Whilst diving is definitely THE most popular activity in Bonaire, this little island does have a few other bonus attractions on offer and we were happy to reconnect with cruising buddies Jeff & Diane from SV Horizons and hire a car together to go off and explore some of them.
We picked up our little Suzuki Jimny at 11am on the Thursday and wondered whether Eric would be able to squeeze in the back, as Diane was the driver with Lynne as co-driver. Eric’s driving license had expired earlier this year, so he had to be content to be a passenger (and a back seat one) for a change!! We began by touring the Washington-Slagbaai National park on the first afternoon….
At this time of year the island is very dry, and this was particularly noticeable in and around the park. We decided to drive the long route, which took us past the wild, windswept beaches on the north east coast and desertlike scenery, which reminded us of some of the driving we did in Namibia back in 2012. This route took us past the lighthouse and the northernmost tip at Malmok, where we had our picnic lunch in the shade of a derelict building with iguanas bravely running up to attempt to steal our sandwiches!
As we made our way back down the west coast, we saw a number of buoys which mark the various dive and snorkel sites along the coast. Bonaire has a no anchoring policy anywhere on the island, so yachts are committed to either the $10 a night mooring balls directly in front of the main town of Kralendijk or going into a marina. During the day yachts are permitted to pick up any of the mooring balls to go for a dive, snorkel or just enjoy a different location, but must return to the Kralendijk moorings or the marina each evening. Along the west coast of the park we saw numerous flamingoes on the various lakes that dot the coast, plus we spotted parrots and raptors throughout the park. The prevalent vegetation is cacti and we later learned from the Park Warden at the gate that this particular cacti, known as the kadushi, was older than him.
He grew up right here and told us that his mother had been born in the small house across from the entrance gate, which is now part of the museum display. Since the area became National Park, he moved to the nearby town of Rincon, where there is a Distillery that makes a drink from the kadushi cactus.
After leaving the park, we attempted to find our way down to the coast road to enjoy the views and watch the sunset, but we came to a No Entry sign on the road where some divers were getting kitted up for a night dive. We figured we must have found a car park and backtracked looking for the road. Somewhat confused we followed signs to Kralendijk, which took us back through Rincon once again. Now we were even more confused and got out the Galaxy tablet to try and find our way back to the coast road using the Maps App. This led us along a very bumpy road parallel to the coast, but no way could we get through to the coast road! Eventually, just north of Kralendijk we discovered the southern end of the coast road and sure enough it was ONE WAY!! Had we known, we would have driven that way to the park and taken the dusty inland route back later in the evening….. ho hum, better research required next time 😉
We were up early the next morning to drive the south coast road, past the imposing piles of salt to the slave huts. At one time, the main industry here had been the salt works and the tiny concrete huts were built to accommodate the slaves who had worked the salt flats. We took the boys on this drive and they enjoyed hopping out at each stop en route for a quick sniff around and explore. Looking back north we saw windmills dotted around the landscape, more flamingoes on the salt ponds and the road eventually led us to the stunning Lac Bay on the east coast. We stopped off for a coffee in one of the beach front bars and had a walk around the area. Unfortunately time was running out, so we didn’t get a chance to visit the mangroves across the bay.
All in all we enjoyed Bonaire very much, in particular the diving, which we did every day we were there. Other than the dive at the Hilma Hooker wreck, we chose to dinghy to the dive sites closer to our mooring, plus we did some pleasant drift dives across at Klein Bonaire. On our final dive just north of the town we surfaced to quite a strong current. Just as we were starting to head back to our mooring we were surrounded by dolphins, which swam with the dinghy, darting back and forth in front of us and leading us across to Klein Bonaire. The faster we went the more they seemed to enjoy it and play with us. We were almost across at Klein Bonaire before we left them to it!