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Diving Freedom In Bonaire
By Matt J. Weiss, June 9, 2010 @ 12:05 PM (EST)
Bonaire is amongst the most loved island by divers. For years I have heard stories about its laid back demeanor, protected reefs and diving freedom that make visiting the island almost a rite of passage for divers.  I finally got the chance to visit the home of diving freedom on a recent DPG editorial trip.

Diving freedom refers to the fact that in Bonaire you can dive wherever you like, whenever you like.  Tanks are left out for you to take to one of the many shore dives in Bonaire, or to just use on your resort’s house reef.  Most resorts in Bonaire have packages so that you can grab these tanks however often you please at any time. In other words, diving freedom refers to unlimited 24/7 diving.

Apparently, diving freedom was invited at Captain Don’s Habitat Bonaire. The resort is among the longest running on the island, started in 1976 by Captain Don Stewart. Captain Don is living legend in Bonaire, credited as being one of the island’s diving pioneers.   He loved Bonaire’s reefs so much he wanted to share them with others and he built Captain Don’s Habitat – a dive shop with attached rooms. 
 
Tanks of the dock for to use any time of day. 

Me with Captian Don at the"Meet The Captain" BBQ. Good food and beers to follow. 

 
I stayed at Captain Don’s Habitat for a few days, and they lived up to their promise – providing ample freedom for guest to dive their own profile in a friendly relaxed atmosphere.  At all times there are tanks left on the dock for you to grab and go diving wherever you want, the house reef included.
 
There are a lot of purple tube sponges on the house reef outside Captain Don's Habitat Bonaire -- they became a favorite subject of mine to shoot while there


Since I was on assignment and “buddyless,” I mostly stuck to the three guided boat dives a day.  Even on these guided dives you are free to dive your own profile, but mostly everyone follows the guides because they are professional frogfish and seahorse spotters.   Although you may have to wait for the other guests to finish their own photographs and observations of the critter, at least you get to see them, which might not be the case if you don’t follow the group.
 
Frogfish found while diving Boniare
 

One of the docks at Captain Don's Habitat


I also stayed at Divi Flamingo Beach Resort and Casino. Divi has a number of resorts located throughout the Caribbean including three in the near by Aruba. The resort is one of the oldest on the island and offered the same diving freedom – tanks left out for your use 24/7.
 
Diving freedom - grab a tank and go. 


I was given a grounds tour by the friendly staff, and was surprised by how big the actual resort is despite not giving off that giant hotel feel. There are two pools, two restaurants, a gym, a bar, a casino and, of course, a dive shop.   I again did mostly boat dives, and followed the dive masters as they helped point out interesting subjects.
 
The colorful Divi Flamingo resort
 
The casino at Divi Flamingo -- makes it tough to work! 
 
 
The week I had in Bonaire was productive,  and the island is the first of  many Caribbean destinations that DPG will be covering as we strive to provide you with complete guides to all the top underwater photography destinations.  You can read the full report on underwater photography in Bonaire,  "An Underwater Photographer's Guide To Bonaire," here.
 
The restaruant and some ocean view rooms at Divi Flamingo. Watch the reef fish as you eat. 


 

 





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