Bonaire is an island in the Caribbean and the capital is Kralendijk. At the 10th of October 2010, the island of Bonaire acquired the status of extraordinary municipality of the Netherlands, just like Sint Eustatius and Saba. The Netherlands Antilles were dissolved as a separate state and that state as such no longer exists.
Bonaire's earliest known inhabitants were the Caquetio Indians, a branch of the Arawak who came by canoe from Venezuela in about AD 1000. Archeological remains of Caquetio culture have been found at certain sites northeast of Kralendijk and near Lac Bay. In 1499, Alonso de Ojeda arrived in Curaçao and a neighboring island that was almost certainly Bonaire. Ojeda was accompanied by Amerigo Vespucci and Juan de la Cosa.
In 1526, Juan de Ampies was appointed Spanish commander of the ABC Islands. The Spanish inhabitants lived mostly in the inland town of Rincon which was safe from pirate attack.Bonaire was conquered by the Dutch in March 1636. The Dutch built Fort Oranje in 1639.While Curaçao emerged as a center of the slave trade, Bonaire became a plantation of the Dutch West India Company. During the Napoleonic Wars, the Netherlands lost control of Bonaire twice, once from 1800–1803 and again from 1807–1816. During these intervals, the British had control of the neighboring island of Curaçao and of Bonaire. The ABC islands were returned to the Netherlands under the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814. During the period of British rule, a large number of white traders settled on Bonaire, and they built the settlement of Playa (Kralendijk) in 1810.
On 10 October 2010 the Netherlands Antilles was dissolved, making Bonaire a public body of the Netherlands.
Bonaire has a land area of 288 km², while Klein Bonaire is a further 6 km². Bonaire's population is about 15,000 inhabitants.The island is ringed by a coral reef which is easily accessible from the shore along the western and southern sides. Furthermore, the entire coastline of the island has been declared a marine sanctuary, preserving local fish life. The coral reef around uninhabited Klein Bonaire is particularly well preserved, and it draws divers, snorkelers, and boaters. The highest point of Bonaire, the mountainous Brandaris, 240 metres high, located within this preserve, has a complete view of the island.
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Although officially the Flamingo Sanctuary is off-limits to tourists, visitors with a strong pair of binoculars can see these beautiful creatures enjoying their everyday life in relative quietness and peace. Other flamingo-viewing spots which are open to the public are for exampl enear the Willemstoren lighthouse at the southern tip of Bonaire.
Another example of nature is this national park which covers the northwest portion and almost 20% of the island. Washington-Slagbaai National Park is a magnificent place to explore.
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Late February/early March sees the most colorful and spectacular festival of the island’s calendar and is one of the best times of the year to visit Bonaire. No matter where you go, it is virtually impossible to escape the party atmosphere and the beat of the Caribbean drum once it’s in full-swing. The most elaborate and hedonistic celebrations tend occur on the streets of Kralendijk where everybody puts on crazy costumes and does away with their inhibitions. The dancing, drink and downright debauchery goes on for days with music, fireworks and huge parades.
A folk festival held in April, the celebration was originally a harvest event. Originally farmers, with the assistance of friends and family, would head to the fields to rake in the crop. It remains a family-orientated day with lavish feasts thrown, which tend to include signature dishes such as goat soup, giambo (okra soup) and repa (pancakes). The wapa, a traditional dance which involves rows of people moving simultaneously, is a highlight and sees most townsfolk join in.
Bonaire has hosted this dive festival every June since 1997, which focuses primarily on conservation. Non-profit organization CORAL (Coral Reef Alliance) hold the event annually in order to raise awareness of the preservation of marine beauty. The two-week event includes seminars, environmental awareness projects, underwater dives and cocktail parties.
Held every July, Bonaire’s jazz fest has been running since 2005. The main event takes place on Saturday night, while many other concerts and activities are held across the area. Each year, hundreds of visitors and established musicians head to the island for a number of workshops and interactive events help to promote jazz and music among the young population.
An annual sailing event every October, the Bonaire regatta includes a variety of boat races along the coast. Vessels from around the world come to compete, while numerous windsurfing and freestyle competitions take place. After sunset, attention turns back to the shoreline, notably the Sea Promenade, Wilhelmina Park and Kralendijk, where jovial, usually booze-fueled, social events go on late into the evening.
The island of Bonaire has a very pleasant and constant climate. This means warm and humid weather yearround but with almost constant sea breezes cooling things of a bit. Temperatures average around 30 °C during the day, cooling of somewhat to 23 °C at night. Most rain falls between October and February but compared to the islands more north in the Caribbean it doesn't rain that much. July and August are high season and therefore the drier months of March to June are the best time for a visit.
Flamingo International Airport or Bonaire International Airport (BON) is where all international flights and flight from other islands of the Netherlands Antilles arrive and depart. Arkefly (website in Dutch) and KLM fly there from Amsterdam. The latter has connections onwards to both Quito and Guayaquil in Ecuador. Other services include those to Houston, Miami, New York, Atlanta and Cartagena in Colombia. Finally, there are some seasonal flights to Paramaribo and Caracas and connections to Aruba.
There are not currently any passenger ferries operating to or from Curaçao or Venezuela. Cruise ships do increasingly visit Bonaire, especially "in season" (winter). Some shops and restaurants may remain open extra hours to cater to their passengers.
Rental cars are available at the airport and at many hotels. Reservations are strongly suggested as, especially during peak times, all vehicles may be rented. You can drive around the entire island in a couple of hours!
There is an informal bus system on the island that utilizes vans. There are a small number of medium sized tour buses on the island as well.
Uou can use different Bonaire Water Taxis including and the Seacow Watertaxi.
Private boat moorage is available. Dive operators operate boats to many dive sites including those located off the small uninhabited island of Klein Bonaire. Some boat operators also specialize in snorkel tours and there are regularly scheduled passenger boats to Klein Bonaire. Some include the Woodwind, Bonaire Pirate Cruising, Oscarina, Bowalie and more.
Bicycle rentals are available. Scooters, motorcycles, golf carts, are also available for rent.
See also Money Matters
The Antillean Guilder (Naf) is the official currency for Bonaire. It is also known as the Florin or Gulden and is subdivided into 100 cents. Note denominations are 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 250 NaF. Coin denominations are 5, 2.5, 1, 0.5, 0.25, 0.1, 0.05, and 0.01 cents.
The Guilder is fixed to the US dollar at an exchange rate of 1.79:1.
In November 2008, it was decided to introduce the US dollar on Bonaire, just like for Sint Eustatius and Saba. This transition is scheduled for January, 2011. From that time, The US Dollar, or "greenback", will be the national currency of Bonaire. One dollar consists of 100 cents. Frequently used coins are the penny (1¢), nickel (5¢), dime (10¢) and quarter (25¢). 50¢ and $1 coins also exist, but are rarely used. Frequently used banknotes are the $1, $5, $10 and $20 notes. $2, $50 and $100 notes can also be found, but are rarely used.
Dutch is the official language of Bonaire, as it is part of the Netherlands. The most widely spoken language is the creole language Papiamentu.
Bonaire has many restaurants and quite varied cuisine given the overall island population. "Aki ta Bende Kuminda Krioyo" will inform a visitor that local-style food is available, generally heavy on soups, stews, fried foods and fish. Traditional foods that may be found on the menu include conch, cacti, wahoo and rock lobster. Much of the fish is caught locally by line fishermen in season. Though traditionally eaten, iguana is not generally served in restaurants.
Bonaire has little in fast food, though there is the "smallest KFC franchise outlet in the world" in a shopping plaza by Kralendijk and a Subway sub shop. Check out "Swiss Chalet", a local favorite serving Fondu. Bobbejan's is an extremely popular weekend-only barbeque joint. Other cuisines common on the islands are Argentine, Italian, Indonesian, Suriname, and lots and lots of Chinese. Island-made ice cream is available in many places, with Lovers Ice Cream being a local favorite. Arrive before noon, as they often sell out.
Almost all eateries are open for limited hours during the day, and many close briefly during siesta time between 2-3PM. Call or check ahead to determine if a restaurant is open for lunch, dinner, both, or only open on weekends. Some are closed certain days of the week, such as Sunday.
Despite the small size of the island, Bonaire has a lot of possibilities when looking for places to stay, from large resorts to small privately owned houses which you can rent on a daily basis. Along the coast you have multiple places that combine a dive school with cabañas where you can sleep for a moderate price. Most of the accommodations on the island are relatively small, averaging 15 rooms or less.
Several mid-size apartment complex devoted to tourists exist. These tend to be a bit more upscale than the smaller accommodations. There are several larger, more resort like places as well. These are still somewhat small, with only the Plaza Resort Bonaire and Captain Don's Habitat having over 100 rooms.
See also Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Bonaire. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Bonaire) where that disease is widely prevalent.
It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Bonaire. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and vaccination against hepatitis B and typhoid are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.
Dengue sometimes occurs as well. There is no vaccination, so buy mosquito repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. Also wear long sleeves if possible.
Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.
See also Travel Safety
There is little serious crime on Bonaire, however 911 can be used for emergencies. Secure your bicycles and scooters.
See also International Telephone Calls
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I am a Padi Dive Master and have spent 4 holidays on Bonaire. Bonaire is a special municipality of The Netherlands and I am a Dutch citizen, meaning I live in the Netherlands.
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