August 9-19, 2010 -- Inland Bonaire


Click on the thumbnail for a map during this time period

On August 9th and 10th the Terns and the Takks took an hiatus from diving and rented a pickup truck (with a double cab) for a two-day exploration of the island.

Washington-Slagbaai Park

The northwestern end of Bonaire is an inland national park.  Part of its name derives from the center of one of the two plantations that occupied the area in colonial times:  the plantation was called "America", and so (naturally) its headquarters were called Washington.  Honest.  I read this in an old guide book maintained at the sign-in booth at the entrance to the park.  The other plantation was apparently called Slagbaai.  Administered by the same non-profit organization (STINAPA) that manages the Marine Park, Washington-Slagbaai is a terrestrial park comprised of 5,643 hectares.  Our first day was devoted to getting up to and visiting the park, a dusty dry cactus-filled place that provides a safe habitat for terrestrial endemic and endangered species of Bonaire.  There are parakeets, parrots, flamingos, iguanas, and many other species of birds and reptiles in the reserve.  It also contains Bonaire's "mountains" that soar to almost 800 feet.  Renting a pickup was on purpose; a vehicle with high suspension is a necessity for navigating the one-way rutted dirt roads that wind through the park.  There are two routes, called appropriately enough the "short" and "long" routes.  We took the long; it ventured further north and touched the north coast of Bonaire before swinging west and then south and joining the short route as it winds toward Boka Slagbaai, the only location in the park -- other than the entrance -- that has buildings and amenities.

The park has had some sprucing-up since our last visit.  Very nice museum at the entrance, and new signage throughout the park.

Just outside the park entrance one can look south to the new farm of wind generators -- not yet in service.

Skeleton of a whale that was washed up on shore of Bonaire

Typical style of signage throughout the park -- this one is at the park entrance ...

... and this handsome picture is the only identifier of the restroom for males ...

... just as this is the only identifier of the one for females

Many of the cactus plants have a woody tree-like base

Signage for an interesting cut in the shoreline

Boka Kokalishi is a deep cut that contains these interesting tiers that look almost man-made

Barb captured Chuck in his battle gear

Crested Caracara in a tree ...

... was hassled by a brave (foolish?) Tropical Mockingbird

Another Crested Caracara taken at a different site


Troupial oriole

Pan of an almost-dry lake bed

Cliff along the west shore

Pan of cliff along the west coast

Lighthouse on the northwest coast

Terns at the lighthouse

Looking east from the lighthouse hill

Pan to the south from lighthouse hill

Some of the buildings at Boka Slagbaai

Lunch at Boka Slagbaai

Flamingos at Boka Slagbaai

Typical sign to keep folks from getting too close to the flamingos

South and East Bonaire

On the second day of our pickup rental we drove south from Kralendijk, past many of our favorite dive sites from the "old days" when we used to come to Bonaire by airline.  We passed the shipping area for the salt that is produced by the solar salt works that have been on the island since slave days.  There were four grades of salt produced, and in former days they were each amassed at different locations along the coast.  So that arriving ships would know which grades were where, obelisks were erected and painted different colors:  white, pink, red and yellow.  Small huts were built at several of these sites for sheltering slaves at night during the week; two of these have been restored and bear the name of the nearby obelisk.

We continued around the southern end of the island and up the east coast to Lac Bay, famous for its sailboarding.  After a very good lunch at the Kon Tiki restaurant, we drove up to the northeastern corner of Bonaire where the guide maps indicated that there were caves with Amerindian inscriptions.  To get to the caves we had to leave the main road and drive along an extremely bumpy trail that paralleled a cliff that extended for miles in a north/south direction.  The trail might be carelessly described as a dirt trail, except there really wasn't dirt.  Just an uneven surface of hard rock, for the most part.  There was no signage, and so we stopped at many likely-looking spots along the cliffs before we finally hit the jackpot.  Caves with hand-painted inscriptions in red, high on the walls and ceilings.  Some had faded almost to the point of not being visible, but others were surprisingly intact.  I noticed later in my photos that many of the intact inscriptions appeared to have areas of shiny reflectance.  My worst suspicions were confirmed by an obscure book found later in the Bonaire museum:  at some point a number of years ago the inscriptions were apparently "enhanced" by someone with red latex paint.  None of the references in the popular tourist guides mention this fact, but possession of the knowledge by local authorities may explain the lack of promotion and/or signage.

Piles of salt harvested from the Solar Salt Works at the south end of Bonaire

White obelisk near the restored "white" slave huts

Some of the huts at white slave -- named not for the color of the slaves but the color of the nearby obelisk

Barb rests in the entrance to one of the white slave huts

Site is also a dive site. This is a typcial marker for the shore divers

South of white slave are the "red slave" huts

Shore divers park their vehicles among the huts at red slave

Devi lends a hand to a photographer having trouble wading ashore

Windmills used to move water into and among the salt ponds

No, they are not plastic

On a quiet day, the only sailboarders at Sorobon were youngsters getting lessons


At lunch we were entertained by this Yellow Oriole ...

... that kept posing for me ...

... while this blue-eyed dove moped in the shadows

Mouth of one of the caves containing Amerindian inscriptions

Interior of one of the caves

Some caves were deep enough to be dark ...

... but a handy flash lighted the subjects ...

... including many of the inscriptions themselves

Unusual private residence found on the east side of the island

Bonaire Museum

On August 12 the Takks and Terns decided to visit the Bonaire museum.  We found that the museum had moved since our guidebooks had been written:  it is no longer in the former Governor's Building along the waterfront near the town pier; rather, it is now in a building near the large yellow Catholic church. 

The collection in the museum is rather eclectic and ragged.  There are a number of amateurish paintings by a local artist that attempts to portray the Amerindian myths concerning the origin of human life on Bonaire.  There are old farm implements and old kitchen utensils.  And there is the old book that revealed to us that the Amerindian inscriptions have in modern times been "enhanced".  Oh, and turtle decoys -- used to attract horny male turtles who at certain times in their lives will mount anything that looks even remotely like a cooperative female.  Etc.

Turtle decoys

HUGE metal trap

Barb shows off the tools that are/were used to manipulate the lengths of cactus used to make cactus fences

Lionfish Talk

On August 19 we attended a special talk about the efforts to stem the invasion of Lionfish into Bonaire waters.  The talk was given by a young researcher who is working on a Master's degree from an English University.  A native of Trinidad/Tobago, she secured an internship with the Bonairean research group CIEE out of concern that one day the Lionfish will begin appearing in Trinidad, and she wanted the experience of having worked with an organization that was actively resisting the invasion.  We learned in the talk about the aggressiveness of the Lionfish;  they are such prodigious eaters that they can -- by eating the young of other species -- soon virtually strip the reefs of most other species.  Apparently this has already happened in part of the Bahamas.  We learned that all of the Lionfish now invading the Caribbean came from just a few fish that were accidentally released in Florida by hurricane Andrew in 1992, a theory that has been validated by DNA sampling.

Here in Bonaire, divers are encouraged to take along a supply of yellow ribbons to tie to a piece of dead coral near any Lionfish.  (The ribbons are created by volunteers.  They are cut to a standardized length and a cork is stapled to one end so that in the water the floating cork will hold the ribbon in a vertical line.)  In the short term, the Lionfish tend to stay in a relatively confined space, so by marking the location (and reporting it immediately to the appropriate authorities upon returning to shore), volunteer divers can come find the ribbon and the fish.  By the way, Barb has quite the eye for finding lionfish.  She has found, marked and reported three of them recently.  The recovery volunteers are equipped with a large rectangular net on the end of a stick, and with several -- believe it or not -- fly swatters, which are used to "herd" the fish into the net.  The fish is then put into a suitable container and taken to CIEE as soon as possible so that the stomach contents can be analyzed.  How many Lionfish have been collected on Bonaire recently?  Don't recall the exact figures, but in the hundreds.

Young researcher from Trinidad

Booklet at the talk

Sample bottles of Lionfish and stomach contents

Humorous slide at the end of the talk

Talking with locals after the talk

Terns talking with Kim (who certified us to be level-3 fish surveyors for REEF) and the director of the Lionfish removal project

Lionfish (picture provided by Becky Bauer)


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