Buddy Dive Rebreather Diving in Bonaire

Rebreather Diving Bonaire – Buddy Dive CCR Experience

Buddy Dive on CCR

It’s 5am. I’m at gate A18 in Phoenix after an overnight flight through Miami from Bonaire. It was a good week, and my second time staying with Buddy Dive. The last time was in 2017, after which, I wrote a cover article about Bonaire diving for the now defunct, Submerge Magazine.

I like Buddy Dive, especially their support for technical divers, and rebreather diving in particular. There’s a lot about Buddy Dive and Bonaire to talk about—Bonaire scuba diving itself, the resort staff, Buddy Dive accommodations, food, dive staff, getting around, etc.

What I love about Buddy Dive

Bonaire Scuba DivingThere is a lot to like about Buddy Dive. Topping the list is access. You can gear up on a wooden deck, just steps from the water. If you are an open circuit diver, Nitrox and air filled cylinders of varying sizes are close at hand. There are lockers here as well, so you won’t need to heft wet gear to your room.

The house reef is good, and since so many sites are close together, you can swim to nearby dive sites at Captain Don’s or whatever they call the site in the other direction.

I specifically chose Buddy Dive for CCR support. Rebreathers, while gaining popularity, are a rarity—even at diving destinations that support them. I love having access to O2 and scrubber on site.

I also love that Buddy Dive Resort is a nice place to be. The rooms are clean, and they have condos with kitchens, which is great if you don’t like eating out all the time.

Most, if not all, Buddy Dive packages include breakfast. There are lots of options, from pastries to omelets, fruit, bacon, pancakes, French toast and lots of other stuff. I’m mostly a yogurt and coffee person. Personally, I think their coffee sucks. Other than that, Buddy Dive breakfast is great.

Dive packages also include a pickup truck. These can have either a 2-seat cab and a roomy bed, or a 4-seat cab and a tiny bed. It is ironic that four divers need room for twice the gear, but get half the bed space. You can make it work.

Something to know, all of their vehicles are stick shift. Personally, I love this, and find it hysterical to watch as people first learn about it. I think it is a point of national shame that only about 1 in 10 Americans can operate a manual transmission. Come on, people! Have some pride!

Things I don’t like about Buddy Dive

First, let me point out that the positives outweigh the negatives by a huge margin. I will, no doubt return to Buddy Dive at some point in the future. I find it comfortable and relaxing, and the pricing great.

Something that bugs me, though, is the non-technical dive staff has an arrogant undertone. It starts with the pompous jackass doing orientations. All I got from that was a condescending series of “don’ts” and that he describes himself as “beautiful” because he drinks the tap water.

They size you up when you collect weights and question you on whatever amount you request. I avoided that scrutiny this time around because I require no lead with my rebreather and a 3mm wetsuit (which was a bit thin for the water temperature, BTW).

I don’t really mind being questioned by less experienced divers, but they should at least be nice about it.

The technical diving staff was nothing like that. My experience with them was very friendly, helpful and supportive.

I have to say the restaurant service sucks. By nature, I am not critical in the least, but the servers are clearly untrained and poorly managed. A few are nice enough, but not everyone. They got the food orders wrong the majority of the time. No apologies. No “thank you.” Nothing. The food is marginal and expensive.

Bonaire is widely considered a mecca for shore divers, which I can see. I did a lot of shore dives and enjoyed them enough that I blew off the few boat dives I had scheduled. Mostly, I didn’t want to limit my bottom times to under an hour while on a rebreather.

Ummm… This is my opinion, okay…

KISS Sport Rebreather, BonaireI don’t think the diving is that exceptional on Bonaire. I like to visit Bonaire because it is a good deal and I can dive the way I like to dive. The visibility is very good and access to dive sites is even better.

But, in terms of reef life and the quality of the diving, Cozumel blows Bonaire away and is similarly affordable. It is also arguably easier to get to. San Salvador, Bahamas blows them both away.

That said, you can’t do in Cozumel or San Salvador, what you can do in Bonaire. It’s an apples to oranges thing. I really wanted to to do a rebreather diving trip where I could plan and execute whatever dive plan I wanted. In this respect, Bonaire wins hands down.

But, the idea that Bonaire is fringed by an unrivaled reef system just isn’t true. I honestly think the Big Island of Hawaii has better diving. A big difference is shore entries and exits can be pretty rugged in Hawaii, so it isn’t for everyone. But, in Hawaii, you’ll have an excellent chance of seeing manta rays, dolphins, sharks and turtles—even from shore.

It really just depends on what you are into. Bonaire is easy and affordable and fun.

Criticisms aside, I loved diving the Salt Pier, Hilma Hooker and many other dive sites. The Salt Pier is as cool as everyone says it is. There are massive schools of fish congregating among the pilings. The entry and exit is not bad and it is a shallow, easy dive.

I like the Hilma Hooker too. It’s a favorite wreck dive for a reason. There is a lot of life on the wreck and it is a great setting for pictures and video. Also, large tarpon make the Hilma Hooker home, which is very cool.

Another dive site I like a lot is Angel City…. Very cool!

Is Diving in Bonaire Worth It?

In a word, YES. You probably won’t see any big animals, and I’m not sure the marine life flourishes like it once did. A buddy of mine believes that during COVID, islanders the world over ate everything they could catch just to survive. He might be right. Who knows?

I could also just remember it different from 2017. In any case, go. You’ll have a ball, and in spite of a few annoyances with select staff, they really do work to provide a great experience. On top of that, you can’t beat the price.

So, my recommendation is definitely put Bonaire on 2024-25 list of places to dive. Then, after you go, let me know what your experience was like. I can’t wait to hear about it!

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