News Splash November 2017
DFB Gossip – comings & goings
Feelin’ HOT, HOT, HOT! While a lot of our friends out there are experiencing cooler temperatures, during the months of August-November the winds around Bonaire die down and the water temperatures reach their peak. East coast shore diving, coral spawning, increase of seahorses and dolphins at Klein Bonaire, resident eagle ray at Yellow Sub, and another whale shark sighting at Andrea 1! These are some of the highlights from the past few months here at Dive Friends Bonaire!
When you are on Bonaire and enjoying the fantastic underwater world, you might want to document your experiences to share with your family and friends! We totally get that, which is why we’re excited to announce the critically acclaimed Olympus TG-5 with housing as our new rental camera! This camera is designed with underwater photographers in mind and can serve as a simple point and shoot for some but also offers the ability to manipulate several settings in manual mode. You can get more information in the blog below or stop by at our Yellow Submarine location!
After we celebrated the opening of Dive Friends @ Courtyard by Marriott this summer, we are working very hard on another new location: Dive Friends @ Delfins Beach Resort, which will be opening soon! Stay tuned on our Facebook page and our Blog to follow the progress. Have an exclusive view of the new shop and be the first to know when the facilities open for tank exchange; including another drive-thru!
Over the last few months we have seen quite a few changes to the Dive Friends staff. We’d like to welcome Martijn, Angelica, Nienke, Dan, Britt, Helmer, Jasper, Vincent, Kathryn, Larissa and Gabe, as well as our new Assistant GM Paul. These new crew have joined us from all over the world. In addition, Fenna joined the staff after completing her Divemaster program with us in October. Unfortunately, we have also had to say goodbye to Gift, David, Travis, Ivo, Zara, Joost and Sarah. They have all moved on to pursue their dreams elsewhere.
We would like to give a big congratulation to Jack for successfully completing his PADI Instructor Development Course and becoming a PADI instructor! After completing his Divemaster course with us in the spring, he decided to join the team and go all the way! We also have a new group of Divemaster candidates who will soon become Dive Professionals: Carla, Eva and Britta!
With the changes in personnel and the expansion of locations, we also have some new location managers! Ilsa will be running our location at Courtyard by Marriott and Peter will be taking over for her at our Sand Dollar location. The new Dive Friends location at Delfins Beach Resort will be run by Luke. We wish them all the best on their new positions!
It’s fall again, which means that the water has once again warmed up! Aside from being able to dive in shorties again, this allowed us to experience the yearly coral spawning. Several days after the full moon in July, August and September offered us great night dive opportunities and we were able to show many of our guests this amazing natural phenomenon.
Unfortunately, warm waters can also bring our nature’s worst side. Hurricanes Irma and Jose did a lot of damage to our fellow Caribbean islands, especially to St. Maarten. A wonderful community effort was put together within days as the people of Bonaire united in an effort to help! Several fundraising activities were organized and Dive Friends Bonaire was also happy to participate. Together, our small island raised over $76,000 within 2 weeks. In addition to affecting thousands of lives on the islands themselves, these hurricanes have also made a large impact on the Caribbean diving community. Many dive staff have suddenly had to move as their livelihoods have been severely affected. As a result, we are happy to welcome three excellent instructors (Britt and Helmer from Sint Maarten and Gabe from St. Thomas) and we hope they enjoy their new lives on Bonaire.
And don’t forget to help clean-up and protect the reef! The next Dive Friends Bonaire Quarterly Underwater Clean-up Dive is scheduled for Saturday, January 27th, 2018. Of course, if you won’t be here then, you can always help us to clean-up our coast line and receive a free drink for your effort as part of the Debris Free Bonaire program. This is a great activity for your last day when you can’t dive before your flight. Read more here http://www.debrisfreebonaire.com/
Take only pictures, Leave only Bubbles – and if you’re going to take a picture, make it INSTA-WORTHY!
You’re on your dive vacation and you want to share the fantastic time you’re having underwater on Bonaire with all your dive buddies across the world. Perhaps you don’t necessarily want to spend the time trying to figure out a complicated camera system? Maybe you want to get a sharp close-up macro shot of that seahorse on Klein Bonaire, or a video of the eagle ray that’s hanging out on the house reef? Dive Friends Bonaire totally gets that, and we’re excited to announce the critically acclaimed Olympus TG-5 with housing as our new rental camera!
Olympus built the TG-5 with underwater photographers in mind in when they updated many features on their Tough camera series. For the active, rugged lifestyle: waterproof to 15m/50ft (150ft/50m with housing), crushproof to 220 lbf/100 kgf, shockproof from 7ft/2.1 m, freezeproof to 14⁰F/-10⁰C, dustproof and an anti-fog lens with sealed and dual-pane glass to prevent condensation. This camera can serve as a simple point and shoot for some but also offers the ability to manipulate several settings in manual mode.
The camera has been set up to do half the work for you (if you want it to) with 4 underwater modes: Underwater Wide, Underwater Macro, Underwater Snapshot, and Underwater HDR. Diving in the clear, shallower waters with this camera allows the user to use all available ambient light to obtain phenomenal photos. Furthermore, these underwater modes also feature a built-in digital red filter to aid photographers in the endless fight to colour correct. Shift to video mode and you have the chance to shoot in 4K!
Bonaire’s waters are a nursery for many species of juveniles and make a perfect home for a lot of macro subjects. Many cameras will struggle to obtain a quality image without the addition of a macro lens but this is where the Olympus TG-5 really set itself apart! The TG-5 has several macro and microscope modes in the underwater settings, allowing all users the opportunity to get that up close and personal shot. Besides the Underwater Macro mode, the camera has 4 additional macro modes: Microscope, Microscope Control, Focus Stacking and Focus Bracketing.
Any of this confusing you? Sign up for the PADI Digital Underwater Imaging course and we will help you take your skills and images to the next level! Camera rentals are available for $55 a day with an 8 GB Class 10 SD included. If interested, contact us today!
For additional help, Dive Friends Bonaire has teamed up with Backscatter Underwater Photo & Video for the new camera rental line, offering tech and shooting support to all our camera users. Check out their review here: http://www.backscatter.com/reviews/post/Olympus-TG-5-Underwater-Camera-and-Housing-Review
TIRE-SOME! Blog post for South Pier Clean-Up October 7, 2017
A whopping 12 tires were lifted from the reef alongside South Pier during the Dive Friend’s Quarterly Clean-up dive on Saturday, October 7th. Nearly 100 volunteer divers cleaned up under the South Pier, and final garbage tally was over 600 Kg of rubbish from the reef. The divers removed many smaller items this time around as the main focus was on fishing line. STINAPA Jr Rangers provided an on-land support team alongside the Dive Friends Bonaire crew; helping divers in and out of the water in addition to the sorting and counting process.
A beautiful, sunny morning greeted the crew and volunteers at our Dive Inn location! Upon arrival, volunteers signed in, picked-up their BBQ raffle tickets and received a free tank of air! Dive Friends’ newly appointed Clean-up Captain Caitlin Hale carefully instructed the divers not to remove any living creatures from the reef and to leave items behind upon which coral had begun to encrust. She also explained how to correctly remove fishing line without damaging delicate creatures such as sponges. Discarded fishing line routinely entangles and kills birds, fish, turtles, and small mammals. People are urged to use bins to dispose of any unwanted fishing line and tackle to reduce the amount of line finding its way into the environment. Fishing line removal requires constant vigilance around all of the piers of Bonaire. The post-dive analytics team discovered that divers collectively removed approximately 6 km of line from around the pier during this clean-up, with much more left behind.
The reef alongside the South Pier was engulfed in bubbles as divers took on the arduous task of removing as much debris as possible. Each buddy team was issued a mesh bag for garbage collection and underwater the buddy teams became one massive group sharing the same mission. The divers snipped away at fishing line, collected fresh bottles of both plastic and glass, and some even made use of their lift bag skills: the positive vibe underwater was tangible.
Back on shore, the full mesh bags were delivered to the sorting station. The items were tallied and sorted to supply data to Project AWARE’s Dive Against Debris program. They also responded quickly if any marine creatures had accidentally been collected and returned them to the reef. Analyzing the trash removed provides crucial data to help in our fight to make a debris free Bonaire! In total, we removed 1278 items from the reef! In addition to the 12 tires; we also collected 33 plastic beverage bottles, 79 pieces of plastic dishware/cutlery, 18 ceramic dishes, 163 gas bottles, 42 cans, 11 glass jars and 76 other glass fragments. A ‘dynamic duo’ used their lift bag to remove an entire AC unit as well as and a floor fan! You’d think in the heat of October here people would be more careful with their cooling devices! There were several clothing and shoe items brought up from the reef as well. We also removed 12 pieces barbed wired; including a stretch of wire fencing. Thanks to all involved, a portion of the garbage along the reef has been removed and disposed of responsibly.
Dive Friends Bonaire @ Hamlet Oasis had the grill ready later that evening to provide meats and veggie burgers as well as a selection of beverages for a potluck BBQ in celebration of the morning’s efforts. A selection of beverages was also available, with the first drink on Dive Friends! Clean Up Captain Caitlin Hale took to the mic again with assistant Cary fly to announce the results of the garbage analysis. This was followed by the highly anticipated raffle. Sponsors for the event include: Bonaire Harbour, Bonaire
East Coast Diving, Caribbean Dive Trading, Between 2 Buns, The Brewery, La Cantina, Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire, Selibon, Treasure by the Sea, Van Den Tweel, and Warehouse.
The next quarterly Dive Friends Bonaire underwater cleanup is scheduled for Saturday, January 27 th, 2018. If you won’t be able to attend, join us every first Wednesday of the month for the Dive Against Debris Specialty course. Additional information about the cleanups is available at: http://www.divefriendsbonaire.com/eco-activities/
Go baby turtle GOOO!
You can’t help but cheer these little guys on as they make their epic journey across the beach into the ocean. Watching their tiny flippers scamper across the sand, toppling and turning in the sand, and finally seeing those flippers push and pull them into the water! An exhilarating moment in nature for those lucky enough to witness it. Whether you commit the hours to sitting by a nest at night and waiting for the volcano of baby turtles to erupt or helping the remnants of the nest to make it to the ocean, it’s incredible to watch.
I’ve loved turtles from an early age. As a teenager, I visited the Outer Banks in North Carolina where I witnessed my first controlled turtle release. After that, I jumped at the chance to volunteer with sea turtles as a dive pro in Thailand but it was Little Cayman where I received my formal training and became co-leader of their volunteer turtle conservation program. From there, I was turtley addicted! When I moved to Bonaire, I immediately signed up to volunteer with the Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire (STCB) program.
During the nesting season (normally from April to January), STCB staff and trained volunteers patrol the beaches most used by turtles, recording signs of nesting and hatching, as well as monitoring the safety status of the nests. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays STCB also head to Klein Bonaire at 7 AM to patrol the beaches there. As Mondays are one of my days off, I try to attend every week! The first couple of trips, there was also a lot of walking and trash collecting; I’m always happy to do this as I know clearing beaches is good for ALL marine life. But it wasn’t long before turtle tracks and activity appeared and I was asked to pull my sleeves up and help verify nesting activity. It involves a lot of digging, I mean a lot! STCB even labelled one of the nest’s ‘Caitlin’s Nest’ You can only imagine my excitement (and social media posts!).
Only Sea Turtle females prepare the nest and they do this mostly at night. The female crawls out of the ocean to find a prime spot for her to lay the nest but, for unknown reasons, sometimes she decides not to nest and returns to the water. When this happens, it is marked as a “false crawl.” Most females nest at least twice during the nesting season, although individuals of some species may nest only once and others more than ten times. The average size of a clutch ranges from about 80 to 120 eggs, depending on the species. Incubation takes about 60 days; the temperature of the sand governs the maturation rate and sex of the eggs. Cooler sands tend to produce more males while warmer sands producing a higher ratio of females. Once the nest is ready to go, it’s like a volcano of baby turtles erupting to the surface and the hatchlings begin their climb out of the nest in a coordinated effort. Once near the surface, they will often remain there until the temperature of the sand cools, usually indicating night time when they are less likely to be eaten by predators or overheat. Once the baby turtles emerge from the nest, they use cues to find the water including the slope of the beach, the white crests of the waves and the natural light reflecting off of the ocean horizon (most often from the moon).
The obstacles are so numerous for baby turtles that only about one in 1,000 survives to adulthood. For example, sometimes turtles cannot get out of the nest, either because they hatched late or are buried under shells. Some turtles never even hatch out of their eggs. Other turtles hatch out of their eggs but die before making it out of the nest. Once on the surface, any light sources other than the moon can disorientate the turtles and cause them to crawl in the wrong direction. This includes beachfront lighting, street lights, lights from cars, campfires etc.
All sea turtle species are listed as either endangered or critically endangered, so scientists try to help their populations whenever they can. One way Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire tries to help is by excavating, or digging up, a nest that has already hatched as a this can provide a lot of valuable data. For example, the number of eggshells left in the nest show how many of the turtles hatched successfully. Hopefully, most of these hatched turtles were able to get out of the nest. Some hatched turtles might still be hanging out in the nest, unable to get out. Others may have died before being able to get out of the nest. Scientists count empty egg shells, hatchlings left in the nest and unhatched eggs to determine the total number of eggs laid. This information is then used to help monitor sea turtle health on Bonaire and across the Caribbean. For me, collecting this scientific data makes me feel like I can put something a bit more tangible on the experience!
Turtle interactions are always a fan favourite amongst divers, whether it be a Hawksbill, Loggerhead, or Green: they all get us excited! Sometimes on Bonaire we are spoiled and take these interactions for granted considering the endangered status on all turtle species; some more vulnerable than others. So next time you see a turtle chomping, finning, or just chilling out – they deserve added respect for making it this far!
Written by Caitlin
The great invasion: The Red Lionfish (Pterois volitans)
The red lionfish, Pterois volitans, is native to the Indo-Pacific region. Sometime in the 1980’s, these fish were introduced into the Atlantic waters off the coast of Florida sometime during the 1980s. Since the early 1990s, they have been spreading across the southern Atlantic and Caribbean waters as one of the fastest spreading invasive species.
An invasive species is a species that has been intentionally or unintentionally introduced into a habitat outside of its natural range, also known as introduced species or alien species. At the point of introduction, the introduced species will either perish or thrive depending on whether they can adapt to their new environment. In most cases, although the animal may live for a short time, the environment is not suitable for their long-term survival and the species cannot become established in the new area. However, occasionally species are able to overcome the barriers presented by the new environments and become abundant. Humans have contributed to the spread of several species by breaking down these barriers, particular through international flights and shipping. Humans have also introduced several species to serve as a food source or as exotic pets. Although not all invasive species have negative effects on ecosystems, the majority do including: reduction in ecosystem biodiversity through direct predation or competition with native species, introduction of new diseases/parasites or habitat alteration and degradation.
This post will examine the lionfish invasion of the Caribbean but first, what is a lionfish? Lionfish have distinctive brown or maroon, and white stripes or bands covering the head and body. They have fleshy tentacles above their eyes and below the mouth, fan-like pectoral fins, long, separated dorsal spines, 13 dorsal spines, 10-11 dorsal soft rays, 3 anal spines and 6-7 anal soft rays. Lionfish have cycloid scales (fish scales that are oval or elliptical in shape with a smooth edge). An adult lionfish can grow as large as 20 inches while juveniles may be as small as 1 inch or less. See photograph below:
Lionfish have several key traits that allow them to be a successful invasive species. They are a relatively hardy species which allows them to withstand a range of less than ideal conditions. They also reproduce very quickly; Lionfish breed every three to four days in the late afternoon/early evenings year-round! This courtship requires males to congregate in a group as the males pose to show off to expectant females and dart at their rivals, spirally upwards above the sea floor. Studies show that the females go on to lay approximately 30,000 eggs each time. Another trait is the ability to colonize and populate. According to the genetics of the Atlantic lionfish, it is possible that as few as three females could be responsible for the entire population. Furthermore. Lionfish are opportunistic and are able to spread quickly in a previously unexploited habitat. They can and will feed on any prey available such as those shown in the photograph below:
Do to their rapid population expansion and their aggressive feeding behavior, lionfish have the potential to become the most disastrous invasive species in history by drastically reducing the abundance of coral reef fishes and leaving behind a devastated ecosystem. Around the Caribbean, lionfish act together with other stressors such as climate change, over fishing and pollution making this invasion of particular concern for the future of the Atlantic and Caribbean coral reefs. Predators in this region have no experience with the venomous spines of the lionfish resulting in limited predation attempts from groupers and sharks. In the pictures below, the rapid increase in the lionfish can be clearly seen starting with the first sighting in 1991 and continuing to 2013.
This information can be quite concerning so what can you do to help? The best tactics to fight this invasion are directly reducing the population, community outreach and education as well as further research. Efforts to reduce the densities of lionfish at key locations may help to lessen their ecological impacts. Recovering and maintaining healthy populations of potential native predators of lionfish, such as large grouper and sharks, may also help reduce the effects of these voracious invasive predators. By Educating people about health risk and effects to the environment and commercial fisheries, people may then become more inclined to eradicate the fish whilst spear fishing. This will also teach people that lionfish are a tasty source of food, especially with the dwindling supplies of many other fish stocks. They are not poisonous when cooked as the heat from cooking denatures the venom. The spines can also easily be removed by people who have been taught how to handle the lionfish correctly. In addition, lionfish could be used as an example to educate the aquarium industry and the general public about the dangers of intentional or unintentional aquarium releases.
The picture below shows multiple places in the Caribbean where you are able to eat lionfish at local restaurants and also learn how to cook lionfish yourself. You might find you recognize some restaurants from Bonaire!
For those who are visiting Bonaire, please drive demand of the fishery by ordering lionfish when you are out for dinner at a restaurant. You can also take the PADI Lionfish Hunter Specialty (2 dives) to learn how to hunt the fish yourself using an Eliminating Lionfish (ELF) Device. After the course, you can hunt with a local guide and then have a BBQ with the fish you “hunted” on the beautiful reefs of Bonaire.
Written by Zara
Take the leap to the future of diving with the Ocean Reef Integrated Dive Mask
After hearing many enthusiastic stories about diving with a Full-Face Mask from colleagues and friends, our instructors Nienke and Martijn got really curious and decided to try it for themselves. They joined a course given by our Dive Inn Location Manager and Ocean Reef Specialist Jeffrey in September.
A Full-Face Mask is exactly that: a mask that covers your entire face! They were previously only used by military and professional divers, but a recreational version is now available for all divers to enjoy the fun and advantages of having your whole face inside one mask (along with the integrated regulator). Say good-bye to fogged-up and leaking masks! Even the mouthpiece is gone, no more jaw fatigue! You can breathe naturally through your nose and experience a wider field of vision compared to regular masks. More than enough reasons to give it a try!
The course began with a morning coffee and some background information on the Ocean Reef Integrated Dive Mask. The first time you put on the mask, it feels a bit strange to start but once you adjust the straps and other features, it becomes very comfortable. You also want to ensure that you adjust the nose plugs correctly as you will use them to help you equalize (you can’t pinch your nose in the Full-Face Mask!).
Before the open water dive, they learned to perform some regular scuba skills with the Full-Face Mask. First, they practiced putting the mask on and taking it off a couple of times on the surface to get comfortable with it. After that, they practiced several skills underwater such as disconnecting/re-connecting the low-pressure hose that supplies air to the integrated regulator, clearing a flooded mask and finally taking the whole mask off underwater and putting it back on. Taking off a Full-Face Mask underwater is a bit more work than with a regular mask as without your mask on, you can’t breathe since the regulator is integrated into the mask. You have to make sure you switch to an alternate air source (either your own or you buddy’s) and put on a spare mask. Then you can actually see what you are doing again. However, with a bit of practice, it is easy to do!
After learning these new skills, the group headed out to test the mask in the open water. Diving with a Full-Face Mask is a lot of fun! You actually do see a lot more because of the wider field of vision compared to a regular mask. You can even see your buddy out of the corner of your eye when they are slightly behind you!
As an experienced diver, Nienke started out breathing through her mouth only (old habits…), until she realized it was also possible to breathe through her nose for the first time underwater! After the dive, Nienke said “I don’t know if it’s just me, but it took me a while to adjust to breathing out of my nose. However, it is quite comfortable to breathe through your nose and I can definitely see that it will be beneficial for some people who have trouble with breathing through a normal regulator.”
Surprisingly, the group was also able to communicate very well underwater. Although, they didn’t try out the add-on communication set yet, which can be fitted onto the side of the Full-Face Mask, they
were able to speak into the masks and hear each other when they were close by under water. Together they sang ‘we are the champions’ underwater to celebrate competing the course.
They really enjoyed diving with the Full-Face Mask and will definitely do it again. Take the leap and dare to try if for yourself; you might just love it and never go back to your regular dive mask! We offer Full-Face Masks for rental and sale at our Dive Inn location. Stop by anytime to find out more!