Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Donkeys were brought to Bonaire starting in the 17th century as beasts of burden.  They were used that way right up to the 1940's, but were replaced eventually by motorized vehicles.  The remaining donkeys were released into the wild, and have been living on their own since then.

Wild donkeys have a tough time.  Water is scarce and unreliable.  Food isn't much easier to come by.  Many wild donkeys are dehydrated and malnourished.  Many others are killed or injured in collisions with cars.  A baby donkey who loses his mother is in a terrible situation.  There are about 150 of these poor animals roaming the desolate parts of the island.

Enter the Bonaire Donkey Sanctuary.  This organization was founded more than 20 years ago to provide care for malnourished or injured donkeys.  The Sanctuary has more than 140 acres of land, and over four hundred donkeys live there.

There is a separate compound for "senior citizens," one of which is more than 40 years old.  A second compound is devoted to new mothers and their babies.

For a small fee, it is possible to drive through the Sanctuary and get up close to the donkeys.  Visitors are encouraged to buy bags of carrots, and the donkeys know very well that a car or truck driving by is a chance to get a treat.  Our car was surrounded by up to dozens of donkeys all hoping for a carrot.  We had as many as 6 or 8 donkey noses pushed through our car windows at a time, and some of the donkeys would trot along side as we drove slowly through.  A bit overwhelming at times, but incredibly fun.

The Mom&Child compound was also wonderful.  Foals ranging in age from 1 week to 3 months were there, and still nursing from their mothers.  Especially the young ones have soft hair, but everyone (including the Moms) was happy to get petted and stroked.

Anyway, the Sanctuary is a very good cause.  They neuter all the animals in the Sanctuary, and are trying to do the same for the remaining wild donkeys.  You can find out more at Bonaire Donkey Sanctuary, and you can make a donation online.

Here are some photos of our visit.

A few donkeys checking us out.  Many more joined them later.

Noses through the window, searching for carrots

This fella is just one week old

Mom's milk is the best food

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Yesterday, we took a long dinghy ride with our friends Rick and Lila to the small island of Klein Bonaire.  There are 24 designated dive sites on Klein Bonaire, and we hoped to see a turtle.  We did!

The ride to the Bonaventura dive site on the south shore of the island is over 1.5 nautical miles from Callisto.  In the dinghy, that took us a little over 20 minutes.  Going so far is always a bit nervewracking.  Will the engine quit?  Will we run out of gas?  Its a very long row upwind if you have a problem.  We took two precautions:  1) We chose a day with lighter than average winds, and 2) We had our friends along, in their dinghy so each could help the other if we had a problem.

It was a spectacular dive, with lots of soft and hard coral, many interesting sponges, and numerous species of fish.  We especially liked to see the "Papa" Sergeant Majors.  These male fish are usually silver and yellow with vertical black stripes.  When they are protecting their eggs (yes, its the male that does this), the yellow markings turn a deep blue.  They also get quite territorial, darting around and trying to chase you off.  We saw lots and lots of fish in this stage, which I guess will help the future population of Sergeant Majors in the region.

As we approached the halfway part of our dive (about half our air gone), swimming strongly toward us was a hawksbill turtle.  It was surprisingly deep, about 40 feet.  The animal was moderate in size, perhaps 18 inches long.  It swam directly at us, passing only a couple of feet below us before continuing on its way.  A real treat.

We returned to the boat mooring at a shallower depth, still enjoying all the sealife.  As we neared the boat, Gretchen spotted a second turtle.  It was motionless at the bottom in about 20 feet of water, apparently fast asleep.  This was a green turtle, a bit larger than the first, maybe 24 inches.

Seeing these increasingly rare animals is a very special experience.  They are endangered by hunting, and also because of loss of habitat, especially undisturbed beaches for egg-laying.

Note: Photos retrieved from the internet.  We didn't bring our camera this trip.

Friday, January 9, 2015

More Gazing

09 January 2015

More Gazing …

Yesterday we also went “fish” gazing.  We bicycled about  11km (6 miles) to a dive/snorkel site named “Tolo”.   The site is known for its large specimens of soft corals and sponges, in addition to fish.   It has been very windy here the past week, and when we arrived at the dive site, we realized that all the wave action had piled up on the coast where we planned to snorkel.  It was way too rough for us, so we turned around and stopped at Eden Beach resort for lunch and then snorkeled along the dive site named “Front Porch”.  The water was not very clear, lots of sand has been stirred up by the wind and waves, but we saw lots of fish taking shelter from the wave action under a large shelf of rock (the front porch?).   The water was too cloudy for our camera, but here are some web pictures of some of the highlights….

Honeycomb cowfish
Blue Tangs
Spotted drum

Porcupine Fish
smooth trunkfish


With the boat at anchor, we often get fabulous views of the nighttime sky.  The conditions on Bonaire are not as good as on some other islands, because there are bright lights all along the shoreline.  But we still see lots of stars and planets.

Last night was especially interesting, because we had three planets all aligned vertically.  At the top of the row was Mars, directly below that was Venus, and closest to the horizon was Mercury.   You don't often see three planets aligned like this.

We were also interested in the sky because a comet is approaching the sun, and this is just about the time you might begin to see it with the naked eye.  The comet is generally in the vicinity of Orion.  Here's a link to information on where to look:  Comet Lovejoy.  We didn't see the comet last night (because of the light pollution, I guess), but we'll keep trying.

"Stargazer" is also the name of a fish, found in Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico.  It is a seriously weird looking creature:

There are quite a few very odd-shaped fish in the world!

Thursday, January 1, 2015


Happy New Year to all, and best wishes for a wonderful 2015!

Every culture has its own traditions for welcoming the New Year, and it is safe to say that the defining characteristic for Bonaire's New Year is FIREWORKS.  There were many locales up and down the coastline setting off colorful and noisy rockets, some associated with resorts but many just family groups and partiers.  The noise started at dusk, and the color display as soon as it became dark.  It all built to a crescendo at midnight, with an unbelievable number of rockets in the air, for a surprisingly long time.  The show lasted into the night, with a final blast just before dawn.

You see some amazing fireworks displays by highly organized groups in big cities.  But this ad hoc event on an island with less than 20,000 residents was the best I've ever seen.