Bonaire
Washington-Slagbaai
National Park
Part 1

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There are 2 routes. The green route is 15 miles. The yellow route is 22 miles. There is considerable overlap of the 2.

This is a driving tour with frequent stops for walking. Trailhead: 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.

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).

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