Today was spent exploring the idyllic island of Bonaire, an obviously different experience to the mass tourist destinations of many Caribbean locations. Tourism is an interesting animal, and can really change an island depending on what type of tourism is used. Many locales are filled with massive hotels, people lounging on white sandy beaches, and not much nature oriented tourism. Bonaire, however, has an incredible focus on its natural gems, and most of us found it truly rewarding. We explored the island on two fronts; one snorkeling or SCUBA diving amongst the waters which are entirely a marine park, and the other a terrestrial journey.
The waters of the Bonaire Marine Park, which encompasses everything from the high tide mark to 200 feet deep, are amongst the best protected and most pristine reefs in the Caribbean. Since 1979, all marine creatures have received full protection, including coral live and dead. Snorkelers were rewarded with crystal clear water, healthy coral, a diverse fish population, and a few turtles. Hours were spent observing the myriad of fish, including parrots, butterflys, damsels, and tangs. A slight current was providing nutrition for gigantic sponges as well as blue creole wrasses and even the barnacles on our mooring line.
On land, we were treated to incredible natural wonders as well as we explored this quaint island. While passing through impressive desert landscapes filled with various cacti, we observed a wonderful bird show. Parakeets, parrots, mockingbirds, and doves were exciting, but the sure highlight was the massive flock of flamingoes. Bonaire experienced a heavy rain this past winter, and many of the flamingoes were concentrated in one pond right next to the road. We paused in our buses to have brilliant views of these incredibly vibrant birds as they fed on the shrimp that give them their color. The view of a flock of these “lawn ornaments” taking flight is one that will not be forgotten.
Most of us on board the National Geographic Endeavour are experienced, nature-oriented travelers. We make choices on our destinations while considering many different factors. Bonaire has chosen to showcase an incredible natural offering both above and below the water. I only wish more places would make the commitment to the natural world that this paradise has.