We have been having a wonderful time in Bonaire. This has in-part been due to our having met some nice cruising families on nearby boats. But, the larger factor has been the wonderful island, people, culture, and amenities of Bonaire. Today I’d like to share some of what Karen I have enjoyed here.
Bonaire is part of the Netherlands Antilles. As with many Caribbean islands, the people here have organized and asked their government to allow them to separate politically and form their own self-governance. The Netherlands have come close to agreeing to this, but the approval has been postponed for many months now.
The main languages here are Dutch and English (as they mostly are in the Netherlands). Although, given the close proximity to Venezuela, there are also many who speak Spanish as well. Official currency is either Dutch Gilder or US Dollar. The culture here is very international, and you are likely to hear many other languages as well. Cruise ships also visit the main port every few days, and this of course can greatly impact the local culture (for a few hours). Yesterday the Caribbean Princess arrived and nearly doubled the local population since it carries as many as 3100 passengers!
Kralendijk is the main city, and is the home to the main ship port. Here you will find numerous restaurants and shops that both cater to the cruise ships and many other tourists to Bonaire. The population seems to be increasing quickly now. We spoke to some regular tourists who say there are many signs of growth – new housing developments, condos, and hotels. We rented a car and drove around the island and saw much evidence to support this. Like we saw with French islands like Martinique, there is much evidence of modern regulations and infrastructure. Well-designated roads, trash is well maintained, water seems safe, no evidence of a sewage problem. The island seems to be safe – we felt secure everywhere we went.
The main draw in Bonaire for other tourists is the local diving conditions. The local Bonaire government was smart, and has treated their environment as a precious commodity. They have treated their coastline and off-shore marine environment as a national park. No anchoring is allowed except in very strict locations. All diving activity is monitored and fees are charged which go toward supporting the park service. The result is that even in the main port, the coral life is nearly pristine.
There is a large wind-generation project on the northern coastline under construction. It looks large enough to potentially supply much of the island with electricity. This is a big change from most of the islands of the Caribbean which mostly use diesel/oil to supply power.
We have been diving right off the moorings where Tahina is parked near the main city. Although there are signs of pre-park abuse (tires, bottles, cans, and other trash in the deeper water), the coral reef and marine life is recovering nicely. The water is beautifully caribbean-blue clean with fantastic seeing conditions. There are many other designated diving sites all around the islands here.
It’s a shame we need to continue moving west. We would love spending more time in Bonaire. We hope Bonaire controls their growth and, if they are successful in their political changes, that they are able to maintain the infrastructure, environment, and culture they have developed thus far. We have noticed many of the west indies islands (which switched to self-governance many years ago) have experienced many challenges in maintaining the quality of their citizens lives, population control, their environment, and the necessary infrastructure to make self-governance a success.