Caribbean Sanctuary . . .
Quiet, peaceful and unspoiled, Bonaire is one of the most environmentally aware islands in the Caribbean . . .
The delightful, intimate Dutch island of Bonaire is an ideal getaway for visitors in pursuit of peace and nature, especially the peace and nature to be found below the surface of calm waters that give divers a dependable visibility of 100ft (30m). Bonaire is one the world’s premier scuba diving destinations.
There are more than 80 marked sites attracting divers from all over the world. The multi-coloured coral forests that start just 20ft (6m) from the shore and often lie only a few inches from the surface are bewitching – and strictly protected. Schools of fish every imaginable shape, size and colour swim with sea turtles and other marine creatures in and around the delicate coral and sponge garden. The island’s reefs are part of the Bonaire National Marine Park and there are tough laws to conserve all sea life – the coral and the fish – in the offshore waters. Further out, the sea is rich in bonefish, tarpon, permit, snook and marlin. These can be fished. Bonaire’s passion for protecting the island’s ecology extends to the land, where a 13,500acre (55sq km) national park was created in 1969 to preserve more than 195 species of birds and unique flora and fauna.
In Bonaire, its 112 square miles (290 sq km) warmed by a perfect year-round climate, visitors can still see the Caribbean as it was 20 years ago. Its beaches – ideal for sunbathers, swimmers, divers and wind surfers – are uncrowned and unspoilt. Quiet and peaceful, Bonaire is one of the most environmentally aware islands in the Caribbean. The government works hard to maintain the balance between tourism and nature. Pretty much the whole of the island is protected by marine parks, wildlife parks and sanctuaries.
Conditions here are ideal for diving and Bonaire has been named as one of the top three dive spots in the world. The warm water and wonderful visibility are ideal for underwater photographers snapping some of the hundreds of species of fish, coral and marine life. The island is well organised to cope with the 60% of visitors who come to dive or snorkel. The Tradewinds also make the island a good place for sailing and windsurfing. On land there are some challenging hikes and mountain bike trails. Some of Bonaire’s most exquisite natural treasures lie beyond its celebrated fish and include an abundant collection of geographical, historical and wildlife attractions geared towards the eco-adventure experience. Protected, unharmed natural habitats provide inviting locations for some of the best exploring, bird watching, fishing and eco-touring.
The Bonaire Carnival held in January and February is one of the most locally anticipated events of the year. Colourful costumes, parades, singing and traditional dances are important parts of the Carnival festivities and everyone is invited to join in. While the Annual International Bonaire Sailing Regatta in October. This event welcomes sailors from all of the surrounding islands as well as further afield. Each year approximately 120 boats from catamarans and yachts to windsurfers, participate in the island’s largest sailing races.
There are 350 miles (560km) of nature trails, usually goat paths and unpaved roads, for hikers and cyclists to explore. You can see some of the island’s salt lakes, which were worked until the 1860’s, and end up at flamingo-filled Goto Lake. Renowned for its flamingo sanctuary, some other 190 species of birds have made their home on Bonaire, making it an ideal place to recommend to birdwatchers. It is thought there are 20,000 flamingos on Bonaire – outnumbering the human inhabitants. Bonaire is only one of four places in the world where flamingo colonies breed, and this graceful bird has become the island’s national symbol. See them at Washington Slagbaai National Park and the Pekelmeer Sanctuary.
In the centre of Washington Slagbaai National Park, there is a walking trail up Mt Brandaris. The highest hill in Bonaire; there are wonderful views of the island from the summit. The climb and decent take about three hours. Every Sunday afternoon local families gather at Lac Bay Kai for an informal social party. Live music, dancing and delicious food stalls offer a great place to meet the local residents. The springs in Fontein, near Rincon, make a refreshing stop. Explore the nearby tropical fruit groves and bring a picnic. Bonaire’s Lac bay offers near-perfect conditions for all levels of surfers. The bay’s shallow waters have favourable on-shore winds and knee deep warm water, making it ideal for beginners. Great for experts too, Bonaire is one of the best freestyle destinations in the world.
Klein Bonaire (or Little Bonaire) is just off the west coast opposite Kralendijk and can only be reached by boat. Kayaks are available at a number of locations around the island. On the Leeward side, visitors can use a kayak to explore the coastline as well as the uninhabited island of Klein Bonaire. Completely undeveloped, the tiny island is surrounded by great dive and snorkel sites. Kralendijk (pronounced ‘Crawl-en-dike) is a small and sleepy capital. Pick up a walking map from the local tourist office and meander around the 19th century Fort Oranje, the Bonaire Museum and the Harbour Shopping mall all in a couple of hours.
Top 7 incredible places in BONAIRE you won’t believe exist:
Wine & Dine
Bonaire’s appeal is low-key; in the evening you can enjoy the sunset while dining in one of the many restaurants. Kralendijk’s numerous bars and restaurants offer authentic local seafood dishes and Amstel beer (brewed locally on neighbouring Curacao) at reasonable prices.
The Mona Lisa Bar & Restaurant tel:+599 717 8718, located on Kaya Grandi 15, the main street in Kralendijk, this cosy Dutch owned establishment serves scrumptious seafood and smoked chicken dishes. Expect to pay NAf$35 for the catch of the day.
Giby’s Terrace tel: +599 567 0655, on Kaya Andres a. Emerenciana, just minutes from downtown. Giby’s is a well known snack stand serving delicious conch and goat stews.
Eddy’s Restaurant & Bar tel: +599 717 6731 on Kaya Gobernador N. Debrot 79, Our Cuisine is a delicious melting pot, drawing ingredients and methods from French, Colombian and Venezuelan cuisine, combining them with the native foods and recipes of the island. Come and experience these unique flavours, relax and be part of the friendly ambience of the Caribbean.
Entrees from US$17.
Where to Stay
Plaza Resort Bonaire, tel: +599 717 2500; is the largest luxury resort on the island, located on the only stretch of beach downtown. Rooms tend to be very spacious with huge bathrooms; some have a decent view of the ocean. Excellent restaurants, a lively beachside bar, fitness centre, pool, casino and dive centre are all on site. From: US$160-200.
Eden Beach, tel: +599 717 6720 ; on Kaya Gobernador Nicholaas Debrot offers standard hotel rooms and one & two bedroom apartments at this friendly little place on the north coast east of Kralenijk.
Happy Holiday Homes, tel: +599 717 8405, can be found on Pont Vierkant 9, with reasonably priced bungalows south of the airport in a quiet residential neighbourhood, minutes from popular dive spots. Large rooms have kitchenettes, private bathrooms and cable TV. Very friendly staff and great for families. From: US$50-75.
Language: Dutch ~ yet the native language is Papiamentu, spoken exclusively in the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.
Currency: US Dollars
The Caribbean awaits you ~ Book a Dream Rental Property in Bonaire and ‘Live Like a Local’