Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Bonaire, Bon Bini

Street sign in Bonaire
I love Bonaire! That was my first feeling when I stepped on this island. Small, peaceful, colorful was my first sights of Bonaire. We arrived here unintentionally. Our initial plan was sailing straight from Guadeloupe to Curacao, 520 nautical miles, but we had a technical problem that made us decide to stop over night in Bonaire before travel forward. Due to the moorings fee; 10$ a night, it's not much and I think is reasonable, but was an extra expense for us. And since our budget is not stretchable unfortunately we only stayed in Bonaire for seven days. The shortest stay ever in an islands for us. Here we are in Bonaire, without a plan but impressed. 
Mooring blocks
Dee at the mooring
Marine life under our boat
Bonaire is one of the sisters islands of Aruba and Curacao which the cruisers often call shortly ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao). It's the Netherlands Antilles and most of the Dutch law and major rules are enforced here. On 10th October 2010 - locally referred to as 10.10.10- the islands of Bonaire Curacao, Saba, Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten officially dissolved the Netherlands Antilles as an autonomous country within The Kingdom of the Netherlands. Bonaire is directly part of the Netherlands but designated as a special municipality - according to the information from the Bonaire tourist office. The official languages are Dutch and Papiamentu. Papiamentu is the local language which based on Portuguese, Spanish, French, Dutch and African languages. Spanish and English are widely spoken. Many people migrated from Columbia and Venezuela that's the reason why many locals speak Spanish. Even the Chinese here speak Spanish instead of English as the working language.
I was surprised finding out that the population of Bonaire was only 18,000 persons, according to the local officials. Made me think about some of the areas of Macau where this number of people share one square meter!

Often we make a joke saying that the “Chinese are everywhere!” As we lived in Macau, China, and we are familiar with them - we were surprised that there are a lot of Chinese people living in Bonaire. In every street corner we found Chinese owned supermarkets and restaurants. This made me think that out of 18,000 populations 8,000 person may be Chinese! We visit a Dutch supermarket which is also available in Holland, Van den Tweel from Albert Heijn and we consider that the prices were reasonable comparing with another Caribbean islands. This supermarket offers a shuttle service for people living on the boats to go shopping since the walk is not convenient. Its not that far, probably 20 minutes walking, but its very hot and no shade to rest. This shuttle service pick you up from the dinghy dock every Tuesdays and Fridays at 5 P.M. We didn't had chance to use their service because we walked there, being walking part of our city tour!
Freshly baked bread in the Dutch supermarket
Bus stop in Bonaire
Bonaire is the diving destination, the “Diver's paradise”. Most part of the island is the National Marine park which you need to pay Nature fee of 25$ as scuba diver or 10$ as a non scuba diver which covers the Bonaire National Marine Park. The restrictions here are quite strict and are enforced by the authorities. When clear in our vessel we must declare all our spear guns and they keep it during our stay. If they found any on board the fines are huge. We also had to declare all the dinghies and kayakies we own. We are not allowed to remove any corals or hard shell marine life from the water, including fishing parrot fish otherwise we have to pay a huge fine! Anyway, we are allowed to fish next to our boat or in Bonaire waters any other species of fish, except the parrot fish. We caught a pompano, a good size one for our family. Also we had a day sail with another 2 boats buddies to fish! Sadly we only caught a baby tuna which we let go.
View of Klein Bonaire
Beautiful sunset
For moorings payments, water and fuel all can be done in the Harbour Village Marina. We do not remember exactly the price of the fuel and other facilities but that can be easily checked online. What we realized was that propane here can cost up to 100$ for 20-25 kgs. The water is not so expensive, gasoline and diesel come from Curacao and are reasonable priced. We were told by locals that there are no public bus even we saw the bus stop while we walk around the island. Motorbike, bike and car rental are everywhere. We checked the motorbike rental and found out it costed around 16$ a day. Since here is a small island the traffic is not much and they don't have strict rules for the use helmets, it's your own risk! The currency here mainly is US dollars and I don't saw anyone using Guilders. Some shops and supermarkets accept Euros but, of course, not coins please! My ATM card (Mastercard from Asia) only worked with the ATM machine from Maduro Curiel's Bank, being the fee for international transaction 4$! We tried to get money from another bank ATM machine and we saw that the fee can be up to 6$ but, anyway, our card didn't work.

Tourism Office, where you can get free Wi-Fi
“Bonaire, Once a Visitor Always a Friend”, I think it's the best slogan to suit the island. We had an opportunity to deal directly with the Tourism office and we felt most welcome. Warm welcome and helpful staffs tried to help us to solve a long-distance communication problem we had. We spent the whole morning with them making international calls trying to solve our problem because, as most sailors do, we don't own any international SIM card. We reach a dead end and was not possible to find a solution to our problem but they help us until the end and encourage us to visit them again if needed. After all we are their tourists! We encountered many tourism offices and front line service industries in the Caribbean I can surely say that Bonaire tourism officials work with their hearts and go the extra mile to make you feel welcome. As I worked indirectly to the tourism industry in Macau, I felt that Macau Government should send some staff to learn or do some research on the island like Bonaire where their main industry is based on pure tourism. 
The slogan of Bonaire
What makes Bonaire so special for me? We are always looking for the ideal place to settle down after we finish our sailing around the world trip. For me I would love to live in a quiet place which offer a rich variety for daily basic food, with easy connections with the rest of the world, and of course good weather. Bonaire has them all! Everyone has the right to their own opinion...

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