I recently posted The Very First Thing ALL Divers Should Do When They Get to Bonaire, in which I described the Lionfish Hunting certification course I took while traveling in the ABC Islands. (Eradicating invasive species for the win!)
But I also wanted to give a shoutout to what I thought was the best dive shop in Bonaire – VIP Diving, through whom I took said lionfish course.
"There's no possible way / To describe what you feel / When you're talking to your meal." -- Wolf, Into the Woods. And also me, when spearing lionfish in the Caribbean.
The first thing that happened when I pulled up to VIP Diving… was that I stalled out (see also: 12 Things I Miss About America When I Travel) in the middle of their tank/gear rental drive-through. One of the dive instructors happened to be standing outside, and we had this trippy moment where I asked him where I should park, and he instantly felt an old friend.
I'm not ashamed that I stalled out -- this truck is a beast, and I'm sort of a stick shift noob. (Especially when the parking brake is on.)
Walking into the shop, everyone I met had a similar, genuine warmth about them. One man asked if I wanted a coffee – and seriously, it was the best coffee on the whole island.
The fact that VIP Diving has the best coffee in Bonaire says something to me about how they run their business. Every detail has been considered, and it’s clear that they call themselves the “dive butlers” for a reason.
But in spite of the great customer service and attention to details… there’s still that friendly, familial feeling. I sometimes get annoyed when I do guided dives, because they can so often feel impersonal and gimmicky. You line up, you get your gear, you line up again, they put you on a boat or a bus, then you get in the water and follow the dive master until someone runs out of air, and then you go up.
There’s an agenda that must be followed, despite the individual needs of each customer. There’s a set of jokes that must be told and instructions that must be given.
But at VIP Diving, each trip has its own tempo, and I totally loved that. Frank, my instructor, asked me and the only other participant in the Lionfish Hunting course where we wanted to dive and what our priorities were for each dive. I was told that they don't put more than four people in one class (unless it's a family/group that wants to stay together), and keep guided dives capped at 4-8 people.
There's a cozy, pool-side classroom outside. But if air conditioning is more your speed, there's also an indoor classroom.
If I had one more day in Bonaire, I would have gone on an East Coast Dive with a VIP guide. Experienced as I am, diving in constant trade winds seemed a bit risky. I felt like there was really no way for me to know what the conditions would be like underwater, so this was something I would prefer to do with a local guide.
Guess I’ll make that the first thing I do on my next visit. :)
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Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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