you choose Bonaire for your next vacation?
Okay, tell me
what is more idyllic than this; lying in the sun in the
cooling shade of a palm tree on a Caribbean island, with a
snorkel and face mask handy if you get a little bit too hot,
and when you get bored there is your own little dinghy waiting
for you to skim over the waves on!
This Caribbean paradise is
called Bonaire; it is in a group of islands called the
Antilles which were once owned by the Dutch and is not
particularly big; 0 mi.² in area is a nice manageable size;
and the population of about 1200 people are a pretty laid-back
group who know how to enjoy themselves. Life was not always so
pleasant however; the island is situated not far from Curaçao,
about 50 miles away from Venezuela, and at one time it was the
main slave market for the Curaçao plantations. The planters
brought along their own Christian religion and imposed it up
on their subjects; it could be argued that the only good thing
that came from them was Roman Catholicism and at once slavery
was suppressed by the British navy the majority of slaves on
the island were freed but given no means of sustaining
themselves and others who were still at sea were merely dumped
on the island and left to survive as best they could. As a
result the island now contains a real racial mix; Dutch,
Spanish, native Indians and the Africans live together and
intermingled so their descendants are now every colour under
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Freedom brought with it responsibilities; the islanders now
govern themselves, and send representatives to the Dutch
Antilles Council which is situated in Curaçao.
Bonaire was never an easy place to live on; it has always been
hot, dry and arid so agriculture is extremely difficult and
the lack of rainfall means that most drinking water has to be
extracted by the desalinisation of sea water so there is
little of it free to spread over the fields. Every cloud has a
silver lining however and the hot dry climate, together with
the by-products of the desalinisation plant has meant that the
island has been an ideal area for extracting salt from
seawater and the sale of this is a major factor in the
island's economy as indeed is tourism; leaving aside the
idyllic beach life, sailing and snorkelling large numbers of
highly coloured flamingos are attracted to the salt flats and
they in turn attract large numbers of birdwatching tourists.
Copyright Harold Clarke
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