15 – 24 March 2012
Time to leave the Venezuelan Islands and head ever westward once again, next stop Bonaire. Another brisk downwind sail in 25 knots of wind and seas around 2 metres, these conditions seem to be the norm these days. Once we came around the bottom of Bonaire we were into flat water, hard on the wind with just the head sail up, heeled over and doing over 8 knots, Skipper was having so much fun and I was remembering how much I disliked being heeled over, and this was without the main!! The heavens opened for free Caribbean boat wash on our final approach, we rolled in the headsail and headed for the mooring buoys off Kralendijk, Bonaire’s main town.
You can not anchor in any of Bonaire’s waters, it is all a marine park. Diving holidays are the main source of income on the island and the preservation of the underwater life is taken very seriously. We had 9 nights tied up on the mooring buoy ($10US a night), tropical fish both big and small lived under the boat and in the coral patches just metres from shore. It is a snorkelers and divers paradise, just being able to walk out from shore into waters teaming with fish and coral is wonderful.
We found the best snorkelling on the small island of Klein Bonaire, we did dinghy excursions over there and explored the shallow waters close to shore where we could see all the fish up close, then out to the deeper waters by the drop offs where land fell away into dark depths. The fish life was exceptional, never before have we seen so many big fat parrotfish. The water still wasn’t that warm if you wanted to stay in for any length of time so our wetsuits came out of retirement, they also protected us from a few little biteys, which we think were tiny jellyfish.
The stronger winds we had experienced in the Venezuelan Islands eased while we were in Bonaire, so pleasant to have around 15 knots and peaceful nights, (except for an invasion of flying fish one night which sure got our attention) the seasons should start to change soon bring the beginning of more favourable conditions. There was quite a lot of cloud cover around so we tried to time our snorkelling excursions for when the skies were clear, it makes such a difference to the underwater colours if the sun is out and shining through, it wasn’t always possible but we did our best and were rewarded with more vivid colours.
We hired a car with David and Brenda on Bandit for a day and explored the rest of the island. First we followed the coast up to the northern part which is all National Park, inland was dry scrubland interspersed with cacti, home to many lizards, some of which were too busy lying in the sun to take any notice of approaching cars, its a good thing there is not much traffic! The National Park had a small interesting museum showing the history of Bonaire, and a reconstructed skeleton of a whale that was recently impaled on the bow of a cruise ship! There are some hiking trails through the park but the temperature is heating up and there wasn’t much shade so we gave hiking a miss.
We moved on down to Rincon, the first area to be settled on the island as it was inland and away from the pirates. It seems once the threat of being attacked by pirates passed its inhabitants moved onto greener pastures, there is not much in Rincon these days, not even a cafe for our much needed caffeine hit. So it was a detour back through Kralendijk before exploring the bottom of the island. I should add that Bonaire is a small island.
The south is very flat and we found where all the tourists go when they are not diving or snorkelling – they are enjoying the waters in and around Lac Bay, a world famous windsurfing destination. The sandy beach and lagoon area are protected by an outer reef, the water is shallow and flat and the wind whistles through. Lining the beach were a few shacky bars, windsurfing schools and hire shops. Everyone seemed to be chilling out and having a good time.
There are salt flats down the east coast, the salt is still collected and exported. The colours were great, pastel pink flats, hazy blue skies and snow white pointy piles of salt. Pink flamingos wade nearby, not as many as we had hoped but great to see them standing proudly.
The last “attraction” were the freshly painted Slave Huts. They look rather cute painted in bright white or terracotta, the grey sea and stormy sky as a backdrop, but they show a dark side of Bonaire’s past when slaves were kept here to work in the salt flats. Up to 26 slaves were housed in these tiny structures, if you look at the photo at the top with us standing next to one you will see that they are not very big.
Bonaire was a great stop, the moorings handy to the small town, most things within walking distance. It had a touch of Holland to it, but not a very pronounced one yet it didn’t really feel Caribbean either, it is a unique destination. It was time to move ever westward, the forecast promised under 2 metre seas and 15 knots of wind for our next day sail to Curacao, now wouldn’t that be nice.
For our Cruising and Tourist info on Bonaire on our Balvenies Cruising Info blog click here