Bon Bini na Bonaire!Bonaire is a small island off the coast of Venezuela with a population of about 15,000. Bonaire lies 30 miles from Curacao, 50 miles north of Venezuela, 86 miles east of Aruba, outside of the Caribbean hurricane belt. Part of the Netherlands Antilles, Bonaire is famous for its marine reefs and is very popular with divers. But you don’t have to dive to enjoy the amazing waters around the island, you can snorkel, too. I went with my friends Peggy and Mike. We stayed at Buddy’s Dive Resort near Kralendijk. I took my own dive mask because it has my corrective eye prescription in the glass; otherwise, all I would see is a gray blur.
|My Prescription Dive Mask/Case © June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved|
Our particular resort, Buddy’s Dive, is fabulous and offers all sorts of activities in and out of the water. The following picture is of a sign they post on the door outside the dive shop each week listing ONLY a few of the activities you can enjoy.
|Buddy's Dive Activity Board © June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved|
More than 20% of the total land area of Bonaire and 100% of the waters surrounding Bonaire and Klein Bonaire are protected National Parks. This is governed by Stichting Nationale Parken (STINAPA) which manages the Bonaire National Marine and Washington Slagbaai National Parks. All users of Bonairean waters are required to purchase a nature tag. The cost is $25 for divers and $10 for all others.
|STINAPA Nature Fee Pass © June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved|
You can dive or snorkel right from the docks or shore at Buddy’s and numerous places around the island. Bonaire's dive and snorkel sites are marked by yellow stones on the roadside along the coastline. Each yellow rock has a name of the particular snorkel site written on it and marks a convenient entry point.
|Buddy's Dive © June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved|
Don’t you just love the color of the water? I do. And, you can easily see the Sergeant Majors, Blue Tangs, and other fish swimming about as the water is so clear.
|Buddy's Dive Dock © June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved|
I also hitched rides on dive boats to go snorkeling. We visited a number of dive sites where I enjoyed seeing loggerhead turtles, fish, and all sorts of sea life such as corals such as stag horn and Elkhorn corals from my snorkel level while the divers went deeper. Poor wannabe mermaid me, I cannot dive due to ear issues. No worries, I had a fantastic time snorkeling.
|Buddy's Dive Boats--© June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved|
For tourists, this island is about relaxing and outdoor living. You only need to pack your swimsuit, shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops. But it’s much more than simply a water paradise. While the marine life is important and fabulous, there are many other wonderful natural aspects of Bonaire to explore. You can learn about how the island is protecting its natural resources and see some of their four-footed inhabitants such as iguanas, donkeys, and goats roaming free all over the island. Two species of bats also populate the island and lots of opportunities to volunteering and taking part in a study or research project about nature: Donkey Sanctuary, Coral Reef Reformation, Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire, Save the Lora Foundation, the animal shelter, as well as Dive Friends Bonaire and its quarterly Bonaire Underwater Clean Up Dives.
|Iguana--© June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved|
Birding on Bonaire was great as there are about 203 species. Washington Slagbaai National Park and Pekelmeer are two of the most popular locations, but I also saw birds everywhere I went. These are the bird field guides I used on my trip.
|Bonaire Birding Field Guides © June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved|
While I’ve seen the American Flamingo in the Florida Keys, I was excited to see Caribbean Flamingoes on this trip. Bonaire is one of the only Flamingo breeding sites in the Southern Caribbean. Flamingos are the island’s symbol—you even arrive via the Flamingo International Airport.
|Caribbean Flamingo Nesting Site © June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved|
I saw flamingoes at numerous sites on Bonaire: Gotomeer and Slagbaai lagoon for example. Oh, to have had a big camera lens on my trip! Anyway, here are a couple of flamingo shots taken, alas, from a distance.
|Flamingo © June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved|
While visiting the salt pans on the southern end of the island, I saw flamingoes in The Pekelmeer (Dutch for “salt lake”) Flamingo Sanctuary—viewed via my binoculars from the road as tourists are not allowed in the sanctuary. It was interesting to also see a flamingo skeleton at the Washington Slagbaai National Park Museum.
|Flamingo Skeleton © June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved|
Besides flamingoes, I saw many other birds. As a small example, I saw Lora (Yellow-shouldered Parrot), green Prikichis (parakeets), Trupials, Bananaquits, and Bare-eyed Pigeons.
|Bare-eyed Pigeons © June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved|
During my visit to the Washington Slagbaai National Park, a male Yellow Warbler flew in and perched on the whale skeleton and peered at me.
|Male Yellow Warbler © June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved|
A drive to Seru Largu (which means “large hill”) gave me a great vantage point to see Kralendijk and the little island of Klein Bonaire. A monument at the site reads in the Papiamentu language as "Kristu Ayera Awe Semper" which means "Christ, Yesterday, Today and Forever".
|Seru Largu © June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved|
I was told that New Year’s Eve finds the island population coming here to watch fireworks and celebrate.
|Seru Largu © June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved|
My drive tour included the salt flats where Cargill Corporation runs Bonaire’s salt production and industry. You can see the entire process from the salt flats to the pans to the harvesting to the end process of the ship cargo delivery system.
|Salt Industry © June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved|
Part of Bonaire’s salt mining history are the slave huts I saw which were constructed in 1850 to serve as camping facilities during the week for slaves working in the salt ponds to collect and ship the salt. Each Friday afternoon, the slaves walked seven hours to Rincon to weekend with their families. They returned to the salt ponds each Sunday. The huts were painted in different colors to represent the part of the island those slaves were assigned. I visited the white slave huts.
|White Slave Hut © June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved|
|Slave Hut © June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved|
At the north end of the island, you can see the wind turbines. The majority of Bonaire’s electricity comes from renewable energy. About 40-45% of the island’s power is sourced by 12 wind turbines and 55-60% by biodiesel. They currently have five traditional diesel generators supplementing the wind turbines and provide backup when there’s not enough wind power. Bonaire is now looking at the algae and bacteria in their salt flats to create biodiesel to replace the traditional diesel. Their goal is to have a 100% renewable electrical system and to be carbon neutral.
|Wind Turbines © June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved|
Washington Slagbaai National Park is another part of Boaire’s serious intent to protect its natural resources. This place takes hours to completely explore. Here is where I visited the Museo di Washington Park and saw the flamingo skeleton as well as that of a Bryde’s Whale skeleton.
|Bryde's Whale skeleton © June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved|
I have to share these two bathroom signs I found at the park as they made me laugh.
|Bathroom Sign © June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved|
You can figure out which is men’s and which is women’s.
|Bathroom Sign © June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved|
Part of the whole idea of vacation for me is relaxation. While it seems I did a ton of activities, some downtime was also built in and protected. I read so many books, my Kindle ran out of reading material for me. Fortunately, I found the free book donation offerings at the check-in desk and managed to get a book for the night before I left and one for the plane ride home. Maybe I should stop reading so fast.
I love letterboxing, so I was excited to discover there is one and only one letterbox on Bonaire. Peggy and Mike kindly humored me as I went in search. I love their stamp which now resides in my letterbox journal.
|Bonaire Letterbox Stamp © June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved|
|Watercolor Journal © June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved|
Very early the next morning, I spent a quiet hour sitting on Mike and Peggy’s private little beach just watching the water and painting a small watercolor of the Loggerhead turtle I saw while snorkeling the day before.
Where did we eat while on Bonaire? Upon arrival, we shopped for a few groceries as our rooms were like mini-apartments with functioning kitchens. Between diving/snorkeling activities, we either ate lunch outdoors at the resort or had sandwiches in our rooms. Some of our outside dining adventures included Bobbejan's, a small barbecue restaurant in the middle of Kralendijk favored by locals only open on weekends. We also gave Cuba Compagnie Bonaire next to Wilhelmina Park a try—delicious! Another night found us at Rum Runners at Captain Don’s resort. Everywhere we ate, we did so outdoors—no one wants to be inside on Bonaire as the island is all about outdoor living.
Since you cannot dive 24 hours before a flight, we opted to shop in downtown Kralendijk on Friday afternoon before our flight home. Kralendijk is the capital city and main port of the island of Bonaire. In Dutch, Koralendijk means "coral reef" or "coral dike". This is not shopping like in St. Thomas, but there are some cute shops. I love this shopping bag—it’s waterproof, so I can use it for the beach.Dub and I always buy a Christmas ornament when we travel, so I found one which represents the island for me.
|Bonaire Shopping Bag © June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved|
Sea salt is a popular product, so I bought some to take home for cooking. You can also get salts for other things such as bath or facials, but I’m happy with my cooking salt. Along with the salt, I bought some postcards that show the entire salt production process.
|Bonaire Salt and Post Cards © June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved|
At Buddy’s, the thing to do at 5 p.m. each night is attend happy hour at Blennies where you must drink an Amstel Bright and watch for the sunset before seeking out supper. Blennies also offers a special concoction to try each night. I turned the bartenders on to BBCs (Baileys Banana Colada)—they gave my recipe explanation a go and loved it. My reward was a free BBC and hugs.
|Amstel Bright at Blennies © June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved|
My bags await unpacking and my I-missed-you gift for Dub Honey waiting to be bestowed. Bonaire was a wonderful adventure.