Category Archives: Bonaire

In the words of Captain Kirk, Boldly go…

Remember William Shatner’s narration at the start of each Star Trek episode, describing the mission of the Starship Enterprise “…. to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before”?

I was reminded of those words when speaking recently to Jim Gatacre, founder of the Handicapped Scuba Association.  Jim was recalling his first scuba trip to Divi Flamingo Beach Resort in Bonaire.  He told me that Divi Flamingo Beach Resort was a “pioneer” for being one of the first Caribbean resorts (if not, the first) to not just welcome, but seamlessly accommodate handicapped scuba divers.

Merriam-Webster’s definition for pioneer is: “a person or group that originates or helps open up a new line of thoughts or activity or a new method or technical development.” Well, that puts Jim in the pioneer category, too. He started his organization in 1981 with a mission to bring a new world and a new life to wheelchair bound people through scuba diving. Then and now, Jim boldly takes people where they haven’t gone before – under the sea. Today the HSA teaches diving, trains people to be dive buddies for disabled divers and certifies instructors to teach diving to people with disabilities all over the world.

Only two years after founding the HSA, the group sponsored its first guided dive trip outside the US.  The destination was Bonaire, chosen for its clear, calm, warm waters teeming with aquatic life. To make the trip a reality, his fledgling organization sought hotel donations for trip participants. Divi Flamingo Beach Resort was the first to respond, and with four free vacation stays. Knowing that diving would be the easiest thing his group would do while in Bonaire, he made a request of Divi management: build a few ramps.  He still marvels at their response to do whatever it took to make the trip a success.

In the intervening thirty years, his organization has returned to Divi Flamingo Beach Resort at least 27 times.  (He can’t remember exactly, he said.) The water around the island of Bonaire is still crystal clear, but the hotel has changed – continually improving as a destination for handicapped divers year after year.  In Gatacre’s words, “Divi started good and they stayed good.”

Gatacre conferred another title on Divi, that of leader.  “Divi Flamingo Beach Resort has been an inspiration to a lot of other destinations to improve their facilities for wheelchair bound travelers.” The hotel together with the dive operation, Divi Dive, prides itself on accessibility on land and sea and playing gracious host for a memorable vacation experience. “When we leave Divi Flamingo Beach,” Gatacre said, “we always feel like we are leaving friends behind.”   Lots of people feel the same way.

Back in 2010, Divi invited NBC News to Bonaire to share the story of some young men from Texas who took up scuba diving for its physical and psychological benefits after paralyzing sports activities.  It’s a wonderful story told by NBC correspondent Jenna Wolfe.  You’ll like it as much as the Today Show hosts did.

Divi Does More for Kids!

Divi Resorts is expanding its children’s activities at six of its Caribbean resorts starting July 22nd.  The weekly schedule of free family events, called Treasures of the Caribbean, includes a treasure hunt, sandcastle building and movie night.

Every Monday morning starting July 22nd, children and their parents will follow clues (and the resort’s activities staff) around the Divi Resort property to amass a stash of keepsakes.  The real treasure at the end is a T-shirt, one that does special things:  It turns every kid into a member of Divi’s Pirate Crew.  And those crewmembers enjoy free refreshments – beverages and ice cream – throughout their stay at Divi.  It also earns them a salute from Divi staff each and every time they wear the shirt.

On Wednesdays, the big event is sandcastle building; souvenir bucket, shovel and great sand and ocean are supplied.

To kick-off the new Treasures of the Caribbean program Divi is hosting a contest to decide who can build the best sandcastle this summer at a Divi resort.  Pictures of the sandcastles will be showcased on Divi’s Facebook page (Divi does the posting and all the picture taking) and Divi will invite its Facebook followers to decide the best one.  The winning family gets another vacation, but this time it’s a FREE one.  (The contest gives new meaning to the term “vacation home,” wouldn’t you say?)    The winner can select any of the participating resorts for their free stay.

So let the fun begin! Join Divi’s Pirate Crew.  Hunt for treasure.  Build a castle.  Enjoy a movie on Friday night.

Need a little inspiration for the sandcastle you’re going to build?  Redbook Magazine gives a step-by-step on the basics.

Want to step up your game a bit?  Check out these architecturally awesome sandcastles collected by the folks at Popular Mechanics.

Get more details about the Treasures of the Caribbean, including participating Divi resorts, complimentary family photos, contest deadline and more here!

In search of the next Jacques Cousteau

Nearly nonstop from 1966 to 1982, famed French underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau captivated television audiences in America, his cameras revealing life beneath the sea. He inspired many a landlubber to take up diving, pick up a camera and plunge into the big blue sea. There are few places better to do that than Bonaire. Protected waters, pristine reefs and a biggest fish population in the Caribbean, no wonder Bonaire is a top destination for underwater photographers.  This year, Scuba Diving Magazine’s Readers Choice Awards voted Bonaire the number one destination for underwater photography.

Which is one reason the Digital Shootout was headed back to Bonaire to stage its underwater imaging workshop. This year’s event was once again at the Divi Flamingo Beach Resort recently during June 22-29, 2013.  We’re happy to say that the event was fully booked this year.  Find out the winners from this year’s event at DigitalShootout.com! And be sure to put this annual event on your bucket list of vacation experiences.  It’s a must! And you won’t have to wait long. It’s been at the Divi Flamingo seven times in the past eleven years.

The Digital Shootout consists of six days of diving and seminars, designed to help novice or intermediate shutterbugs take their underwater picture taking to the next level.  The full schedule includes dives in the morning, classes in the afternoon and then free play and total relaxation at night.  Is it education or vacation?  It’s both.

The Digital Shootout give participants something more to do with their vacation pictures than merely posting them to Facebook.  The Digital Shootout awards $30,000 in prize money to class participants.  It’s worth a shot, right?

You can release your inner Jacques Cousteau with Divi Dive Bonaire at Divi Flamingo Beach Resort any time of year, of course. (There’s always a good vacation package.) The Divi Dive staff knows the best places around the island for underwater picture taking.  Night dives are also available.  And, a few of the staff members are pretty experienced shutterbugs themselves and are happy to offer pointers.

Caribbean’s Best Chefs

If you’re a fan of the cooking competition shows on TV, the Hyatt Regency in Miami will be your heaven the weekend of June 28 and 29th.  The hotel is hosting “Taste of the Caribbean,” an annual showcase that pits ten national teams from the islands to decide who’s best at making lunch, dinner, pastry or a cocktail. Not only do you get to watch the chefs and bartenders compete, you get to taste.  The battles culminate in Taste of the Islands, a contest on Saturday night that highlights the street food of the Caribbean.  Stroll, feel the island vibe and devour the goodies from 6-9 PM. Tickets are $30.

This year, Bonaire will be competing under the direction of team captain Robertico Bernabela, a very promising young chef at the Divi Flamingo Beach. Even after countless practice sessions, the team nonetheless will be as surprised as their fellow Caribbean competitors when they confront the mystery ingredients from which they must concoct a three course lunch.

Chances are there was a little Cadushy on hand at each practice in Bonaire.  That’s the national liqueur of Bonaire.  And, chances are the team explored how a little splash of Cadushy could spike up just about anything.  Teams are allowed to bring an ingredient to the competition as long as other teams have access to use it as an ingredient as well.   But’s here where the edge is:  nobody knows Cadushy like a Bonairean.

Cadushy is distinctive in many ways.  It’s the world’s only liquor made from cactus, the kadushi cactus that grows on Bonaire.  Next time you are there, take a free tour of the distillery. It’s open Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  Of course, there is a store where you will also find the only vodka made from cactus, too.  Stock up and explore the wonders of Cadushy in your own kitchen or bar.

Cadushy is best-enjoyed ice cold.  Also, it’s best if you’re sitting on a beach at the Divi Flamingo in Bonaire or enjoyed with a meal at the Chibi Chibi.  Take note that Robertico Bernabela will immediately return to his kitchen at Divi Flamingo Beach where he honed the skills that earned him the a place on the Bonaire national culinary team.  Meaning when you stay at Divi Flamingo Beach, you get to enjoy a culinary winner every day.

Knock, Knock. Holland Has a King!

Today promises to be a very colorful day in certain parts of the Caribbean – all stemming from the rise of a new king in Holland. His Royal Highness The Prince of Orange ascends to the throne that day. Hear ye and welcome King Willem-Alexander.

The investiture of the new king is taking place on Queen’s Day. Confused? If you’ve ever found yourself in The Netherlands, on St. Maarten, Aruba or other Dutch provinces and states around the globe, you know that April 30th is huge holiday, called Queen’s Day. When Queen Juliana ascended to the throne in 1949, she marked her monarchy with an annual celebration on her birthday, April 30. Her daughter, Beatrix, who became queen in 1980, didn’t think January 31, her birthday, was a good day for outdoor parades and merry-making, so she kept her Queen’s Day on April 30th.

Note to travelers: Queen’s Day next year is cancelled. Lest you think an uprising is about to occur at the loss of a national holiday, no worries. Starting in 2014, King’s Day fittingly will replace Queen’s Day; but the celebration will move to April 27th, which is the new king’s birthday. The king has already concurred that April is indeed a splendid time of year for a day off and grand party. This decision continues a long line of service to the people and practicality by the Dutch monarchy. (They’re also known for abdication, too. Queen Beatrix is handing the reins to her son, as her mother did for her, believing it is time for a new generation to lead the monarchy.)

Of this you can be certain: the national holiday that celebrates the monarchy – be it king or queen – is a great day for the wearin’ of the orange. Orange is the national color of The Netherlands because the Dutch royal family is known as the House of Orange-Nassau. The dynasty traces its lineage to the marital union of the royal house of Nassau-Breda in Germany with the Chalon-Orange line from France Burgundy in 1515.

The soon to be King Willem-Alexander is the first male heir to the Dutch throne in over 100 years. He and his wife have three daughters. And, you know what that means: King’s Day will become Queen’s Day once again.
The historical signs at Fort Amsterdam in St. Maarten, which are a very special part of the grounds of Divi Little Bay Resort, already have been repainted – with a fresh coat of orange, of course – to note the change in leadership of the Dutch Kingdom. At a ceremony there on April 27, SIMARC, an organization that works to preserve the island’s heritage, was awarded an Orange Bow, a very special honor indeed since it is the last bestowed under the reign of the outgoing queen.
Orange you glad you read this?

What should you pack for a vacation in Bonaire?

Swimsuit.  Yes.  Driver’s License.  Yes.  Watch.  No.

Going on vacation is a time for turning off the clock for some people. No need to be anyplace at any particular time. Let the boats and buses leave when they must.  Banish the smartphones and watches.  Ahhhh.  This is the definition of vacation.  Let’s go shore diving when and where we want – and for as long as we want.  No wonder Bonaire is paradise for divers who want to be “off the clock.”

Bonaire is the world capital of shore diving.  All a diver needs is a full tank and wheels to get where they want to go underwater exploring.  There are more than 80 marked shore dive sites along the coastline of this little island, 50 miles north of Venezuela.   Selecting the day’s destination just might be the hardest thing a dive vacationer has to do all week.

The shoreline and coastal waters of Bonaire are designated as the Bonaire National Marine Park and this protection has helped make the island one of the world’s top dive destinations.   A coral reef, encircling the entire island, supports an array of fish, considered by some scientists as the most diverse fish population in the Caribbean and among the best in the world.  Prepare to be amazed.

It’s easy to enjoy all the riches and relaxation that Bonaire has to offer.  Divi Flamingo Beach Resort has a new special called the Shore & Explore that is a deal on accommodations and wheels for a seven-night stay.  A pick-up will be waiting for you at the airport.  You will soon hold the keys to a very relaxing vacation. Go to the website for more details.  Ahhhh.  Can you feel your blood pressure going down already?