Category Archives: History

A Tail of Two Towers on Bonaire

Bonaire says ayo to Flamingo’s Airport iconic tower, Washington Park says bon bini to a new birdwatching tower.


It’s often said that when a door closes, another opens, and thus it was with Bonaire this week. After 42 years of service, yesterday, Bonaire International Airport began the dismantling of its iconic and historic flamingo-pink control tower. But just last week, Washington Park officially opened the new birdwatching tower at Boca Slagbaai.

Bonaire says “ayo” to Flamingo Airport’s control tower.

After 42 years of service, the iconic Flamingo Airport tower comes down.

Time marches on, and progress must continue. And so, Bonaire is saying goodbye to its beloved flamingo-pink control tower at Bonaire International Airport. Yesterday, the tower, which has been in use for the past 42 years, was decommissioned, and dismantling began. Many are sad to see this iconic part of Bonaire’s aviation history go away, but the new control tower provides more safety as it complies with the Safety Standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and will be officially inaugurated in September.

Bonaire says “bon bini” to Washington Park’s new birdwatching tower.

But Bonaire has another new tower, just officially inaugurated last week by Lt. Governor Edison Rijna located in the area of Boca Slagbaai in Washington-Slagbaai National Park.

Lt. Governor Edison Rijna opens the new birdwatching tower in Washington Park, Bonaire.The construction material for the tower was sponsored by Cargill. The watchtower design was based on the Donkey Sanctuary watchtower and built by the Dutch Army with the help of Washington Slagbaai National Park rangers.

The watchtower, situated at the Saliña Slagbaai in the Washington Slagbaai National Park, will provide excellent birdwatching opportunities. Informational signs with bird photos were placed to assist visitors with easily recognizing the most common species of birds.

During the upcoming migration season, one can find 90 different species of birds, in addition to our popular flamingos, parrots, and parakeets.  Be sure to check out Bonaire’s new tower on your next visit to Washington Park.

So, although Bonaire’s newest tower in Washington Park cannot claim to be flamingo-pink, it can claim to give an excellent view of the pink flamingo!

(Source:  Bonaire International Airport, STINAPA)


Susan Davis, Bonaire InsiderSusan 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. 

Bonaire Videos from the 1950s and 1960s

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.

Bonaire from the 1950s and 1960s.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.

Learn more about Bonaire’s history!


(Source: Youtube Videos)

Susan Davis, Bonaire InsiderSusan 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. 

History of Bonaire’s Hilma Hooker Shipwreck

Bonaire's famous shipwreck and dive site, The Hilma Hooker.

The Hilma Hooker became part of Bonaire’s diving history over 30 years ago.

We enjoyed this recent retelling of the history of Bonaire’s Hilma Hooker dive site, by Scuba Diving Magazine.  We hope you like it as much as we did!

The origins of this popular dive site are the stuff of diving folklore — you’ll never hear the whole tale the same way twice. Read on to find out how this drug-smuggling vessel caught up in red-tape and legal limbo found its way to the ocean floor and the hearts of Bonaire’s divers.

History of Bonaire\'s Hilma Hooker Shipwreck


The Hilma Hooker is a 236-foot Dutch freighter built in Krimpen aan den IJssel, the Netherlands. It was originally christened the Midsland on May 20, 1951.  This ship would change hands — and names — multiple times over the next two decades.

One of the most in-depth accounts of the Hooker’s troubled months prior to sinking comes from Bruce Bowker, of Bruce Bowker’s Carib Inn. According to Bowker, local dive operators were quick to recognize the gift that the tide had left on their doorstep and appealed to the government to use the ship to create a new dive site. Despite an outpouring of public support, nothing could be done. The Hilma Hooker was evidence in an active case for the Attorney General’s office of the Netherland Antilles. And if the owners were found not guilty, the ship would need to be returned in the same condition as when the authorities confiscated it — something that would be hard to do if the ship was sitting on the sea floor.

On September 12, 1984, the ship began taking on water. Its pumps had failed, and the Hilma Hooker began to sink. At 9:08 a.m. she rolled over onto her starboard side and slipped beneath the surface two minutes later.

(Source:  Scuba Diving Magazine)


Susan Davis, Bonaire InsiderSusan 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. 

Bonaire Celebrates Its National Monuments This Sunday

Bonaire’s Monument Day is Sunday, September 25th, 2016.

This year brings the fourth edition of Monument Day.

monument_day_2016This Sunday, the island will celebrate the fourth edition of Monument Day, a time when Bonaire looks back at its rich cultural and historical architecture.  This year’s event is being organized by the Bonaire Island Government, in conjunction with Soldachi Tours and Fundashon Monumento Boneiru.

Event Venue.

This year’s event will begin with a walk in historic Rincon, visiting the various monuments in the center of this village, the oldest settlement on Bonaire.  The program will begin at 10:00 AM at Plasa Commerce and will end at the Museum Chich’i Tan at 1:00 PM.

Monument Day Pre-registration.

Those wishing to participate should pre-register at the offices of SKAL, at Kaya Kachi Craane #34 before close of business on Friday.

Learn More about Bonaire’s Monument Day.

Last year’s event designated 15 new historical monuments. These structures can provide an interesting glimpse into life on Bonaire in earlier centuries.


(Source:  Extra)





The Terramar Historical and Archaeological Museum Has Opened

Bonaire Has A New Museum

Several years in the making, the new Terramar Historical and Archaeological Museum just opened this month.

Located in Kralendijk, the new museum offers a glimpse into the Caribbean’s rich past, with a special focus on how Bonaire was affected through the ages.

A Caribbean Timeline

Terramar Museum's Timeline of the Caribbean's Past

The main exhibit gives an extensive timeline, going back centuries.  It’s an excellent way to get an informative snapshot of events in the Caribbean, prior to looking into the exhibits highlighting Bonaire’s past.  This museum utilizes a variety of the latest technology to present their exhibits, and an animated floor exhibit in the timeline room keeps one mesmerized.

The upstairs gallery at Terramar MuseumVisitors can exit out of the timeline exhibit through several doors, and then step back into a world long gone in the side exhibits, many of which are relevant to Bonaire, but also cover life in the Caribbean through the ages.

Museum director Ruud Stelten, who has been involved with the project from its concept to full realization, says this about the new museum:

“Terramar Museum will guide the visitor through 7,000 years of Caribbean history, informing both tourists and locals about many aspects of the region’s fascinating past.”

Exhibit at the Terramar Museum

Terramar Museum Combines New with the Old

There is a wonderful fusion of old and new at the museum.  As one steps into the historical building, one is immediately immersed in the creative exhibits, utilizing the latest technology. Yet, traditional exhibits are interspersed.  The result keeps one’s interest high as the exhibit areas are walked.

A visit to Bonaire’s new Terramar Historical and Archaeological Museum should be on everyone’s list of “have-to-do” when next visiting the island.  More information is available, including open hours and entrance fees, by clicking here.

Bonaire has a wealth of other museums as well, information about these options are on InfoBonaire’s history page.

(Source:  Bonaire Insider Reporter)




An Evening with Johnny Craane–Tales of the Sea

There will be a very special evening at the new Terramar Museum on Friday, August 19th, 2016 from 6:00 to 9:30 PM, when Bonaire seafaring legend, Johnny Craane, presents Images of Our Maritime Past.

craaneHear tales of trade and trickery, sailing and smuggling as told by the master boat-builder himself.  The Craane family has crafted wooden ships on Bonaire for generations.  The island’s seafaring men form an important part of Bonaire’s history.

Joining Johnny will be Luzday Zambrano, great-granddaughter of the famous Bonaire boat-builder, “Pabubu” Marchena.  The hour-long presentation/tour includes a glimpse into the past, with fifteen stunning historic photographs of sailors and ships.

The presentation/tours in the new museum (located behind Mona Lisa Restaurant), will be conducted in three languages:  6:30 PM in English, 7:30 in Papiamentu, and 8:30 PM in Dutch.  Entrance is $10.00 per person, and all proceeds go to the restoration of Stormvogel, the last of the sailing cargo boats.

For those on Bonaire, this is a unique opportunity to get a glimpse into a Bonaire now mostly gone.

(Source:  Bonaire Maritime Heritage Foundation)

Bonaire's Calendar of Events


Mangazina di Rei Re-Opens After Renovations, Launches New Culture Discovery Tours

stone_houseMangazina di Rei, an open-air museum located in one of Bonaire’s oldest structures, has recently re-opened after renovations, and they have announced a new schedule of activities and tours.

Mangazina di Rei hosts Culture Discovery Tours are available Monday through Friday at either 9:00, 10:00, or 11:00 AM or 2:00 or 3:00 PM.  The tours offer a fascinating way to immerse one’s self in Bonaire’s local culture.  Entry is $19.00 per person for adults, and children under 13 are $3.00.  All proceeds from the tours are directly utilized in the Mangazina’s educational projects.

A visit to their Rincon Exhibit is a wonderful way to get an overview of the rich heritage of Rincon, the oldest settlement on Bonaire.  This exhibit also provides a wealth of information on the indigenous flora and fauna as well as some of the more interesting sights in the Rincon area.  The entry fee for the exhibit is $10.00 per person, and it’s open Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

The Mangazina hosts a monthly cultural market which is a fusion of old and new, with local arts and crafts, plants and vegetables, and local food and music.  Check the Calendar of Events for the next market.

Of course, those that just want to let nature provide a rest-stop to the hustle and bustle of every-day life are free to wander the grounds of the park at no charge.  (Monday through Friday 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM.)

Mangazina di Rei has a wonderful collection of the types of traditional homes and other structures utilized by Bonaire’s early inhabitants.  (Source:  Mangazina di Rei)


CIEE Offers Opportunity to Learn About Bonaire’s Seafaring Past

In olden days, many men on Bonaire supported their families by taking to the sea.  In fact, Bonaire seamen were duly noted for their abilities to handle boats in any type of conditions.  Components of Bonaire’s flag recognize its men’s abilities on the seas of the world as there is a black ring with the four points of the navigation-compass.

20151005-StormvogelToday, sadly, many of these sailing traditions are not being carried forward, as our modern-day conveniences do not mandate the same innate knowledge of the seas or of boat-building.  However, there is currently one effort being carried forth on Bonaire to keep that tradition alive–the renovation of the sea-cargo sailing vessel, Stormvogel.

CIEE will provide an informative presentation this Thursday, October 8th, 2015 from 7:00 to 8:00 PM on the Stormvogel. The talk will be given by Johnny Craane and Patrick Holian and will be about Bonaire’s rich boat-building past, the history of Stormvogel, and the community effort to save Stormvogel, the last sailing cargo boat of the ABC Islands.

As always, CIEE’s presentations are free to anyone who wishes to attend, and the talk will be given at their offices at Kaya Gobernador N. Debrot #26. (Source:  CIEE, Bonaire Insider Reporter)


Bonaire Designates 15 New Official Monuments on Monument Day

Although many of Bonaire’s visitors come for the island’s well known watersports, there is a history to the island as well, which is often overlooked.  In recent years, the Bonaire Monument Foundation has held an annual event each September, Monument Day, during which many of Bonaire’s historic buildings have been designated as monuments.

monument_day_2015_12This year’s event on Sunday, September 27th, gave Bonaire fifteen new official monuments.  Many of these historic edifices have been restored and now house governmental or private business entities, or still private homes, but their structures can provide an interesting glimpse into life on Bonaire in earlier centuries.

The majority of these monuments are in Kralendijk and can be easily viewed via a self-guided walking tour, lasting about two hours and it’s an enjoyable way to mix shopping in town with a bit of history.

View some of these newly designated monuments, many of which offer beautiful examples of Bonaire’s neoclassical architecture, and plan your walk to see these edifices yourself on your next trip into Kralendijk.  (Source:  Bonaire Insider Reporter)


Click on the map to open a larger view.



Bonaire’s Monument Day is Sunday, September 27, 2015

In connection with Bonaire’s annual Monument Day, this Sunday, September 27, 2015, the island government and the Bonaire Monuments Foundation will jointly organize an event.

This year’s program will consist of the opening of a number of monuments in the historical inner parts of Kralendijk.  The tour begins in Wilhelmina Park and will end in the Parke Tului Domcassé, beginning at 10:00 AM and ending at 1:00 PM.

To register for the program in advance, visit the offices of SKAL at Kaya Jan N.E. Craane #34.  (Source:  Public Entity of Bonaire)


1 2