Bonaire Dive Festival extended to two weeks

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NEW YORK -- Organizers of next year's eighth annual Bonaire Dive Festival extended the event to two weeks and eliminated participant fees.

The festival, now set to run June 5 to 19, will feature a wide range of events, including a food-and-culture fest; guided dives, a dive-wear fashion show and dive equipment demos; underwater photography workshops and a photo contest; a restaurant tour; and a beach barbecue.

This year's event also offers more freedom for participants, according to organizers, thanks to first-ever official government sponsorship.

Previously a private-sector affair underwritten by up to four official hotels, the Bonaire Dive Festival has become so important to the inbound market that the state-run Tourism Corp. Bonaire stepped in to sponsor the event along with Scuba Diving magazine and the Coral Reef Alliance, in order to broaden festival access and appeal.

For example, the new "top-side" activities are designed to appeal to partners and families accompanying diver attendees.

"[Next] year's Dive Festival gives attendees the freedom to truly customize their own program, staying as long as they choose, doing as little or as much as they choose, and participating in those activities that interest them the most," said tourism commissioner Burney el Hage, in a statement.

Information packets on festival events will be available at all island hotels, "many of which are formulating their own packages," said a spokes-man at the New York offices of Tourism Corp. Bonaire.

Many events are tied to next year's theme of marine ecological preservation. For instance, famed marine artist Wyland will invite festival visitors to join him in mural painting.

For more information, visit the official festival Web site at www.bonairedivefestival.com. Or contact Tourism Corp. Bonaire at (800) BONAIRE or www.infobonaire.com.

To contact reporter Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected]ntmllc.com.

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