Karpata

Jack and I went three-and-a-half miles up the coast yesterday morning. We went as far north as the bay allowed, to one of the best dive sites in Bonaire. The site is called Karpata. It was a relatively quiet sea when we left Quest. Our hearts sank slightly when we came up from the dive. The wind and waves had picked up – and were against us. More on that later.

Why did we go so far to dive? The answer: sharks. Sharks have been spotted three times this week at Karpata. They’re another marine species whose reported presence in Bonaire is on the rise. Sharks are seen, but most often on the little-dived east side of the island. The east side is a difficult place to dive. Unless conditions are mirror-still, you have to shore dive off Bonaire’s east coast. This means wading through fire coral before you can even descend. On the more-dived west side, sharks aren’t seen as much. So when Jack and I heard about them, we were in.

Let me just say, being pretty much scared of everything, I would never willingly snorkel or swim with reported sightings of sharks. Diving though, diving feels different. Perhaps all that equipment makes a person feel less scared. And Karpata alone was worth the visit. I’d read the dive site is ‘panoramic’, which intrigued me. Most dive sites here are similar; shallow sand followed by fringing reef. How was Karpata different to that, I wondered? What made it more panoramic than any other drop-off?

Turns out Karpata is like an underwater cathedral. In midnight blue.

I had that same sensation – a sort of vertigo mixed with apprehension. Then I realised my mask was misting up. Jack’s bought a new anti-fog gel which is a step-up from our ‘rub spit in your dive mask’ routine. As usual, I’m not so good at new things. Not enough rubbing or not enough rinsing. Not sure which. I left Jack at the drop-off and came up to lick in my mask. Back to the spit regime. And back down again.

Staring into the drop-off, I hung out at a depth I felt comfortable with. Did my breathing technique while I got used to the surroundings. Jack meanwhile, went deeper. I watched him sink into the seemingly endless depth. Aha, I thought. It’s calling him. Well, I’m not going after him. And after a few moments, he started – like a light flickered. We gave each other the ok sign and met on the reef in the middle. I smiled a little. Maybe it was good to experience sensory overwhelm. Keeps you careful.

We didn’t see any sharks. Doesn’t matter. The underwater topography was dramatic enough. We swam across large vertical ridges – broken by sandy gullies.

In a counter-intuitive first, on the ride home we had to take the bung out of Edna so we didn’t sink. I had to cling to the front, taking full-on face spray so we didn’t propel up into the air while Jack negotiated the waves. Only once I almost fell off. Not irresponsible parents – at all.

‘I’m so glad I did all that boating in Borth when I was a kid,’ Jack said, when we got to calmer waters, close to the marina.

I nodded. ‘I’m glad I did all that horse riding.’ And I was.

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