Capt. Don Pioneers
Bonaire Shore Diving

He claimed over and over Bonaire had some of the world's best diving.
No one ever disagreed.

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Capt. Don Makes Bonaire Shore Diving World Famous

Very quickly, Capt. Don and Bonaire diving became synonymous. Anyone who looks through the dive publications of the 70s will recognize the stories are not really about Bonaire.

Instead, they focus on Capt. Don and what he says about Bonaire's diving: "Some of the best in the world," he claimed.

This former screen salesman and budding actor said it so convincingly and so colorfully that no one doubted him. However, Capt. Don has always made it plain that he never guarantees more than 85% truth; having people pick out the 15% that's hogwash is game he's always loved to play. "I knew the diving was good here but I never really thought it the best in the world," he has admitted in recent years. "It's just that everyone believed me."

With Bonaire a diving mecca, Capt. Don decided to build a special resort designed just for divers, so he invested everything he had to open his own resort in 1976. Called Capt. Don's Habitat, it was one of the Caribbean's first resorts built by and especially for divers.

It was at Capt. Don's Habitat that the concept of "Dive Freedom," where divers could dive anytime they wished, literally 24-hours a day, was initiated. It was another Caribbean first.

Yet Capt. Don was always more than a hotelier. Long before Habitat he began preaching what he calls his "man/sea concept" which holds that "It is our right to realize an unrestricted use of our world seas, for pleasure, for knowledge, and economic advance, while ensuring that our human trespass shall leave no mark."

A one-man Greenpeace, Capt. Don carried out his words with some considerable deeds. He had spearfishing banned on Bonaire, then he eliminated the need for reef-destroying anchors by establishing the first mooring buoy system in the Caribbean, perhaps in the world.

When Bonaire decided to designate its reefs a national Marine Park, they were still pristine because Don and many of the island's other dive operators he'd trained with him had made it so...even if the first guide to the new marine park never hinted at any of his contributions.

Actually, it is often amazing at how little known Capt Don's contributions are on his tiny island. Some still view him as a comic character who often wore pirate garb or cowboy duds to Habitat parties, drank too much (he stopped totally a number of years ago) and told lots of bawdy tales.

A few on Bonaire remain jealous of this 5th grade drop-out who's gained so much international attention when they have not; of course, they never had Capt. Don's acting background to create their own flamboyant persona.

Next Page (Capt. Don Stewart Part 4)

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