any mention of the beautiful island of Bonaire in the Dutch
Caribbean includes a remark about the underwater environment.
Bonaire boasts one of the first protected marine parks in the
world. The park
extends from the high tide mark to 200 feet (65 meters) below
the surface and surrounds the entire island Bonaire, and our
sister island, Klein
The coral reefs of the Bonaire Marine Park have made Bonaire
a favorite with scuba divers and snorkelers. And, many of the
local divemasters are amateur naturalists. They can help you
identify many of the underwater inhabitants and show you some
of our more unique ones like the Long-lure Frogfish. Special
courses and programs are available for any fish or coral lover. Information about the Bonaire Marine Park
is available at www.bmp.org.
island government has made great strides in
legislating protection for sea turtles, the
coral reef, conch, and the Lora parrot. In addition
many non-profit groups have formed to safe guard
certain creature or to protect the environment
through efforts like cleanups. The
Sea Turtle Conservaton Bonaire has been
making great strides educating the public and
conducting research. Volunteers are gladly accepted by all
environmental groups on Bonaire.
Yet most people know
very little about the above water environment of Bonaire. Bonaire is not
the tropical island many people envision as typical of the Caribbean.
There are some palm trees, but the lush vegetation is usually relegated
to the heavily watered grounds of hotels and private homes, as Bonaire
has primarily desert conditions. Large "Kadushi" cactus dot the landscape
with an almost impenetrable scrub of divi trees, thorny shrubs, and paddle
cactus. Goats and donkeys munch their way through the ground cover. In
many places you can see the traditional cactus fences made from living
cactus to keep out these omnivorous trespassers.
Donkey Sanctuary offers a great place to meet Bonaire's donkeys up
close. The sanctuary provides medical attention, food and water to over 400 donkeys. Bonaire's donkeys first came to Bonaire as working
animals, but were freed with the arrival of the automobile. Bonaire's desert
environment is much like their original home in Africa.
pans of the sea salt company as well as naturally formed "salinas"
make up much of the rugged, flat southern end of the island. The Flamingo
Sanctuary rests within these safe environs. No one is allowed in the
sanctuary as this is one of the few breeding places left of the flamingo.
With a strong pair of binoculars, you can see the nesting grounds. The
adult flamingos flying in "V" formations can be seen at dawn
and dusk. They fly between Bonaire and Venezuela where the most feeding
grounds are. Flamingos can also be seen at Goto Meer in the northern part
of the island, Lac Bay, or in Washington/Slagbaai park.
The remarkable mangroves
of Lac Bay house a surprising number of birds. Some are full-time
residents like the brown pelican, egrets, and the beautiful bright orange
breasted trupials, but many stop by for a rest and feeding during migratory
flights. Birders should bring their binoculars for this special opportunity.
Lac Bay is also a breeding ground for the endangered Queen conch and the
sea grasses provide a favorite feeding spot for sea turtles.
Journey to the north and the foliage becomes
lusher and the terrain steeper, but only to
the maximum of 754 feet on Mt. Brandaris. The
northern third of the island is Washington/Slagbaai
park. The land which makes up the park was
formerly used as plantations for aloe and goats.
However, since its conversion to a park in the
mid-1900s, the park's land has quickly reverted
back to its natural state. The mostly dirt roads
of the park can be traversed by car, with lizards of all sorts, including
large iguanas, among the roadside attractions.
Among the park's special features are several
secluded beaches, a lighthouse, and old plantation
buildings. Here is where you might catch a glimpse
of our parrot, the Lora, a sub-species of the
green shouldered Amazon. A more common sight
is the smaller parrot look-alike, the Prikitchi,
which is really a parakeet. The park is a fabulous
area for bird watching or just absorbing nature.
cave formations abound in the northern half
of Bonaire. These caves and alcoves for homes
for many of our fauna. On the tourist road north,
you can see prikitchis perched in the cliff
faces. Several species of bat call Bonaire home.
Some eat fruit and others insects. Please don't
enter any caves you may happen upon. Many of
them are home to these very shy bats.
Whether you're snorkeling,
diving, hiking, walking, cycling or driving, Bonaire's nature is right
where you can experience it. Various guides to the plants, animals,
fish and coral Bonaire can be purchased at local hotels and shops
plus at the Bonaire Marine Park offices. If you
are interested in picking some up books before you arrive, try our bookstore selections.
more information about Bonaire,
visit InfoBonaire or Bonaire