Dutch Antilles – Bonaire | Washington-Slagbaai National Park

Not the best weather, not enough time, hence not the very best pictures. But I still want to introduce you to one of the eeriest landscapes I ever drove through. Let me take you to the small island of Bonaire.
Bonaire is a Caribbean island that was part of the Netherlands Antilles. Until the country’s dissolution in 2010, the island (including uninhabited Klein Bonaire) became a special municipality (officially public body) within the country of the Netherlands. Together with Aruba and Curaçao it forms a group known as the ABC islands. They’re located off the north coast of South America near western part of Venezuela.

Join the joy ride

Washinton-SlagBaai National Park is a pristine 13,500 acre natural park offering an excellent introduction to the landscape and vegetation of Bonaire. Covering almost one-fifth of the island, the park offers hills with scenic vistas, vast saline plains, beaches and trees filled with exotic birds. Animal life includes wild donkeys, goats and iguanas. Depending on the amount of time you have to explore, you can choose different routes through the park.

There are two driving trails, the shorter, green route of 28 km (17 miles), which takes about two hours to travel, and the longer, yellow route of 45 km (28 miles), which takes about four hours. These are rugged dirt roads, and only four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended (but we -just – managed in a regular car). In the center of the park, there is also a walking trail up to Brandaris, the highest hill of Bonaire which offers a wonderful view of the island, and only takes about three hours round trip (park rules say you have to start your walk before 12pm). A Nature Tag is required for entry.

Former plantations

The park actually comprises two former land plantations, Washington & Slagbaai. These two plantations once supplied salt, charcoal, aloe extract, divi-divi pods, and goats for export to Curaçao and Europe. The Washington Plantation was secured in 1969, upon the death of the owner “Boy” Herrera. He negotiated with the government to take over the plantation upon his death with the condition that it was to remain undeveloped for the enjoyment of the people. The Washington National Park was founded (May 9, 1969) – the first Nature Sanctuary of the Netherlands Antilles. In 1977, the Slagbaai land plantation was negotiated and added to create the Washington-Slagbaai National Park.

Read more about the history, the highlights, Brandaris, birdwatching and vegetation on Geographia.

Bon Bini na Boneiru (Welcome to Bonaire)!

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Typical landscape with prickly pear.


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Close encounter with Iguana 1.


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Typical landscape part II.


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Spot the photographer for the sense of scale!


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Limestone plateau


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Limestone terraces


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Close encounter with Iguana 2.


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Seru Bentana Lighthouse.


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View from Seru Bentana Light.


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Close encounter with Iguana 3.


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Brandaris’ peak


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Close encounter with Iguana 4.


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On the northernmost point on Bonaire stand the ruins of the Old Malmok Lighthouse and research center.


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Flamingo’s at Boca Slagbaai.


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Boca Slagbaai. Buildings dating back to 1868 still stand on the beach, testifying to this harbor’s historic importance. They include the home of the manager of Slagbaai plantation, a customs office and a warehouse (magasina) for storing salt.


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The volcanic origins of Bonaire at the Juwa Pass.


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Two camouflaged goats.


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More info

http://www.beautiful-bonaire.nl/natuur/washington_slagbaai_national_park.html (dutch only)
http://www.bonbinibonaire.nl/washington-slagbaai/washington-slagbaai-national-park.html (dutch only)