Reflections from Sunset on Brandaris–The Top of Bonaire

By Guest-writer, Sanny Ensing, for STINAPA

“Don’t forget to bring a flashlight!” said the press release on STINAPA’s upcoming sunset hike to the top of the Brandaris. I was psyched – clearly this was going to be one adventurous hike – not only was it my first time to hike to the top of the hill in the Washington Slagbaai National Park but we would be descending at night.

Roughly once a month STINAPA organizes a special hike, sometimes to the top of the Brandaris, other times a kaminata or walk along another beautiful park trail. This time a sunset hike was planned to the top of Bonaire’s highest peak – timed just right to see the sun hit the horizon at the top and consequently, the need for a flashlight – to make it back down to the exit.

We met the group at 4pm at the entrance to the Washington Slagbaai National Park. People were milling about, excited about the adventure up ahead. “Does your light work?”, “Can I borrow a torch”, and “What kind of flashlight do you have?” were the most frequently asked questions amongst the hikers as they waited to enter the park.

Time to go! Everyone jumped into their cars (some even carpooled) and drove onwards into the park behind the pick-up of STINAPA’s Chief Ranger George Thodé, aka Kultura, who was set to guide us up together with STINAPA’s National Park Manager Paulo Bertuol. After a 25 minute ride into the park we parked the cars at the bottom of the trail up to the peak of this Bonairean ‘mountain.’ With backpacks filled with water, sandwiches and, of course, the by-now notorious torch, the group set off behind the chief ranger. The pace was set and the quicker hikers closed in on front man Kultura as he explained about the park and Bonaire’s nature. The rear was brought up by Paulo.

The going was quite easy, especially at the beginning, as we trekked through the landscape so typical of Bonaire – high cacti trees, dry wabi’s and red earth. The more we climbed, the sparser the vegetation, and the more stunning the panorama. After passing through a little green gate we looked up at the top of the Brandaris, seemingly hours away. With sunset time creeping up on us the pace was set again – up and onwards. Panting and sweating we arrived at the first outcrop of the hill – a striking view as a reward and a true scramble up ahead of us.

20151130-BrandarisWe climbed, holding on the edges of the rocks with hands and feet, following a gutter in the side of the hill towards the top. At the top of the first hill a little ridge path gave way to another last climb to the true top of the Brandaris. A last heave and pull and we reached – just in time! Slowly but surely everyone made it up and sat down with a drink of water to enjoy one of the prettiest sunsets I have ever seen on the island. Curaçao was clear as day, right under the cloud that hid the sun as it descended. I had never seen our neighboring island that clearly outlined, and neither had Kultura. He explained that he had surely climbed the Brandaris more than most but had never seen this far before! Lucky us, to have hiked on a day so clear.

As the sun hit the horizon and began its sinking path into the sea, it began to get chilly on top, and backpacks were strapped back on to ready us for the way back at twilight. With the last tip of orange gone we set off scampering down again. Twilight quickly gave way to darkness and the moon. With a night so clear the moonlight was bright and enough – for me- to see by. It was an amazing experience to clamber down a mountain by night. We waited at intervals until the group was complete and Paulo, the last man in the line, had arrived safely amongst us, before we set off down again.

A stunning sight was looking back at the rest of the group as the night got darker. We descended fast with Kultura’s guidance and turning back saw a string of little headlight torches light the way down the hill like a bright twisting necklace. Easy does it though and once the hill was behind us we walked in unison back towards the head of the trail.

I met some wonderful people along the way and had various chats with the different hikers this adventurous climb attracted. I loved the fact that the group was so varied in fitness and in age – showing that it is possible for most people to hike to the top of the Brandaris and descend back in darkness. Kultura told tales of a 94 year old Frenchman who had quickly ascended the mountain, and of an elderly Bonairean who had attempted the hike with his family. He made it to the top whilst some of his younger family members didn’t.

With a revered salute to the hills of the park Kultura brought us safely back to the parking lot and to a jug full of ice-cold water. It had been a true success. The climbers loved it. Happy, and full of energy after such an adventure I left the park. I am sure to participate in these wonderfully adventurous STINAPA walks again!  (Source:  STINAPA)


Want to join in too? STINAPA is organizing a moonlight kaminita (walk/hike) on December 26th and in January they will attempt the sunset Brandaris hike again. These organized hikes and walks are only $10.00 per person and provide a glimpse of Bonaire seldom seen.  Watch The Bonaire Insider for more details.



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Bonaire’s Monopoly is Here

Have you ever wished you could buy or own a hotel or resort on Bonaire?  Well, now you can, at least when you play Bonaire’s Monopoly game!


Starting today, the Bonaire version of the famous family game of Monopoly has been rolled out and is available at three outlets on the island:  Van den Tweel Supermarket, Top-1 Toys, and Addo’s Books & Toys.  This very special, limited edition game sells for $65.00 and will be the perfect Christmas gift for the Bonaire-phile in your family.

Those who are not on Bonaire can also enjoy owning that island paradise, because the game is also available online for residents of the United States or European Netherlands.  Simply click here to order the game.

Not only is this a fantastic game for any time of the year, but for those families visiting Bonaire over the coming holidays, it will provide hours and hours of entertainment when you sip a glass of wine on your balcony, while buying up Bonaire resort after resort!

Enjoy the new Bonaire Monopoly!  (Source:  The Dushi Company) 

Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire Surprised by WWF-NL Junior Ranger Program Winner

20151125-STCBDuring the last week of October, Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire (STCB) was invited to a special meeting to be held at Harbour Village Resort. This important sea turtle conservation organization was not given any idea of why their presence was being requested, but away they went to the meeting.

They were pleasantly surprised to see Felipe Saelmans and his family.  Felipe, just 12 years old, was well known to STCB as he was the top fundraiser in the WWF-NL Junior Ranger program last year.  His personal efforts assisted STCB with the purchase of their new boat, used for field work and checking turtle nests on Klein Bonaire.  For his efforts, Felipe and his family received a trip to Bonaire and he participated first-hand in a number of conservation activities while he was here.

Bonaire and its nature-oriented mindset must have made a lasting impression on this young man.  After his visit to Bonaire, he returned back to his home in Europe, and he decided to raise additional monies on his own.  For that purpose, he founded a non-profit organization called Sea & Land Wonders Dutch Caribbean, with a stated mission to support conservation work in the Dutch Caribbean.

Felipe surely is a special individual, as, on a second visit to Bonaire with his family, he presented STCB with a gift of €6,500.  He did this by selling roses at school!

What a great story, and Felipe is truly an inspiration for everyone.  (Source:  STCB)

Sanikolas Has Arrived on Bonaire!

The old gentleman is finally here, having arrived last Saturday afternoon on Bonaire’s Town Pier, all the way from Spain!  There was much anticipation, especially by Bonaire’s little ones, as the long-awaited Sanikolas (Sinterklaas in Dutch) and his Zwarte Piet were due to arrive.

Everyone gathered in Wilhelmina Plaza, where there were myriad activities for kids (and not-so-young kids!), including go-cart rides, a bouncing house, and even a demonstration of Kids’ Zumba.

But even though these activities proved to provide ample entertainment, the old gentleman himself stole the show.

Sanikolas_2015_07As the two tugboats came close to shore, everyone crowded along the ocean-side, to try and catch the first glimpse.  As the tugs drew close to Town Pier, amid water salutes, the tugs themselves seemed to dance, spinning in place, proving Bonaire’s tugboat pilots have some very impressive boat handling skills.

But the anticipation kept mounting, and finally the tugs were docked, and the Piets exploded onto the dock with energetic moves, dances, and long full-body waves, performed to the beat of a drum corps.  After a fine performance, Old St. Nick made his way down the dock to meet with everyone gathered.

Sanikolas_2015_24Tradition dictates that Sanikolas and the Zwarte Piets will spend the coming weeks visiting the children of Bonaire.  Young ones put their shoes out in a conspicuous place, and if they have been nice, he will leave presents and candy for them in their shoes on his special day, December 5th, the evening before he returns to Spain.  Some believe that if they stuff their shoes full of hay and carrots, Sanikolas will visit them for sure so his horses can enjoy the tasty morsels.

But what if you’ve been naughty?  Well, then you are stuffed in one of the Piet’s sack and carried back off to Spain where you will become a Zwarte Piet!

View a photo gallery below of the 2015 event.  Click on any image to see an enlarged version.

Although there is much controversy in the European Netherlands over the Zwarte Piet, luckily for Bonaire there is no such concern, and a wonderful children’s tradition lives on.  (Source:  Bonaire Insider Reporter)

CIEE Students to Present Lectures About Their Research on Bonaire

Image courtesy of CIEE.

This week on Wedesday, November 25th, 2015 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM, CIEE will be hosting their next free public lecture.

This is a very special lecture night, as the organization will be hosting their students from this semester, who will be giving short, 8-minute presentations about their research topics during their time here on Bonaire.  There are eleven students who will be presenting their research.  It should prove to be an interesting night with some excellent topics for discussion, including moray eel distributions, fluorescent fire worms, lionfish brains, and more.
As always, the CIEE lecture program is free, and everyone who has an interest is welcome to attend.  The lecture will be held at their headquarters on Kaya Gobernador N. Debrot #26 in Kralendijk.  (Source:  CIEE) 

Animal Shelter’s Annual Christmas Fair is November 29th, 2015

animal-shelterIt’s a wonderful way to get your holiday shopping done early and assist with a great cause, helping Bonaire’s homeless cats and dogs, when you shop at the Animal Shelter’s Annual Christmas Fair on November 29th, 2015.

From 10:00 AM until 5:00 PM, the shelter is open at Kaminda Lagun 26A.  There will be new and second-hand clothing, books, housewares, home-made crafts, baked goods, food and refreshments.  And, of course, there are all sorts of pet products for your favorite pet, including collars, leashes, toys, and more.

There’s even live music for entertainment and a Happy Hour from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM.

If you’re on Bonaire, please visit the Christmas Fair and bring a friend!  All proceeds will directly benefit the Animal Shelter, a non-profit organization, which helps lost and homeless dogs and cats find forever homes.  (Source:  Animal Shelter)


DCNA Hosts Diver Workshop To Record Coral Health During Dives

The Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) is headquartered on Bonaire and coordinates nature conservation efforts within all six of the Caribbean islands in the Dutch kingdom.

On Thursday, November 19th, 2015, at 5:00 PM, they will host a workshop to inform and invite divers to participate in a research project which will investigate the link between decline on land and damage to the coral reef.  This will be ascertained by recording statistics on the reef health during your dives on Bonaire.

This study is being conducted by Ms. Michaela Roberts as part of her PhD Thesis in the Department of Geography and Sustainable Development of the University of St. Andrews, in conjunction with Bonaire’s local foundation, Echo.

Those interested in learning more, or signing up for the project, should visit the offices of DCNA (opposite City Shop) tomorrow afternoon at 5:00 PM.  (Source:  Bonaire Reporter)

Sanikolas is Coming to Town on Saturday, November 21st, 2015


Each year, Sanikolas, also called St. Nicholas (English), or Sinterklaas (Dutch), arrives on Bonaire via boat amid much fanfare. The old gentleman, along with his Zwartepietnan, will visit with the children (of all ages) on Bonaire over the coming weeks.

This year, those wishing to see this legendary man should be in Wilhelmina Park Saturday afternoon, where festivities are planned. There are activities and music from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM that will keep everyone happy and in a holiday mood. The Zwartepietnan do acrobatics and engage the audience, and the entire event is quite a show.

After, Sanikolas and his Zwartepietnan will make appearances all over Bonaire up until December 5th. Legend says on that night, he will go to all homes to check who’s been naughty or nice and will leave gifts behind in your shoe! (Source: Bonaire Insider Reporter)


CIEE Hosts Echo Foundation for Public Presentation on Bonaire’s Endemic Parrot (Lora)

20151113-LoraOn Monday evening, November 16th, 2015, at 7:00 PM, CIEE will host Ms. Lauren Schmaltz representing Echo Foundation for one of their free, informative public presentations.

Lauren will be discussing Echo’s work on the Yellow-shouldered Amazon Parrots, the threats which exist that are affecting the population numbers, health and stability, and what Echo is doing on Bonaire to conserve this special bird its native dry forest habitat.

All are welcome.  The presentation will be held at the CIEE headquarters at Kaya N. Debrot #26 in Kralendijk.  (Source:  CIEE)


Bonaire’s Coast Guard to Give Demonstration

20151111-CoastGuardThis Thursday and Friday, November 12th and 13th, 2015, the Coast Guard for the Caribbean Netherlands will be in the port of Kralendijk, and they will host an open house for the public, as well as give an exciting demonstration of just a few of the duties which this elite corps provides.

The Coast Guard ship will be open for the public to tour on Thursday, November 12th, 2015 from 2:00 to 4:00 PM.  Anyone who has an interest in learning more about the ship and its crew is welcome to come on board during these hours.

On Friday, November 13th, 2015, the crew will give an exciting display of exactly what they do, including the stopping of a “Go Fast” boat, commonly used in drug interdiction, and also a simulated rescue at sea.

This is an excellent opportunity to view just some of the protection duties which Bonaire’s Coast Guard provides on a daily basis.  (Source:  Island Government)


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