Bonaire Beauty

Fishing Boats

Nic Hibdige is fast becoming one of the most talented UK youth freestylers. Learning fast, he added some pretty ‘new skool’ moves to his repertoire during a three-week trip to Bonaire, this winter. Check out his full report here and marvel at the shear beauty of this island. What’s more the PWA, despite their announcement just last week, plan to be there in 2013.

 

 
Average air temp: 82F (27.8C)
Average water temp: 80F (26.7C)
Rainfall: 22 inches per annum
Location: South of the hurricane belt & a region of Holland
Language: Papiamentu and Dutch, but English and Spanish are widely spoken
Currency: US$
Voltage: 124v/60Hz (which is almost American)
Visa: No, unless longer than 3 week stay - 3000php per month
Timezone:

GMT -4hours

Getting There

The easiest way is with KLM from Heathrow via Amsterdam. Currently the flight touches down in Aruba or Curacao for 45 minutes and then it’s literally straight up and down to Bonaire. The return journey is direct from Bonaire to Amsterdam and takes approximately 9 hours.

The Tale

This winter in Bonaire turned out to be the best yet, with the wind kicking in after day four and staying there for the next 18 days....

Home to five of the PWAs top freestyle windsurfers, Bonaire is a small Caribbean island located approximately 50km off the coast of Venezuela. Its easterly trade winds blow year round with the higher winds prevailing generally from mid-December through to August. My family, who are all keen windsurfers, have been visiting the Island since 2001. The flat, warm turquoise water of Lac Bay provides a fantastic training ground for freestyle, it’s great for out and out blasting and safe for children and beginners.

It was great to be back on the Island, but disappointing that having arrived full of anticipation that there was no wind, and there hadn’t been any for some time. This was not looking good, however, on day four the wind whipped up from nowhere, so we rushed off to the beach - fortunately we didn’t have to waste any time as our kit was already rigged and waiting at Jibe City.

The next 18 days I windsurfed non-stop using my 4.4m and 5.3m sails. On day three Caesar asked me to join him at a new spot that he had found to sail which is even flatter than Lac Bay. It was a sick day- I landed my first funnel and we sailed until the sun went down - I felt completely exhausted, but really happy.

Also, I had some sick sessions on Lac Bay near the Mangroves where it is ultra flat and perfect for starboard tack - I improved the consistency of my e-sliders and was getting close to punetas.

We have been visiting Bonaire for the past ten years because it is a brilliant place to windsurf and the people are very friendly, the water is pristine and the temperature is warm.

Colourful Bonaire

Bonaire is relaxed, unspoilt and many people that you meet just keep going back time and again. It is an arid island with lots of rocks and cacti, but it is also a very colourful island: its pink flamingos, bright green lizards and iguanas, yellow orioles, sugar stealers, the abundance of reef fish, its shimmering salt pyramids next to the pink and purple salt pans, the deep blue and turquoise waters and its colourfully painted buildings leave a vivid impression.

 

Places to Windsurf

The main spot to windsurf is Lac Bay - protected by the coral reef, the bay covers an area of approximately 2kms by 1.5kms. For those of you who work in miles you can get a half mile reach in and jibe and you’ll still be in waist deep water. On windy days a nice swell develops in the deep blue water towards the mangroves, which is good fun for bump and jump.

Equipment Hire and Storage

There are two windsurf centres: Jibe City and The Windsurf Place. The Windsurf Place offers Starboard, RRD and Hot Sails Maui: www.bonairewindsurfplace.com and Jibe City has Neil Pryde, Maui and Ezzy sails with JP, Exocet and Munich Boards: www.jibecity.com Jibe City also provide board storage. Both have somewhere to eat, drink and hangout.

Accommodation

The closest accommodation to the windsurfing is Kontiki Beach Resort: www.kontikibonaire.com and The Sorobon Beach Resort: www.sorobonbeachresort.com

Kontiki

With beautiful views of Lac Bay is a friendly beach-club with a cocktail bar and restaurant, which is open 7 days a week from 8am to 10pm. Accommodation is spacious and colourful and comprises simple studios, one and two bedroom apartments, plus a couple of deluxe villas ideal for families or large groups.

Sorobon

Sorobon is under new management, which means no more naked people!! It has its own private beach next to Jibe City and offers one and two bedroom chalets.

Town is 15 minutes by car and there’s no public transport, but you can normally scrounge a lift as there are always plenty of people going back and forth. However, in the evening this is not the case. A taxi costs around US$30 one way into town.

Restaurants

There are plenty of restaurants to choose from and if you are going as a group it is worth pre-booking. Eating out is varied but not cheap - around US$25 to US$30 per main dish. Our favourites are Patagonia (Argentinian steak house), Will’s Grill, It Rains Fishes, At Sea, Le Guernica and Capriccio.

Bars

If you’re looking for nightlife then Bonaire is not for you, however, there are a couple of nice bars and drinking goes on until 4am: Little Havannah, Karel’s Bar (nice for a pre-dinner drink whilst the sun goes down) and City Café.

Other Activities

As well as windsurfing there are many other activities including some of the best diving in the World with visibility averaging over 100 feet (30m). It is possible to dive and snorkel directly from many hotels both day and night. The Island’s first dive operation was set up in 1963 by Captain Don Stewart at Flamingo Beach. He has played a major role in the formation of Bonaire’s Marine Park and reef preservation.

Kitesurfing

A Kiteboarding School operates at Atlantis Beach providing instruction, equipment hire and a rescue boat.

Cycling

is becoming more and more popular with tours into the Kanuku (outback) and around the Island.

Kayak

Mangrove Info and Kayak Centre offer Kayaking and snorkel trips through the Mangroves. The mangrove forest of Lac Bay is one of the best preserved mangrove forests in the Caribbean.

Horse Riding

The Riding Academy offers half-day rides through the southern part of the island finishing in Lac Bay with a horse and rider swim.

Sailing

various charter operators can be found on the Island

Fishing

Bonaire offers excellent deep-sea and light tackle fishing. It is rated as one of the best bone-fishing destinations in the world.

Nature Reserves

The Washington Slaagbaai National Park makes for a great day out, but you must use a 4-wheel drive because of the rugged terrain. There are dive and snorkel sites and plenty of places to picnic along the way. If you’re into hiking then you might fancy a walk up Brandaris Hill (241 meters/784 feet) the highest point on Bonaire. The round-trip takes about 2 to 3 hours. The trail is well marked and easy to follow. From the top you get a great view of the island and on a clear day you might be able to see Curacao and Venezuela. The Park is a Nature Sanctuary located at the northern end of Bonaire. Formerly two land plantations supplying salt, charcoal, aloe extract, divi divi pods and goats for export to Curacao and Europe it comprises some 14,000 acres.

Klein Bonaire: a nature reserve of around 1500 acres, accessible by water taxi, great for snorkelling and picnicking (though you might need to take some shade), and is a nesting site for turtles: www.bmp.org

Other Activies

Donkey Sanctuary: www.donkeysanctuary.org

Butterfly Farm: www.butterflygardenbonaire.com

Salt Pans: Make nice photographs

Pekelmeer: a pretty drive and one of the most important breeding grounds for the southern Caribbean flamingo population (+/- 6,500)

Rapelling and rock climbing offered by Outdoor Bonaire

History & Culture

Arawak Indians from Venezuela were the first inhabitants of the island, believed to have arrived around 1300. The Spanish arrived in 1499 and the Dutch took possession in 1636. African slaves were brought to the Island in the late 1600s to work on the plantations and harvesting salt. Between 1799 and 1816 the Island was occupied on and off by various countries and individuals. The Island returned to theDutch in 1816. Fort Oranje was built to protect the island’s main resource, salt. Slavery was abolished in 1863. Salt production is still a major industry on the Island along with tourism. Kralendijk airport was built in 1943, and today Bonaire is on the itinerary for many of the large cruise liners that travel around the Caribbean Sea.

Events

Rincon market held every 1st Saturday of the month.

Carnival - the biggest cultural event on the Island - early February.

International Sailing Regatta - autumn
PWA Freestyle - Cancelled for 2012 but set to return in 2013.

Outro

Report by: Nic Hibdige

 

 
 

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