Bonaire -  Netherlands    Antilles

FLAMINGOS (found in abundant flocks in the salt ponds) OLD BOATS AND GOVERNMENT HOUSE KEEP BONAIRE QUAINT.

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ONE OF BONAIRE'S GREATEST EXPORTS IS SEA SALT.,

 

HERE YOU SEE THE HUGE PILES OF SALT AS THEY ARE PILED UP NEXT TO THE SALT ELEVATOR WHICH TAKES THE SALT AND LOADS IT AT THE DOCKS FOR EXPORT.

 

THE SMALL COTTAGES AGOVE, WITH NO WINDOWS, WERE WHERE THE SLAVES LIVED THAT MINED THE SALT.  THEY ARE UNBELIEVABLY SMALL, DARK AND NASTY.

YESTERDAY AND TODAY - THE DIFFERENCE IN HOMES IN BONAIRE.  BONAIRE IS THE WINTER HOME OF MANY DUTCH VISITORS.

TWO OF THE HOTTEST BARS ON THE ISLAND - KAREL'S ABOVE AND THE CENTRAL BAR ON THE WATERFRONT.  

Bonaire is known throughout the cruising world as the place you would most like to be if you love either snorkeling or diving.

It is an island in the Netherlands Antilles, and as such, is a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Together with Aruba and Curaçao it forms a group referred to as the ABC islands of the Leeward Antilles, the southern island chain of the Lesser Antilles. While Papiamentu, Spanish, and English are commonly spoken, the official language is Dutch.

Bonaire has a land area of about 100 sq. miles and about 14,006 inhabitants.  It is served by Flamingo International Airport. The island lies outside the hurricane belt.

Bonaire is world renowned for its excellent scuba diving and is consistently rated among the top shore diving and Caribbean diving locations in the world. Bonaire's license plates carry the logo Diver's Paradise (in English). The island is ringed by a coral reef which is easily accessible from the shore along the Western and Southern sides. Furthermore, the entire coastline of the island has been declared a marine sanctuary, preserving local fish life. Bonaire is also consistently recognised as one of the best destinations for snorkeling.

The coral reef around uninhabited Klein Bonaire is particularly well conserved, and it draws divers, snorkelers, and boaters.

Bonaire also has several coral reefs where seahorses are common.

Bonaire is also famed for its flamingo populations and its donkey sanctuary. Flamingos are drawn to the brackish water, which harbours shrimp they feed on. Starting in the 1500s, the Dutch raised sheep, goats, pigs, horses and donkeys on Bonaire, and the descendants of the goats and donkeys roam the island today.

Washington Slagbaai National Park, located at the north side of the island, is an ecological preserve. The highest point of Bonaire, Brandaris, located within this preserve has a complete view of the island.

Lac Bay, (also known as Lac Cai or Lac Cay) on the eastern side of the island, is a windsurfer's paradise. Locals Taty and Tonky Frans in 2004 were ranked in the top five of the world's freestyle windsurfing professionals.

Finally, Atlantis Beach, on the western part of the island, is the local kitesurfing spot.

Original Inhabitants

Bonaire's first inhabitants were the Caquetios Indians, a branch of the Arawak who, around 1000 AD, sailed from what is now Venezuela. Traces of Caquetio culture are at a number of archaeological sites, including those at Lac Bay and northeast of Kralendijk. Rock paintings and petroglyphs have survived at the caves at Spelonk, Onima, Ceru Pungi, and Ceru Crita-Cabai. The Caquetios were apparently a very tall people, for the Spanish dubbed the Leeward Islands 'las Islas de los Gigantes' (the islands of the giants).

Control

Bonaire was claimed for the Spanish by Amerigo Vespucci and Alonso de Ojeda in 1499. Under Spanish occupation, the natives were enslaved and transported to Hispaniola, but the island's physical resources were largely ignored. By 1526, the island was depopulated. That year, Juan de Ampues, regional governor, turned it into a cattle plantation and repopulated it with Indians.

In 1633, the Dutch, having lost the island of St. Maarten to the Spanish, retaliated by capturing Curaçao, Bonaire, and Aruba. While Curaçao emerged as a center of the slave trade, Bonaire became a plantation of the Dutch West India Company. A small number of African slaves were put to work alongside Indians and convicts, cultivating dyewood and maize and harvesting solar salt around Blue Pan. Slave quarters, rising no higher than a man's waist and built entirely of stone, still stand in the area around Rincon and along the saltpans as a grim reminder of Bonaire's repressive past.

The Netherlands lost control of the island twice, from 1800-1803 and 1807-1815. During these intervals, the British had control over the neighboring island of Curaçao, and, by extension, Bonaire. During the German occupation of the Netherlands during World War II, Bonaire was a protectorate of Britain and the United States.