Bonaire Nature Tour
Countless lizards, great and small.
We found 5 big iguanas waiting for us at the edge of the parking area at Pos Mangel, site of one of the 2 waterholes that never dry up in the park. Two of the iguanas were probably 4 or 5 feet long, and they were almost as tame as the blue lizards.
Because of Pos Mangel's consistent supply of water, this also is one of the best places to see birds. Outside of April to July, the main parrot breeding season, this is one of the best places to see the yellow-winged parrot, also called a lora.
Doves, orange-headed parakeets and loads of tiny bananaquits (commonly called "sugar thieves") are frequently seen here. But you need to stop paying attention to the iguanas to notice the birds.
For our final stop we put our vehicle in low gear and headed down the steep hill to Boca Slagbaai, one of Bonaire 's best snorkel and shore dive sites. The option for us was to snorkel for a couple of hours and fish watch, or explore the surrounding area and look for flamingoes, hawks and egrets.
At Boca Slagbaai, the shallow, turquoise water gradually turns dark as it reaches a beautiful coral garden just a short swim from the sand beach. This was a popular harbor first for the slaughter (Slagbaai means slaughter) of cattle, then the export of salt.
The red-roofed, yellow buildings lining the beach date to 1868; they include a customs office built to oversee the salt trade.
I ended the day in my usual Bonaire mode, back among the fish. I kept reflecting back on the nature tour, it was slightly embarrassing to realize that although I'd been coming here since 1975, I'd come to understand the island much better in just this single day.
Except for the big iguanas at Pos Mangel, I'd seen all of these sights before, though I'd never appreciated their inter-relationship so well or understood how much the goats had altered the landscape, to the extent that scrawny but resilient vegetation had to be imported Africa.
All things I'd never have known unless I'd been willing to take a day away from watching fish.