Bonaire is a small Dutch Island 55 miles off the coast of Venezuela. The Leeward Islands, or the ABC Islands are Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao. Bonaire is a desert Island, so the climate is dry and hot. Salt mines are plentiful there, and you can see huge mountains of the white crystals from the airport when you fly in.
The first inhabitants were the Caiquetios, a group of Arawak Indians from Venezuela who inhabited the island from about 1000 B.C. In 1499, Amerigo Vespucci and Alonso de Ojeda arrived from Spain, and they took the Island for themselves. The Dutch took control in the late 17th century, during which time they brought slaves from Africa to work the Island. Then from 1799-1816 politics in Europe caused ownership of the Island to be passed back and forth between various countries until it finally arrived back in the hands of the Dutch.
The Island itself is 24 miles long, and between 3-7 miles wide with an average year round temperature of 82 degrees and an average water temperature of 80 degrees.
The language spoken is Papiamento, of which there are two dialects. Papiamento spoken on Aruba and Papiamentu spoken on Bonaire and Curacao. It is a creole language that is derived from African and either Portuguese or Spanish with Amerindian, English and Dutch influences. It was amazing to see them switch from Dutch to English to Papiamento with such ease.
We stayed at the Divi Dive resort in Kralendijk. The room was meant for six, but with five of us, it was a bit cramped. With so much dive gear, and only one tiny bathroom, it was rather a tight squeeze, and a challenge to the olfactory system once the wetsuits started to smell.
The town is very quaint and charming. We walked in from our hotel one evening and ate dinner at an open air restaurant across the street from the ocean. It was beautiful and relaxing.
Food however is incredibly expensive on the island. No surprise since everything has to be brought in from other places. The supermarkets were an interesting challenge, as most labels were in Dutch. We had thought we would buy groceries since the room has a small stove and sink with refrigerator. We ended up buying a loaf of bread and some peanut butter along with some snacks that we recognized.
At the end of the day, everyone would gather to eat at the outdoor dining facilities with a beautiful view of the ocean. Not a bad way to top off the day.