Marge Lawson's Dive Log
Front Porch on 8/19/2007
The usual entry for someone not staying at Sand Dollar or the Den Laman properties would be to the south of Den Laman. Divi resorts plans to build a huge resort on this property, so access may be more limited in the future. We live at Sand Dollar for 6 to 7 months of the year, and although my favorite dive site is Bari Reef (right in front of Sand Dollar), we occasionally go south from our dock and dive Front Porch. Typically, we will go south at a depth of 40 to 50 feet, then, when the coral makes a dip down onto sand and rubble, we will descend to the small wreck at 95 feet and check to see what is hiding inside. Frequently we'll find a large Green Moray hiding under the wreck near the bow or hiding inside near the stern. A Comb Grouper and a Dog Snapper often hang out inside the wreck and you can often find a Tiger Grouper getting a cleaning near the bow. We've found Yellowhead Jawfish below the wreck, which is interesting because they are usually found much more shallow. Although the sand and coral rubble above the drop off isn't very pretty, I find it extremely interesting. It is great habitat for octopus and frogfish. The broken cement slabs south of the Sand Dollar dock is called the Aquarium for good reason. This small area is filled with fish of all types. You can often find juvenile squid in the shallow area just to the north or south of the Aquarium.
Cai on 8/19/2007
We dive this site any time the wind drops or reverses. It can either be a fairly easy dive or a very strenuous dive, depending upon wind, current, and outgoing tide. We do this dive two different ways. The most interesting dive is to do as the other reviewers suggest--go in by the conch piles or the picnic tables and head out the channel, making sure to get a compass reading beforehand. It is best to do this dive with someone who is familiar with this site since finding the reef in the usual low visibility can sometimes be a challenge. We prefer to go out on the surface to preserve our air, plus we can use landmarks on land to judge when to drop down. The strongest current is usually near the harbor entrance, and the reef and visibility improve as you go south. Look for nurse sharks and turtles sleeping under ledges, and look out in the blue water and above the reef for Spotted Eagle Rays. You are likely to see schools of Blue Parrotfish, and Rainbow Parrotfish, plus some Midnight Parrotfish. There are large Barracuda and Tarpon, lobsters, etc. We enjoy ending our dive by going up over the drop-off and spending some time in the sandy flats where large schools of Tarpon hang out. Occasionally we like to do the dive north of the harbor entrance. We do this by parking in the area just before you get to the picnic tables and conch piles. This should only be done with very flat water, since the rocks are quite slippery and you need to walk out a ways before the water is deep enough to put on your fins and start swimming. Take a compass heading and head straight out over algae covered rocks which gradually turns into seafans and small corals. The swim out is quite a long ways. Once you come to the drop off, head north. The farther north you go, the more interesting the reef. You will see many of the large pelagics here, but generally not in the same quantity as the dive to the south of the harbor. Once again, save plenty of air for the long swim in, which is often against a strong current.
Bari Reef on 8/7/2007
Aug 7, 2007, 12:00 AM
We came to Bonaire in 2003 and fell in love with the island, the people, and the diving. We returned the next year and bought a townhouse at Sand Dollar Condominium Resorts. One of the selling points was the fact that the number one reef in the Caribbean is right in front of Sand Dollar--Bari Reef. I've now done somewhere around 1000 hours of diving on Bari Reef and never get bored. It's not the prettiest dive on the island, but if you like lots of fish and enjoy fish ID, it doesn't get better than this. We presently (August 2007) have 11 frogfish on Front Porch/Bari Reef. There is a sponge straight out from the dock that is now named after me (Marge's sponge) which I've spent many hours studying. Last year I discovered a very rare Pipehorse living in the sponge along with several Harlequin Pipefish and two different varieties of "unidentified pipefish". There are Mantis Shrimp, Smootheye Blenny, Reef Scorpionfish, etc. also inhabiting that sponge. Other interesting and fairly rare creatures I've sighted on Bari Reef are Coral Scorpionfish, Mushroom Scorpionfish, Yellowhead Pikeblenny (which are near the reef balls), Armina nudibranchs, Flameback Angelfish, Shortnose Batfish, etc. I do occasional dives at other sites, but definitely find Bari Reef more interesting.
La Machaca on 10/15/2003
Did this as our check out dive from Bon Bini at Lion's Den Resort. Saw several spotted morays, a scorpion fish, a porcupine fish, etc. Also did this dive with a friend who joined us a week later when she did her check out dive. That time we saw a large tiger grouper at the wreck with his mouth wide open getting his mouth cleaned.
Hilma Hooker on 10/15/2003
The first time we did this dive the surf was up, which made entry/exit just a little rough. Second time we did this dive, no problem. Garden eels at 90', barracuda cruising around the ship, etc. This is probably the most crowded dive on the island. There was almost always a dive boat there, and several vehicles for the shore divers. Most other dives that we did during the 5 weeks during mid-August to late September were very uncrowded. We seldom saw other divers underwater. The only reason to do this dive is to see Hilma Hooker. The coral, sponges, fish, and critters are much better at The Lake, just to the north, or Angel City, just to the south.
Margate Bay on 10/15/2003
This is another of our favorite shore dives. There is a lot of variety on this dive--lots of sponges, soft and hard corals, wide variety of fish. More black margate here than elsewhere (hey! I wonder if that's why it's named Margate Bay!!!). Lots of tarpon, barracuda, anemones, honeycomb cowfish, etc.
Bachelor's Beach on 10/15/2003
Only did this dive once. It was a pretty average dive, nothing unusual. We were staying at the Bel Air Apartments, which is just south of Bachelor's Beach, and we did a half dozen day dives and a couple of night dives right out in front of the apartments. The rest of this review is actually for the Bel Air Apartments to Bel Mar Apartments area. We enjoyed those dives more than the dive at Bachelor's Beach. Saw morays, queen angels, tiger grouper, cowfish, tiger tail sea cucumber, lots of peacock flounder, lots of brittle stars, barracuda, spotted drum, porcupine fish, tarpon, white spotted filefish, firework, etc. Saw a large mama blue spotted coronet fish with her little 3 foot baby, and they were nice enough to hang around so I got several good photos. Saw the coral spawning on the second night dive we did here.
Alice In Wonderland on 10/15/2003
Outer reef very nice. Lots of sponges. Saw a flamingo tongue, several barracuda, a gold entail moray, an adult spotted drum, a peacock flounder, and the usual assortment of other fish. Inner reef OK, but not nearly as nice.
The Lake on 10/15/2003
We really like this dive. Did it several times. The inner reef isn't nearly as pretty or interesting as the outer reef. This is a great place to see Garden Eels at only 80' depth. Reviewing my dive log, it appears that most of my enjoyment of this dive was because it is so pretty.
North Belnem on 10/15/2003
Did this dive on a day when the surf was up, so the water wasn't as clear as most other dives we have done. Saw lots of orange elephant ear coral on this dive, plus several morays, a spotted drum juvenile, a barracuda, some French angels, etc.
Tori's Reef on 10/15/2003
Went here with a couple of snorkeling friends. Lots of interesting fish in the shallows for them. Fairly long swim out to drop off. Saw some large orange elephant ear sponges, some gold entail and spotted morays, a couple of juvenile drum fish, file fish, etc.
Windsock on 10/15/2003
We went here one day when we had some snorkeling friends with us, and the water was too rough farther south (where our favorite dives are). This is the only place (in 5 weeks of diving) that we found some thermoclines. Our snorkeling friends noticed the water temperature variation also. Saw a scorpion fish, some spotted drum (adult and juvenile), a spotted moray, etc. Our snorkeling friends saw three squid.
Buddy's Reef on 10/15/2003
Did this dive a couple times. The first time, the most unusual sighting was an unusual brown sea cucumber with black spots. The second time we did this dive we found the green frogfish that is right out in front of Buddy's in a black rope sponge, which was also covered with brittle star. We like this dive better than the La Machaca dive just to the north.
Pink Beach on 10/15/2003
Saw more jolt head porgy's here than most other places. Garden eels at 106'. Lots of sponges, hard and soft corals.
Cliff on 10/14/2003
Only did this dive twice, but saw squid both times right at the drop off. The second time, we were coming up from our dive when we were surrounded by a "squid squadron" of about 10 or so squid. They often swam in formation, forward, backward, or just hanging out watching us. They would often flash each other changing color very rapidly (a form of communication?). We spent 25 minutes in 10 - 20 foot depth (it made it a 90 minute dive) watching the squid, and left only when we were too low on air to stay longer. Also saw: spotted moray, queen angelfish and French angelfish, Spanish hogfish, bearded fire worm, horse-eyed jack, bar jack, honeycomb cowfish, black margate, blue spotted coronet fish, sharp-tail eel, etc. This is an interesting dive since it's different from the other dives. The wall is very vertical, with lots of wire coral hanging out.
1000 Steps on 10/14/2003
This was one of our favorite dives. Always saw some interesting things. Saw the tail of a HUGE green moray under a coral mound right at the drop off one day. I love to take moray pictures, and part of me was wishing it would come out so I could take pictures, and part of me was very glad it didn't. They say green morays can grow to 8 feet, and judging by the back 3 feet or so we saw, I would guess it was 7 - 8 feet long. We took some non-diving friends with us one day, and they enjoyed the snorkeling.
Oil Slick Leap on 10/14/2003
We did this dive several times. Usually the conditions were pretty calm--very little surf or current, but the last time we did this dive the surf was up and was breaking over the platform. It almost carried some gear off the platform. Very nice platform and ladder. Makes entry/exit quite easy under all but the above conditions. Not one of our favorite north dives, but better than average.
Andrea II on 10/14/2003
Good dive--always saw a wide variety of fish. I was attacked by a couple of aggressive 3-spot damselfish while taking a picture of a spotted moray. Felt something nipping at my fingers, jerked back, and was amused to see the little damselfish defending their territory. They kept hassling me until I finished my photos and left. This is the only site where I saw Midnight Parrotfish or a West Indian sea egg.
Angel City on 10/14/2003
This was probably our very favorite dive. Always saw lots of fish: tarpon, jolt head porgy, eels, queen and French angels, rock beauties, blue tangs, bar jack, French grunts and blue stripe grunts, black margate, schoolmaster, yellowtail snapper, damselfish, sergeant majors, trumpet fish, wrasse, Spanish hogfish, blue head, blackbird soldier fish, sand divers, goatfish, porcupine fish, cowfish, trunkfish, spotted drum, black durgeon, filefish, etc., etc. We especially like the outer reef. Very pretty corals, lots of fish of all varieties, and it's shallow enough that you can do a long dive.
Casa del Mar on 6/9/2003
Jun 9, 2003, 12:00 AM
My husband and I had just spent a week on Isla Mujeres (where we did one two-tank dive), then spent two weeks on the Star Clipper, doing dives about every other day, then spent a few days in Playa Del Carmen, where we did a two-tank ceynote dive. Unfortunately, my husband picked up an ear infection from the bacteria in the ceynote and I had some swelling in my ears, so we weren't able to dive for a week. The day the doctor told us we could dive again, we decided to do an easy shore dive just to make sure there were no problems clearing our ears. The entry would have been very easy if the surf hadn't been up that day. There are steps leading down to the water. However, we had to time our entrance to we could get out far enough that a wave wouldn't bash us against the wall. We snorkeled out past the roped area, then dropped down and went straight out. There was no current to speak of, which was surprising. Saw several lobster, a moray eel, a various fish. Not a lot of coral. It was mostly mounds of coral with lots of sand in between. I wouldn't recommend this for beginners since there is often a current, plus there is a lot of boat traffic. Not a terribly interesting dive, but was perfect for our purpose of checking to make sure our ears were OK before going out on a boat.