The Dutch seized the opportunity to produce salt on the flat land of the south and imported thousands of slaves to work in horrifying conditions. In 1850, huts were constructed to serve as camping facilities for slaves (the slave huts remain today, a starling reminder of the past). Each Friday afternoon, slaves would walk 7 hours to the storehouse in Rincon to spend the weekend with their families, returning to their huts each Sunday. Now the storehouse, the second-oldest stone building on Bonaire, contains a small museum about the nature, geology and history of Bonaire.
The salt factories were closed when slavery was abolished in the 18th century but later reopened after WWII with machines doing most of the hard work. The revival of the industry combined with booms in tourism and diving, provided a real boost to the economy.
Small but perfectly formed, the Terramar Museum opened in 2016. The museum provides an overview of the history and archaeology of Bonaire in detail with an assortment of artefacts and audio clips.
Warm weather, crystal-clear waters and abundant marine life, Bonaire has everything you’d want in a Caribbean cruise. Known as one of the best Caribbean islands for scuba diving, Bonaire has it all for those aqua adventurers. But if you don’t want to spend all your time in the water, there’s lots to do on land too.
When you think of Bonaire, stunning architecture may not be the first thing that springs to mind. But Kaya Grandi certainly delivers with its colourful colonial-style buildings that date back to the late 1800s. The perfect spot to take a stroll and immerse yourself in Caribbean culture, Kaya Grandi has many shops and art galleries for you to peruse.
Mountain biking or leisurely cycling have become a popular way to explore Bonaire. There are many trails designed for getting around on two wheels that enable you to discover areas of Bonaire you usually couldn’t. Follow along the picturesque coastlines, stop for a picnic or a swim and snorkel on a guided cycling trip.
Windsurfing and kitesurfing are popular pastimes in Bonaire. Atlantis Beach provides the perfect conditions for kitesurfers – enjoy strong offshore winds and equally warm temperatures here. Not only is Lac Bay fantastic for windsurfers, it’s great for guided kayak trips and solar-powered boat excursions too.
Bonaire is known for its many dive sites, most of which are strung along the western side of the island. The closeness of the reefs, the clarity of the waters and the system of marking the sites combine to make for unparalleled access for divers. Conservation is taken seriously, so divers new to Bonaire must do an orientation and check-out dive at a local dive shop, to get comfortable with weights, conditions and park rules.
Bonaire is known for its love for nature. It has become tradition for each generation to understand just how important the environment is and to work together to preserve it. Which is why Bonaire developed a master plan to control the development of the island without harming its natural wonders.
The Bonaire National Marine Park is Bonaire’s main attraction – with miles of pristine coral reef to explore, the area entices many divers and snorkelers. The park covers the entire coast of the island to a depth of 200ft and is a protected area. Bonaire’s fringing coral reefs are home to almost every species of coral and more than 340 species of fish, making it one of the healthiest and most bio-diverse reefs in the region.
Lac Bay, on the island’s south-eastern side, is a large inland bay that provides a critical habitat for green turtles and queen conchs. It is also a popular spot with windsurfers – thanks to steady trade winds and warm, shallow waters. Sheltered by mangrove forests, the northern side of Lac Bay is where wetland birds breed, and reef creatures mature. For views of the mangroves and sometimes even flocks of flamingos, head to The Kaminda Lac on the northern side of the bay.
Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire have been protecting endangered sea turtles since 1991. Their mission is to ensure that Bonaire’s sea turtles have a secure future and to inspire people to care for nature. Three mornings a week, travellers can accompany the STCB workers on their rounds monitoring the sea turtle nests on Klein Bonaire. STCB maintain careful records of all new and existing nests, count the egg shells and look for stragglers from any newly hatched nests.