Bon-where? That’s what I wanted to know.

With the international and US legs of our world tour complete, Karen and I found a bit of cash rattling around at the bottom of our our once-mighty travel fund. Enough for one more excursion.

I haven’t been scuba diving since Thailand (really, it’s been almost a year?), so Karen suggested a diving-focused trip. I asked around at a meeting of Milwaukee’s own Badger State Dive Club, and Bonaire was mentioned. Then I spotted the name in a diving magazine. Then in a Lonely Planet guidebook, in close proximity to the phrase “the Caribbean’s best diving.”

We’re going to Bonaire. In other words, from this…

15° F

15° F

to this…

85° F

85° F

This small island lies about 50 miles north of Venezuela; add in neighboring Aruba and Curaçao, and you have the Dutch Antilles… well, you did, until Aruba became a separate country, Curaçao a constituent country, and Bonaire a special municipality, all within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. These post-colonial arrangements are always so complicated.

Welcome to Bonaire

Bonaire attracts vacationers with many native tongues and, apparently, men with male pattern baldness

Let’s put geopolitics aside, which is easy to do once you step into the humid air outside Flamingo Airport’s pink terminal. Bonaire is all about scuba diving. The waters surrounding the island have been protected since 1979, which makes them an ideal habitat for coral, turtles, dolphins, and other aquatic animals. Back on land, there are dive shops, dive resorts, restaurants to eat at between dives, cars to rent as transport to dive sites, and bars to drink at after diving.

And salt. The island’s other main industry is salt.

Ready for a whole lotta margaritas

Ready for a whole lotta margaritas

We’re staying at Captain Don’s Habitat, named after beloved local character Captain Don Stewart. An early promoter of marine conservation, he was instrumental in the creation of the Bonaire Marine Park and the island’s network of permanent moorings (making it unnecessary for boats to drop anchor onto fragile coral).

And on Monday nights, you can meet him.

Captain Don

I asked if he’s Dutch or American, and he replied that he’s from Hollywood. He motioned for me to lean in closer. “If I was going to give the US an enema,” he rasped, “Hollywood is where I’d stick the hose.”

Nearing ninety years old, he’s still a colorful character.

Captain Don’s place qualifies either as a scruffy resort or a fancy hotel, depending on your point of view.

Having stayed in some truly sketchy lodging on our travels, we’re not complaining. And the rum punch helps.

IMG_6877 rum punch