Bonaire is 294 km2 and is located at 12*11 degrees north latitude and 68*15 degrees west longitude in the southern part of the Caribbean Sea, about 70 km from Venezuela. The neighboring island of Curaçao is 50 km away, and Aruba is 150 km. The distance between the island’s capital Kralendijk and Amsterdam, is 7,796 km. The highest point of the island is the Brandaris (241 meters). On the northern part lies Rincon, the oldest village on the island, located in a green valley. The island of Klein just out of the coast of Bonaire is uninhabited.
Since 2010, the island’s population has grown from 16,000 to 22,000 in 2021. The CBS predicts further growth, reaching a population of 27,000 in 2030. The official language is Dutch, but, at home, most Bonaireans speak Papiamento. The currency used is the U.S. dollar. The gross domestic product is about 430 million dollars. Tourism is the central economic pillar, with 130,000 tourists staying on the island and 480,000 cruise ship passengers. The main export product is salt. Bonaire is home to two protected national parks: Washington-Slagbaai and the Marine-park, which encompasses the entire island.
Precious cultural heritage
Silent witnesses to Bonaire’s rich (and sometimes painful) history tell a story that should never be forgotten. At Estate Bolivia, the past meets the future.
At Estate Bolivia, traces of the first inhabitants of Bonaire can still be found. About 3,600 years ago, Indians in canoes arrived on the island that was created by volcanic activities. Hundreds of cave inscriptions serve as a reminder of their presence. The original inhabitants were chased away after the Spanish took over the island in 1499.
In 1636, Bonaire was under the control of the West India Company, which, in support of the haring farmers, made serious work of the salt production. On other parts of the island, state plantations were established to produce, among other things, charcoal, which sacrificed a large part of the afforestation. After the abolition of slavery (1863), Plantation Bolivia became family-owned. The terrain was used for small-scale agriculture and breeding goats which were sold to the neighboring island of Curaçao.
In the 60s, the terrain was sold to American investors. However, they did not take care of the terrain, and the wandering goats and wild donkeys had free range of the land, which became increasingly withered. By the end of 2019, entrepreneur Meine Breemhaar bought the former plantation in order to save the land from going to ruins by restoring nature and the cultural heritage (such as a slave wall and dilapidated monumental plantation buildings) while, at the same time, contributing to alleviating the housing shortage and promoting local agriculture to reduce the dependence on (expensive) import products.
To keep the area’s history alive, it will be looked into whether one of the soon to be restored plantation houses can be used as a visitor center. In addition, attention is also paid to the archaeological value of the area, such as the ancient rock paintings. The intention is to eventually organize walking tours, in which rangers will explain the history and unique biodiversity of the area.