Bonaire Named Once Again in Top 100 Sustainable Destinations 2017

Last week, on World Tourism Day, the global listing for the top 100 Sustainable Destinations was revealed, and we are delighted to report that Bonaire is once again honored to be included.

Bonaire is once again named to the Top 100 Sustainable Global Destinations for 2017!These awards celebrate the efforts of tourism destinations’ responsible and sustainable visitor initiatives. Those making nominations were requested to provide extensive information about the destination, as well as its efforts to make itself and its stakeholders more sustainable for the benefit of visitors, its local communities, and the world. For 2017, 155 nominations from 57 countries around the world were received.

Nominees had to prove compliance with the 15 core criteria of the Green Destinations Standard, which include:

All nominations were evaluated by experts of the Green Destinations Top 100 Team and by members of the special Top 100 Selection Panel that included over 60 tourism sustainability experts.

The Top 100 initiative aims to recognize tourism destinations that have worked hard to make a difference and take sustainability seriously. Nevertheless, no destination is fully sustainable. In all selected destinations, there are important issues which remain and must be solved.

(Source:  TCB)

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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. 



The Fate of the Oil-slicked Boobies and Other Tales

Bonaire’s disaster management team works quickly to avert damage from oil spills.


For those Bonaire Insider readers who have been following our coverage of the oil spill from Trinidad that started coming ashore on Bonaire in May and June of this year, and whom read about the boobies which were rescued and covered in oil, we have some good news to share.

The fate of the six boobies.

The quick action on the part of all stakeholders averted a potential environmental calamity, but the work to save several seabirds was ongoing.

How to tell when the birds are waterproofed?

In August and September, these seabirds were clean and healthy. However, they could not be released back into the wild until it was ascertained that they were once again waterproofed.

Equipment and trained personnel arrive from the European Netherlands.

Monique de Vrijer, a specialist in treating birds that have been victims of oil spills, flew to Bonaire to assist Elly Albers of The Mangrove Center, who had been nursing the birds back to health. Monique arrived on Bonaire with equipment, including portable pools, necessary for checking the birds’ waterproofing.

Insuring the birds are ready for release includes their own private pools.

Monique and her team of responders and specialists in Holland had daily meetings and helped to train Elly, her volunteers, and a STINAPA biologist on how to wash, rinse, promote preening/waterproofing, and draw blood (to see if the birds are healthy).

And finally, after many months of care on land, the boobies are released.

This great story is now complete, as several weeks ago, three Red-footed Boobies and three Brown-footed Boobies that had been rehabilitated and recuperated were finally set free at Malmok in Washington Slagbaai National Park and are once again soaring over Bonaire’s eastern coastline.

But the next threat arrives with a diesel transport truck overturning at Karpata.


On September 14th, 2017, Bonaire was once again faced with a crisis, and the island’s disaster management team and first responders sprang into action.

Another oil spill calls for fast action by Bonaire.

A transport vehicle carrying hundreds of liters of diesel, had an accident at Karpata. The fuel storage area was compromised, and diesel was pouring out onto the land and into the sea.

Workers toiled tirelessly for the whole day to contain the spill.

After extricating the driver, who was transported to San Francisco Hospital for treatment, the team went into action to minimize damage. Personnel from STINAPA, Bopec, the Harbourmaster’s Office, and related disaster management team members worked tirelessly in the scorching sun to contain the spill.

Containment booms were deployed.

Bopec quickly offered their containment booms (temporary floating barriers used to contain an oil spill), which STINAPA staff deployed via their boats on the water. Throughout the day, the diesel from the spill area was vacuumed out of the water.

Environmental assessments.

The next day, STINAPA biologists and marine park rangers once again returned to the spill site to begin assessing damage to the environment.  Baseline studies are available, and the area will continue to be monitored to ascertain any long-term damage.

In both of these situations, quick action by Bonaire’s disaster management team averted massive damage.  The team meets regularly, and trains for a variety of different calamities which might occur, and their training has been put to the test in recent months. They have passed with flying colors. Big thanks go out to all who helped.

(Source:  OLB, STINAPA, Mangrove Info Center)

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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. 





Flamingo Tower Opens a New Chapter in Bonaire Aviation

On September 15, 2017, the new Flamingo Tower was officially launched, opening a new chapter in Bonaire’s aviation history.

The day began with the first-ever Bonaire Aviation Conference, bringing together over 100 people from the Caribbean region, the European Netherlands, and from around the world, all having a common interest in seeing Bonaire’s aviation industry grow and prosper. The conference culminated in the inauguration of the new Flamingo Tower.

The first Bonaire Aviation Conference.

The day was filled with presentations on diverse topics such as how airports can stimulate regional and national economies, the airport experiences in Aruba and Curacao, how Bonaire has the potential to become a regional cargo hub or have its own Jet Center for private planes, the amazing current-day technological aspects of airports and what the latest innovations are, air traffic control, and how Bonaire International Airport affects Bonaire’s tourism product.

The future of aviation on Bonaire.

At the end of the conference, Flamingo Airport’s own CEO, Mr. Michael Nicolaas, spoke about his vision for the future, with Bonaire’s airport offering safe, secure, and sustainable air transportation through cooperation with all stakeholders.

The new Flamingo Tower is launched!

At the end of the day, everyone was transported to the new Flamingo Tower for the official launching ceremony.

Bonaire's newly inaugurated Flamingo Tower at Bonaire International Airport.

Receiving the keys to the tower.

Bonarie International Airport's CEO, receives the keys to the tower.After the blessing of the new Flamingo Tower, the “keys” were officially handed over to Bonaire International Airport’s CEO, Mr. Michael Nicolaas, from Mr. Rob Huyser, Director of Civil Aviation of The Netherlands.

Mr. Nicolaas then, in turn, handed the keys to Ms. Micilia Albertus-Berboom, CEO of The Dutch Caribbean Air Navigation Service Provider (DC-ANSP), the entity which will be operating the tower on behalf of Flamingo Airport.

Cutting the ribbon and opening the tower.

Bonaire Lt. Governor, the Honorable Edison Rijna, cuts the ribbon, opening the tower.Then, in a flurry of photographic moments, Bonaire’s Lt. Governor, the Honorable Edison Rijna, cut the ribbon, officially opening the island’s new Flamingo Tower. He then took an elevator ride to the top, and enjoyed a private tour of the facility.

The assembled persons cheered as KLM took off down the runway, the first flight to depart with the newly christened air traffic control tower.

About the new Flamingo Tower.

Flamingo Tower’s inauguration caps off the completion of phase 2a of the 15 year Master Plan for the expansion of the airport. The tower will be operational from 6:00 AM until 11:00 PM local time (11:00 – 03:00 UTC / Greenwich Mean Time) and/or until the the last flight arrives or departs.

The new Flamingo Tower is fully compliant with the International Safety Standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). An initial staff of seven people will be employed to handle the current traffic at the airport, with DC-ANSP able to respond to any increase in air traffic demand that would require additional staff.

The new location of the control tower has an improved line of sight, providing the air traffic controllers a better view of the entire maneuvering area of the airport used for the take-off, landing and taxiing of aircraft. The state-of-the-art quality technical equipment and communication system facilitates the communication between the Control Tower and the air traffic (pilots) and ensures a safe guidance and management of air traffic operations.

Flamingo Airport offers refuge to regional carriers during Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Since the inauguration, Flamingo Tower has been exceptionally busy, coordinating the arrivals of approximately 20 aircraft from regional carriers who were, firstly, seeking shelter from Hurricane Irma, and then, a week later, from Hurricane Maria. Flamingo Airport was able to offer shelter to these Caribbean carriers, safely parking the aircraft on the airport’s apron.

Bonaire International Airport receives clean “bill of health” from United State’s airport security agency, TSA.

In even more recent news, Bonaire’s airport facility has just received a clean bill-of-health after a security inspection by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, TSA was performed in a three-day audit conducted between September 22nd-24th, 2017. The audit’s results found Bonaire International Airport to be in full compliance with all international standards and recommended practices of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

As CEO, I’m very grateful and proud of this EXCELLENT result that is primarily due to the professional leadership of BIA’s airport security department under the dynamic supervision and direction of Mr. Tico Wanga, his eight supervisors and assistant team leaders and the overall staff of the Airport Security Department.

— Mr. Michael Nicolaas
Bonaire’s airport facilities are very important to the island, as many travelers arrive via airplane to enjoy the island’s ambiance, diving, windsurfing, kiting, and dining. Hats off to all the staff at Flamingo Airport, pabien (congratulations) and thank you for the excellent job you do for Bonaire!

(Source:  Bonaire Insider reporter)

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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. 







Lionfish Ceviche

Print Recipe
Lionfish Ceviche
Perfect for using the smaller fish that won’t make a sandwich!
Lionfish Ceviche
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Seafood
Additional Options
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Seafood
Additional Options
Lionfish Ceviche
  1. Dice the fish and if using shrimp, clean and de-vein.
  2. Dice the fish and if using shrimp clean and devein. Place the fish in a glass or metal bowl.
  3. Juice the limes and pour over the fish, making sure all fish is covered.
  4. Marinate the fish in the lime juice (this step ‘cooks’ the fish) anywhere from 2 hours to overnight. (I like 4-6 hours.)
  5. Pour off about ½ of the lime juice. (Optional - I like my ceviche juicy and tangy, so I keep it).
  6. Add tomato, cilantro, red onion, cucumber salt and pepper and any optional ingredients you like. Toss well to incorporate. Do this preferably a couple hours before serving & refrigerate.
  7. Toss well once again before serving.
Serving Options
  1. Should be served chilled, but not ice cold. Arrange in individual serving bowls lined with the lettuce leaves or serve over salad greens as a ceviche salad.
  2. Place in a bowl and serve with nacho chips for dipping.
  3. Serve in a Martini glass with a lime hanging over the side. Glass can be rimmed with salt.
  4. Pairs well with a chilled Sauvignon Blanc, like a Chilean with citrus notes.
Recipe Notes
  • Store leftover in a plastic bag in the fridge. Tastes better on the second day.
  • Measurements in ceviche are personal preference – use more cucumber if you like it.
  • I like to keep it simple and let the fresh lime-fish flavor prevail. Too many add-ins and you lose the integrity of the dish.

Submitted by Linda Taylor

Test Kitchen's Comment: Simple, fresh, easy.  The perfect way to enjoy Bonaire's lionfish!

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The 2018 Calendars are Here Featuring Bonaire’s Underwater and Avian Worlds

This year’s calendars feature Bonaire’s underwater world, as well as the avian world of birds.


It’s September, and that means it is time to start thinking of 2018!  For Bonaire Insider readers, or their Bonairephyle friends, who wish to keep Bonaire in their hearts all year long, there is no better way than to display one of these nature-related Bonaire 2018 wall calendars.  These calendars make the best stocking-stuffers!

Ellen Muller’s Underwater Bonaire 2018.

For those who just can’t get enough of Bonaire’s marine creatures, InfoBonaire is highlighting Ellen Muller’s Underwater Bonaire 2018 Calendar.  Ellen not only takes stunning underwater images, but she manages to find the un-findable!  These calendars actually become collector’s items, because the images are just too wonderful to throw out at the end of the year.

Learn how to order your copy of Ellen’s Underwater Bonaire 2018 Calendar.

The Pure Bonaire 2018 Calendar

To celebrate Bonaire’s membership in the Caribbean Birding Trail, the 2018 Pure Bonaire Calendar is featuring the wide diversity of birds that can be discovered on Bonaire. Most of the various birds illustrated throughout the calendar can be easily seen when traveling around the island.

The Pure Bonaire 2018 Calendar can be ordered individually or in any quantity online, and the calendar normally ships within five business days of placing an order.

Buy the Pure Bonaire 2018 Calendar now.

(Source:  Ellen Muller, Pure Bonaire)

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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. 



Tune into the Bonaire Insider with Radio Talk Show Host, Raeford Brown!

Tomorrow morning, September 14th, 2017, the Bonaire Insider will be joining Radio Talk Show Host, Raeford Brown, transmitting live from Bonaire!


Raeford Brown, transmitting live from Bonaire, on Thunder Country 96.3 FMRaeford Brown hosts the morning talk show, Raeford and The Thunder Country Morning Show, out of Jacksonville, North Carolina, U.S.A. He is also an avid diver, and travels each year to Bonaire with a number of friends to do some heavy-duty diving. While here, Raeford continues to transmit live from Bonaire, and The Bonaire Insider is delighted to be joining him tomorrow morning.

“Raeford knows the news business forward & backward and conducts on-air interviews with various newsmakers adroitly.”

— Linked In Commentary

Topics for tomorrow’s talk show.

Tune in to the Bonaire Insider joining radio talk show host, Raeford Brown.We’ll be discussing a variety of topics, including current events on Bonaire and in the region, nature preservation, and, should time permit, we’ll take a glimpse at Bonaire through the past few decades.

Those in the Carolinas from the North Carolina Outer Banks to Wilmington may tune in to Thunder Country 96.3 FM. The show airs from 6:30 to to 9:00 AM Atlantic Standard Time. Thunder Country also streams the show live on their website.

Please tune in tomorrow morning as Raeford and I discuss all things Bonaire!

For live streaming from anywhere in the world:

Click here:

Then click on “Listen Live” in the upper right hand corner.

Join us!

Listen to the archive.

The segment with The Bonaire Insider starts at roughly 25 minutes and goes through 45 minutes.  Enjoy!


(Source:  Thunder Country 96.3 FM)

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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 Unites to Assist and Aid Sister Islands Sint Maarten, Saba, and St. Eustatius

Bonaire unites together to raise funds for the hurricane-ravaged Windward Islands of the Dutch Caribbean.

There are six islands in the Caribbean which are part of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, and although separated by geography, as well as governmental entities, the six islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao (the ABC islands in the southern Caribbean) and Sint Maarten, Saba, and St. Eustatius (the Windward Islands, or SSS islands, located at the northern end of the Caribbean archipelago), are inextricably linked–by family, friends, commercial enterprise, and culture.

Hurricane Irma began her rampage through the Caribbean.

It was only one week ago today that Hurricane Irma began her rampage with direct hits as a Category Five hurricane. She first took aim at tiny Barbuda, population 1400, and then swung in with a one-two punch on the dual-country territory of Sint Maarten (Dutch) and St. Martin (French) as the eye wall passed twice over the island.

The Windward Islands, known locally as Isla Ariba (literally, the islands above, in Papiamentu), are accustomed to tropical storms and hurricanes.  But no one ever imagined what Irma had in store for them as she tore across the tiny island with eye wall sustained winds of 185 miles per hour/297 kilometers per hour and gusts well above that.

Utter devastation is seen everywhere.

After all was said and done, it was with shock that island residents took stock of their circumstances. On Sint Maarten/St. Martin, the airport, seaport, hospital, electric and water plants, cell towers and transmitting equipment, and 95% of all buildings were either destroyed or damaged to the point of total loss. In 12 hours, the way of life and the livelihoods of these islanders were destroyed.

With 95% of infrastructure destroyed or damaged, it’s time to send in the Dutch Marines.

The Dutch Marines bring immediate aid to hurricane-ravaged Sint Maarten.

Communications were down. Power was gone. Water was gone. Homes were destroyed. There was no sanitation. There was not even a way for them to put out the call for help. Our Dutch Marines went into action.

They train for disaster management semi-annually on each island in the Dutch Caribbean, so that, in just such a case as this, they already have a familiarity with the island.

Our Dutch Marines were able to make a beach landing, and get in immediate aid and a water-maker, as well as heavy equipment to clear the runway. Since that time, additional marines, police, and aid workers have been dispatched to help out our sister island. Military ships are plying the waters back and forth between Curacao and Sint Maarten, as well as Saba and St. Eustatius, bringing water, food, medical supplies, equipment, and evacuating those needing medical attention. The images and videos that are being posted on social media, as Internet becomes available, are heart-wrenching. Even Royal Caribbean Cruise Line re-arranged schedules, and sent four cruise ships filled with supplies to islands requiring relief, including Sint Maarten. Then, with the previously laden ships empty, they assisted with evacuations from the afflicted islands.

BES sister islands of Saba and St. Eustatius also suffered through the storm, but did not take a direct hit with the eye wall passing over them. Although each island did sustain structural damage, it was much less than the catastrophic damage sustained on Sint Maarten/St. Martin. Both Saba and St. Eustatius are already on the road to recovery.

King Willem-Alexander visits the Windward Islands.

Dutch King Willem-Alexander arrives to see the Windward Islands after the passage of Hurricane Irma.

On Sunday, our King Willem-Alexander arrived in Curacao from the European Netherlands. On Monday, he visited Sint Maarten and today he visited both Saba and St. Eustatius. King Willem-Alexander said this after his visit to Sint Maarten, as he met with reporters:

“I’ve never experienced anything like this before and I’ve seen a lot of natural disasters in my life. I’ve seen a lot of war zones in my life. but I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s been very useful to see for myself what terrible damage this storm has done and in this way to also show the population of Sint Maarten and the governor and prime minister that we stand together here as a kingdom and that we will solve this together.” 

— King Willem-Alexander, on the Dutch national network NOS

Boneiru pa Isla Ariba (Bonaire For the Windward Islands).

Bonaire has united to assist our sister islands, under the umbrella of Boneiru pa Islariba (Bonaire For the Windward Islands). This citizens’ initiative is in collaboration with the Red Cross Bonaire, the Island Government, and the NGO Platform Bonaire.


  • Bonaire has dispatched extra police officers and firefighters to the Windward Islands to offer support.
  • Bonaire, as well as Aruba, has already received patients requiring medical treatment from Sint Maarten’s damaged hospital.
  • There have been numerous collection points for donations of clothing, non-perishable foods, and other basic necessary needs. Our Red Cross, the Krus Korá, has just asked that donations of clothing be stopped for now. The time will come when that will be necessary, but right now, the people of the Windward Islands, and especially Sint Maarten, need food, water, shelter, and medical supplies, and there is not enough room to transport clothing.
  • An Emergency Air Bridge has been established between Saba, St. Eustatius, and Bonaire.  In the case of a medical emergency on either Saba or St. Eustatius, Bonaire will send its Air Ambulance to attend to the patient.  Emergency patients from Saba will be brought to St. Eustatius via helicopter, and from there routed to Bonaire’s hospital via the Air Ambulance.

Police and firemen are dispatched from Bonaire to the Windward Islands.

You can help with your presence at fund-raising events or with a monetary donation.

There are two fund-raising events being held this coming weekend. If you are vacationing on Bonaire, please consider attending one of these to help raise funds.

Additional opportunities exist for helping out via Bonaire For the Windward Islands. Visit the Facebook page for more details.

If you’d like to help Bonaire help our sister islands, financial support can be donated via the Red Cross Bonaire. No amount is too small.  Bank transfers can be made to the account of:

Red Cross Bonaire
P.O. Box 90
Maduro & Curiel’s Bank (Bonaire)
Account #41385602
Swiftcode (BIC):  MCBKBQBN
Please add a note that it is “Ayuda pa Isla Ariba“, help for the Windward Islands.

Bonaire’s collective heart goes out to all affected by Hurricane Irma.

And while we mourn the damage to our beautiful Isla Ariba sister islands, our collective heart goes out to all those who were in the subsequent path of Hurricane Irma–Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Cuba, and, of course, the entire state of Florida and the fellow-islanders in the hard-hit Florida Keys. We send our thoughts and prayers that they recover quickly.

(Source:  Bonaire Insider Reporter, NOS Dutch National Network, Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland, Boneiru pa Isla Ariba)

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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. 





KLM World Deals are Back with Excellent Airfares to Bonaire

KLM World Days have excellent airfares for flights to Bonaire.

KLM World Days have just returned, and now one can book a return ticket between Amsterdam and Bonaire for only €499 (normally €808).

Check the KLM Bonaire Planner.

KLM fare sale to BonaireGo to the KLM Bonaire Fare Planner and check your dates to see the lowest available fare. Remember that the number of available seats is limited. Fares displayed are the lowest available return fares and exclude €10 booking costs and any credit card surcharge.  Book soon!

(Source:  KLM)

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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. 



Today is Bonaire Day, Dia di Bonaire, Dia di Boneiru! Enjoy Bonaire’s Flag Day!!

Bonaire’s Flag Day is September 6th each year.

Today, September 6th, is Bonaire’s Flag Day, a day which is filled with reminders of our unique culture and heritage.

The day was officially opened with the traditional flag-raising ceremony.


View the entire schedule of events.

Prayers go to our sister islands.

While we celebrate today, our festivities are tempered by sadness for our sister islands, Sint Maarten, Saba, and St. Eustatius, as they struggle with Hurricane Irma. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in the path of this storm.

Bonaire Folkloric Dancers.


The Maskarada makes a mid-year appearance!

The Bikers’ Parade.


(Source:  Bonaire Insider reporter)

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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. 




The Hunt for Big Bird, the Great White (Oops) Blue Heron!

Finding “Big Bird,” the white morph of the Great Blue Heron; not just another big, white bird!

In the latter part of 2016, I applied to participate in a very special, week-long course held on Bonaire sponsored by BirdsCaribbean relating to Bonaire’s membership in the Caribbean Birding Trail. There was only room for twenty participants, so I was thrilled to be accepted and assigned one of those spots. A team from BirdsCaribbean led the workshop, and we had knowledgeable lecturers from Panama who work within bird and nature tourism in that country.

Learning about Bonaire’s birds.

During the intensive five-day program, we enjoyed twice-daily birdwatching sessions at various points around Bonaire, classes on how best to impart our knowledge to visitors, bird photography, and interactive projects. We were tutored in the types of birds found on Bonaire, and I had flashbacks to when I had to “learn my fish” back in the 1980s as a first-time diving tourist.

It was during the lecture on bird photography, given by local bird photographer extraordinaire, Sipke Stapert, that set my fate. He informed the group that he had recently seen the very rare white morph of the Great Blue Heron on Bonaire’s southern lee coast. I sat up and took note–before he had completed his sentence, I promised myself I would find and observe this rare bird for myself.

Birding to Bonaire’s southern lee coastline.

And so, I set off to do just that.  Whenever I found some time to go birdwatching, I set my compass southward. As I got past Cargill, along the coast road, I slowed down to a crawl. I’m sure the divers, eager to get to their dives sites, were not happy with me! But they passed, and I continued with my search.

As I slowly drove along the coast, carefully watching for oncoming traffic, or unhappy shore divers behind me, my head slowly swiveled left to right, and back left again in a continuous loop. I was watching for any dot of white.

You’ll see many big, white birds!

Now, it should be noted that Bonaire has a number of big, white birds, so just because I saw a flash of white in the distance, it didn’t necessarily mean I had found “Big Bird,” as I had by now affectionately dubbed my quarry.

Note the bill and legs and feet to identify your bird.

At first glance, all these big, white birds look alike! One really must study them to tell them apart. A way to quickly ascertain which bird you are viewing is to note the bill (beak) and legs and feet. Note the size, shape, and color of the bill and the color of the legs and feet, and you are on your way to identifying your feathered friend.

The Snowy Egret.

For example, on Bonaire, we often can see the Snowy Egret. The Snowy Egret can be discerned by its black bill and startling yellow feet on black legs. However, during breeding season, they tend to try to confuse us birders, with their feet turning bright red!

The Reddish Egret in the white morph.

Then we have the Reddish Egret, which one would think should be reddish. And some are. However, they also come in white, and they can be distinguished by their pink-and-black two-toned bill and rather bad hair days, along with dusky blue legs.

The Cattle Egret, and other big, white birds.

If that is not enough to confuse the newbie birder looking to find Big Bird, one might also stumble upon the Cattle Egret, which occasionally visits Bonaire as well. So it’s easy to understand that finding Big Bird can become quite an obsession! Along the way, I came upon nearly every other type of big, white bird that lives on Bonaire. (For those who wish to learn more about identifying big, white birds, the Cornell Lab is a great resource.)

The Great Blue Heron in the white morph.

So, what’s the big deal about the white version (“morph” is a better word) of the Great Blue Heron? The big deal is that they are very rare. Further, they are also hardly ever sighted in the southern Caribbean. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology says this about Great Blue Herons in the white morph:

“The largest heron in North America, Great White is very rare outside central and southern Florida (and quite rare elsewhere in its range; confined to the Caribbean). Though they are regular throughout most of the southern half of the state, Florida Bay holds the majority of known Great White Herons, with about 850 breeding pairs. Very few are known to breed anywhere else in the world.”

— The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The majestic “Great White Heron” is actually a subspecies of the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias occidentalis). These large, elegant birds are all white and have a massive yellow-orange bill, long neck, pale-pinkish-to-dull-yellow legs and bluish facial skin. They are much larger than Great Egrets which have a slimmer yellow bill, black legs and yellow facial skin. They are very rare in the Caribbean islands, locally common only in Cuba (in addition to south and central Florida). They prefer salt water habitats such as mangroves, shallow tidal areas and coastal ponds and lagoons. They stand still, waiting until their prey comes near, and then strike at it, swallowing it live, or, when large, beating it on the water or shaking it until subdued. 

Bonaire also hosts the normal coloration of the Great Blue Heron, and this large bird often can be seen feeding in shallows or marshy areas, especially close to dusk.

Finding Big Bird.

And so I hunted. A week after my search began, Hurricane Matthew brushed by north of Bonaire and the storm surge generated by the weather system rearranged Bonaire’s coastline, taking away sand where it had been, and re-depositing it in areas which previously had none. I feared Big Bird might relocate and seek quieter surroundings somewhere else.

I searched and searched. Five months into my search, I was ready to cease and desist. One Sunday morning, I grabbed my binoculars, spotting scope, and, of course, camera and tripod, and headed out to bird. As usual, my car was on auto-pilot to the south. It was a great session, with many migratory birds making appearances. I had been out for several hours, and decided it was time to turn back for home. “I will just go to Willemstoren Lighthouse, and then turn back,”  I told myself.

It was high noon, and very warm, and the birds became scarce, as if they, too, were seeking cooler temperatures. I passed Willemstoren and was getting ready to turn around and head for home, when I spotted a flash of white in the distance! Dare I hope? I grabbed binoculars and jumped out of the car, but the flash of white was still so far away as to be hardly discernible. I grabbed the spotting scope and plopped it onto the tripod and tried again–still too far, this big white bird was just a smudge of white.

But as I watched, the flash of white took flight and flew toward me! It landed about half way between its first location and where I was standing. Now I could see it!  It was Big Bird! Hardly containing my excitement, I swiftly set up the camera, but even with a super zoom, the white morph of the Great Blue Heron–my quarry for many months–was still too far away to photograph.

I HAD to get an image, if only to prove I found it! Lady Luck was with me that day, because Big Bird took flight one more time, and flew directly to me. I held my breath…….it flew past and landed on the other side of road, just in front of the rough eastern coastline. It seemed to settle in, and so I set up my camera, and, finally, after a five-month search, my Mission Impossible became Mission Possible!

Great Blue Heron in the white morph, found at Willemstoren Lighthouse, Bonaire

Most visitors to Bonaire do not take the time to study the birds they see while driving around the island for their diving, snorkeling, windsurfing, or kiting activities. But it is easy to incorporate birdwatching into your vacation! Just keep your eyes open as you drive, and you’ll be amazed at the diversity of birds you will see. As birdwatching is a tourism sector without negative environmental impact, Bonaire’s tourism officials hope to realize an increase in birding tourism for the future.
And, if you find Big Bird, my big, white bird?  Log in your sighting!

(Source:  Bonaire Insider reporter, BirdsCaribbean, Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

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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. 







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