Splash Dive Center Trip to Bonaire

Splash Dive Center, Alexandria, VA, 703-823-7680

May 26 or 29 to June 4, 2004 (Special info for this trip is in Red)

Trip Leader: Mel Briscoe, PADI 172303
Trip Co-Leader: Ellie Briscoe, PADI 186202
Tel: 703-461-7383
Cell: 703-405-5800

Frequently Asked Questions (v2)

(see also the Buddy Dive FAQ)

(see also the official Splash flyer for the trip)

What is special about this trip?
How much baggage can I take? What sizes and weights?
What weather should we expect? Temperatures? Rain?
What kind of clothes do I need? Are there a washer and dryer available?
What kind of equipment do I need?
Can I get into a swimming pool before the trip to try out some new gear, or just to get used to the water again?
Should I have dive insurance and/or travel insurance?
When/where is the Pre-Trip meeting, and what will happen there?
Can you provide some emergency-contact information?
Can I get my scuba certification on this trip?
I'd like to take some classes/additional training; what is available?
Is snorkeling possible?
What is the tentative itinerary?
Do I have to leave from Baltimore (BWI)?
We leave pretty early from BWI; can I stay nearby? What about parking?
Are there some useful travel tips?
What about a packing list?
How many boat dives will we be doing?
What are the dive sites like?
How do I contact Splash?
How much does this trip cost? What does it include?
When is my payment due?
Are there any extra fees I need to know about?

Special Aspects of this Trip

1. This trip is a "double-header." Part A will leave Baltimore on Wednesday May 26, Part B will leave on Saturday May 29. Both will return on Saturday June 5. This gives 6 days of diving on the shorter trip, and 9 days of diving on the longer trip. We'll all be staying and diving together, no matter which trip you are on.

2. Part A -- the longer trip -- will focus Thursday and Friday on Open Water Certification dives for new divers, so they are ready to join the Part B crowd arriving on Saturday.

3. Part B will have an opportunity to do Scottish Country Dancing, an occasional late afternoon social activity. This event is called ScubaDance and was held previously in April 2002. If you don't do Scottish dancing, you can still participate and learn it on the spot. No, kilts are NOT required! We also plan to do a Scottish dance underwater, in 3-dimensions.


If you need to rent gear, Buddy Dive has decent stuff and good prices; see http://www.buddydive.com/diverates.html#equipment. You can get everything for $150/week, or just a reg and BCD for $100/week. And, you don't have to carry it there or back! I highly recommend your own mask, fins, snorkel (so they really fit) even if you rent the rest. Splash will also rent you gear, but you have to tote it there and back, it costs more, and if anything goes wrong with it Splash is a long way away.

If you are thinking of buying some equipment, it's best not to do it at the last minute, because you might not get what you want, and you might not have a chance to try it out first at home in a pool.

If you want to buy gear -- which is really worth thinking about even if just for one trip a year -- check with the Splash store staff. Most folks already have their own mask/snorkel/fins, and weight belt (Buddy Dive supplies the weights). My feeling is you ought to buy a wet-suit next, because it must fit, and next a BCD, because it ought to fit too. Then a regulator, because that's your life-support gear and you want to know where it has been and how it has been taken care of. Then, consider buying a computer. See http://www.newdiver.com/gear/ and http://scubadiving.com/gear/ for useful information.

In Bonaire you can expect water temperatures around 80-84, with the occasional excursion a degree or two higher or lower. Perfectly comfortable in just a lycra skin or a 0.5mm suit for a while at the higher temps, but even then if you are doing several dives each day you'll want a 2 or 3mm suit. I'm not a fan of shorties, because I like the abrasion protection of a full suit. If I had two lightweight full suits, I'd take them both, so I wouldn't always be putting on a wet wet suit! At the lower temps, some folks will want a vest as well, for the multiple dives, and some will wear a neoprene "beanie" or even a lycra or thin-neoprene full hood.

Advice on buying wetsuits: This is most folks' first purchase (after mask, fins, snorkel). You need one that fits and is not torn, so get your own. A 3mm full suit is an all-around suit: you can wear it with a vest or with a shorty over it for more warmth, add a hood, etc. I like a 2-3mm hooded vest: you don't need to push the hood up if you don't want it, and it is warmer when you do. If you get a bit cold, then your basic suit might be a "4-3," meaning 4mm in the torso, and 3mm in the legs and arms.

You should make sure your personal "life-support gear" (i.e., BC's and regs) are serviced before we depart; remember an annual maintenance is strongly recommended. Check with Splash.

Advice on buying BC's: You want one that fits. Jacket-style is more common, back-inflation style is often more comfortable. Many folks will make this their number 2 or 3 major purchase (wet suit is number 1).

Advice on regulators: All modern regulators are safe, and breathe fairly well for recreational dives in moderate conditions. If you plan to dive in very cold water, or do very strenuous dives, or dive in harsh environments, or plan technical diving, you will want to spend more and thus get more capability. Many folks will make this their number 3 or 2 major purchase (wet suit is number 1).

Computers are wonderful, especially for multiple dives a day, and once you dive with one you'll be hooked. Even a simple one is great, but one that can do Nitrox is worth the few extra dollars. Trying to dive on tables for multiple dives is difficult, and really limits your diving. A typical Bonaire dive day would be a boat dive to 60 or 80 feet, for 40-60 minutes, but of course only a part of the dive would be at the maximum depth. The computer doesn't mind, but the tables really limit the repetitive dives.

Advice on buying computers: They are all good; the more expensive ones offer more tricks, like allowing Nitrox, or computer-downloading, or being so small you can wear it as a wristwatch, or integrated with the air-pressure gauge so your computer can tell you when you are going to run out, etc. It can be mounted in your console, on your wrist, attached to your hose, or just hanging on a retractor. I like it on my wrist.

No chemical lights are allowed in Bonaire; if you haven't got a battery-light for your tank for night dives, please get one. Night divers should also have both a primary light and a small back-up light. You can buy all these things in Bonaire, but they are cheaper here. Take batteries. They are MUCH cheaper here, especially at COSTCO. But carry them home again when expended; they do not have much landfill space in Bonaire.

Advice on buying lights: Get your own; a few days of rentals will pay for one. The brightness of a light is roughly proportional to the number of batteries in it; the duration of the light is roughly proportional to the size of the batteries in it. So, a 4AA-cell light and a 4C-cell are about the same brightness, but the C-cell light will last longer. A 4 or 6 AA-cell light will stuff comfortably in your pocket, so is handy for day-dives too, to look under ledges and into moray eel mouths. A 4 C-cell light or bigger (e.g., 4 D-cell, or 8 C or D-cell) is a "primary" light, and probably only carried at night. Many folks will buy a AA-cell light for day dives, and use it as their backup for night dives, perhaps renting the primary for the occasional night dive. In Bonaire, we usually dive every night, sometimes twice (!), so your own primary light may be a good investment.

Bonaire is a great place for U/W photography.....lots of stuff to shoot, little current, clear water. Even inexpensive U/W cameras work well.

If you have or are getting any new major equipment (mask, BC, reg) I urge you to attend one or more of the pool sessions listed herein and get used to the new stuff here. You really don't want to jump off a boat in Bonaire and discover you don't know where the dump valve is on your BC!

Bring a spares kit: computer battery (if user changeable), mask strap, fin strap(s). Maybe some simple tools: screwdriver, adjustable wrench, allen keys.


Air Jamaica says you can check 2 bags, 70 pounds max each, 62 inches (height plus width plus length) each, and have one carry-on at 40 pounds max, 50 inches max. (I think a smaller carry-on is a good idea; less chance it will be taken from you and "gate-checked.") Many folks pack their critical stuff in their carry-on (prescription mask, computer, medicine, etc). NOTE: most standard duffel bags fit the 62 inch rule; most large dive bags are too big.

I always seem to end up with 3 bags: one for dive gear, one for photographic gear, and one for personal stuff.

In general, do NOT lock your bags because airport security will probably cut your locks off. Many folks will use little cable ties to secure their bag-zippers against pilfering. A nail clipper can be carried to get your bags open upon arrival. If TSA needs to cut the cable tie, they will replace it. You can also get for about $10 each special combination locks that TSA can open with a special key; these probably will NOT work when we exit Bonaire!


Don't bring too much! Buddy Dive has a washer and dryer available to guests, tee shirts and shorts are the most common dress, dress-up means a shirt with a collar, etc. You will want to buy a tee-shirt or two, so save room.

Ellie wears light-weight long pants at night for mosquito protection. Mel toughs it out with shorts and sandals from BWI to BWI.

Two swim suits is really nice; that way one is probably dry when you put it on.

Pool Time

Splash rents the Lee Center Pool occasionally on Wednesday evenings so folks can try out gear, just swim around, do Scuba Review refreshers, etc. Check with Splash.

Also, it may be possible to get some pool time on Sunday morning at the George Washington Rec Center pool near Mt Vernon; I would need to be with you for those Sunday dates as they are teaching times in the pool. If you want a Scuba Review, check with Splash about arranging. A Scuba Review is recommended if it's been more than 6 months since you've been in the water.


My opinion is all divers traveling internationally should have dive insurance. It is not expensive, and it can save your butt, so to speak. The basic DAN policy is $25/year, plus DAN membership at $29/year. PADI offers similar coverage and rates. Typically, you are covered for any diving-related injury, including recompression chambers, evacuations, and medical assistance. If you join DAN via the link on the Splash web page, Splash gets a referral credit that helps them to disseminate DAN info to divers, not a bad thing.

Travel Insurance is less useful, but some people like to get it. Splash has Travelex brochures and you can see trip insurance comparisons at http://insuremytrip.com/.

Pre-Trip Meeting for May 2004 Trips

Tentatively 3pm, Sunday May 23, at Splash, to be confirmed. We'll pass out the tickets, maps, approximate schedule and other info, meet each other, etc. Please confirm your attendance; otherwise, I'll make special arrangements to get your tickets to you.


Open Water ($155 at Splash, for classroom and pool; certification dives are $165,but are just $100 on this trip!)
This is the entry-level dive training. It typically involves a couple of weekday-evenings of classroom work, plus a couple of weekday-evenings or weekend-mornings of pool time. This work can be done anywhere; Splash continuously offers classes during the year, but you could do it wherever you live. It's best if you do it with a PADI-affiliated shop. There are then four open-water certification dives, which we would do together in Bonaire, spread out over two days (the first two days we are there). You are then certified, and you would dive together with the group (or with the buddy of your choice!) the rest of the trip. It would be possible to go directly from this training to the Advanced Open Water or to the various specialties.

The basic plan is to offer the Open Water certification dives during the first two days of the long trip, i.e. on Thursday and Friday, May 27 and 28. However, if someone can only participate in the one week trip, beginning May 29, we would offer the certification dives on Sunday and Monday, May 30 and 31.

Advanced Open Water (AOW) ($150)
We do not need to do any classroom work in advance for this course, but you should get the Adventures in Diving manual, read the appropriate chapters and do the related Knowledge Reviews. The mandatory Adventure Dives are Deep and Navigation; there are three additional elective dives, for example Underwater Naturalist, Night, and Peak Performance Buoyancy are typical in Bonaire. If you already have any diving specialty certifications (for example, Fish ID), that will count as one or more of the 5 dives needed.

NOTE: AOW is a required rating for entry to the Rescue Diver class, or for Master Scuba Diver, or for the specialties in Cavern, Ice, Rebreathers, and Search and Recovery. Some dive operations will not take you on a deep dive (greater than 60 feet) unless you can show an AOW card.

Nitrox ($135)
Nitrox ("Enriched Air Diver") has about 4-hours of classroom work (book-work, hands-on oxygen analysis, final exam); you need to study the book in advance, especially the tables. After two Nitrox dives in Bonaire, you are certified; the specialty counts toward Master Scuba Diver. If you want to do Nitrox and are from out of town, you can do the classroom stuff wherever you are with your local PADI shop and bring a "referral" to Bonaire for the two dives. Nitrox allows you to increase your bottom times, or to keep the same bottom times and reduce your nitrogen uptake. Some people (I'm one!) say you are less tired after diving on Nitrox. Buddy Dive offers unlimited Nitrox usage for $99 a week, which is a really good price.

Fish ID ($135)
The Fish Identification specialty takes about 3-4 hours in the classroom. We'll talk about fish types, look at pictures, and take a quiz on the 25 most common fish in the Caribbean. You will learn how to identify and to count them, and after your two practice fish-counting dives in Bonaire will be certified at "Level 2" to send report forms into REEF (
http://reef.org/) and to go on their trips. It is also a specialty that counts toward Master Scuba Diver. I need to know who will be doing this so I can order the REEF Starter Kit for you, about $25 each (ID book, special underwater slate, forms, etc).

Coral Reef Conservation ($85, but $25 on this trip if any other classes are taken)
The Coral Reef Conservation specialty is about 2 hours of classroom work, and there are no dives and no book. You will learn how a coral reef functions and what to look for when you are diving on them in Bonaire. A portion of the course is about how coral reefs are endangered, and ways you can help. This is a Project AWARE course that enhances your diving knowledge and environmental awareness. It too is a specialty that counts toward Master Scuba Diver.

Coral Reef Identification ($85)
The Coral Reef Identification course is a new distinctive specialty planned for about 2 hours of classroom work, plus two dives in Bonaire. I am developing this course in collaboration with the folks at Buddy Dive. It is not finished, and will need PADI approval before I can offer it. The Coral Reef Conservation course will be a prerequisite, as will some experience in night diving. We'll look at the most common corals in the Caribbean, find and identify them during the day, and then go back to the same corals at night to see them feeding.

Underwater Naturalist ($85)
We do not need to do any classroom work in advance for this course, but you should get the Adventures in Diving manual, read the Underwater Naturalist chapter and do the Knowledge Review. Two dives are required. If you had Underwater Naturalist as one of your AOW dives (log page record needs to be shown) then just one more dive is needed and no Knowledge Review.

Deep ($135)
This is a four-dive specialty, but you've already done one for your AOW. You must have already had at least three other Adventure Dives before doing this specialty; AOW is the usual prereq. The full course includes experience with nitrogen narcosis, emergency breathing equipment, effects of pressure and color-loss, navigation at depth, and emergency decompression stops. There is a PADI manual that should be obtained and read in advance. Bonaire is a great place for this specialty.

Night ($85)
This is a three-dive specialty. You learn equipment needs and setup, use of lights, underwater signals, how to read your gauges and use your compass at night, the difference between the day-reef and the night-reef, and what happens if you turn your light off for a few minutes. Bonaire is an excellent place to do night diving; there are no big scary creatures (except the occasional moray out swimming around), and little current. You'll also meet Charlie, the 6-foot tarpon who likes to play in your light beamů.

Navigation ($135)
This is a three-dive specialty, but you've already done one for your AOW. You learn how to really use your compass, and how to navigate without one too. The final dive includes a "treasure hunt" where you swim a specified distance and direction to find a slate that has the next distance-direction marked on it, and so on.

Underwater Photography ($185)
This is a two-dive specialty, plus classroom work, plus a review session with the instructor after you get your pictures back from each dive. Splash may loan a simple camera at no cost if you take this course; this is being negotiated. You learn the basics of photography including equipment, composition, and lighting, the special aspects of doing it underwater, how to take care of your equipment, and how not to take pictures of the south end of a fish that is swimming north.

For any and all training: alert me first to your interests, and then call Splash and sign up with them. I'll tell them to have it available for you to register in.


Some of you may wish to relax mid-week or on our last Friday afternoon with some snorkeling (while we are in our 24-hour no-diving period before flying out on Saturday). Buddy Dive offers some really cool activities for non-divers that the divers can partake of piecemeal too. There is snorkeling in caves or in mangroves, sit-on-top kayaks, bicycling amongst the flamingos, fishing, the ever-popular lie-in-a-hammock-and-read, etc.


Tentative Itinerary

May 26



Air Jamaica #40



Montego Bay


May 29


Montego Bay

Air Jamaica #66





June 5



Air Jamaica #67



Montego Bay




Montego Bay

Air Jamaica #41





1. Montego Bay is in EST; Bonaire is one hour later (Atlantic Standard Time). So it is a 3h trip from BWI to Montego Bay, and 2h from Montego Bay to Bonaire.
2. See
above for details on the luggage allowances, or go to http://airjamaica.com/ticketing.asp.
3. The Montego Bay connections are tight; pack your carry-on in case you miss a flight and must stay overnight.
4. Air Jamaica suggests 2.5-3h advance arrival at the departure counter, and says they will cancel your ticket if you are not there 60min in advance! At Baltimore, plan to be at the counter by 630a.

You do NOT have to leave from BWI; the trip price is the same from any East coast Air Jamaica city, for example Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Atlanta. Contact me and/or Splash ASAP if you are interested in the trip but do NOT want to fly from Baltimore, because we will need to see if seats are available for you. Our block of seats for the trip is all from BWI.

Emergency Information

Buddy Dive Resort
PO Box 231 - Kralendijk
Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles
On Bonaire: Ph: +(599-717) 5080, Fax: +(599-717) 8647

The phones are manned 24h, so an emergency call can get through if needed.

There are phones in each room with long-distance access for calling out.

Email access is available at the Buddy Dive front desk; access by purchasing a "time card."

A hyperbaric chamber is on Bonaire, at the local hospital, staffed by physicians.

Baltimore Travel Trick

The Ramada Inn near BWI has a "Park, Stay, and Fly" package for $89 plus tax: 1 night stay, shuttle to/from airport, 2 weeks free parking, continental breakfast. Call 410-712-4302. Long-term parking at BWI is $7/day times 8 days = $56, so the Ramada feels like it cost $33. Also, at our Pre-Trip meeting, you might be able to arrange car pools.

Travel Incidentals

The condos mostly have power outlets for normal two-blade US plugs, the old kind. You should bring an adaptor if you have a modern grounded (third round pin) plug you will be using. Power is 110v 50hz, not 60hz, so some appliances might run a little slower/hotter.

Housing is in multi-floor condos; we have (U.S. language) the second (living room, kitchen) and third floors (bedrooms). They are walk-up.

You can get photo-processing (one day) in Bonaire, but it's a bit expensive. No Kodak Sea-Processing. Film is available but expensive; bring what you need.

Pack sunscreen and bug repellent (mosquitoes likely at the evening al fresco dining).

Boat Dives

Our package comes with 1 boat dive per day, which you can take when you wish. For example, three 2-tank trips on a one-week trip with 6 diving days.

For an additional $89 (paid there to Buddy Dive), you can get 11 boat dives total. That is a heck of a good deal; the marginal cost of the additional 5 dives is just $18 each. You can also go a la carte, at $24 per dive beyond the 6 in the package. A night boat dive is an extra $10.50.

Some folks like to do a lot of boat diving (couldn't be easier, and the only way to get to Klein Bonaire dive sites). Others like to do a lot of shore diving; you are on your own, set your own schedule, lots of variety.

There are three boat-departure times a day, generally, at 8:30 a.m., 10.30 a.m. and 2:15 p.m., so you have lots of flexibility. In the past, our groups have stuck together on the same boat, and used the 8:30 departure time for our morning dives. This makes the rest of the day free for shore diving excursions.

I'm arranging a schedule with the dive shop for our boat-dive schedule. I'm allowing for the last boat trip to be a two-tank trip, and for one day to have no boat dives pre-scheduled. You can always go on more boat dives by paying the extra cost.

The schedule I'm arranging looks like this:

Wednesday evening (arrival day): diving may be possible at extra cost
Thursday afternoon: 1-tank trip
Friday morning: 1-tank trip
Saturday morning (Trip B arrival day; diving may be possible at extra cost): 1-tank trip
Sunday afternoon: 1-tank trip
Monday morning: 1-tank trip
Tuesday morning: 1-tank trip
Wednesday: no scheduled boat dives
Thursday morning: 1-tank trip to Hilma Hooker wreck
Friday morning: 2-tank trip to the far north
Friday afternoon: no diving

Ellie's Packing List

Log book
Medical form (if taking classes)
Dive tables / Nitrox tables
maps, guidebooks

save-a-dive kit (mask strap, fin strap, o-rings)

Scuba gear net bag
Day pack
Dry bags (if I really want to keep a Tshirt dry on the boat)

Mask (in box) and Snorkel
Hood/hooded vest
Wetsuit and booties
BC w/whistle, knife
Dive watch and Computer, with spare battery for computer
Flashlights and batteries
Night dive tank light
Slate w/pencil, eraser

Sweater (I wear it on the plane)
Long sleeved shirt as sunscreen
Bathing suits (at least three; and less underwear than you'd normally pack)
Nylon shorts, nylon long pants

Other medications, vitamins
Insect repellent
itch reliever
Bath soap

Camera and film
First aid kit
Water bottle

fish identification books and cards
Bonaire bird book/binoculars
playing cards
addresses for sending postcards

Ziplock bags
Extra hangers (heavy enough for a wet wetsuit)
Salt/pepper/sugar/tea/popcorn (the condos have pots and pans but no
supplies. I bring a few packets from the cafeteria at work)

Dive Site Preview


Five dives a day is not unusual in Bonaire (2 in the morning, 2 in the afternoon, one at night) and really weird people (we may have some on our trip!) might do 6 or 7 on some days. You can see why Nitrox is desirable....

Costs and Fees

Part A is $1895, Part B is $1525. This covers round-trip air from Baltimore, airport transfers in Bonaire, quad accommodations (two 2-bedroom/bath units sharing a kitchen, dining, and living area), a pickup truck shared by the four people in the apartment, buffet hot breakfast, unlimited air and shore diving, 1 boat dive per day, and your professional guides.

Full payment is due to Splash 60 days in advance of the trip, to hold the air reservations. Cancellations after the full-payment date will lose a portion of the deposit; cancellations within 30 days of the trip will lose the entire deposit.

For the May 2004 trip, full payment is due by Friday, March 26.

Single bedroom accommodations may be available at an extra cost; check with me or splash ASAP.

Extra fees and costs, not covered by the basic trip price, are:


Telephone 703-823-7680
Fax 703-823-4812
Web site