Background Information on Bonaire

“The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.”

Location

Bonaire is part of the ABC Islands, along with Aruba and Curacao.  Bonaire lies 30 miles to the east of Curacao and 50 miles to the north of Venezuela.  Bonaire is approximately 39 km long and between 5 – 8 km wide.  Bonaire is a largely flat, dry, river-less island, which is below the Caribbean hurricane belt.  The temperature is generally 27 degrees Celsius or 81 degrees Fahrenheit.

Environment

All of the Bonaire and Klein Bonaire’s surrounding water forms a National Park that has been protected since 1979. For those who wish to dive or snorkel, there is a nature fee of $25 for diving (included in the diving fee is entrance to the Washington Slagbaai National Park) and $10 for all others interested in water-sports such as snorkeling, swimming, windsurfing, kiting, etc. With easy access to diving and snorkeling from the shore, as well as clear, calm water, Bonaire attracts many tourists to its waters.

A Brief History of Bonaire

Bonaire’s first inhabitants were Arawak Indians who sailed from Venezuela around 1000  AD.  The first European settlers were the Spanish, who claimed Bonaire for their country in 1499. The Spanish found little value to Bonaire, however, enslaving the local Indians to work on plantations on other islands, leaving the island largely unoccupied. In 1526, cattle were introduced to the island, and later sheep, pigs, horses and donkeys joined them. These were raised more for their skins than their meat.

Bonaire, along with Curacao and Aruba, were taken by the Dutch in 1633.  Curacao was the center for slave trade and Bonaire became a plantation island for the Dutch West Indies Company, who used the African slaves to propagate maize and harvest salt.  Remnants of those days can still be seen today with the salt pans and slave huts on the south end of the island.

Although Bonaire changed ownership numerous times, it was in 1816, as a result of the Treaty of Paris, that it returned to Dutch ownership.  Salt was an extremely valuable commodity in the early days as a way to preserve food, and was an endless resource. Slaves were used to harvest the salt until slavery was abolished in 1863, causing the salt harvesting to slow for nearly a hundred years until Cargill revitalized the industry, leaving it operational still to this day.

Bonaire, along withB Saint Eustatius, Saba, Aruba, Saint Martin and Curacao, made up the Netherlands Antilles until 2010, when the constitutional structure changed.  Since 2010, Saint Martin and Curacao have become separate countries within the Kingdom, much like Aruba did in 1986.  The Kingdom is officially made up of four equal countries; the Netherlands, Aruba, Curacao and Saint Martin.  Saint Eustatius, Saba and Bonaire chose to remain as part of the Netherlands, alternatively dubbed as the ‘Caribbean part of the Netherlands’.

Bonaire Day Trip – 14/12/2017

After a lot of effort to find a car to hire for the day we ended up getting a pickup truck to share with Totem, Adults in the cab, kids in the back.  The aim to see as much of Bonaire in one day as we could.

Slave Huts – by Max Deeley

Our first stop were the slave huts and obelisks. The slave huts were built in 1850 to house the slaves that were working in the salt ponds.  The slaves would collect the salt and take it to the ships.  Salt is Bonaire’s most exported product. Every Friday the slaves would walk for seven hours to Rincon to spend the weekend with their friends and families. The slaves would then return on Sunday to continue their work. The four obelisks were shore markers to guide ships that were coming in to load salt and were painted white, orange, red and blue which are the colours of the Dutch flag.

Tristan in front of one of the slave huts looking a bit like Gulliver.  Tristan, Mairen, Ava and Siobhan in front of the white slave huts.

Salt Pans – Max

The next stop was the salt pans and the flamingo reserve, although you could not enter either, you can see the pans, machinery and flamingos from the road. The Dutch took over Bonaire from the Spanish in 1620s and also the salt production.  The salt production slowed after the abolishment of slavery in 1863. Today the Cargill Corporation is responsible for the production of salt and Bonaire’s booming salt industry which produces 400,000 tons of salt crystals a year, 30% of this salt is used for table salt. Flamingos, which are protected by the law and can be seen in the salt pans.  The salt in the salt pans stimulate the growth of plankton and aquatic invertebrates which is what the flamingos eat.

Flamingo on the salt pans

Willemstoren Lighthouse – Max

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The third stop was the Willemstoren Lighthouse. It was the first lighthouse in Bonaire, built in 1837. The locals now go there to collect driftwood in many different shapes and make pyramids out of objects on the shore. The driftwood that is collected is used for various things, often tourist-related.

The lighthouse is easily reached, just pull off the side of the road when you see it on the south end of the island. While you are not able to go inside the lighthouse you can walk around the outside of it.

Lac Bay – Tristan

On our drive to Lac Bay we spotted this wild donkey.  He was a little shy, Max took a carrot but he wouldn’t come close.

Lac Bay and a whip tail blue lizard

Donkey Sanctuary – Ava Deeley

In 1993 a Dutch couple, Marina Melis and Ed Koopman set up a donkey sanctuary in Bonaire to protect and help donkeys in need.

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Marina, the founder of the sanctuary with the kids.

Donkeys in Bonaire die from dehydration, starvation, illness, car accidents, human abuse and foals being taken away from their mothers. Luckily many donkeys have been saved and nursed back to health and are now protected. There is also a Special Care Unit which have donkeys that are suffering from illness and also mothers and their foals. There are seven hundred donkeys in the sanctuary and a further four hundred more donkeys in the wild. Very little is grown in Bonaire so they have to import food pellets from Holland and they get hay from Venezuelan fishing boats.

Totem and my family drove around the donkey sanctuary in a pick-up truck. We brought packets of carrots which we fed to the donkeys from the back of the pick-up truck and we spent time petting them. We hopped out of the car and looked around at all the donkeys around us, we had some come up to us and nudge us with their noses to be patted. As we drove along again we had some donkeys trotting alongside us, others stood in the centre of the road to get us to stop and then they would surround us. Our last stop was the Special Care Unit, where we saw a 4-week-old foal who was brave enough to eventually walk up to us and we got to pat its fluffy little head.

In a matter of minutes of entering the gate we were surrounded by these lovely donkeys.

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Dad up close and personal with this donkey

Eventually the kids climbed out of the pick up and petted the donkeys.  Even after the carrots were all gone they were still happy for the attention.

Our final stop at the Donkey Sanctuary was the special care unit, which included this little girl, a four week old foul whose mum was rescued just before she was born.

Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire

You can bike, scooter, drive or walk around the sanctuary and they have carrots for sale or bring your own to feed the donkeys.

Open: Daily from 10 am – 5 pm, last entrance is 4 pm.

Cost: $7 US for Adults/$3.50 for U12

Contact Details:

https://donkeysanctuary.org/nl/

Email: info@donkeysanctuary.org

Phone: +599 95 607 607

Boka Onima – Indian Inscriptions – Ava

The Arawak Indians originally came from Venezuela and they came to Bonaire in wooden dugout canoes. Arawak Indians painted in red, symbols and pictures onto the cave walls at Boka Onima about 500 years ago. We stopped there to have a look at the cave walls, there were also whiptail blue lizards around the nearby cactuseand some were also sun bathing on the warm rocks.

The Indian Inscription and a whiptail blue lizard

Gotomeer – Ava

In the Northern end of Bonair there is a saltwater lake called Gotomeer which you can see flamingos, also called ‘pink clouds’. Gotomeer is beautiful with the lake, roads, trees and cacti spread out here and there. You can find the lake at the edge of Washington-Slagbaai National Park. The flamingos are so pink and pretty from the food that they eat.  They eat crustaceans which have beta-carotene in them and there is also beta-carotene in the plankton too, which gives them there pink colour. We stopped by briefly to have a look at the lake and at the flamingos.  There were lots of flies, but the flamingos were very pretty.

Gotomeer saltwater lake with its flamingos

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Echoe’s Conservation Centre – Tristan Deeley

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Brown Throated Parikeet of Bonaire

Echoe’s Conservation Centre (Yellow shouldered Amazon Parrot)

Tour the rescued and released parrots at Echo’s facility and walk through the dry forest.

Bring water with you and wear appropriate footwear for walking (not flip flops)

Open – Wednesday’s at 4.30, no booking necessary and you meet at the windmill at Dos Pos (near Gotomeer)  Lasts 1 – 1/2 hours.  Cost is donation based.

Private Tours – Are available at either 7 am or 5 pm by appointment 48 hours in Advance, with a minimum of two people, cost is $25 per person.  Bookings can be made online or by phone: +599 701 1188

http://www.echobonaire.org/

Gingerbread Houses – 14 – 15/12/2017 – Ava

Gingerbread houses originally came from Germany during the 16th century, although there are many different recipes for gingerbread.  People started liking the gingerbread houses even more when the story of Hansel and Gretel was written by the Brothers Grimm.

On the 14th of December my brothers and I, with my mother’s help started making gingerbread houses. At first it wasn’t going to well because one of my brothers’ house had started to lean forward like it was going to snap, then part of my roof broke but all was fixed with extra icing. I also made stained glass windows by breaking some hard candy and melting it in the oven, then sticking it to the back of the cut out whole I made in the front and back walls. Overall, they turned out okay, but they tasted even better.

My Gingerbread house complete with stained glass windows

Tristan’s gingerbread pyramid, he went a little overboard with the lollies

Max’s gingerbread house

Diving

With over 86 dive sites there are plenty to choose from, both directly from shore that are marked with a painted yellow stone with the dive site name on it and by boat, where you can tie directly to a yellow mooring buoy labelled with the site name.  Klein Bonaire also offers further dive sites that you can explore either by your own dinghy, water taxi if you have your own equipment or through a dive company.

You do need to pay a nature fee, which is $25 a calendar year, $10 for a one day dive or a $10 annual fee if you plan to do any other water activity.  For the annual fee you will be issued a circular tag to attach to your dive equipment or a diamond tag for all other water activities.  If you are planning to dive for just a day, you will be issued a paper licence.  You need to have the tag with you when diving or participating in a water activity.  You can pay for the nature fee at the dive stores, where they will provide you with a dive map and explain it to you, as well as suggesting dive sites.  The Stinapa Bonaire website can provide you with information about the marine park, nature fee and national park.

An interactive dive map can be found by clicking here. Alternatively there are downloadable dive maps if you want to plan your dive trip before you arrive which you can access by clicking here.

Dive site map

Dive map from the following URL: http://www.tourismbonaire.com/bonaire-dive-sites

There are beautiful, mature and a wide variety of coral on the fringing reef running on the western side of the island, as well as surrounding Klein Bonaire.  We did not see a lot large fish, even though it has been a marine sanctuary for over 30 years.  Early mornings and sometimes in the evenings we would find fishing boats behind our moored boats, fishing on the marine sanctuary reefs, possibly the reason for no large fish?  Nevertheless there is plenty to see in the beautiful, clear waters surrounding Bonaire.  So many dive sites, so little time.

Hilma Hooker – 15/12/2017 – Karen

Tristan, Andrew and I did a dive today on the Hilma Hooker Wreck.  The water clarity was excellent, the wreck clearly visible before we even descended.  Tristan and Andrew descended much quicker than me as I struggled to clear my ears, but I eventually got there.  On my descent I thought there was two sharks near Andrew and Tristan but as I got closer they were just large Tarpons.  There were a few tarpons lingering around the wreck.

The wreck is in excellent condition, with little growth on it, which was surprising as it has been down there for over 30 years.  Any hanging objects or things that make it dangerous for diving on wrecks have also been removed.  We started at the stern of the boat at about 100 feet and then worked our way to the bow and then along the other side before ascending.  There were a lot of smaller fish but apart from the tarpons we saw no other large fish while we were there.  Tristan did notice an interesting thing on the top side of the wreck was a steady stream of bubbles  coming out a small hole.  We later found out that after it sank, holes were cut into it so that the air exhaled by divers could escape.

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Hilma Hooker by J.M. van Rooij via http://maritime-connector.com/ship/hilma-hooker-5234515/

The wreck has an interesting history, launched in 1951 in the Netherlands, it is a 236 foot freighter.  The boat changed hands and names many times during its time from ‘Midsland’ to ‘Mistral’ to ‘Williams Express’ to ‘Anna C’ and then ‘Doric Express’ its moniker ‘Hilma Hooker’ will perhaps be what she is remembered as.  Although she sank in 1984, this was not her first sinking, having sunk in 1979 off of Dominican Republic before being raised, sold and renamed yet again.

It was in 1984 that the ‘Doric Express’ aka ‘Hilma Hooker’ had trouble off the coast of Bonaire, some say it was steering difficulties other say engine problems.  She was towed into port in Kralendijk, Bonaire, where after a search 25 000 pounds of marijuana was found.  The crew were arrested and the vessel impounded at the port, however no owner came forth for the boat.  The boat was in poor condition and leaked, requiring constant pumping to keep her afloat, the costly process and potentially dangerous situation resulted in the government, the tourist bureau and dive operators deciding to move the ship to Angel City another dive site, so that if she did sink she could be used as another dive site.

Hilma Hooker was moved to Angel City, where 5 days later she sank to the sea bottom.  Some believe the bilge pumps couldn’t keep up with the leak, others believe that dive operators may have helped her to sink. No one can say for sure.

Dive Information:

If you are doing a boat dive there are three buoys which you can tie up to, two at the bow end and one at the stern end.  If you are doing a shore dive follow the coastal road from Kralendijk heading south past the airport.  When you get to the Trans World Radio Station and tall transmission masts, just opposite this you will see the yellow rock marking this dive site.  There is plenty of parking there.

Reunion with Uliad

During 2012 we sailed with a number of kid boats (Relapse, Uliad, Miss Behaving) from Darwin, Australia through Indonesia and up to Singapore.  Andrew got an unexpected facebook message from Steve, off Uliad asking whether we would be in Bonaire around Christmas time.  As it turned out we did end up in Bonaire a couple of weeks before Christmas and stayed until Boxing Day and were fortunate to catch up with the Uliad crew; Steve, Kathleen and Emmett.

It was soooo lovely to catch up after 5 years and see how much all of our kids have changed and how the Ericksons have settled into life back in the States.  Its amazing how quickly you can pick back up a friendship as if no time has passed.  What I did find refreshing is how Cathleen and Steve, though now settled back into suburbia, still hold dear their family time, watch little TV and dislike the world’s need to constantly be connected on the phone instead of the face to face time with family and friends.  We were fortunate to catch up several times for drinks and a sweets/game night while reminiscing on past travels. 

The kids making sundaes, after eating brownies and cookies.

Christmas 2017

 

The kids decorated the boat at the start of December, while we were still in Martinique.  They had actually started making cork ornaments a few weeks earlier in Grenada in preparation for Christmas and had a great time doing it.

Once the tree was decorated, which doesn’t take long due to its size, they took it a step further and decorated Tristan and called him a Tristmas Tree, which they thought was hilarious.

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Andrew and Ava decided to keep their Christmas Eve tradition going of painting each others nails.  Andrew decided to go multi-coloured this year with green and red, while Ava opted for her new metallic blue nail polish given to her by Uliad.

T’was the night before Christmas and the Totem kids and ours decided to do a night swim off the boats.  Unfortunately it did not end well for all participants, with Max being stung by a jellyfish up one arm.  It appears that he not only has an allergy to wasps and bees but perhaps also jellyfish.  After a couple of days of antihistamine the swelling went down but it took 10 days before it completely went.  Poor Maxee.

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This was our first Christmas without Santa coming to the boat and without Josh with us, the kids told me its not the same now, Christmas has lost its magic. The kids all got a box of chocolate snails with their Christmas gifts, how French?

We did have a lovely Christmas dinner with a roast leg of lamb, baked ham and roast vegetables, followed by a baked cheesecake and rum balls. The kids also enjoyed some Martinique cider and eggnog.

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Luderitz – 8/3/2017 – 11/3/2017

“Life is short and the world is wide”

Luderitz is a small coastal town in the southern part of Namibia.  The town is known for not only its diamonds, but also nearby ghost towns and colonial architecture.

The bay where Luderitz is situated was discovered in 1487.  It wasn’t until the early 19th century that it was discovered that there was prolific number of whales, seals and fish as well as guano harvesting which established Luderitz as a trading post.  In 1883 land was purchased on behalf of Adolf Luderitz, from Bremen in Germany, from a local chief.  Luderitz died a few years later in 1886 after not returning from an expedition to Orange River and the town was named in his honor.

Luderitz Diamond Mining History – Karen

In 1907, a German railroad worker, August Stauch, asked fellow workers to keep an eye out for sparkling stones along the railroad tracks in the region.  A laborer found a diamond, prompting Stauch to resign from his job and start searching for diamonds.  In 1908 he found a few stones and once they were confirmed as diamonds the diamond rush began in Luderitz.

Authorities promptly established a prohibited area where only licensed miners, prospectors and laborers were allowed to go.  This diamond area in the Namib desert stretches from the Atlantic Coast to about 100 km inland and from the Orange River, bordering South Africa to 72 km north of Luderitz and covered an area of 26, 000 square km.  The diamonds in the desert were found on the surface of what was probably riverbeds in the past.  By WW1 about 7 million carats of diamonds had been mined.  In  1915 South Africa conquered the German rule over Namibia and by 1920 De Beers owned the diamond rights although under a different name at that stage.

In 1923 De Beers had the exclusive rights to mine for diamonds along the ocean beach from the Orange River north and over 80 years mined 65 million carats of large, high quality diamonds.

During the 1940’s the emphasis of diamond mining shifted to the shores and the sea and the De Beers headquarters relocated to Oranjemund.  Since 1961 the majority of mining is along the coast and a few km out to sea and led to the development of mining for the new environment like vacuum extractors, dredgers, probe drilling platforms and floating treatment plants.  Since 1994 the government of Namibia set up a new company which owns a 50:50 share with De Beers for mining.

Lüderitz still has several small satellite mines but these days tourism to nearby ghost towns in the desert is its main industry.  Today, namibia in general is the 6th largest diamond mining country in the world.

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Shallow inshore diamond boat, anchored in Luderitz

This is one of the diamond boats that was anchored near us in Luderitz.  Most of Namibia’s diamond mining is marine mining.  Divers operate within 30 m of either the shore or a small vessel.  The dives then use air lift dredging where they use the suction hose vacuums to suck up the alluvial gravel.  When the gravel gets to the surface its sorted and screened.  Larger vessels use dredgers to suck up the alluvial gravel and go to depths of between 30 – 80 meters.

The Town of Luderitz

We walked around Luderitz a few times getting a few more provisions and parts to make a few repairs.  One afternoon just Andrew and I went out for a walk around and looked at some of the large, wealthy homes and some of the colonial architecture.  The main road is paved but once beyond that its all sandy roads.

 

Downtown Luderitz

We did find a little oasis in Luderitz when we stopped at the garden cafe for a drink and cake.  The servings were large and I think I had the best carrot cake I have ever eaten and Andrew enjoyed his cheesecake.  We sat out in their lush little garden enjoying our food when a large tortoise walked by, he/she was very accustomed to visitors and paid us no attention at all.

Garden Cafe

The Garden Cafe does not have its own website, but if you click on the link you can read about it in lonely planet.  It does light meals as well as hot drinks, cakes, slices and cookies.  Its located on 17 Hafen Street, Luderitz.  Contact number: 081 124 831

Kalk Bay – February 2017

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

Andre Gide

We have spent the last couple of weeks provisioning and getting ready to leave South Africa, we decided to take a break and have a look for the first time at Kalk Bay.  Tristan was in Tanzania so it was just the four of us.  We enjoyed walking along the dock and seeing the sand sculptures before having fish and chips for lunch.

After lunch, we continued down the dock to where the fishing boats were and watched two different sea lions lumbering about on land and being fed fish by a local man.

We drove the Chapman’s Peak Rd from Kalk Bay back to Simon’s Town looking at the beautiful bays.  The Cape has been suffering drought for a few years and has suffered so many fires, this is so evident in the landscape.  At present there is less than 120 days of drinking water left, before people will have to  buy water.  Lets hope it rains soon.

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