, plenty of time to save pennies and pay off the trip, and we go to Bonaire and dive/snorkel/drink until we collapse.

Aunt B - Thanks, hon!

Hilly - Glad you liked them!

LceeL - The woman eating the soup? Some chick... :)

Clint - You need to get back into the water, hon. Seriously.

Finn - Yep! You can totally eat them! But, I have no idea how to fix them. If you gave me one, I'd turn it over to the Humane Society. Or ship it to Bonaire. ;)

Sybil Law - Thanks!

Logical Libby - Oh, it is beautiful.

Kim - Actually, the iguana tastes like what it eats. Ty-man put it best, "Yep. That tastes like something that crawls on the ground." ;)

Tracey - Sorry. :(

Muskrat - Me, too!

DutchBitch - I didn't have my camera with me when I was munching on them! :(

Little Mrs. Jonesss - I know! Huge mounds of it!

MommyCosm - YOU ATE DONKEY SOUP?!? Blech. Now, I've also had goat stew at a local snack stand out in the kunuku. Health inspection? Nope. But it was goat stew with Tahitian Treat soda. Heaven. I love the iguana stew. It's just a rather gamey-chicken-flavored-ground-dweller taste. But oh-so awesome!

MetalMom - Yeah. I know. I have a friend who has an iguana named Luna and she cusses me every time I eat said soup. The friend, not the iguana.

Not Afraid To Use It said...

Glad you had a blast. You and the man both earned it.

Leigh Anne said...

Loved the pics. Thanks for sharing!

hello haha narf said...

oh heather, i frikken LOVED these photos. especially the one with the seahorse. and that first shot...incredibly pretty!

i'm so happy you shared these with us. if you have more i promise not to be bored with another mostly photos post. (hint, hint)

Momisodes said...

Okay, so I am incredibly jealous, but LOVED these photos. Makes me long for warmer weather :)

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

NATUI - Thanks, hon!

LAB - Glad you enjoyed them!

Hello Haha Narf - Glad you liked the pics!

Momisodes - Yeah, I know what you mean. It was cruel coming back to cold weather.