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One Happy and Unreal Caribbean Island With Bright Blue Waters and More Flamingos Than People

Traveling down a sinuous, winding road with an incredible view of untamed cacti and ancient coral rock on one side, and an awe-inspiring expanse of the clearest blue sea I’ve ever witnessed on the other, I was enthralled by two landscapes that felt like polar opposites yet were somehow perfectly complementary.

I soon discovered that this is the enchanting charm of Bonaire. It’s a place full of captivating beauty, where the atmosphere has an inexplicable magical quality.

Here, you can feel yourself slipping away from reality and into a world of serenity and peacefulness. There’s something truly special about this Caribbean island that will make any visitor fall in love with it and never want to leave.

The Dutch Caribbean island is a feast for the eyes, where vibrant pink flamingos outnumber the human population and schools of rainbow-hued fish swim in the sparklingly clear waters. On land, wild donkeys traverse the sprawling landscape that is flanked by majestic mountains, creating a picture of true freedom and beauty.

Bonaire is a paradise that is often overlooked and overshadowed by its better known neighbors, Aruba and Curacao.

Despite its beauty and serene atmosphere, the island only welcomed 157,800 visitors in 2019; astonishingly, about one quarter of them were from the United States , as reported by Statistics Netherlands.

This low number of tourists gives Bonaire an air of undiscovered charm that makes it attractive to those looking for something different than the typical beach vacation.

Despite its relative lack of visitors, what this destination offers in return is a genuine experience; there are no chain stores to be seen and not a single set of traffic lights. The absence of the usual crowd ensures that here you can enjoy an unspoilt, undiluted atmosphere where time seems to have stood still.

“When you come here, you see the island as it is… it’s as raw as it can be,” Derchlien Vrolijk, the marketing coordinator for the Tourism Corporation Bonaire, said. “We want to stay raw, we don’t want to change. You want the tourists here, but they come here to see the island, they come here to eat the food, and they come here to meet the people.”

Dubbed a “blue destination,” the island is renowned for its emphasis on sustainability and boasts an expansive protected marine park, as well as an array of nature-based activities from shore diving (there are over 86 dive sites) to snorkeling through mangrove forests.

These idyllic spots offer a chance to experience and appreciate the stunning natural beauty of this remarkable locale.

“Bonaire is a pristine island — you can make it as relaxing as possible or you can make it as hardcore and sporty, it depends on what you want to do,” Vrolijk said.

Bonaire has lifted all prior COVID-19 related restrictions and regulations, meaning that the only requirement for travelers to enter is a valid passport. This news was announced by the government of Bonaire. For those looking to visit, direct flights are available from both Miami and Atlanta in the United States.

It is said that the number of flamingos on the island of Bonaire far surpasses its human population, and Elly Albers can attest to this fact.

Since she began the Bonaire Wild Bird Rehabilitation Program in 2018, after an alarming discovery of around 500 baby and fledgling flamingos left wandering in search of food and shelter, she has taken on a kind of maternal role with them.

“I love animals and I think these days when we screw up the world, animals… it’s actually great if you have the opportunity to [give] something back,” Albers said. “I think we owe that to the world and to animals.”

Flamingos may be the most iconic animal species on the Bonaire island, but they are certainly not the only creatures that can make one feel like they are outnumbered by animals.

In fact, there is a population of around 1,100 free-roaming donkeys that inhabit this area as well. Sadly, these animals often become victims of vehicular accidents due to their curious and unafraid nature.

Starting in 1993, Marina Melis moved from the Netherlands to start the Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire. Her goals were to provide sanctuary and protection for donkeys; she knew this could be done most effectively with her own hands and firm commitment.

Today, the sprawling 150-acre sanctuary is home to an estimated 750 rescued donkeys that have been hurt, ill, or abandoned.

The assortment of donkeys range from a few weeks old to an impressive 51 years old. Furthermore, visitors are even able to adopt one of these lovable creatures and take part in the care and upkeep of their new furry friend.

Packing to go home after a whirlwind, yet unforgettable, journey, I thought about all the incredible experiences Bonaire had bestowed upon me over the last few days.

Bonaire is more than just its stunningly beautiful Caribbean water and wonderful cuisine (and there was indeed plenty of it), it’s a place you must experience for yourself in order to truly appreciate its magnificence.

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