Friday 19th October 2012
Bonaire is definitely one of our favourite Caribbean islands. The water is crystal clear and teeming with life. Looking over the side of the boat we can see right to the bottom, some 5 metres below, to the coral gardens. A school of sergeant majors constantly swims around the boat, frequently joined by parrotfish, snappers, angelfish, tangs and others I can’t name. The colours are wonderful. Occasionally a couple of enormous tarpon swim lazily by. We have spent a lot of our time here in the water, just floating and watching.
Ashore, the island has a nice feel to it. We arrived just as they were preparing for Regatta week, and enjoyed the opening parade and entertainment.
The opening parade of Regatta week National flags from countries taking part in the Regatta.
We enjoyed watching yachts of all shapes and sizes racing in the waters just off our stern, and volunteered as safety boat in the RIB for the charity swim out to Klein Bonaire and back, a distance of probably about a mile. Around 300 swimmers took part, some obviously serious sportspeople in competitive mood, others in it for the experience and fun. We hauled one exhausted young man out of the water and took him back to dry land, but most completed the swim, some with an admirable degree of determination. One lady waved us over, but far from asking for a lift back to shore, she asked if we had a cigarette! Di from Sinbad, whom we met through Rico & Jackson, completed the swim in 45 minutes and was justifiably proud of herself.
The island itself is very dry and arid, having less rainfall than many of the Caribbean islands. It has a population of around 14,000, so is not at all crowded, and everyone we met was friendly and helpful. The laundry was some way out of town, but offered a free taxi service there and back – so all we had to do was phone and someone would come and collect us. The launderette was probably the biggest I have seen so far, with around fifty machines, aircon and free wifi.
Kralendijk, the main town, has a small shopping centre with several dive shops, clothes and souvenir shops aimed at tourists, and best of all, two ice-cream shops! We liked the first one we went in so much, we never tried the second! There were enough flavours to keep us going for weeks, and we took every opportunity to try them out.
So much choice…decisions, decisions…. Strawberry & coconut for Steve, Mango & coconut for me. Yum!
Mary and Rod on Sheer Tenacity arrived towards the end of Regatta week, having delayed leaving Grenada for a few days. We hired a car together and spent a day touring the island. First stop was the Washington Slagbaai National Park, which involved driving around on mud roads. We had deliberately hired an SUV as normal saloon cars are not allowed in the park, and we soon found out why. Steve thought he could make it through a rather large puddle, but found he couldn’t, and it took several attempts to get out, with Rod giving a push to help it along. Fortunately time spent in the bush in South Africa had taught him how to avoid ending up covered in mud!
The puddle we got stuck in!
Fortunately Steve is a fast learner, and we didn’t get stuck again, though we did a fair bit of slipping and sliding! The road took us up to the north coast and it was very bare.
Arid landscape on the north of the island.
Flat land, covered in tall cacti. We saw very little wildlife – iguanas and a few birds.
Having stopped several times for a meander around and to have a picnic lunch by the sea, we arrived back at the entrance to the park several hours later, and were amused to see the unusual signs outside the loos:
These cacti indicate which loo one should use!
We left the National Park and headed off to the south of the island where the salt hills testify to the success of the salt pans. Having closed down after the abolition of slavery, they began production once more after WWII using modern machinery. There are reminders of the past near the salt pans, as replicas of the slave houses show how the slaves would have lived, and coloured obelisks remain – these showed the captains of the ships that came to collect the salt where they needed to moor in order to collect the grade of salt they wanted.
The orange obelisk and slave houses. A slave house.
Piles of salt awaiting collection.
Back at Kralendijk, we parked the car and set off back to the dinghy dock, which just happened to be at Karels Beach Bar and just by chance time for Happy hour….