Bonaire, the middle of the three Dutch Leeward Antilles, is an island of austere beauty formed from ancient fossilised coral reefs and sits on the lip of a deep ocean trench that separates it from the South American mainland. The 38 by 11 kilometres (~23.6 by 6.8 miles) island is riddled with caves and dominated by forests of cacti and acacia that thrive in its arid, dry conditions.
Encompassing the entire northwest tip of Bonaire, the Washington Slagbaai National Park is the oldest and largest terrestrial protected area in the Dutch Caribbean. The park is made up of two former plantations and is rich in cultural, historical and ecological heritage. With its abundant cactus, scrub and dry forest habitats the park provides a safe haven for the island’s native species, such as the threatened Yellow-shouldered Amazon parrot (Amazona barbadensis), flamingos, parakeets and Green Iguanas (Iguana iguana). Additionally, many species of migratory birds from North America use the park as a stopover during their annual migrations.
Bonaire’s most celebrated natural resources are found in the Bonaire National Marine Park. Bonaire’s fringing coral reefs are amongst the most diverse and healthiest in the Caribbean. Regularly ranked in the top five dive destinations in the Caribbean, Bonaire’s reefs have plentiful coral and are home to over 300 species of fish, including hard-to-spot frogfish and seahorses. The marine park encircles the island of Bonaire protecting globally threatened reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove forests. A world leader in conservation management, the marine park has been designated a UNEP Demonstration Site. As well as the island’s marine resources, the marine park includes the uninhabited island of Klein Bonaire where the sandy “No Name Beach” is particularly valuable as it is the most important turtle nesting site on Bonaire. Popular dive sites are located all around Klein Bonaire, but access to the island itself is limited.