Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bonaire: What We Did

As I mentioned in my first Bonaire post, this small Caribbean island is all about diving, which we were unable to do due to an issue with my left eye that popped up just before we left on our trip. But while we didn't dive, we did do lots of other stuff…

Shopping & Exploring In Kralendijk
Our resort, the Divi Flamingo, was located just outside of Bonaire’s capital city, Kralendijk. It’s a small place and all of the touristy shops, as well as most of the dive gear shops, are located within a 10-minute walk of each other. It’s not a particularly pretty town but it’s clean and safe and home to a great gelato shop call Gio’s,

Of all three islands, I found that Bonaire had the best shopping when it came to touristy stuff. In addition to the usual shops filled with made-in-China shirts and bags, it also hosts a locals-only craft market every Friday and every day that a cruise ship is in town (which was almost every day when we were there). At this market we found everything from the usual jewellery and wood carvings to Bonaire-specific salt products and food items.

We ended up in Bonaire just as Carnival was wrapping up. We were able to see three different parades including the big finale parade that took place on the Sunday before Lent started.

The Carnival experience in Bonaire is much more laid-back and low-key than on some of the other islands. But while the costumes might not be as flashy, it was still a fun and energetic time. I really liked that while things were busy, they weren't crazy. Even though the bulk of the island’s population was in Kralendijk on Sunday to watch the parade, as well as eat cheap food and drink cheap drinks from the various road side vendors (a bottle of beer cost $1 while a Smirnoff was $2), it was always easy to see the actual parade as well as move around.

I could though have done with less “Gangnam Style”. I don’t how many times we heard that song during the parades.

Snorkelling & the Woodwind
We snorkelled every day while in Bonaire, mostly in and around our resort since the snorkelling there is fantastic. It was so good that we even took ourselves out on a night snorkel (we rented lights from the dive shop) so that we could see the area’s night-time residents (turns out that a lot of lobsters live around the Divi). This experience wasn't nearly as cold as I thought it would be (I was fine wearing a t-shirt over my bikini).

We also did a bit of snorkelling out at a spot called the 1,000 Steps, which is considered to be one of the best shore diving spots on the island. We did swim out to where the wall drops off and through the very clear water I could see a ton of healthy, colourful coral so I have no doubt that it’s a great dive spot. But as a snorkelling spot I wasn't overly impressed; all of the good stuff was located too deep.

Two spots I was really impressed by were the ones around Klein Bonaire, a small island located about 20-minutes from our resort, which we visited as part of our Woodwind snorkelling trip. The Woodwind is a 37-foot catamaran-like boat that does daily snorkel trips from the Divi Flamingo to the Klein Bonaire, which indisputably has some of Bonaire’s best snorkelling and diving.

Our first trip was a drift snorkel and the highlights were the four different sea turtles we saw. Our second stop was right inside/along the edge of a fantastic coral garden where I saw my first midnight parrotfish, a big, beautiful fish that’s not commonly seen. We also saw two or three more turtles at this spot.
I believe that this is a green turtle
While there was a lot of people on the boat (its trips regularly sell out), the actual snorkelling experience didn't feel crowded as we were divided into three smaller groups. Each group has a guide and in our case, our guide was a marine biologist who pointed tons of stuff out. She was great, as was the Woodwind’s whole crew. I highly recommend this trip and also encourage you to book in advance. We didn't do that and completely lucked out into claiming the last two spots on a trip that was actually put together for that day’s cruise ship.

Our Island Day Trip: The Salt Flats, Lac Bay & the Donkey Sanctuary 
Originally we planned to hire someone to take us out and around the island and then, on another day, pay a taxi driver to take us out to and back from Lac Bay, which is home to Bonaire’s best beach. However, the cruises ships threw a wrench into this plan as they caused all of the tour guides to be booked up.

So instead we decided to just rent a car from the Hertz office at our resort and drive ourselves out to Lac Bay after exploring the southern half of the island. This turned out to be a great idea because it let us move at our own pace and stop as often as we wanted. While the ring road isn't completely paved and does drop to one lane in some spots, overall it’s in reasonable condition and anyone familiar with country driving would have no issues with driving a rental in Bonaire.

We started with exploring the salt flats area, which is also home to a lighthouse and the slave huts, which used to house the slaves who were forced to work on the salt flats. Usually there are also a ton of flamingos in this area but we didn't see any.

Then we headed up to Lac Bay, which seemed like it was on a completely different island. Beautiful white sand was everywhere while coral reefs and pretty fish were nowhere. It was also really busy and only become busier as more and more cruise ship people showed up. We discovered that if you walk a little ways down the beach, you can find a stretch of deserted sand that’s perfect for lounging in. Just watch out for the many, many windsurfers who also use the lake.

After lounging a bit and grabbing a disappointing bit to eat, we left Lac Bay and headed over to the Bonaire Donkey Sanctuary, a place that turned out to be a surprisingly large and sophisticated operation. For $7 a person, you can drive through the sanctuary and, if you pick up a $3 bag of carrots, you can feed some of the sanctuary’s 400 donkeys. If you do decide to drive through the sanctuary, be sure to buy the carrots because in some cases I think the donkeys only moved out of our way because we fed them.

In full honestly, there were a few points were I thought we were going to have to abandon our rental because it was being swarmed by donkeys. Thankfully they did eventually all move. Overall Husband and I had a lot of fun at the donkey sanctuary though it’s not a place for someone who’s not comfortable around horse-like creatures.

After visiting the donkeys, we headed north towards our 1,000 Steps, which was our last stop before we went back to the hotel.

And that’s it for what we did on Bonaire. Next up, what we ate.

They did eventually move

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a very fun day, especially the donkey sanctuary part.