One of our long time travel writers spends several weeks every summer in Bonaire. She has an inside perspective that those of us who visit occasionally will never garner. Here’s an insider’s view she asked us to pass on to our readers.
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For an island whose focus has always been nature, I never understood why there was no recycling. Now it’s here. As a visitor, you cannot assume that your hotel is recycling, so it’s easier to do it yourself. Keep a shopping bag in your room and toss in glass, plastic, cans, and paper. On your last day, tool over to Selibon’s new facility on Kaya Industria, next door to Warehouse, and you can toss your stuff in the appropriate bins. There are also glass recycling bins in the parking lots of popular grocery stores (like Zung Khong in Hato near the northern hotels, or Van Den Tweel on Kaya Industria).
The restaurant Pasa Bon Pizza is particularly committed to recycling—they sort and recycle everything—and their popular fish pizza features lionfish. It not only helps keep the population of these introduced predators down, it tastes good!
Warehouse reminds me of croissants, because for some reason, theirs are the best on the island. Warehouse is now owned by the company that owns Van Den Tweel, yet even they agree that Warehouse’s croissants are the best. My favorite breakfast is a warm croissant and a bowl of papaya drizzled with limonchi (the tiny local limes) and a pinch of salt. Sounds strange but tastes great.
If you enjoy the early mornings or just want some inspiration, make an appointment with Dr. Sam Williams of Echo Bonaire to tour the kunuku at Dos Pos and witness the 7AM parrot feeding. Echo is dedicated to protecting the local parrot species (whose chicks are often poached for pets), to rehabbing hurt or poached parrots so they can return to the wild, and to restoring the leafy habitat that was typical on the island until it was cut down in the 19th century.
There are cages set up for different needs. One poor Lora lost a wing to a dog bite, and he has a quiet cage to himself. There are some others with broken feet (one never got enough calcium as a chick) who are learning how to get around, others with wings on the mend who will be okay to release; then there is a big aviary where birds rescued from poachers are now mending and thriving.
Sam takes you into a comfortable blind that seats at least eight overlooking the big aviary. For the morning feeding, they have a clever setup in a shed where the birds cannot see the people fixing up the food (Sam feels strongly that birds should learn wild foraging skills and not associate people with food). After the breakfast trays are filled, they are pulled out on a clothesline pulley so the birds never see a person. We watched from the blind as prikichi and Loras descended on the trays, squawking with delight. Sam says they offer enough food to keep them going but not so much that the fowls are not motivated to go out and forage on their own, a way to help them recover while teaching them wild behavior. There were new prikichi babies who are offspring of the rescue birds, and are adorable, clumsy as they spin around on the clothesline and try to eat.
The Loras are breeding in the wild and their chicks are about two weeks old now. Survival is a big deal since there are plenty of predators, almost all introduced species like bees and cats. Although they are keeping track of the nests, Sam casts his net farther with new projects. One is anti-poaching (they have a new program with school kids, who take the messages home); and another very smart one is replanting and reforesting the area. The original forests were all cut down in the 19th century, and it’s led to habitat destruction for nests, as well as larger problems of runoff on the reefs and mudslides rather than water used for crops. Sam understands how important local buy-in is–the local stakeholders are the key–and is working to get the tree-planting message out. It amazed us how pleasant it was under the canopy of trees. Though you need only make an appointment for the tour, it is cool to donate to Echo if you can. They make it easy on their website so you get a tax receipt and can deduct your donation. You can donate via www.echobonaire.org and contact Sam at firstname.lastname@example.org.
They also have a page on Facebook, www.facebook.com/echobonaire.org.
It was worth rising early, and Sam tells me that kids in particular love seeing the parrots.