Washington-Slagbaai National Park Landmarks

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Washington-Slagbaai National Park Landmarks


This is a driving tour with frequent stops for walking. The park is North of Rincon, the oldest settlement. Operating Hours: The park opens daily except holidays at 8 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m.; however, no admittance is allowed after 3:30 p.m. Admission fee of $40 for anyone going in the water. Complete park rules can be found here.

This 13,500-acre park is a preserve for birdlife. Formerly, it produced divi-divi, aloe, charcoal and goats. It was sold to the government at the end of the 1960s.

 Two kinds of cactus dominate the scenery. Kadushi cactus, looking almost tree-like, grow more than 30 feet,. The straight-standing and roseate-bristled Yatu cactus (Lemaireocereus) is still used to construct fences and other enclosures on Bonaire.

Stick a cut-off piece of Yatu in the ground and it starts growing again; cactus fences hardly ever need to be replaced and they certainly never need painting.

Places of special note in the park:

     1. Pos Mangel, or "sweet well," is one of the few places in the park where fresh water is always available. As such, it is one of the best places on the island for birdwatching; creep up slowly in order not to scare them away. Species common here include the yellow-winged parakeet, the yellow warbler, ground dove, common bananaquits, tropical mockingbirds and many more.

Other parakeets may also be present, but they have a tough time surviving the droughts on Bonaire, which occur every 5 or 6 years. Besides facing starvation during droughts, the birds have to feed in the village fruit gardens, where the parakeets are often caught and caged for show.

    2. Boca Bartol is another prime birdwatching spot. Yellow-crowned night herons are almost always present halfway up the terrace or near the water. Snowy egrets, brown pelicans and cormorants are all frequent visitors.

     3. Put Bronswinkel is another freshwater well that is superb for birdwatching. This is the place to see some of the island's rarest birds, but to do so you must sit quietly for a long period of time. If you're feeling too restless, pass up this spot out of consideration of the serious birders who will go from ecstatic to murderous if you noisily blunder into their sanctuary. The trees may appear full of nests, but these are actually epiphytes (air plants).

4. Subi Brandaris is a by-road that ends at a parking lot where you can begin the 1.5-hour climb (Difficulty Level 3) to the top of Brandaris, which at almost 800 feet high is Bonaire's highest point. The hike starts with a footpath that soon gives way to a ridge; the ridge route is marked with yellow circles painted on the boulders. From the top you'll have an excellent view of the entire island, perhaps to as far south as the salt pans. Mountains in Venezuela or Mount Christoffel, Curacao's highest peak, may also be visible.

 5. Playa Funchi is home to a subspecies of lizard found only on Bonaire, the harmless Cnemidophorus murinus ruthveni. They are quite tame at this spot, well acquainted with bread crumbs and will even eat out of your hand if you're still enough. Females and juveniles are brown, while the brightly colored male has a blue head and greenish-blue hind feet and tail-root. You may also see a flock of flamingoes in the salina here. Playa Funchi was the harbor for Washington plantation, as the pier remnants show. Today it is a very popular place for snorkeling, swimming and sunbathing. There is no current inside the bay, making this a safe place to swim.

6. Boca Slagbaai is one of the finest snorkeling and swimming beaches on the island. Dive boats come all the way here from the Kralendijk area, as much as a forty-five minute run away. Historically always an important harbor, it gains its name from the Dutch word "Slagten," meaning slaughter. This is where the cattle on the northern part of the island were processed and turned into steaks before export. Salt was also exported from here for a time. Besides being one of the finest swimming spots, this is another excellent birdwatching site: snowy egrets and flamingoes are almost always in the salina here.

7. Flamingo Island, a peninsula in salina Slagbaai which allows you to see flamingoes at the closest point yet. The square island in the middle of the salina always contains a few birds, some of which breed there. Slagbaai is an important feeding area for the flamingoes, which skim the water for brine shrimp or graze (dive) to a depth of about three feet for their forage.

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