Written by Mia:
The obvious reason to love Bonaire is the WATER – the color, the crystal clear clarity, the amazing and abundant fish that live there and the perfect temperature. We simply cannot get enough of the water in this place! It was the first thing that grabbed our attention and I don’t think we were tied up to the mooring a full 5 minutes before Teo dropped the swim ladder, ripped his clothes off and jumped in. Our three day passage from Grenada was enjoyable and even though it was the longest we have done just the three of us, it was smooth and uneventful and we were grateful to arrive. The crew from Maple came out and met us by dinghy and directed us to the last vacant mooring and helped us get tied up. Teo was super excited and immediately made plans to visit his friends.
As we began to explore this place, we fell for it more and more. We love the Dutch vibe and the laid back island feel. We have eaten amazing food at Bobbyjan BBQ, empanadas at the upstairs lunch bar, devoured the ice cream, internet and air con for boat school at Luciano’s and Gio’s and enjoyed wandering through town which seems to have everything you could need, plus it also boasts cool land wildlife in the form of donkeys, iguanas and flamingos! Bonaire have secured themselves as a diver’s paradise and that means respect for the sea and the creatures that make it their home, especially the coral. Bonaire rightfully protect their environment and have forbidden anchoring so all boats use the moorings provided. These moorings are in the center of town, albeit the sleepy one of Kralendijk. We spent lots of time on the boat and around it in the gorgeous water surrounding us and time just floated away. We loved watching the sailing school sail the little boats that resemble ducklings, and our breakfast entertainment often included the swim team practice or the water polo tournaments, complete with goals and whistles. And we met a lovely couple who are currently building a house here and we are envious. This would be an amazing place to retire…so we are hoping they share their experiences with us. Hanging out with them gave us some perspective on our lifestyle and some thought provoking chats which we always welcome.
We joined the crews of Maple and Element for a couple of days of car rental so we could explore this island properly. There is unfortunately no public transportation system so renting a car is the way forward. We visited the Washington Slagbaai national park. At the entrance to the park there is a hands on open-air museum which was perfect to give us a little insight to the island. And then we started on the longer of the two drives and it was incredible! We were impressed with all the cactus we saw, the proper ones that look like the ones from the cartoons which they even use to build fences, but they do this very carefully with special tools! We were all impressed with the rugged, lunar-like coral covered windward side with its blowholes, pounding surf and dramatic views. Everyone loved lunch at the dramatic beach with body surfing and shady coral overhangs. In the afternoon the highlight was the sighting of flamingos which really are as pink as the plastic ones you find in yards in Florida. They are awe inspiring creatures and we just stood and watched them, I would have stayed for hours. On the way back through Rincon, the other major town of the island, we stopped at a very cute distillery called Cadushy, where the owner creates small batches of yummy brews to honor all the Dutch Caribbean islands, and the royal couple even came to visit and gave a wink of approval. The guy behind this gem really loves what he does and he uses ingredients from the island, like cactus. We got to test taste them at their adorable bar. No car trip is complete without some provisioning and we stopped at the luxury that is Van den Tweel on the way home.
On day two we explored windward beaches, with gorgeous coral and shells. To our delight there were more salt plains with more flamingos and so we lingered and took lots of photos. The nearby slave huts are still intact to remind us of the bleak history of the Caribbean in general and this island in particular. It’s an important part of the history and we have been touching on it in various places along the way. I felt I had to pinch myself as we ate a relaxing picnic lunch in the shade of a lighthouse. As we came around the corner we saw lots of different colored pools where they harvest salt and explored the area around the salt pier where the ships come to load salt. The whole area is a crazy rainbow of color, light and flying foam and there were giant salt crystals to harvest. Bonaire has 86 dive sites with 57 species of soft and stony coral and 350 species of fish, so no day out is complete without a peek under the sea. Many of these sites are delightful for both diving and snorkeling, and they are marked by rocks painted yellow with the name written in black. We dragged ourselves out of the sea and headed on a donkey search. We got lucky and on our way to the Donkey Sanctuary, we had our own up close donkey encounter on the side of the road. Looking into their eyes, it seems you can sense their calm and wise souls. We made one last stop for a swim in a huge, waist deep bay in a place that begs you to come back with a bbq and a lot of time. Bonaire had another great treat in store for us and two flamboyances (the perfect collective noun) of flamingos flew over. They look stunning with their black tipped feathers and distinctive black beaks. It was breathtaking!
We loved this place both on land and in the sea. One day we joined Maple to 1000 steps, a favorite dive site, where the snorkeling was incredible. The soft corals were gorgeous and we hung out with a baby turtle for a long time. Teo and I really enjoyed swimming in the divers’ bubbles which look gorgeous and tickle like a jacuzzi. And upon returning to our mooring I even got the chance breathe through a regulator which allowed me to stand on the bottom of the sea-what a peaceful, surreal experience! One day we took Itchy Foot to Klein Bonaire for the day. We sailed both ways and enjoyed a wonderful day of snorkeling and empanada lunch. We enjoyed the sailing for the sake of it and we returned with a Boat.lad of happy faces. Jon managed to check a few boat jobs off the list while Teo and I had the pleasure of joining Ad Astra on two occasions. They generously open their boat to a collection of people wanting to dive. These days were lovely to see new places to dive, meet people, and to share lunch or dinner together. It was fun to hang out with the divers and even though we were just snorkeling, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement as the prepare to descend. The sense of community in Bonaire is really lovely and it is a good thing we had a good reason to leave because otherwise it would have been hard to pry ourselves away.