Oct 6, 2015

Bonaire - A Great Destination

When John and I told people we were going to Bonaire most people would say, “Where is that?” Bonaire is 50 miles north of Venezuela and 86 miles east of Aruba.  Bonaire was part of the Netherlands Antilles until 2010 when it became a special municipality within the Netherlands. Most people speak Dutch, English, Spanish, and Papiamento (the island language). Dutch, English, and Spanish is taught in schools and Papiamento they learn at home.

We met many locals who were originally from Aruba or Curacao and they all said they preferred Bonaire because it was much quieter with less development. There are no stop lights and you can walk around Kralendijk, the capital, in an hour. The island is only 24 miles long and no more than seven miles wide.  Most people are not aware that Bonaire is one of the few islands that is out of the hurricane belt so any time of the year is a good time to visit.  It is always warm and sunny.

We stayed at the Divi Flamingo Beach Resort and Casino which was perfect.  The hotel just finished a multi-million dollar upgrade and we could walk into town.  There are two pools but I loved the larger one that was only steps from my waterfront accommodation. Poolside there are cabanas with curtains for added privacy or to provide shade.  I heard one young girl say, “There’s music in the water.”  People just nodded with a raised eyebrow but there really is music under the water as we all found out. Very cool.

A morning tour to the southern part of the island
includes information on Bonaire’s salt production.  I have seen many things in my years of travel including the salt flats in Thailand but nothing compared to the salt production on Bonaire.  The sea water is pumped into shallow holding basins by fragile looking windmills. The wind and sun make it more salty and then it goes into other salt pans where evaporation continues and it turns a sea green. In the last phase it turns a beautiful rose color. When the wind blows – which is usually does – the rosy salt pans become rimmed with white salt crystals.  Eventually the water evaporates completely until only the salt remains.  It is harvested and piled into huge white, Pyramid-shaped mountains of salt awaiting the arrival of ships to take it to all corners of the earth to be used in chemical production, water softening, pool treatment, deicing and as table salt.

At one time slaves labored in the salt works. Nearby are replicas of the small huts that were built to shelter the slaves. They were not constructed until the last years of slavery. Slavery was abolished on Bonaire in 1862. The worker’s families lived in the north part of the island and when permitted they would walk seven to 12 hours to the village of Rincon to visit their families. Rincon is nestled in a valley making it a safe place for their families. There are a variety of island tours that take visitors to the salt flats, Rincon, the Donkey Sanctuary, and other Bonaire must-sees but many people rent a vehicle and never learn the complete story of the salt flats and don’t understand the significance of the small yellow slave houses. The salt works is owned by Cargill and it is a shame that they have not built a museum in the area.