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Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Monday, April 2, 2012

My favorite place is underwater

I've been all over the world writing about travel for The News-Herald and I'm often asked about my favorite place.

I love a lot of places, but "Underwater," is probably my most frequent answer. I enjoy scuba diving and snorkeling more than almost anything else, although I rarely have an opportunity to indulge while on a travel writing trip. I'm a Pisces (of course) and to help me celebrate a recent landmark birthday my daughters and my nephew collaborated to buy me an airline ticket to Bonaire, one of the greatest underwater destinations in this world. My late brother had a winter home there for more than a dozen years so I've been there before and even introduced friends to this 24-mile long desert island just 50 miles from the coast of Venezuela.

 Last month I stayed a week with a friend  who bought a condo there after I introduced her to Bonaire about a decade ago.Some things have changed  in the six years since my last visit. Some of the near shore coral has been bleached by either storms or over development,  but it's still the underwater paradise I remember. Reefs encircling the island come close to shore so it's possible to step into the shallow water, lie down on your stomach and peer through a snorkel mask at colorful orange and yellow sponges and corals, parrot fish, sergeant majors, angelfish, squirrel fish and lots more. Go with a sharp-eyed native or someone like my friend Karen and you' ll likely spot octopuses, eels, lobsters and many more underwater dwellers.

My fellow snorkelers, all Scientologists from the ship Freewinds,  prepare to enter the water from the Woodwind.

On my March 19 birthday we booked a snorkel trip aboard the Woodwind, a sailing vessel that took us to the uninhabited offshore islet of Klein Bonaire where sea turtles are known to dwell. We arrived on time but had to wait for a group from the Freewinds, a cruise ship that was anchored nearby
at the port of Kralendijk.

The Freewinds, it turns out, is owned by the Church of Scientology and is where followers of  founder L.Ron Hubbard get much of their training during cruises that a make a circuit among the islands of Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire. That these are people of faith was underscored for me by the fact that several of them didn't swim but had booked the snorkeling experience anyway. Our guides provided them with flotation devices and they seemed fine, although they were obviously not very accustomed to being in the water. My friend and I got kicked a few times before we learned to hang back from our six-person group.

A free diving guide heads toward the bottom to point out something for the snorkelers hovering above.
This young Hawksbill turtle became my first underwater photo.

Each group was accompanied by a free diving guide who would dive down to point things out. The water was crystal clear and about 10 to 15 feet deep for most of our snorkel. The guides probably kept us at that depth so those not familiar with being in the water wouldn't walk on the reef and destroy coral that took a hundred or more years to grow..


Seeing an endangered Hawksbill turtle was the best creature I saw that day. I also got to use the underwater function on my camera so I could show you, the folks at home


 Even though I promised my husband I wouldn't work on this trip, and  my sharp-eyed friend was watching to make sure I didn't take notes, to me an after-the-fact blog doesn't really count as work.There's lots more I can tell you and if your comments indicate to me that you are interested, I'll share more about Bonaire and my birthday trip.

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Anonymous Debra said...

Janet, a big thank you for taking the time to share your birthday adventure with us! As always, your writing style elaborates on the keen details that make me want to visit everywhere you have just been.

April 2, 2012 at 1:32 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a brilliant article. Underwater! Also,the photos are stunning.

April 2, 2012 at 9:38 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another splended, interesting and well-written article by Janet Podolak. We are so lucky to have her here in our little newspaper!!!

April 2, 2012 at 9:40 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like a pretty cool place

April 3, 2012 at 9:22 AM 
Blogger Barbara Ramsay Orr said...

Now that is a great way to celebrate a birthday - underwater, off the coast of a beautiful island.

April 3, 2012 at 1:22 PM 
Anonymous Honeymoon Bed Breakfast Luray VA said...

It's a well written and interesting birthday activity story. Pics are very nice and beautiful Looking for more photos and great story of other parts of the birthday journey.

April 17, 2012 at 4:44 AM 
Anonymous Canada's Boomergirl said...

What a way to spend your birthday Pisces. I LOVED this post. I too, like the water and have added Bonaire to my bucket list just so I can experience what you have written about. GREAT story. Thank you and a happy birthday!!

April 17, 2012 at 9:59 PM 

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