An Update on Bonaire's Home of Diving Freedom
By Pierce Hoover
When I made my first dive trip to Bonaire in the mid-1980s, Captain Don's Habitat was already celebrating its tenth anniversary, and the island's coral reefs were thriving under the protection of the Bonaire National Marine Park. It was the resort's namesake founder, Don Stewart, who was instrumental in the creation of this marine protected area, which encircles the entire island. He also pioneered the mooring system that protects corals from anchor damage at dive sites. Don passed away in 2014, but his legacy remains, and the dive lodge he founded as a place for divers, by divers continues to be an island favorite, with many divers returning year after year.
For Divers, By Divers
Every aspect of Captain Don's Habitat is designed for the convenience of divers. The dive center is a PADI Resort and an SDI 5 Star Professional Development Center that accepts all universal referrals, offers more than 20 specialty courses and is equipped to handle all certification and support needs including rebreathers and tri-mix. There's also a well-stocked retail and rental center, gear storage and staging areas, all located just steps away from the water and a pair of piers. This allows for fast and easy transfer of gear from private on-site lockers to dive boats, and it makes shore diving even easier. You can just gear up on a bench and giant stride from the dock. After a quick gear check in the shallows, where you may receive a visit from a school of resident tarpon, it's just a few yards swim to the start of the reef. Captain Don's house reef is considered to be one of the best on Bonaire. Here, a wall of live coral and colorful sponges cover a steep slope that begins at less than 30 feet and continues down to 110. There is a pair of small shipwrecks to investigate — one shallow and the other deep — and a wealth of marine life to discover. This site is definitely worth more than one submersion, and it's a favorite for night dives.
Not surprisingly for the operation that pioneered moored boat diving in Bonaire, Captain Don's Habitat also provides daily trips to more than 70 sites. These trips take in popular favorites such as the Salt Pier, the wreck of the Hilma Hooker, the undulating slopes of Karpata, the wall at La Diana’s Leap, and all of the reefs surrounding Klein Bonaire. The dive center operates three modern inboard boats, along with a catamaran-style deck boat, and offers three 1-tank boat departures. Because each mooring buoy is limited to one boat, each dive group will have the site all to themselves.
Comfort and Convenience for All
Like divers themselves, the accommodations at Captain Don's Habitat are diverse, offering choices that will please everyone from dive buddies and couples to families and larger dive groups. The Ocean View rooms provide room to spread out, with two queen beds, desk, a refrigerator for snacks, and a spaciously furnished porch with pool and ocean views. New to the resort is the Deluxe Junior Suites, which directly face the ocean, and combine a king size bed with queen sleeper sofa, each with a pillow top mattress. These units offer upscale touches such as a granite top wet bar with sink, microwave, coffee maker and small refrigerator, and also include a private balcony or patio with comfortable furniture. Families and larger parties can opt for two-bedroom bungalows with full kitchens, separate living rooms and large covered patios. At the top of the accommodation list is a three bedroom, four bathroom cottages that includes a private patio area with a covered dining area, a full-size rinse tank and gear drying area.
Guests always have the option of preparing snacks and meals in their kitchen-equipped accommodation, but often opt for the convenience of the on-site Rum Runner's restaurant. There is a daily breakfast buffet to provide fast and flexible choices for guest prepping for a morning boat dive, and mid-day and evening al carte menus served at what is surely the island's best waterfront setting. Tables at Rum Runners are set on a limestone bluff overlooking the water, and evening diners are treated to sunset views and glimpses of schooling fish illuminated by lights on the docks. The restaurant's stone-oven pizza is an island favorite, and the adjacent Deco Stop bar is the place to be for happy hour and weekly socials.
A Commitment to Green
Captain Don Stewart was at the forefront of environmentally sound developments on the island of Bonaire, and his commitment to green practices includes both the design and operation of his namesake resort. This commitment extends from the employment of low-impact construction methods to the use of solar water heaters and energy saving devices, and the creation of an advanced wastewater treatment system that recycles both gray and black water to purity that can be used for irrigation. No fertilizers of any kind are used on resort gardens, which features a variety of both indigenous and procured flora carefully positioned to eliminate harmful runoff onto nearby reefs. Rather than tap into the island's limited natural water supply, the resort provides all rooms with ultra-pure desalinated water. These additional conservation efforts may not have a direct effect on the resort experience, but they are certainly appreciated in an era when the protection of our global natural resources is a subject of concern to most all divers.
We have partnered with Captain Don's Habitat to create a range of stay-and-dive packages, and can also create tailor-made itineraries for couples, families and groups. To learn more, call our dive travel specialists at 800-330-6611 or send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.