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By now, you guys have heard me extolling the brilliance of Bonaire’s abundance of shore dives, and the ease with which divers can rent a truck, pop by a tank drive-through, and spend the day exploring on a whim. While I think that freedom is one of the greatest things about Bonaire, you guys have brought up some valid questions in the comments of my previous posts — namely, what about people who aren’t necessarily ready to dive without a guide? What about those that don’t drive?

Enter . Ranked as Bonaire’s number one dive school on Tripadvisor, VIP might just be the slickest dive operation I’ve ever laid eyes on. A meticulously organized equipment room. A chic classroom and sparkling onsite teaching pool. An organic herb garden for fresh mojito mint, watered by the runoff from the shop’s air conditioning system. Guys, it was basically a spa in there. And you know how I feel about spas.

VIP Diving Bonaire

VIP Diving Bonaire

VIP Diving focuses primarily on guided shore dives in which your own personal “dive butler” will set up your gear, escort you to the island’s best dive sites based on your preferences and current conditions, and make sure not a single seahorse escapes your sight underwater. They can also charter vessels for days of boat diving and offer a full range of dive courses and certifications — I can’t think of a better place to get your !

Once our own dive butler Steven was successful in peeling us away from the gorgeous new resort we were ready to move into — er, the dive shop — we piled into his pickup truck and headed towards the island’s south shore. VIP’s owner, Bas, had already given us the lowdown not to leave any valuables in the car while you’re shore diving, so we were traveling light. When Steven asked us what we were in the mood to see, we pretty much told him we trusted his expertise (well, after everyone was done laughing at my request to see a whale shark…) and he seemed pleased with that answer. We pulled up not at one of the island’s many many official dive sites but instead an unmarked stretch of ocean road. “This looks good,” he declared.

Shore Diving Bonaire

Shore Diving Bonaire

VIP Diving BonaireNever not talking — photo courtesy of

And then we were in. As a photographer shooting without a strobe, I love the time that shore diving allows in the shallows, where I get the best lighting and some of my favorite photos.

South Shore Diving Bonaire

VIP Diving Bonaire

South Shore Diving Bonaire

VIP Diving Bonaire

That said, my favorite find of the dive was one I didn’t capture on camera — a pea-sized just slaying in the cuteness department! I also cheering into my regulator when I stumbled upon this juvenile , one of my favorite fish in the ocean. And his creeper friend hiding behind him.

South Shore Diving Bonaire

South Shore Diving Bonaire

The dive almost made we wonder why Bonaire even bothers pointing out specific dive sites, when you can hop in anywhere and find all this. As we began to slowly ascend, I heard kitesurfers whizzing across the surface — this truly is an ocean-lover’s playground.

VIP Diving Bonaire

South Shore Diving Bonaire

Another benefit to diving VIP: once we popped out of the water, we were pretty darn far from our ride. But no stress! While we soaked up some sun on the shore, Steven dropped his gear and jogged down to the truck, valiantly returning to load up our tanks and escort us onward. After a quick chat about where to enjoy our lunch and surface interval, we were off again towards Lac Bay.

Shore Diving Bonaire

I loved that having Steven in the driver’s seat meant we basically got a bonus tour guide. When we approached the island’s iconic slave huts, he asked if we’d seen them yet — when we responded we hadn’t, he pulled the truck over. Constructed in the 1800’s, the huts functioned as camps for slaves working in the island’s salt industry. Each weekend, the slaves would walk seven hours back to Rincon to spend time with their families before returning again on Sunday. Though a full grown adult can barely stand upright inside these tiny huts, they used to sleep as many as six men per night.

I appreciate that Bonaire hasn’t tried to erase these bright reminders of a in its history — they are an important reminder of the past. Today, they mark popular dive sites, a look forward to the island’s bright future as a capital of ocean conservation.

Slave Huts Bonaire

Slave Huts Bonaire

Slave Huts Bonaire

We also made a brief stop at one of the island’s obelisks, also a marker of the island’s all important salt production industry. These structures functioned as navigational shore markers to help guide ships towards Bonaire. As someone who normally has my nose pressed against the glass on any road trip, I was so immensely appreciative of these little stops that allowed us to check out sights we might have otherwise only seen on postcards.

Obelisks Bonaire

Obelisks Bonaire

I would have happily dove all week with — in fact, I might do just that whenever I return to Bonaire! They really hit all the marks of things that matter to me as a customer in terms of service, style, and sustainability. But don’t worry, we don’t have to move on just yet — I’ve got one more VIP Dive to share with y’all, from my favorite dive site in all of Bonaire.

VIP Diving Bonaire

What’s the best dive operation you’ve ever encountered?

All underwater photos in this post were taken with the  and its . See a full list of my photography gear here. Many thanks to Bonaire Tourism for hosting me. As always, you receive my honest thoughts, full opinions and poorly written jokes regardless of who is footing the bill.

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36 Comments...
  • Amy | Toothbrush Travels
    December 21 2015

    Ahhh SO pretty!
    Love the idea of being able to shore-dive, it doesn’t look like there’s a bad spot under the water, the coral is all so healthy! xo
    Amy | Toothbrush Travels recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 26 2015

      Yup, so refreshing to see. So many fish, too!

  • I’ll definitely have to bookmark VIP for the future! I especially love that woodwork plank art they have hanging up shaped as South America – beautiful!
    Amanda | Lesson Plans & Layovers recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 26 2015

      Actually, it’s shaped like Bonaire 🙂 Very similar indeed, though!

  • lisa
    December 21 2015

    Thank you…just what I was hoping to know. You are the best and I love your humor.
    🙂

    • Meihoukai
      December 26 2015

      Thanks Lisa! Yes, VIP is a great solution for those who don’t drive but still want to enjoy the best shore diving Bonaire has to offer!

  • Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate
    December 21 2015

    Totally with you on all points. I’ve gone diving with dozens of operations and never experienced this level of service before! Two fins up!
    Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 26 2015

      Ha! I love your new ratings system 🙂

  • Dominique
    December 22 2015

    A dive butler? I’d like to get me one of them please 🙂 Shore diving sounds like such a great-and-easy concept; it’s a pity that they’re so hard to find on other locations. It makes Bonaire so much more special I guess!
    Dominique recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 26 2015

      Indeed it does. I’d been hearing about Bonaire’s shore diving for years before I got there among other divers. I can see now why!

  • The only shore diving I have done was during my certification training in San Diego. We had to walk what felt miles down to the shore with all of our heavy gear on, and then swim through the chop and freezing cold waves what felt like thousands of miles out to where we were going to start descending. I had decided that shore dives = bogus and boat dives = legit until I read this! The VIP shore dives on Bonaire look like a-whole-nother level of amazing!
    Jenny @ Till the Money Runs Out recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 26 2015

      Yeah, if you’re in semi dry or dry suits and have to do a serious walk I can see how that would NOT be a good start 🙂 This is definitely a much cushier version of shore diving!

  • Kelly
    December 22 2015

    Wow, this seems like such a great diving experience! I just recently fell in love with diving, and now I can’t get enough of it. I’d love to check out Bonaire one day!
    Kelly recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 26 2015

      It’s a dream destination for divers for sure, Kelly! Add it onto that bucket list 🙂

  • Greg
    December 23 2015

    Have not used VIP but have used Dive Friends Bonaire and loved them for my rentals and for our boat dives.

    • Meihoukai
      December 26 2015

      Will have to check them out next time. Thanks for the tip Greg!

  • Annika
    December 23 2015

    Wow – I love your underwater shots! I must look into the Canon. I haven’t been to Bonaire, but if I go I will go with my friend who is an instructor there though VIP does look amazing.
    My favorite dive centre so far was New Heaven on Koh Tao, Thailand. They also offer amazing accommodation and they have a fantastic reef and turtle conservation program, something I very much appreciate.

    • Meihoukai
      December 26 2015

      Yay, makes me happy to hear you had such a great experience on Koh Tao. Hopefully Bonaire will be equally as positive when you make it there!

  • Andrea Faoro
    December 23 2015

    Hi!!

    nice shoots! Which camera do you use? A reflex? thanks 😀

    byeee

    Andrès

    • Meihoukai
      December 26 2015

      Thank you! Check the end of this post for details and links on my camera gear.

  • Leigh
    December 23 2015

    You know…your posts almost have me wanting to take up diving!
    Leigh recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 26 2015

      That’s what I love to hear, Leigh 🙂

  • Como conquistar uma mulher
    December 24 2015

    Congratulations, Amazing Photos

    I found this very beautiful place I want to visit soon

    the photos you see here give me a mad desire to pack up and travel

    • Meihoukai
      December 26 2015

      That’s what I’m going for 🙂 Grab a bag and get on the move!

  • Marie
    December 26 2015

    I love the idea of having a dive butler. Seems like such a great diving experience! and Bonaire is a place needs to be on my bucket list.

    • Meihoukai
      December 26 2015

      It was quite the luxury. I’m obsessed with VIP!

  • Traveler
    December 26 2015

    I love diving, thanks for photos:)

    • Meihoukai
      December 26 2015

      It’s my pleasure! Thank YOU for reading.

  • Amelie
    December 28 2015

    Thanks for your post. It is really helpful since I was one of the people who wrote about not being a driver. 🙂 The more I look at your pictures, the more I want to go. About pictures, how do you feel about the Sealife cameras? Is it better to do like you, get a real camera and buy a housing or Sealife are really good?
    Thank you Meihoukai!

    • Meihoukai
      January 2 2016

      I’ve borrowed a friend’s Sealife before and I have to say I think the Canon is superior. But that was only one day of experience with it — maybe with more time it would have grown on me.

  • Marni
    December 29 2015

    Stunning photos (as always)! I like that instead of hiding their dark history, they own up to it. It’s a good reminder to never revert back to how it was.
    Marni recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 4 2016

      Agreed. Sometimes it’s better to make people a little uncomfortable!

  • Rishi Ajay Das
    January 1 2016

    Reading this post was a wonderful experience for me. The images you included are great and eye catching. I loved your post very much.

    • Meihoukai
      January 4 2016

      Thanks Rishi! That’s very kind. Glad you enjoyed reading about diving in Bonaire 🙂

  • Vanessa
    June 4 2017

    Thank you…just what I was hoping to know. You are the best and I love your humor.