Monday, August 13, 2007

Washington Slagbaai National Park, Bonaire

Created in 1969 after Julio Herrara sold, on his death, his plantation to the government with the provision that it be preserved as a park. A second nearby plantation was added at a later date and the park covers a large portion of the western island (5643 hectares). There is an excellent small museum at the entrance which tells of plantation life and the history of Bonaire. Exhibits show elements of the work and structures there when it was a working farm. We saw several very large Iguanas, goats, and birds. One picture above shows a goat skull on one of the many cactus fences and the other a closeup of a curious iguana. The beaches in the park are an important nesting ground for all four species of sea turtles found in the Caribbean.
We went with Brent and Wilma (below left) fairly early in the morning and took the long route along the shore, stopping at all the attractions; lovely beaches (one really charming small one which is also a dive site is below) and rocky inlets, most of which are snorkeling and/or dive sites, the old lighthouse at Malmok, and remains of a salt packing factory at the original harbor on Bonaire. This last structure is being beautifuly restored and will be available as a camping overnight rental soon. One of our favorite stops was Suplado, two roaring blow holes. There is normally a hiking trail to the top of Subi Brandaris, the highest point on the island at 784 ft., but it was closed due to recent rain rendering the trails too muddy and slippery.

Several of the salt ponds had flocks of pink flamingos in them but it was hard to get close enough to photograph them. Bonaire is one of the prime flamingo nesting sites in the Caribbean and there are a number of sanctuaries around the island. They love the heavily salted pans thick with baby shrimp. It was a cloudy and intermitently rainy morning but it didn't dampen our enthusiasm. It was a lot cooler for walking! The roads in the park were pretty puddle strewn too and very rocky: we didn't travel very fast. All together we spent about 4 hours in the park. If the weather had been nicer we would have brought a picnic lunch and spent time at the beach, swimming and snorkeling. Oh well, another time.

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