Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Buddy Dive Resort In Bonaire Is Tops For Divers

Carissa and I just spent a a week at Buddy Dive Resort in Bonaire on a trip organized by our local dive shop, Seaventures in Roswell GA.  Other then me getting ill on the 2nd day, we had a great time and will do it again.  There are a lot of oddball reviews out there on Buddy's, so I wanted to write my own to throw my $0.02 into the mix.

First of all, getting to Bonaire may not be easy.  I live in Atlanta, and Delta has direct flights, but they are typically very expensive.  It's a once a week flight on Saturday.  When we were shopping for tickets, it was somewhere around $1600 a person if memory serves.  We opt'd to fly through Houston on United for half the cost.  United has more flights going into and out of Bonaire as well, so we took this opportunity to add a day on the trip; we left on a Saturday and returned the following Sunday.  Long story short, look around for air options.

As a sidebar rant here, when we were looking for tickets the Delta flight was just about full, with no open two-seat spots left.  We booked the United flight through Houston.  Then, a few weeks later, suddenly the Delta fight was 1/2 empty and at 1/2 it's original price!  I hate airlines...

The airport on Bonaire is your typical island airport.  Small 3 gate "terminal", about 1/2 to 3/4 of it is open air.  Bags came out fairly quickly considering everything runs on island time.

As part of the package, Buddy Dive was there with a truck and a van to take folks (and their luggage) to the resort.  When we got there our check-in was painless because our group leader had sent our information to them earlier that week.  No real paperwork to do!  The line didn't really move from the time we got there to the time we left with our "stuff".  Check-in for us involved showing ID to someone, signing some paperwork, collecting keys, and going over our truck (more on that later).

For those without the luxury of a pre-group check-in, there's a bunch of paperwork to do.  And, you have to check-in at two places:  the front desk for the hotel, and at the dive shop for diving activities.  Each one has their own paperwork and requirements.

As part of check-in you get your room keys, towels, safe key, and truck key (all require a deposit that goes on your bill, credited back upon their safe return).  They then do a "walk around" of the truck to verify and sign off on its condition.  If you loose the keys or towels, these will be some of the most expensive keys or towels you'll ever buy...so be careful!  We put the keys on a carabiner and kept them with us at all times, hanging them on a D-ring from our BCD while diving.

A word about the truck: they are all manual transmission / stick shift.  If you want/need an automatic transmission you need to book it ahead of time and they basically broker a rental from a rental company like Avis.  This is not cheap.  I'd suggest finding a class in your hometown before you leave to learn how to drive a manual transmission if you don't know how.  I thought it'd come back to me, but we had a busy schedule during the week and it never did come back to me.  Next time I'm taking a class the week before we go.

Another word about the truck: break-ins are common.  So common in fact that they tell you when you check-in and remind you with stickers in the truck.  Some general guidelines:

  • Leave the windows down and doors unlocked
  • Don't leave anything in the truck you'd be heartbroken it it were stolen
  • Keep the keys on your person at all times

That said, we had no issues leaving our (cheap) sandals and shirts in the truck while we were diving.

We got the Studio type room, which was a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen area.  The bedroom had a flat screen TV, dresser, and closet.  The bathroom looks like it was remodeled at some point since it's styling didn't match the rest of the resort.  It had his & her sinks, toilet & shower...typical bathroom, nothing fancy.  The kitchen has everything you'd need to survive a week (or several weeks): refrigerator, electric stove, microwave, sink, and all the pots/pans/plates/utensils/etc to make them useful. 

Plan on spending the first day settling in.  You can't dive on the first day since you need to be "checked out" first (more on that later).  We took the time to unpack and walk around the grounds.  Our group also rounded up and went to the grocery store.  I'd strongly recommend this to everyone.

There are two relatively close grocery stores.  We bought some simple things to get us through the first half of the week: lunch meat & bread for sandwiches, some cookies and sweets, bottles of water & Gatorade/Powerade.  We re-used the water bottles throughout the week...mixing down the Gatorade to a 50/50 mix.  Also freeze a few bottles of water and bring them with you on your diving excursions that you drive to.  This way by the time you get out of the water they will thaw a bit and you'll have something cold to drink.  Groceries are more expensive then in the US (considering everything has to be shipped in that should not be surprising), but we found making our own sandwiches for lunch worked great.  Faster and cheaper then going to the restaurant, plus it gives you a break to catch up on your log book.  Several of us  took a 2nd trip to the grocery store later in the week to re-stock & get food for the rest of the week.

The second day you're there you do the orientation meetings/classes (unless you somehow manage to get to Buddy's really early on your first day).  This basically consists of a sales pitch from the photo guy (with some very enticing and neat options), a short video to watch about the resort & island with some rules, then a tour of the resort to show you where & how the tank exchanges and gear rooms work.  At the completion of the tour you have to do a buoyancy & gear check at the house reef / off the pier.  The goal here is to make sure you're neutrally buoyant and just check yourself and your buddy out, which is good if you haven't been wet for a while.

Once you've done your buoyancy check you can attach your chip/badge from the local authorities to show you've been checked out and are free to start your diving vacation.  That chip has to be on your BCD at all times.  If not, you risk your gear being confiscated if you're caught.  And they do check.  We were in the water at once site and an officer/inspector showed up.  And while I'm talking about it, you also can't wear gloves while diving in Bonaire.  That's another offense that will get your diving privileges revoked.

Sidebar: I still do not understand the "no gloves" thing (no one should be touching anything anyway, and wearing gloves shouldn't matter), but what do I know.  I just get cold and prefer to wear gloves whenever I can.

Around the resort you've really got two dining options: Blennies and Ingridients.  Blennies a typical grill type restaurant.  The menu is fairly static throughout the week, so it can get a little old.  It's not bad, just starts to wear thin on you.  Ingridients is their upscale dining available for dinner, and it's menu does change.  I'd recommend eating there at least one night.  It was really good.  Remember that everything runs on "Island Standard Time" as I call it.  Meaning, add extra time in because everyone runs a little slower.  Here in Atlanta you can expect to go into a bar and get a burger in front of you in 5 minutes.  On Island Time expect it to take 10-15.

We got warnings that the electricity at Buddys is "unstable and unsafe for electronics".  Their website says that you should give things you need charged to the front desk so they can put it off of a transformer and protect it.  We have a LOT of gear that needs to be charged (Atomic Cobalts, Light & Motion GoBes & Sidekick, cameras, iPads, laptops), so I purchased and brought a voltage regulator from APC (http://www.apc.com/products/resource/include/techspec_index.cfm?base_sku=LE600 ) and used that to plug all of our stuff into.  The power on the island is 127V/50hz, and that regulator supports that combination.  When we got to our room, we discovered that they have a fairly new refrigerator, modern air conditioning, and a flat screen TV.  If the power were that bad, those things would be getting replaced very often.  So, the caution/concern around the "safety" of the power is probably overblown, but for the cost of the regulator vs having my dive computer get blown up was worth it.

Some of the reviews for Buddy's around the Internet are very critical, saying it's a one star resort.  While Buddy's is not a Sandals quality resort, for what it is it's a wonderful place to go.  Their landscaping is not perfect, they don't have 7 5-star restaurants, and they don't have butler service and folks to wait on you and and foot.  What they do have though is a perfect setup for diving, and that's what they are there for.  Buddy's is a dive resort, and in that vein I'd give them 4/5 stars.  Their maintenance staff showed up promptly when we had drainage issues in our bathroom.  There were some other issues in the room that we didn't care if they were fixed while we were there, but we noted them on our card (various lights being out / not working in the room).  The staff was all very nice and helpful.  Overall I'd give Buddys a 4/5 star rating.


  1. Wow! Very well put. Life is an exploration......


  2. Nice content. Had an amazing time reading through Maserati


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