Saturday, October 27, 2012

Bonaire - a very special little island

27 Oct 2012
Travelling buddies, Scott-Free, moored in Bonaire
Checking into Bonaire was a breeze........simple, efficient and friendly....."ons is altyd hier vir jou". The dialect of Dutch spoken here is very similar to our Afrikaans, unlike Dutch spoken in Holland and we found it easy to understand. 

Despite the frequent  thunderstorms, the terrain is dry and arid
It is a surprisingly rocky, dry and arid island with landscapes and vegetation more reminiscent of Namibia than of the Caribbean. There are very few sandy beaches, and this is one of the main reasons for the spectacularly crystal clear water, that make Bonaire a diving and snorkeling paradise.

Swimming off the back of the boat is like being in an aquarium, surrounded by pretty reef fish. Apart from these, we often saw 4 ft Tarpon cruising by, curious Baracudas hanging motionless, waiting for some prey to take their fancy, and the odd green turtle, looking in vain for a bit of sea grass. Pipe corals and brain coral are everywhere, and grow on the 3 ton mooring blocks for yachts, and even the old engine blocks that some of the locals use to moor their little fishing boats!

Stoplight parrotfish 
Juvenile Angelfish

Curious barracuda
Sergeant Major

French angelfish at the Stoplight
There is no anchoring in Bonaire, to protect the coral….. the only case we've seen in the Caribbean where this is genuine! There is a narrow shelf about 100 mts wide between the shore and the deep drop off, where one has to pick up a mooring buoy. They are well maintained and cost $10 per night.

Kaya Grandi......Main Road
 The main down town area is attractive, with an array of upmarket shops, aimed mainly at the cruise ship market. Karels Bar on the waterfront is the hang out where most yachtie cruisers meet.

Chilling in Karel's Bar
We hired a car with our friends, Steve and Chris (Scott-Free), and did an island tour to explore from the Washington Slagbaai Park in the north, to the salt pans in the south. The roads were muddy and slippery, but our driver, Steve did brilliantly and only got stuck once!

Stuck in the mud with Steve
Very pink flamingoes
The Park does not offer much by way of wildlife, apart from big Green Iguanas, flamingoes and Orange shouldered Parrots. The topography varies from back of the moon gravel and rocks, to cactus fields. The rocky coastline offers many crystal clear dive sites.
Green Iguana

A fossil amongst the jagged rocks

Unlucky Baleen

All the park buildings were neat and clean and the skeleton of a baleen whale (which arrived impaled on the bow of a cruise ship) ends up as an exhibit in the picnic area.

The super clean ablution blocks made interesting use of cactus paintings to depict the “His “ and “Hers”!

We returned to the anchorage after going around the salt pans, which are Bonaire’s other source of income along with tourism. Four coloured Obelisks (Red, Orange, Blue, White) were used to indicate the four different qualities of salt available to the merchant ships of old, who used to stock up here, The Orange area also has a reconstruction of the slave houses…. all 10 x 6ft of them with minute crawl-through doorways.

Restored slave quarters at the salt pans
Orange Obelisk

Anyone for salt?

With a big tropical Low building up in the Colombian basin, which weather guru, Chris Parker, was predicting could turn “Nasty”, we decided to sail the 36 miles to Curacao and anchor in the safe haven of Spanish Waters. We had to wait for a huge thunderstorm to pass over before leaving, but then had a gentle sail over to drop anchor in Spanish Waters;

The big low did in fact turn into Hurricane Sandy, which is now threatening the US Presidential elections! Shame!!   

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