I fell in love with Bonaire from the moment I set foot on it. It’s bursting with subtle beauty – earthy colored official buildings across the port and multicolored ones just a little inside – but the true magnificence of this Dutch municipality is for those that are adventurous enough to seek it…underwater.
A tiny, almost flat island, Bonaire has a friendly minimalist feel to it. Don’t get fooled by the quietness of the town though – even when a couple of cruise ships are docked on the port – for it has enough activities to keep the sea-loving naturalist in you delighted and excited.
Whether visiting Bonaire for a day or longer, you cannot go away without exploring its underwater exquisiteness. The corals, the fish, there’s as much beauty surrounding the island as there is on the surface and the sights are just out of this world making Bonaire one of the premier destinations for snorkeling. As it also happens, Bonaire is the very first place I ever snorkeled, and maybe that’s why it will always be special to me.
The best way to explore Bonaire is by walking its streets – unless you want to hire a quad-bike and head to the hills to explore some natural greenery that the island cultivates or to a beach to catch some rays – admiring the various buildings that add a bit of history and culture to it all the while inserting a dash of colour to the surroundings.
It’s easy to get carried away as the island makes you feel welcomed and the coziness is comforting enough to make you want to stay a little longer. It’s a place where you don’t want to do anything but lounge around, relax, maybe visit a bar in the evening, and then let the time just roll on by. Be-warn though, if like me you’re part of a cruise, the ship won’t give two hoots about this and will leave you behind.
What makes Bonaire all the more special is the people that inhabit it. The locals are convivial and add a certain charm and attractiveness to the region. As the tourism industry is one of the main forms of revenue, you will see them displaying their artistic talents and/or operating miscellaneous tourist driven activities, but rest assure, no one is pushy or hassles, instead get used to being greeted with a broad smile everywhere you go.
Bonaire packs in a two-in-one deal as it comes along with its own little islet, Klien Bonaire. Long ago, this little flat piece of land served as a Chlorella check-post where ships would have to stop and the passengers were medically examined before they could proceed to Bonaire. Klien Bonaire till the 1970’s was a private island that was later bought by the government of Bonaire – with the help of the locals and authorities – so as to keep it raw and undeveloped to save the natural fauna and flora of the region. The waters around Klien Bonaire are brimming with life and energy of which the locals are extremely protective.
Bonaire struck the right chord for me as it has remained “undeveloped” by choice. The locals believe that the natural beauty of the region needs to be preserved and thus very few “modern” constructions have been allowed over the years.
In fact, so passionate are they about nature that surrounds them, the locals even use it as part of their humour routine; Take the “Tourist Tree” for example:
I’m not sure how many people got the joke when our guide informed us of this wonderful tree on our way to a Woodwind Sail & Snorkel Tour (highly recommended) in Bonaire.
She introduced it as the “Tourist Tree”.
While we waited for her to carry-on the conversation, when it wasn’t forthcoming, curiosity got the best of someone in the group who finally after a minute asked her “Why?”.
“Because it’s RED and PEELING!” came a sarcastically flat, but well practiced, reply.
Now, I don’t plan on explaining the joke to you – which I found to be hilarious – because either you got it or you’re just not a sun person… which, to be honest, is a shame!
Bonaire is quintessential island life; uncomplicated and self-indulging, it is full of so much splendor and simplicity that it makes you realize how hectic life can get back home as we juggle our duties trying to make it through another day. The people and their obsession towards keeping the island as natural as possible is truly exemplary.
Just remember – whenever you are there – to make the most of your time on the island, for it will leave a little mark on you, that will make you yearn for it, even decades later.
A family vacation, a cruise – half way around the world, one of the severest winters seen by Europe, the warm Caribbean weather living up to its name; Captivating Caribbean is a small series where I shall cover some of the stops we made during this 14-day cruise. Hopefully these “photo-essays” with the occasional tips can give you a glimpse into island life in this part of the world.