Protect and Preserve: A Natural History of Bonaire, First Hand Witness.
An interview with Christie Dovale
Logbooks… don’t neglect them!
Christie Dovale spent family vacations visiting Bonaire from her birthplace on Curacao. It was like a home away from home for her. After trying out a few other spots, her love for Bonaire brought her back permanently to the island. It’s immediately clear to me that she has a serious passion for nature and for Bonaire; both above and below the water. She tells me it’s been a number of years since she went for a dive but still holds the ocean close to her heart.
The first thing Christie pulls out to show me is her logbook, which details only a portion of her diving history. For many years’ diving was just something that was done while she was on the islands. She flicks back through looking at the notes she wrote about each dive and reminisces about her time underwater. I was gripped listening to her descriptions of the various dives she did, what she experienced on the dive, what the dive site was like, and how she felt. It really showed the value of keeping an up-to-date logbook! Here we were, with detailed reports of what Bonaire’s reefs were like 15 or more years ago. She also described her dive on the Windjammer at 193 feet while she quickly flicks through and shows me the log. Christie also worked with Tom van t’ Hof and biologist Eric Newton who founded and designed the Bonaire Marine Park. Another memorable logbook page during this time: a black coral survey on the north coast.
Christie started her career with STINAPA as their Public Relations Director in 1979 In her short term there, sadly the government funding could not support her role after 6 months, she organized the rehabilitation of Karpata as a marine biology center. From there she went on to become the President of ‘The Friends of the Earth’. Christie fought hard for many things while in charge there, but shares her pride in gaining protection for the Brown-throated Parakeet Parakeets – locally called “Prikichi”. Although rewarding, this was a tough position to be in so Christie refocused her career towards children: teaching her own and others.
Christie set up an educational program at Plaza where she swam and snorkeled with the children. This was before many of the PADI Kid’s programs had been established. She taught them the names of fishes and coral and guided them in discovering the sea. She had the kids making art out of driftwood, cleaning up the reefs and shorelines and participating in fun and educational activities. This was so much fun that the adults even got involved! Christie starts to share stories with me about the children she taught, in particular when some of them have reached out to contact Christie later in life. I can see from her face that she cared a lot for each and every person she worked with and that she touched a lot of people along the way.
In my short time with Christie we’ve covered a lot and I’m in awe of her persistent effort in the betterment of Bonaire. Once again, I’ve been inspired.