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The island enjoys the love of many sun worshipers, but local Bonaire sun worshipers live a very different life.

There are all sorts of Bonaire sun worshipers which flock to the island……those who seek friendly and warm temperatures in which to pursue their sports, or simply those who come to soak up the Caribbean sun.  But unbeknownst to most of these arriving sun worshipers, there is another set of Bonaire sun worshipers which also enjoy the island’s sunny climate, and they quietly go through their lives without much notice by others.

On a dive of discovery!

Diver and now Bonaire-resident Rich Schwerdtfeger, along with his dive buddy, repeat visitor and Bonaire home-owner Steve Ando, have always enjoyed the lure of exploring unknown areas.  Although dive buddies here on Bonaire, each has individually explored the far corners of the planet in search of breathtaking diving.  For many years, Rich and his wife, Doreen, would dive in the area of the Red Slave dive site, but in October last year, they decided to do their dive more to the south than their usual swim to the north.

And what a sight they found! Shortly after they entered the water, they discovered a field of Elkhorn coral that they had not experienced on Bonaire in many years.  The reef was also amazing.  They decided then and there to spend more time in this divers’ treasure-trove whenever the first lull in the wind occurred.

Unusually calm winds allow for more exploration.

This past November, there was an unusually calm period of ten days, and Rich and Steve decided to take advantage of it, even though Doreen  was off island. After two dives entering at Red Slave and swimming southward, the team decided to try an entry at Willemstoren Lighthouse.

Now, it should be noted that under normal conditions, the entry and exit at Willemstoren is difficult at best, and it shouldn’t be attempted during normal windy conditions.  Currents at this most southern tip can also be treachorous.  Rich and Steve were lucky to be able to make repeated dives when conditions were near idyllic with no wind or waves and little current.

The discovery of Bonaire’s true sun worshipers.

After their initial entry at the radar tower near Willemstoren, Rich and Steve’s eyes grew big as they encountered a more diverse reef and even larger Elkhorn corals.  After a few test dives, the dive buddies were comfortable that their air consumption would allow for the entire swim from Willemstoren to Red Slave, and allow them also to film and shoot still photography.

They took the big plunge on November 21st.  The area is largely untouched, since normal blustery conditions in this area limit the amount of diving that can be done.  The duo have made many dives all over the world, yet they felt this area was truly special.  At one point, they surfaced, and turned to each other saying, “Oh My God!  I cannot believe this place!”

The conditions allowed for only four dives when the team could shoot video and still images.  Rich left his GoPro in the closet and pulled out his best camera for these dives. The footage he was able to capture was so great, it took him hours of editing to cut it down to the minutes that one watches in his just-released video.

This excellent video provides another special message:  Everyone on the planet needs to do their part to help conserve and protect the natural diversity of plants and animals, before they are gone forever. Imagine a world without these wonderful Ekhorn corals.  Enjoy!

About Rich Schwerdtfeger

Rich worked for 32 years in the computer industry. He retired as the IBM Chief Technology officer for Accessibility (responsible for access to IBM software by people with disabilities) and the Chairman of the Board for the non-profit Knowbility in Austin, Texas. The year after he retired from IBM (2016), he started the YouTube Channel “A Diver’s Life” to help people achieve the same dream to live a life by the sea and dive and promote ocean conservation.

Rich Schwerdtfeger

Since the age of 12, Rich wanted to live and work in and around the sea; preserve it; and be a visual story teller about it. This stemmed from watching the Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, vacationing in Cape Cod as a child, and spending time on his grandfather’s boat. His wife, Doreen, and he both loved Bonaire, having come here to dive since 1997. As luck would have it, they encountered a whale shark in front of the Sand Dollar Resort on their very first Bonaire dive! They love the island and its people. In 2010 they bought a house right across from STINAPA. Like many, changes in the work environment made them question why they were still not doing what they truly loved. So, in 2016, they decided to pull the plug. The couple sold everything to retire to Bonaire in February 2017. Doreen loves diving as much as Rich.  They purchased a boat and started following their dream. The name of their boat, Honey Bee II, is the same name as Rich’s grandfather’s boat. He started the YouTube channel in November 2017 and taught himself how to shoot underwater video, editing, and as he says himself, “I am a work in progress.”

About Steve Ando

After a 25-year career in corporate management, Steve finally decided to lead a more photography-dedicated lifestyle. In fact, he has teamed up with the Clearwater Marine Aquarium by capturing images of their resident rescue animals in an effort to help support their amazing cause.

Steve has been coming to Bonaire for over 25 years while photographing as much as Bonaire has to offer. He has this to say about Bonaire, “The island continues to show me new and exciting wildlife and nature opportunities and I look forward to many more trips there. I am hoping that the images that I capture in Bonaire will help to curb the amount of development that is taking place on our island and show how truly incredible the sea life is of her shores.”

Steve Ando

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(Source:  Bonaire Insider Reporter)

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Susan Davis, Bonaire InsiderSusan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, a certified bird guide, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing for The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog. 


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