Bonaire a small island? That may be true, but we have one incredible National Park located at the very north of the island. 5,600 hectares (14,000 acres), and millions of cacti; driving, mountain biking, or hiking through Washington Slagbaai National Park (WSNP) is an unforgettable experience. We’ve listed 6 things you should definitely consider doing in WSNP.
For the loyal readers of our blogs, we’ve talked about this one before. Remember when we told you to put this one on your bucket list? Well, it couldn’t be excluded from the 6 amazing things to do in WSNP either. Arriving at the park, you can choose to follow the short route of 1.5 hours or the long route of 2.5 hours, without stopping. No matter which one you choose, you will pass a bay called Boca Slagbaai. Quick little history fact here: Slagbaai used to be Slachtbaai (Dutch for slaughter-bay), the place where meat was loaded onto trade ships. Historical buildings can still be found at the site. Anyway, on with the exciting stuff: cliff jumping! You will not miss the cliff, as it pontifically hangs over Bonaire’s clear blue waters. With a height of 25 foot, you will have to hike a few minutes up to the cliff, enough time to change your mind you would say, however you’re probably too busy with minding your step, placing yourself strategically between the rocks while carefully walking through many cacti. Eventually, you’ll arrive at ‘the cliff’, and there’s only 1 way out: JUMP!
Climbing the Brandaris
Brandaris… Sounds dangerous. High. But no worries, this highest point on Bonaire is only 241m (784ft.) high, so it will be no more than a good 45 minute climbing hike. The trail is well worth hiking as it once again lets you walk through Bonaire’s arid landscape while sometimes sneaking a peak of the view you’re going to get on the top. Make it even more special by arranging a sunset hike! STINAPA organizes them at times, but don’t hesitate asking them, there might be a volunteer willing to guide you.
You were waiting for this one to show up, right? It goes without saying that WSNP is absolutely amazing for diving. Along the coast of Kralendijk you already find beautiful reefs, but many of them are considered home-reefs, which means there is a hotel right next to it that is claiming the reef to be their home-reef. Washington Slagbaai National Park is all nature and has the sea, a fresh Caribbean breeze, birds, and iguanas. In many cases, you will be the only one diving on a dive site. The park has 6 dive sites, and each one is special in its own way. Stingrays, octopuses, enormous lobsters, and lately even a manta ray was spotted. But WSNP also has the most beautiful and colorful fish in large quantities. Swimming through a school of hundreds of fish is not rare, and playing hide and seek with a stingray is also very common. You will be amazed by the untouched and well-preserved reefs of Washington Slagbaai National Park.
If you’re feeling ambitious, and not too hot, mountain biking is the perfect way to explore the park while biking adventurously over pretty well-maintained sand and rocks paths. Depending on your skills and the level of ambitiousness, you take the long or short route through the park. Of course, you could also stop the car at some point and do a fun round on your bike in between, just to get the feeling. It is recommended to wear a helmet, as the well-maintained paths may sometimes be slippery due to rocks and make sure you bring enough drinking water.
For the snorkelers, this park is paradise as well. Reefs are very close to shore, making it not only a really good dive site, but also a super varied and interesting snorkeling site! Try Wayaká (II), where idyllic stairs caved out of the rock formations brings you to probably one of the smallest yet most beautiful beach you’ve ever seen. The beach of Wayaká II sometimes even seems to have a slightly pink layer on top of the sand; this is carotene, the pigment that also makes the flamingos pink! Once in the water with your snorkeling gear, parrot fish are all over the reef producing more sand for the beach and the, to many people very familiar, friendly French angelfish is coming to say hi.
OK, we have to admit it takes a very patient and calm person to be able to appreciate this, but believe us when we’re saying it is a 100% worth the waiting. And actually it is not even waiting, since you’ll be sitting in scenery that is filled with the most beautiful colors deriving from the sunset or sunrise, because that’s the time the prettiest and most special birds will leave their safe places to go feeding and exploring. They’ll be singing songs for you, or at least try, producing sounds that just spread instant happiness. Washington Slagbaai is full of Bananaquits, Tropical mockingbirds, Yellow warblers, Black-faced grassquits and Brown-throated parakeets and you should be able to hear and see quite of few of them. In total, 190 species have been seen in WSNP, including the ones that use Bonaire as a stopover when migrating. Also, definitely keep an eye out for Bonaire’s typical Yellow-shouldered parrot, perfectly balancing on one of the many tops of cacti in the park.
OK, it is not recommended to actually pet the iguanas, besides they will probably run before you’re even close, however iguanas in WSNP seem to absolutely LOVE humans. Of course we all know they are just begging you to give them your carefully prepared sandwich, and they’ve probably succeeded enough times to be sure they will succeed again. But don’t be fooled, while iguana 1 is distracting you by walking over your foot, iguana 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 are incredibly interested in your bag and will not hesitate finding out what’s in it. Try setting up your diving gear while protecting your food and there you have your adventure!
What can we say; Washington Slagbaai National Park is full of surprises and must-sees and dos. Don’t forget to get your marine park tag before entering the water and make sure you have enough water and food with you. Have fun!