Have you ever wondered what Bonaire was like before you first visited?
Many visitors to Bonaire return year after year. In fact, these days, it is not unusual to hear of some repeat guests celebrating 30 years of visits, or even 40 years! These visitors have truly witnessed lots of changes on Bonaire, as it has transitioned from a sparsely populated island, to a less-sparsely populated island.
But even those visitors who first came in the 1980s, when dive tourism to Bonaire was taking off, still can’t imagine what Bonaire was like in earlier decades. The Bonaire Insider has located some videos online that were taken on Bonaire in the 1950s and the 1960s, and we thought you would enjoy seeing them as much as we did.
Bonaire Video from the 1950s.
Sometime in the early 1950s, Polygoon-Profilti, a Dutch production company, produced a short documentary about Bonaire, entitled “Eiland van rust” (Island of Rest). The film shows fascinating scenes of life on Bonaire from over half a century ago, documenting salt harvesting, charcoal creation, aloe farming, boat building, and traditional fishing from locally crafted sail boats. One can see the roots of today’s festivals of Simadan and Maskarada. The video is an amazing look at a Bonaire we no longer see. Narration is in Dutch.
Bonaire: Island of Rest.
Bonaire Video from the 1960s.
Just a short decade later, Bonaire’s personality was already changing. It’s distinctive green license plates were already in place, as were the hills of conch shells, locally known as karko, at Lac Cai. Today these hills of conch shells still can be seen, but they no longer grow larger, as conch is now a protected species. And, of course, we no longer traipse through the nesting areas of Bonaire’s iconic bird, the flamingo, as we now know that such activities disturb the birds’ natural behaviors.
In this twenty-minute film, we follow a Dutch family who spent two vacations on Bonaire in 1964 and 1966. At a time when tourism to Bonaire was only beginning, it is a special treat to be able to travel back to this period and see the island as it was, including a glimpse of Bonaire’s first Flamingo Airport!
Bonaire: Island of the Flamingos.
(Source: Youtube Videos)
Susan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing for The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog.