As the nearby continental shelf now located near Montserrat, and the cause of the volcanic activity on that island moved through the area, it forced a large mass of rock to the ocean surface and created the islands of the Lesser and Greater Antilles, including Bonaire. As the seabed rose a vast coral reef grew on what is now dry land. These corals were eventually exposed to air and perished, becoming surface limestone deposits over the millennia. Vast amounts of coral skeletons may be seen along the shoreline and across the interior of Bonaire.
The island is essentially a coral reef that has been geologically pushed up and out of the sea. This also resulted in the natural fringing reef system seen today, in which the coral formations start at the shoreline. Tidal variations are only about 1. The northern end of the island is relatively mountainous, although its highest peak Brandaris is only metres feet.
The southern part of the island is nearly flat and barely rises above sea level. A significant portion of this southern region is covered with sea water in process of evaporation for salt production. This area also contains Lac Bay with its large mangrove forest.
The shoreline of Bonaire is dotted with lagoons and inlets, the largest of which is Goto Lake in the north. These lagoons and wetlands provide an excellent habitat for a wide variety of shorebirds. Bonaire has a warm, dry though humid and windy climate.
The average temperature is The highest recorded temperature is Average annual rainfall is This semi-arid climate is conducive to a variety of cacti and other desert plants. Klein Bonaire , the small island in the sheltered lee of Bonaire, has the same geological history. While Bonaire has some hills and variations in altitude, Klein Bonaire's surface is quite level and just a few feet above high tide.
Because the island is as-yet undeveloped, the fringing reef system surrounding Klein Bonaire is truly pristine. The smaller island is entirely ringed with dive sites. Washington Slagbaai National Park is an ecological preserve on the north side of the island. Bonaire is fringed by a coral reef which is accessible to divers from the shore along the lee side of the island facing west-southwest.
The entire coastline of the island was designated a marine sanctuary in , an effort to preserve and protect the delicate coral reef and the marine life that depends on it. There are more than species of fish  and sixty species of coral living in Bonaire's reef. Bonaire is also famed for its flamingo populations and its donkey sanctuary.
Flamingos are drawn to the brackish water of the island's lagoons, which harbors the shrimp upon which they feed. Bonaire is home to one of only four nesting grounds for the Caribbean flamingo.
Located in the Pekelmeer in the southern part of the island, no human entry is permitted in this sanctuary. Bonaire is also home to the ecologically vulnerable yellow-shouldered amazon parrot, Amazona barbadensis. The island of Bonaire has long been a leader in nature conservation and ecological responsibility.
Due to a public-private sector partnership, programs are being developed to advance the local awareness and attitudes toward conservation and habitat preservation in order to proactively protect Bonaire's ecosystem. A new sewage treatment plant will contribute to protecting the reefs and the seawater quality. In March Selibon NV,  the national garbage-processing plant, opened an environmental court where the general public can bring glass, cans, paper, scrap metal, cardboard, batteries, motor oil, cooking oil, electronics, mobile phones and textiles.
BonRecycling BV  is committed to recycling waste products in Bonaire and to create awareness among the people of Bonaire about the importance and benefits of recycling. Dive Friends Bonaire  started a Debris Free Bonaire program that emphasises collecting debris washed ashore and delivering it to the dive shop for separation in preparation for handling by BonRecycling. Bonaire gets a significant amount of its electricity from an array of twelve wind generators along its northeastern coastline which began operating in Eustatius, St.
Maarten and Saba were governed as a parliamentary democracy based on the Dutch system of government with free elections held every four years. Dissension about their political future resulted in four of the five islands advocating for separation from the Netherlands Antilles. Some of the island residents wanted autonomy while others wanted more integration. In a conference was held by the governments of the Netherlands, Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles to discuss future constitutional reform and the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles. Eustatius and Saba opted for a closer relationship with the Netherlands.
Constitutional referendums and dismantlement of the Netherlands Antilles was scheduled to take place in Bonaire's announced referendum scheduled for 26 March was canceled in February The Governor of the Dutch Antilles, Frits Goedgedrag , decided to cancel it because it probably contravened international law since part of the population was barred from voting. European Dutch nationals were only allowed to vote if they arrived on the island before 1 January On 10 October , the Netherlands Antilles was dissolved.
The three islands acquired new status as "special municipalities" bijzondere gemeenten , making them part of the Netherlands itself, a form of "public body" openbaar lichaam as outlined in article of the Dutch Constitution. Special municipalities do not constitute part of a province. As a special municipality, Bonaire is very much like ordinary Dutch municipalities in that it has a mayor, aldermen and a municipal council , and is governed according to most Dutch laws.
Antillean legislation remained in force after 10 October , with the exception of those cases where Antillean law was replaced by Bonaire's municipal law. It was believed best for the island to not introduce the entire body of Dutch legislation at one time as it would cause confusion. Therefore, Dutch legislation is being introduced in stages. Bonaire retained its own unique culture while residents enjoy the same rights as Dutch citizens, including the right to vote in Dutch parliamentary elections in the Netherlands.
Residents also have access to new or improved facilities and government benefits including, but not limited to, universal health care ; improved health care facilities; better educational facilities with additional training for teachers, new teaching methods and new school buildings; social housing for low-income individuals and families; a centrally dispatched single police force, fire department and ambulance service.
They are considered to be an overseas country and territory. With reference to Bonaire's referendum, the organization is of the opinion that such an arrangement was never the choice of the people. The Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations, Ronald Plasterk , replied to the organization confirming that only the "Island Councils in the Caribbean Netherlands have the authority to decide on holding a constitutional referendum, not the Dutch government.
Plasterk responded by advising Finies that preparations for the evaluation of the public entity structure had begun for , but a "possible change of the constitutional relations is not part of that evaluation".
The decision was based primarily on the needs for tourism and trade. Most countries and territories in the Caribbean use the dollar as their currency or have a currency linked to the dollar as legal tender. Adopting the dollar put an end to the dual-currency payment system and foreign exchange charges.
The separate tax regimes for Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba present a greater risk of double taxation or double exemption from taxes. In an effort to remove the risk, two plans were introduced. The combined population of the three Islands is approximately 20, with about half that many being income-taxpayers. Bonaire's economy is mainly based on tourism, taking advantage of its warm, dry climate and natural environment.
The island caters to scuba divers and snorkelers, as the surrounding coral reefs are well preserved and easily accessible from the shore.
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Bonaire has been widely recognized for many years in the diving community as one of the world's best shore diving destinations. Bonaire's Marine Park offers a total of 86 named dive sites and is home to over 57 species of soft and stony coral and more than recorded fish species. The license plates carry the logo Diver's Paradise in English. Lac Bay, in the southeastern part of the island, attracts wind surfers from around the world to Bonaire. The shallow Bay is on the windward side of the island, so trade winds are strong and constant. A barrier reef across the mouth of the bay allows windsurfers of all skill levels to select wave conditions they like.
Bonaire is also a port of call for more than fifteen cruise lines who make more than eighty calls per season at the island. The total passenger capacity for cruise ships in Bonaire is about , Tourism infrastructure in Bonaire is contemporary and offers a variety of types of accommodations including hotels, full-service resorts, a few small bed and breakfasts and self-catering vacation rentals of all kinds.
Other tourist activities include kite-boarding, mountain-biking, hiking, sailing, charter fishing, boating and bird-watching. Salt production — Utilizing the naturally low-lying geography and traditional Dutch dike design, much of Bonaire's southern half has been made into a giant system of ponds and pools which evaporate seawater to produce salt. Presently operated by Cargill , Bonaire's solar salt works produces , tons of industrial grade salt per year. After collection, the salt is then washed and stored in large piles.
The salt facility operates its own pier where ships are loaded with salt destined for North American, European and Western Pacific markets.
Bonaire's salt is used mostly in industrial roles. The large condensing ponds which ring the crystallizer basins, called the Pekelmeer, are a natural habitat for numerous species of brine shrimp which in turn feed flocks of hundreds of pink flamingoes and other migratory birds.
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This is the location of Bonaire's flamingo sanctuary. BOPEC also has mixing and blending capabilities for its stored fuels. The airport proved to be too small when American soldiers arrived on Bonaire in the second half of The commander stated that a new airport had to be built. Construction began in December , with the new "Flamingo Airport" opening in A small terminal was built that was suitable for the number of passengers at the time. This building was used until mid The airport had received many extensions of both the runway and the terminal itself.
Today the airport is known as Flamingo International Airport and is served by a variety of both domestic and international airlines. The airport is equipped with a fire station, control tower and hangar. Plans are underway for modifications to the current airport facilities, runway and the fire station.
The two towns on the island are Kralendijk the capital and Rincon. Religion in Bonaire : . Bonaire's educational system is patterned after the Dutch system.