The first inhabitants on Bonaire were the Arawak Indians. Then in 1499, Amerigo Vespucci discovered Bonaire and claimed it for Spain. Because the island had no gold nor sufficient rainfall to develop agriculture, the Spaniards forced the native Indians into slavery on the large plantations of Hispaniola, resulting in the almost depopulation of the island.
In 1526, the governor of Bonaire decided to bring in laborers from Venezuela and, with the help of the local Indians, he began to raise cattle. Within a few years, cows, sheep, goats, pigs, donkeys and horses were being raised on the island and became valuable for their hides. Along with stock farming, sea salt was being recovered in artificial salt pans on the southern end of the island and salt soon became a precious commodity.
Over the next few centuries, convicts from Spanish colonies in South America were brought to the island and small settlements were begun. In the 17th century the Dutch arrived on Bonaire. Self-rule was granted by the Netherlands in 1954 but it remained a Dutch protectorate. Thanks to its abundant bird life and beautiful coral reefs, Bonaire began to emerge as a holiday resort. Hotels began to open and the airport, originally constructed in 1955, was expanded in 1972 to support the increase in visitors.
Today, Bonaire is well known to scuba divers and bird-watchers. There is little agriculture and most of the island is covered in scrub and cacti.
Going Ashore at Bonaire
The ship is scheduled to dock at Kralendijk North Pier. The town centre is within walking distance from the pier.
Most of the shops are located on Kaya Grandi, Bonaire's main street, and its adjacent streets. Bonaire is not a major shopping center but you will find many small stores selling good quality watches, gold jewelry, Dutch cheeses and fine china. Look for local arts and crafts with an ocean theme. The local currency is the Netherlands Antillean Florins (NAFl). U.S. dollars are also widely accepted.
The ethnic diversity of the island's culture has led to a wide variety of tastes and cuisines that include French, Chinese, Continental, Thai and Italian. Many restaurants offer theme buffets such as Tex-Mex or island barbecues. Barhaps, or snack bars, are popular as are restaurants that offer tabletop grilling. Local restaurants feature freshly caught seafood and seafood gumbos or goat stew.
Washington Slagbaii National Park
Once a plantation producing divi-divi trees and aloe, the park is now a model of conservation designed to maintain fauna, flora and geological treasures.
If you are interested in setting up a dive, please see the Tour Manager on board the ship who will be pleased to make the necessary arrangements for you.
For those guests interested in touring at your leisure, we are pleased to offer Silver Shore Privato - both half-day and full-day private arrangements by private car or van. You may book this in advance at Silversea.com or it may be purchased on board, subject to availability. Other private arrangements for independent sightseeing may be arranged by emailing Concierge@silversea.com.