I spent last week SCUBA diving along the shoreline of Bonaire with my parents and one of my younger brothers, cooking in our condo, eating a few delicious meals out, visiting a local research station, meeting interesting people (ask about Barry, if you want a few good stories), and not touching my Blackberry, using the internet, or otherwise communicating with the world outside of my little island bubble. And that vacation from technology, my friends, was the most relaxing and liberating part of vacation. The dinoflagellates that lit up like fireflies wherever we moved when we cut our dive lights during our night dives came in as a close second, and returning to hundreds of unread e-mails caused me to fear opening my Inboxes upon my return Stateside, but I may make it a permanent part of my schedule to disconnect and just relax.
A few weeks back, the NYT wrote a piece on a group of neuroscience researchers who took a technology break for a week, and spoke of the rejuvenating power of turning off the computers, checking out of Twitter and the blogosphere, and allowing our brains to wander. Just a nugget of food for thought; the article is definitely worth a read.
Now, onto a few notes on the trip. To those of you who saw my tweets and pictures talking about Bonaire, let me clear up a few questions and pass along some advice to anyone considering a trip…
Bonaire is a small island with a population of around 15,000 near Aruba and Curacao, off the coast of Venezuela. The local language is Papiamentu, some combination of Spanish, Portuguese, and local dialect, and every dive shop and souvenir shop sells the Bonaire ma Dushi (“Bonaire is sweet”) DVD.
There is little to do in Bonaire except SCUBA diving: no white sand beaches (all coral rubble), limited eating and going out opportunities, no big clubs, no huge museums, etc. That said, the diving is incredible, and over 60 sites can be accessed from the shore. Just rent a truck for the week, stay somewhere that allows you unlimited tanks of air, and load your gear and air tanks into your truck. Drive to your site of choice, marked by a yellow-painted rock with the reef name near the road, and swim out a short way and descend down the reef. If you love shore diving, or haven’t tried it and are interested, this is a great place.
If you do choose to make a patronage, don’t be surprised when you hear the advice to keep your truck unlocked at all times. Petty crime seems high on the island, where a locked door seems to nearly guarantee a broken window, and our unlocked doors resulted in returning to our truck after a dive to find our open glove box physically removed from our truck. Special tip: if you go, just don’t dive the sites at Jeff Davis, Weber’s Joy, or Karpata. All three are common sites of break-ins, due to close proximity between the road and the parking, making it easy to stop, grab anything that looks like it might have value, and move on.
Bonaire is currently under local island government rule, but will be transitioning to Dutch rule again come January 1st. Island natives (and ex-pats who have relocated there, mainly from Holland) seem to have mixed feelings on this transition, but the general consensus is that it will make the island safer for locals and visitors alike.
The people of Bonaire, with the exception of grumpy Andre at our home dive shop, were inviting, kind, welcoming, and eager to share their stories, as were those who were on their 14th ro 15th trip to the island. Divers are friendly people, and this trip was filled with them. And the majority were also enjoying their own vacations from technology it seemed…