Cactuses, coral reefs, clear water and ice-cream cones. These are the images that will forever remind me of the island of Bonaire. After a fairly easy 3 day sail from Grenada, we made landfall at the Dutch Island of Bonaire at sunrise and quickly realised that there were no moorings available. And the thing is you have to use a mooring in Bonaire – the whole island is a national marine park and you may not anchor.
Fortunately we were quickly approached by friendly cruisers in dinghies advising us which would be the next available mooring buoy and luckily for us there was a boat leaving that morning. All we had to do was grab a temporary mooring right next to (almost on top of…) another boat. Again luck was on our side and the other boat was our Canadian friends on Element.
Bonaire is a special municipality of the Netherlands and one of three islands in the Lesser Antilles known as the ABCs. The water is quite unbelievable and really stunning clear turquoise blue – we even had our own little reef right in front of our mooring off the main town with colourful tropical fish. Dutch is the official language but the vast majority of the population speaks Papiamento. A language derived from African and Portuguese languages with some influences from Indigenous American languages, English, Dutch and Spanish.
Bonaire has a long history of marine conservation. Beginning with turtle protection in 1961, the prohibition of spear fishing in 1971, and protection for coral, dead or alive, in 1975. The Bonaire National Marine Park was established in 1979.
If anyone has watched the excellent Chasing Coral you will know the sad fact that our world is rapidly loosing its coral reef so it is encouraging to see a small island in the Caribbean work hard to conserve, educate and protect their environment.
And that is really what Bonaire is about – what’s under the water. It is a top scuba diving destination and fabulous for snorkelling as well. The marine park maintains more than 100 public moorings around the islands of Bonaire and Klein Bonaire which can be used to explore the amazing underwater world.
Needless to say we spent most of our time in Bonaire in the water – well when we weren’t eating ice cream because honestly they do ice-cream almost as well! Even our favourite wi-fi spot/coffee shop served their cappuccino with a tiny little waffle cone ice-cream – heaven!
And I haven’t yet mentioned the supermarkets. It was a treat to be back in the land of European supermarkets and we took full advantage of all the delicious dutch goodies on offer – I think P may just have bought out the entire stroopwafel supply!
We also hired a bakkie and spent a lovely day exploring the island with our friends from Element. It is so very different from the other islands in the Caribbean – dry, barren, full of cactuses, flamingos, donkeys and iguanas. As with much of the Caribbean, there is also a darker side to Bonaire as is evident with the tiny slave huts. These huts were constructed in 1850 during the slavery time, and served as camping facilities for slaves working in the salt ponds to collect and ship the salt. The island is still producing salt commercially today.
All too soon the weather was perfect and the wind was in the right direction for the quick sail over to Curaçao – another of the Lesser Antilles – so we filled up with water and fuel while Fin fed watermelon to the friendly iguanas on the dock and then we were off…