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Bonaire gave their farewells to Bruce Bowker today and mourns his passing.

Bruce Bowker was a man larger than life, an island icon, a founding father of diving on Bonaire, a stalwart defender of Bonaire’s nature, and a dear friend to many, both here and with the thousands of visitors whose lives he touched in his 45 years on Bonaire.

For those who knew Bruce, he never stopped.  He was a quiet go-getter.  If he found something that needed doing, he didn’t ponder it, he didn’t form committees, he just did it.  And he did it quietly and never looked for accolades for his efforts.  He was working on a renovation project last week at his beloved Carib Inn, and suffered a fall and sustained a fatal head injury.  Bonaire has lost one of its own, one who never ceased to work for the betterment of his adopted home.

Bruce’s life on Bonaire.

Reunion of AquaventureBruce arrived on Bonaire in the mid-1970s as a young man, to work as a dive instructor for Captain Don Stewart and the locals in the then-burgeoning dive industry–Ebo Domacasse, Baselio Marin, and Nel Nicolaas.  After several years together, they each decided to open their own businesses, and Bruce developed the Carib Inn.  Bruce was well known for his fearlessness.  Do you know the famous Bonaire dive site, Rappel?  Well, it got its name because Bruce Bowker rappeled down the cliff to explore the unknown dive site.  As his business grew, he took his divers to the island’s east coast, long before it became fashionable to dive the east coast.  He was an innovator and loved to try out new dives, ideas, and gear.  In fact, he was so good at dive equipment, he became known as the “go-to guy” for nearly any gear problem.  He probably had the part, could put his fingers on it in a jiffy, and would have your regulator or BCD working again in no time, and mostly with a smile and a “no charge.”

Foundation Preservation Klein Bonaire.

Already in the hands of developers for years, in the mid-1990s the reality of the development of Klein Bonaire became a major threat.  Bruce could not imagine having the small off-shore islet developed, and so he formed and headed the Foundation Preservation Klein Bonaire.  The goal was to buy the island back from the developers and put it into the hands of the Bonairean people in perpetuity.  The cost?  Only $10,000,000.  It was a four-year battle to raise the funds, but Bruce never gave in and never let up.  He even took the then young Prince Willem-Alexander (now King Willem-Alexander) in his boat to Klein Bonaire to show the young prince what a jewel Bonaire had in Klein Bonaire.  With days counting down to the date for the deal, suddenly several million dollars became available to the Foundation to complete the sale on December 30, 1999, one day prior to the deadline for any sale.

Taking care of the environment.

Bruce was a champion of nature, and especially Bonaire’s nature.  Before cleanups became regular events on Bonaire, both on land and underwater, Bruce once again got things done by purchasing a dump truck and doing weekly excursions around Bonaire to clean up any trash that was out in nature.  He was not alone, his extended Carib Inn “family” of crew and guests helped him out every single week.

Fifteen years ago, he joined the Board of Directors of STINAPA, Bonaire’s national parks service, and he served continuously and hardly ever missed a board meeting.  His inherent stubbornness proved to be an asset for Bonaire’s nature, as Bruce valiantly battled any development he felt was not in the island’s best interests.  Bruce’s insistence on doing what was right for nature has formed the basis of much of the island’s nature policy in place today.

Bruce was one-of-a-kind, with a dry humor, ready smile, and a willingness to always pitch in and help.  Bonaire will sorely miss him.  Bruce, rest in peace, we already miss you.

Those wishing to honor Bruce’s life may make a donation in his name to the Bonaire Animal Shelter.

(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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