Klein Bonaire, Bonaire

Photo: Michal Strzelecki, Wojtek Strzelecki i Jerzy Strzelecki (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Michal Strzelecki, Wojtek Strzelecki i Jerzy Strzelecki (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
The water taxi is about to pull away. The captain jumps back into the boat, revs the engine, and waves as he slowly starts to maneuver around the reef. You wave back from ankle-deep turquoise water. An overflowing bag—containing lunch, water, sunscreen, and flippers—is on your shoulder. An umbrella is in one hand; your flip-flops are in the other. While a long, white-sand beach and a deserted island are behind you. You have Klein Bonaire all to yourself.

Klein Bonaire (Little Bonaire) is an uninhabited island that sits a half-mile off the west coast of Bonaire. The 1,500-acre island, which is part of Bonaire National Marine Park, is flat and barren. Low scrub fills the interior. Old slave huts are now in ruins. A single, open-air shelter stands on No Name Beach. A flamboyance of flamingos wade through the salt marsh. Female green, hawksbill, and leatherback sea turtles return to the beaches where they were born to lay their own eggs. Plus one of the world’s most pristine coral reefs is just underneath that bathtub-like water.

You immediately dump your gear on the beach, strip down to your bathing suit, grab your snorkel gear, and head back to the water. You see the antler-like branches of elkhorn coral and a school of blue tangs eating algae right away. A break in the tightly packed coral leads to groups of orange cup coral, which has florescent-colored tentacles. Silver-and-black-striped Atlantic spadefish and whiskered goatfish swim along a wall that’s now 10-feet tall. While knobby brain coral, mountainous star coral, eels, and groupers can be seen once the reef opens up again. The water is clear. The colors are vibrant. And you haven’t seen this many types of fish since your trip to the Great Barrier Reef.

After you quickly eat lunch and reapply sunscreen, you return to the water on the southwest coast. Sea whips wave in the slowly moving current. The purple stove-pipe sponges are the largest ones you’ve ever seen. The black coral does indeed look like a forest. While green morays, a small nurse shark, and two enormous loggerhead sea turtles move through the underwater jungle. You try to remember—and quickly write down—everything you saw when you return to the beach. Unfortunately, you’re bound to forget something. Hopefully the water taxi doesn’t return too soon.

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