As a family, we initially struggled to find our activity, that thing we could all enjoy and learn together, and go back to on vacations time and time again. We may just have found our thing thanks to Family Dive Adventures.

While I love skiing and alpine climbing, my wife, Sally, can’t stand the cold. Our 12-year-old daughter, Lillian, loves skiing too and thrives in the cold, but our other daughter, Sylvia (9 years old) will begin a meltdown shortly after her lips turn blue. It’s been challenging for us to pinpoint an activity-based lifestyle for our family where we can all enjoy the same adventure.

One day, at an adventure travel conference during a lecture by Margo Peyton, the founder of Family Dive Adventures (and a member of the Diving Hall of Fame), it hit me: we needed to try scuba diving. My wife loves water. Most dive destinations (at least that we’d go to) are warm. All the experiential elements we craved were there — adventure, challenge, learning — and I started to realize that diving could become our family thing.

Sunset on Bonaire during a Family Dive Adventures program.

Sunset in Bonaire. Photo by Chez Chesak.

Family Dive Adventures approachable programs

Best of all, Margo’s tour operation specializes in programming to teach entire families how to dive. Sally and I quickly dove (pun intended…) into some online PADI certification courses and booked one of Margo’s camps in Bonaire. Located just off the north coast of South America, near the western part of Venezuela, Bonaire is one of three islands, along with Aruba and Curacao, which make up the Dutch Caribbean’s ABC Islands. We flew there, excited yet full of trepidation, with the hope that diving might just become a good fit for all four of us together.

Bonaire has incredibly clear water, a nearly unspoiled ecosystem (it has protected its marine resources for some 35 years), and is often ranked as one of the Caribbean’s top dive destinations. Bonaire National Marine Park offers nearly 90 dive sites, is home to 57 species of soft and stony coral and hundreds of recorded fish species. There are numerous locations to dive right from shore, many companies run regular boat dives, and experienced divers can simply rent a truck and gear and drive right up to sites.

HITT TIP: Bonaire National Marine Park has a fee for all users, which is used to help manage and conserve the park. You must purchase (and have displayed on you) a Nature Tag. You will need two — one for diving and another for any other activities.

While Sally quickly took to it like, well, a fish to water (sic), we naturally worried whether the girls would like diving. We were concerned about Sylvia, who is accident prone and fearful (often getting scared in bed at night that the house is going to catch fire or a tornado will hit). One scary, short but perhaps airless moment underwater could imprint on her, literally, for life. But she came up to us on the second day and simply stated, “I really like diving. It’s cool.” Sally and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Chez and his family on their first family dive with Family Dive Adventures in Bonaire.

Lillian, Chez, their guide, Sylvia and Sally in their first family dive together. Photo by Margo Peyton.

Bonaire diving has opportunities for all

 Both our girls loved the patient, well-paced training methods of Family Dive Adventures, who use Buddy Dive Bonaire, a dedicated dive resort in Kralendijk, for the company’s Bonaire camp. They spent the first few days in the pool, just learning about their dive gear, how to use it, underwater hand signals and, of course, safety, safety, safety.

Pool time dive practice in Bonaire with Family Dive Adventures.

Getting in a little underwater practice with the scuba gear at the pool in Bonaire. Photo by Margo Peyton.

But the itinerary was also brilliantly diverse too, adding to the mix crafts, games, fish identification classes, snorkeling, a slack line crossing on the dock, tubing, and even some tours around the island’s historical sites. One activity, hugely popular with all the kids, was a trip to a local donkey preserve.

Enjoying fun on a rope swing with Family Dive Adventures in Bonaire.

Playtime in Bonaire was anytime the family wasn’t diving, or sleeping, or eating. Photo by Chez Chesak.

HITT TIP: When learning a technical new activity like diving as a family, it’s critical to work with a certified guide service, outfitter, resort, or tour operator. Family Dive Adventures, specializes in providing various tracks for adults (both those already certified and newbies), teens, middle school kids, and even small children. Kids as young as 11 can actually get PADI certified during the trip.

I think the parents’ highlight might have been the chaperoned outdoor pizza and a movie night for the kids, which allowed the adults to slip away to a high-end restaurant for a date night. Perhaps the kids’ favorite activity was actually the roving scrums of other kids with whom to play. As the kids of various age groups got to know each other, they eventually took to sitting at their own tables during meals, leaving the adults to tables of their own, free to have real adult conversations. The parents also took shifts at the pool at night after dinner, watching all the families’ kids splashing about so the other couples were free to linger at their tables.

Bonaire restaurants satisfy many tastes on dive trip

The resort restaurants include the casual, beachside Blennies, and the higher-end Ingridients that offers delicious Mediterranean cuisine with French, Spanish and Italian influences. A totally adequate grocery store is just a 10-minute walk out the resort’s front gate, as are restaurants, a drug store, toyshop, and spa. We took a night off from the resort and dined at the Sonia Home restaurant one night and sated Sally’s need for more vegetarian options (and our kids’ need for ice cream). Unfortunately, this restaurant has now closed — maybe we ate too much ice cream?

While our daughters were getting hooked on diving, Sally was absolutely smitten, thanks to Family Dive Adventures. As we completed our own pool time and shallow water dives, she became more and more comfortable in the water. Just as soon as we were certified, she was on the dive boat exploring the depths. The serene, tranquil beauty of the undersea world seduced her. She was continuously emerging to the surface with a wide smile, babbling about all the amazingly brilliant sea life we’d just seen.

Bonefish in Bonaire seen during a Family Dive Adventures dive.

Photo by Margo Peyton.

There are more than 350 fish species found around the island. Among the brain coral, sea fans, and orange and yellow tube sponges, we also spotted multi-hued parrot fish, barracuda, lean trumpet fish, balloon fish, various types of grouper, moray eels, and dozens upon dozens of others.

Barracuda, octopus, coral, seahorses and more while diving

Stories of fish sightings ran freely through out conversations at meals, on the docks, and virtually everywhere. While we chimed in with our mating cowfish sighting, we were respectfully jealous when other divers ticked off tales of spotting seahorses, a six-foot giant green eel, turtles, and an octopus, flashing through various colors as it flew around the corals.

Colorful fish fill the blue ocean in and around the waters of Bonaire.

Photo by Margo Peyton.

Wreck divers would be interested in exploring the nearby Hilma Hooker, a 240-foot freighter wreck that is 60-100 feet below the surface of the water between two reefs.

The Bonaire diving camp week finished up with the so-called demo dive, where the kids too young to get certified get to dive in the shallows with their parents (a great family photo opportunity). Afterward, everyone spent the last day diving, snorkeling and generally frolicking in the waters around Klein Bonaire, a small offshore island that is home to hundreds of dive sites, outstanding coral formations and abundant sea life. And, way too soon, the week was over.

Now that we have two daughters hooked on diving and I have a spouse seriously smitten, the dive magazines have started to show up at our house, there’s talk of our next dive trip to various possible destinations, our oldest absolutely wants to get certified, and I think Sally has already booked me into a wreck diving certification course.

Looks like diving might just become our thing after all.

Read More Travel Tips For South America

Family discovers scuba diving in Bonaire with Family Dive Adventures

As a family, we initially struggled to find our activity, that thing we could all enjoy and learn together, and go back to on vacations time and time again. We may just have found our thing thanks to Family Dive Adventures.

Read More

Travel to Bolivia, land of stark contrast and breathtaking beauty

If travel to Bolivia is not on your current dream destination list, it needs to be. The fifth-largest country in South America, it is land-locked and bordered by Brazil, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Paraguay. Two ranges of the Andes, as well as the Amazon basin, split Bolivia, creating a uniquely diverse mix of cultural, scenic and natural wonders. But it is the stark contrasts in climates and experiences – from legendary sunsets on the shores of Lake Titicaca to the modern and hip tropical vibe of Santa Cruz to the expansive salt flats near La Paz. Bolivia magically weaves heritage, architecture, culture and natural wonders into an experience that relatively few tourists experience even today.

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An exotic taste of Latin America in Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena, Colombia, promises an exotic taste of Latin America even if you only have a week or less of vacation time. What you’ll discover: some of the best seafood of your life (so good, Anthony Bourdain counted it among his top picks); colorful streets that ooze Spanish-colonial charm and beg to be photographed; regionally made, artisan keepsakes such as wide-brimmed straw hats and iconic mochila bags; boutique properties so sumptuous and inviting they feel more like a stay at your friend’s historical mansion than a hotel; and day trips to remote islands for snorkeling and seafood straight from the ocean to the grill.

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Travel to Colombia, a destination with a warm welcome

Colombia, the northernmost country in South America, borders on Panama, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru and Ecuador, with coastlines on the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Today, travel to Colombia offers renewed possibilities for adventure and tourism fun that many countries do not. Its darker days of crime and drug lords are past, and the people want you to come to their country, offering a warm welcome with a growing tourist infrastructure. We had the chance to talk to first-time Journeys International travelers Judith and Clive Kamins about their February 2016 trip to Colombia. Although Journeys newbies, the retired seniors from Chicago have in fact “touched every continent except Antarctica, as our grandchildren remind us.”

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Map of South America

In the map below, pins mark the exact location of all the sites mentioned in our articles on South America. Zoom in or out on the map using the controls. Switch easily from map to satellite view. Click on each pin to pull up a tooltip with the name and any additional information. 

Tayrona National Park - Colombia

http://hitraveltales.com/travel-to-colombia-a-destination-with-diversity-and-a-warm-welcome/

Punta Faro - Colombia

http://hitraveltales.com/travel-to-colombia-a-destination-with-diversity-and-a-warm-welcome/

Hotel Casa San Agustine - Colombia

http://hitraveltales.com/an-exotic-taste-of-latin-america-in-cartagena-colombia/

Rosario Islands, Colombia

http://hitraveltales.com/an-exotic-taste-of-latin-america-in-cartagena-colombia/

La Cevicheria - Colombia

http://hitraveltales.com/an-exotic-taste-of-latin-america-in-cartagena-colombia/

Ciocolatto Pop Bar - Colombia

http://hitraveltales.com/an-exotic-taste-of-latin-america-in-cartagena-colombia/

Gelateria Tramonti - Colombia

http://hitraveltales.com/an-exotic-taste-of-latin-america-in-cartagena-colombia/

San Alberto Coffee shop - Colombia

http://hitraveltales.com/an-exotic-taste-of-latin-america-in-cartagena-colombia/

Alquimico - Colombia

http://hitraveltales.com/an-exotic-taste-of-latin-america-in-cartagena-colombia/

Café Havana - Colombia

http://hitraveltales.com/an-exotic-taste-of-latin-america-in-cartagena-colombia/

Getsemani - Colombia

http://hitraveltales.com/an-exotic-taste-of-latin-america-in-cartagena-colombia/

Lake Titicaca - Bolivia

http://hitraveltales.com/travel-to-bolivia-land-of-stark-contrast-and-breathtaking-beauty/

Valley of the Moon - Bolivia

http://hitraveltales.com/travel-to-bolivia-land-of-stark-contrast-and-breathtaking-beauty/

Hotel del Sal - Bolivia

http://hitraveltales.com/travel-to-bolivia-land-of-stark-contrast-and-breathtaking-beauty/

Buddy Dive Bonaire

http://hitraveltales.com/family-discovers-scuba-diving-in-bonaire-with-family-dive-adventures/

Bonaire National Marine Park

http://hitraveltales.com/family-discovers-scuba-diving-in-bonaire-with-family-dive-adventures/

Heads up! This information on diving Bonaire with Family Dive Adventures was accurate when we published it on HI Travel Tales, but, as we know, traveling is all about changes (and inflation, sadly). Please be sure to confirm prices, transportation schedules, hours of operation, safety and health considerations, request for perfect weather during your entire visit, and any other important details before your adventure.
Chris Chesak
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Chris Chesak

Executive Director at Family Travel Association
Chris ‘Chez’ Chesak is a longtime veteran of the outdoor and travel industries, with some 20 years experience in both. He recently spent nine years working for an adventure travel trade association and is now the Executive Director of the Family Travel Association. He’s traveled to more than 25 countries and once spent three months driving across the U.S. in a sweet, but battered, VW Golf. While he loves to travel, he loves even more when he can do it with his young daughters and provide them experiences that truly ‘blow their minds’.
Chris Chesak
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