Bonaire Explained

For other uses see Bonaire (disambiguation).

Native Name:Eilandgebied Bonaire
Teritorio Insular di Boneiru
Conventional Long Name:Island Territory of Bonaire
Common Name:Bonaire
National Anthem:Tera di Solo y suave biento
Official Languages:Dutch, Papiamentu, English
Unofficial Languages:Spanish
Government Type:See Politics of the Netherlands Antilles
Leader Title1:Administrator of Bonaire
Leader Name1:Herbert Domacassé
Leader Title2:Governor of N.A.
Leader Name2:Frits Goedgedrag
Sovereignty Type:Constitutional monarchy
Sovereignty Note: part of the Netherlands Antilles
Largest City:Kralendijk
Area Magnitude:1_E12
Area Km2:294
Area Sq Mi:113
Population Census:14,006
Population Census Year:2006
Population Density Km2:49
Population Density Sq Mi:99
Population Density Rank:ranked as part of N. A.
Utc Offset:-4
Time Zone:-4
Currency:Netherlands Antillean guilder
Currency Code:ANG
Calling Code:599

The Island Territory of Bonaire (Dutch; Flemish: Eilandgebied Bonaire, Papiamento: Teritorio Insular di Boneiru) is one of five island areas (Eilandgebieden) of the Netherlands Antilles, consisting of the main island of Bonaire and, nestled in its western crescent, the uninhabited islet of Klein Bonaire. Together with Aruba and Curaçao it forms a group referred to as the ABC islands of the Leeward Antilles, the southern island chain of the Lesser Antilles.

As part of the Netherlands Antilles, Bonaire is accordingly a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The structure of the relationship between Bonaire, the Netherlands Antilles and the Kingdom is being considered for change under proposed legislation. The Netherlands Antilles was scheduled to be dissolved as a unified political entity on 15 December 2008, so that the five constituent islands would attain new constitutional statuses within the Kingdom of the Netherlands,[1] but this dissolution has been postponed to an indefinite future date.[2] As of December 15, 2008, legislation to amend the charter of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and to define the new status of Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius was still being reviewed.[3]


Original Inhabitants

Bonaire's first inhabitants were the Caquetios Indians, a branch of the Arawak who came by canoe from Venezuela in about 1000 AD. Archeological remains of Caquetio culture have been found at sites northeast of Kralendijk and near Lac Bay. Caquieto rock paintings and petroglyphs have been preserved in caves at Spelonk, Onima, Ceru Pungi, and Ceru Crita-Cabai. The Caquetios were apparently a very tall people, for the Spanish name for the ABC Islands was 'las Islas de los Gigantes' or 'the islands of the giants'. [4]


In 1499, Alonso de Ojeda, discovered Curaçao, and a neighboring island that was almost certainly Bonaire. Ojeda was accompanied by Amerigo Vespucci and Juan de la Cosa. De La Cosa's Mappa Mundi of 1500 shows Bonaire and calls it Isla do Palo Brasil or "Island of Brazilwood." The Spanish conquerors decided that the three ABC Islands were useless, and in 1515, the natives were deported to work in the copper mines of Santo Domingo on the island of Hispaniola[4] .

Spanish Period

In 1526, Juan de Ampues was appointed Spanish commander of the ABC Islands. He brought back some of the original Caquetios Indian inhabitants to Bonaire and Curaçao. Ampues also imported domesticated animals from Spain including cows, donkeys, goats, horses, pigs, and sheep. The Spaniards thought that Bonaire could be used as a cattle plantation worked by natives. The cattle were raised for hides rather than meat. The Spanish inhabitants lived mostly in the inland town of Rincon which was safe from pirate attack[4] .

Dutch Period

The Dutch West India Company was founded in 1621. Starting in 1623, ships of the West India Company called on Bonaire to obtain meat, water, and wood. The Dutch also abandonned some Spanish and Portugese prisoners, and these people found the town of Antriol which is a contraction of "al interior" or "inside." The Dutch and the Spanish fought from 1568 to 1648 in what is now known as the Eighty Years War. In 1633, the Dutch, having lost the island of St. Maarten to the Spanish, retaliated by attacking Curaçao, Bonaire, and Aruba. Bonaire was conquered in March 1636. The Dutch built Fort Oranje in 1639 [5] . While Curaçao emerged as a center of the slave trade, Bonaire became a plantation of the Dutch West India Company. A small number of African slaves were put to work alongside Indians and convicts, cultivating dyewood and maize and harvesting solar salt around Blue Pan. Slave quarters, built entirely of stone and too short for a man to stand upright in, still stand in the area around Rincon and along the saltpans as a grim reminder of Bonaire's repressive past.

English Period

During the Napoleonic Wars, the Netherlands lost control of the Bonaire twice, once from 1800-1803 and again from 1807-1815. During these intervals, the British had control over the neighboring island of Curaçao, and, by extension, Bonaire. The ABC islands were returned to the Netherlands as a result of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814. During the period of English rule, a large number of white traders settled on the Bonaire, and they built the settlement of Playa (Kralendijk) in 1810.


From 1816 until 1868, Bonaire remained a government plantation. In 1825, there were about 300 government-owned slaves on the island. Gradually many of the slaves were freed, and became freemen with an obligation to render some services to the government. The remaining slaves were freed on September 30, 1862 as part of the Emancipation Regulation. A total of 607 government slaves and 151 private slaves were freed at that time [4] .


In 1867, the government sold most of the public lands, and in 1870, the government sold the saltpans. The entire population became dependent on two large private landowners, and this caused a great deal of suffering for many people. Many inhabitants were forced to move to Aruba, Curaçao, or Venezuela [4] .

World War II

During the German occupation of the Netherlands during World War II, Bonaire was a protectorate of Britain and the United States. The American army built the Flamingo Airport as an air force base. After Germany invaded the Netherlands on May 10, 1940, many Dutch and German citizens were interned in a camp on Bonaire for the duration of war. [6] [7] In 1944, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands and Eleanor Roosevelt visited the troops on Bonaire.[4] . After the war, the airport was converted to civilian use, and the internment camp became the first hotel on Bonaire.

Post War

After the war, the economy of Bonaire continued to develop. The airport was converted to civilian use, and the internment camp became the first hotel on Bonaire [8] . The Dutch Schunck family built a clothing factory known as Schunck's Kledingindustrie Bonaire. In 1964, Trans World Radio, began broadcasting from Bonaire. Radio Netherlands Worldwide built two short wave transmitters on Bonaire in 1969. The second major hotel (Bonaire Beach Hotel)[9] was completed in 1962. Salt production resumed in 1966 when the salt pans were expanded and modernized by the Antilles International Salt Company, a subsidiary of the International Salt Company [10] . The Bonaire Petroleum Corporation (BOPEC) oil terminal was opened in 1975 for trans-shipping oil [11]


Bonaire's economy is mainly based on tourism. The island caters, almost exclusively, to scuba divers and snorkelers. Wind surfers also constitute a strong group of island tourists. Tourism infrastructure in Bonaire is contemporary and based on time-share resorts. There are a few small bed and breakfasts. Most resorts have an on-site dive shop. The rest are affiliated with a dive operation.


Bonaire has a land area of 288 km² (111 sq. miles), while Klein Bonaire is a further 6 km² (2.3 sq. miles). Bonaire's Afdeling Bevolking (census) office reported that the population of was 14,006 inhabitants as of December, 2006,[12] which gives Bonaire island proper a population density of 49 inh. per km².

Bonaire lies outside the hurricane belt, and is served by Flamingo International Airport.

Bonaire is world renowned for its excellent scuba diving and is consistently rated among the best diving and Caribbean diving locations in the world. Bonaire's license plates carry the logo Diver's Paradise (in English). The island is ringed by a coral reef which is easily accessible from the shore along the Western and Southern sides. Furthermore, the entire coastline of the island has been declared a marine sanctuary, preserving local fish life. Bonaire is also consistently recognized as one of the best destinations for snorkeling.

The coral reef around uninhabited Klein Bonaire is particularly well conserved, and it draws divers, snorkelers, and boaters.

Bonaire also has several coral reefs where seahorses are common.

Bonaire is also famed for its flamingo populations and its donkey sanctuary. Flamingos are drawn to the brackish water, which harbours shrimp they feed on. Starting in the 1500s, the Dutch raised sheep, goats, pigs, horses and donkeys on Bonaire, and the descendants of the goats and donkeys roam the island today.

Washington Slagbaai National Park, located at the north side of the island, is an ecological preserve. The highest point of Bonaire, Brandaris, located within this preserve has a complete view of the island.

Lac Bay, (also known as Lac Cai or Lac Cay) on the eastern side of the island, is a windsurfer's paradise. Locals Taty and Tonky Frans in 2004 were ranked in the top five of the world's freestyle windsurfing professionals.

Atlantis Beach, on the western part of the island, is the local kitesurfing spot.

Aside from the tourist sites, Bonaire has become home to Saint James School of Medicine, which was founded by Physicians practicing and teaching basic/clinical medicine in the United States. Their goals encompass motivating students in the art of medicine utilizing a curriculum which parallels that of any U.S. based allopathic medical school.


The only generally recognized towns on the island are Kralendijk and Rincon.

Kralendijk has many suburbs/neighbourhoods (on an island with such a small population, the distinction is not always clearcut). Kralendijk's suburbs/neighbourhoods include:

Other smaller settlements include

Several smaller towns had existed in the national park, but are now abandoned. They were: Labra, Ishiri, Kokorobi, Jan Doran, Vlijt, Rigot, Porto Spano, and Kunchi.


The official languages are Dutch, Papiamentu, and English. English became an official language of the Netherlands Antilles in March 2007. In practice, it is not used for official purposes on Bonaire. Spanish and English are widely spoken on the island.

See also

External links


Island Information:




Other Photos of Bonaire

Notes and References

  1. News: Staff reporter. Agreement on division of Netherlands Antilles. 2007-02-13. 2008-01-21.
  2. St. Maarten-St. Martin - Consensus, but no date set for new status
  3. Results of Dec 15 2008 Round Table Conference
  4. Book: Van Der Helm, Rien. Traveler's Handbook Bonaire. Elmar Media Service. 1987. Rijswik, The Netherlands. 9061206359.
  5. Web site: Fort Oranje(Bonaire). 2009-02-19.
  6. News: Anonymous. Imprisoned Innocents. Bonaire Reporter. 7. 2007-06-15. 2009-02-19.
  7. Book: Sint Jago, Junnes E.. Wuiven vanaf de waranda. 2007. Gopher. Utrecht. Dutch. 139789051794960. 150262823.
  8. Web site: Divi Flamingo Beach Resort Bonaire. 2009-02-19.
  9. Web site: Bonaire Beach Hotel. 2009-02-19.
  10. Web site: Cargill Salt Company. 2009-02-19.
  11. Web site: Bonaire Petroleum Company. 2009-02-19.
  12. News: Anonymous. Flotsam and Jetsam. Bonaire Reporter. 2. 2008-02-09. 2009-02-19.