Just 50 miles (80 km) north of Venezuela, Bonaire is the second largest, quietest and least-known of the islands of the Dutch Antilles, with the neat little town of Kralendijk as its capital. The semi-arid island is ringed by inviting palm-fringed beaches and an 18 mile coral reef that offers spectacular diving. Along the shore, strong waves crashing against volcanic rocks and coral have created ridges, unusual lava formations, grottoes, and caves. Covered with mostly desert vegetation, Bonaire's landscape ranges from barren rocky hills and salt pans to green parklands with freshwater lakes and reserves alive with 130 species of birds that include brilliantly plumaged flamingos and Amazon parrots.
The Spanish conquered the Arawaks, Bonaire's first recorded inhabitants, in 1499, and held the island until 1636, when the Dutch seized control. Except when England took command for a few years in the early 1800s, the Netherlands has ruled the island ever since.
You can also explore the tiny uninhabited islet of Klein Bonaire, known for its spectacular coral reefs, which range from shallow water gardens thick with elkhorn coral to coral slopes that drop 150 feet, supporting great varieties of sponges, gorgonians, large star corals, and brain corals. Among the fish likely to be seen are white mullet, yellowtails snapper, tiger grouper, parrotfish, trumpetfish, and spotted moray eel.
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