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Bonaire was also a part of the island territories known collectively as the Netherlands Antilles until October 2010. From that date Bonaire and the two smaller islands in the North Caribbean of Statia and Saba enjoy being a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands as a state of Holland and enjoying a lot of the attractions of first world Europe.
It is an eclectic mix of the Caribbean, South America and Europe and these days is a very upscale island, which is blessed with some of the best natural features in the region. It was largely ignored compared to its wealthier and more prominent neighbor Curacao and was used as a slave outpost and during the second world war as a camp for captured soldiers.
As an arid country little would grow and the cactus strewn landscape offered little in the way of agricultural opportunities for wealth generation. Tourism started to take off in the 1980’s with Diving being the main reason to visit the country and this remains the case today. Bonaire is hailed as the number one destination in the world for shore diving and one of the worlds top snorkeling destinations. Aside of this world class windsurfing, kite surfing, fishing, kayaking and other water based activities form the main thrust of tourism.
With a small but growing population of almost 20,000 the island is perfect for nature lovers. Most of the island is preserved and Klein Bonaire (little Bonaire) an island just off the coast is protected by WWF and may never be built on under strict conservation laws. Turtles nest on the island and the water conditions are perfect year round.
The island decided to adapt the US$ as its main currency instead of taking the Euro and this has helped it to stay as an affordable tourism option. There are non stop flights from Europe, the USA, South America and the other Dutch islands making it very accessible for a small destination. Tourism arrivals remain low with the USA and Holland making up the bulk of the visitors with 50% coming to dive. Besides diving the quietness and natural beauty of the island coupled with its perfect year round climatic conditions make it ideal for those seeking a relaxed place to unwind and recharge.
There is an excellent food scene with a very international mix whilst the local culture is still preserved through music, dress, language and arts. Bonairians are much quieter and shyer than inhabitants from Curacao and Aruba but are extremely friendly and approachable. The island is safe, bright and clourful with many great examples of the original “kunuku” houses (farm houses) being restored.
In a country where Flamingoes outnumber people, the planes are larger than the airport where they land and where massive Salt mountains are the tallest natural structure in the country (south of the island) – you will be warmly greeted as you arrive in the local Papiamentu language with the words “bon bini” – Welcome! .