Tag - caribbean

Being There: Bonaire

Calm, peaceful, laid-back. In the movie “Being There”, Chance, the lead character, embodies all of these traits.  There, in Bonaire, a sense of calm, peace and easy-living exists, as well.  This Caribbean island is 50 miles north of Venezuela and 80 miles east of Aruba. Along with Aruba and Curacao, it forms the ABC islands of the Dutch Antilles.  Bonaire’s earliest known inhabitants were the Caquetio Indians who came by canoe from Venezuela in about AD 1000.  They were apparently a very tall people because the Spanish name for the island was “las islas de los gigantes,” island of the giants.

Harbour Village Resort

Harbour Village Resort

On a recent visit, no giants, only a warm and hospitable people who embody the spirit of their land – relaxed and easy-going.  Bonaire is known for its pristine tropical vegetation, beaches of white-powder sand, stunning coral reefs, and it is consistently recognized as the top diving destination in the Caribbean.

Dive Right In

I was told that diving in Bonaire will spoil me for all other dive experiences. So, what’s a newbie diver supposed to do but give it a try. At Great Adventures Bonaire, a5-star dive operation, I met Mark, an instructor of many years experience, who gave me a one-on-one lesson.  Before we dove, he explained the use of the regulator (for breathing), the vest (for buoyancy control to descend and ascend) and calculator (gauging time underwater).  He then strapped a 40-lb. air cylinder to my back and fitted me with a wetsuit, mask and a pair of fins. Mark explained that SCUBA stands for “self-contained, underwater, breathing apparatus.”  Who knew? Now I was good to go.

We descended to just about 20 feet and immediately I was transported into another world.  All trepidation disappeared as I lost myself in this underwater fantasy of the most amazing, weird, gorgeous creatures ever to be seen. There were fat Blue Parrotfish, adorable Angelfish, yellow and black Rock Beauties and, yikes! a Spotted Moray Eel, not to mention exquisite coral of all shapes, sizes and colors. Because of Mark’s calm and confident demeanor, my initial foray into the deep was all good, start to the finish – about 90 minutes later.

It Takes a Village

Daily luncheon guest

Daily luncheon guest

The lovely village of which I speak is, of course, Harbour Village Beach Club, the exclusive beach-front enclave and the island’s most luxurious resort. The property consists of clusters of Dutch Caribbean-style one and two-bedroom suites set amid lush tropical gardens and bordered by a white sand beach and picturesque marina.  On site is a world-class spa with pampering facials, wraps and massages –particularly welcome after a day of diving or windsurfing.  Entering my room, I was delighted to find it decorated in typical Colonial Plantation style: dark teakwood furniture, tiled floor and romantic netting enclosing the bed.  A door led to an expansive patio, perfect for doing, well, nothing.  Ok, so I dragged my Kindle to my lounge chair a few times but truth be told, languorously lying supine was my favored pastime. Harbour Village was made for this!

Star Light, Star Bright

One night, a very special treat – the staff set up a table for two on the sand facing the sea. Tiki torches and candles were our only light, save for a brilliant starry sky. The sound: just murmured conversation and waves gently lapping the shore. I’m told that this is a favored dining spot for the just-married and honeymooners. I fit into neither category but dining sur la plage suited me to a “T.”  It was also terrific to experience inspired cuisine at the resort’s open air La Balandra Restaurant.  Our companion most days was a large green iguana who stared intently at us until he was thrown a crumb or two. An Amuse Bouche, to be sure.

Pink ponds in Bonaire Yes!

Pink ponds in Bonaire Yes!

The most fun way to see the island is from a “tuk tuk”, an open air electrical vehicle. The Bon Tuk company is operated by Bas van den Hee and his partner.  Bas drove us around in this cute cart, stopping frequently so we could take pictures while he explained what we were seeing.  We visited the Flamingo Sanctuary, one of the few nesting places for Caribbean flamingos whose population in spring swells to 5,000 pretty-in-pink birds.  Bas took us to the island’s southern tip to see tiny hut shelters built in the 1800s for African slaves that were brought over by the Dutch West Indies Company to work the salt flats.

Color it Pink

Picture a body of water that morphs from sky blue to navy to emerald green. In Bonaire, yes.  But, can you believe that here you’ll also find water that is pink? In the distance on the salt flats… perfectly pink ponds.  Bas explained that the brine in this water encourages the growth of a bacterium that turns the ponds a vivid pink color – and the small crustaceans that live in the brine turn pink as well. As we gazed at this sight, trying to believe our eyes, a layer of salty foam several inches thick formed on the pond and then blew across the road, as if from some giant washing machine run amuck.

Wild donkeys grazing by the roadside, pink aviary ambling through the flats, Disney-colored tropical fish …and back at my dream retreat, a hammock gently swaying in the breeze, just waiting for me to slip in…Oh yeah, it’s easy to catch this peaceful, laid-back vibe that is Bonaire.  Fingers crossed, it will last long after I’m back home.

If You Go:

  • Bonaire Tourist Board : www.tourismbonaire.com
  • Harbour Village : www.HarbourVillage.com 1-800-424-0004; 1-305-567-9509
  • Great Adventures Bonaire : E: reservations@harbourvillage.com
  • Bon Tuk : www.bontuk.com

The Dominican Rep has Become a Prime Sailing Destination

fishing sailboat

fishing sailboat

by Mike Virgintino,

The Dominican Republic is known for its beaches, water sports, golf and eco adventure. Now it is more attractive to those who enjoy sailing. From leisure to adventure activities, from luxury to laid-back fun and from quiet waterfront towns to cities that hop with action, the Dominican Republic has become a hot travel destination for North Americans seeking new experiences and new places to explore.
Key tourist attractions in the country include pristine beaches, water sports, a variety of golf courses and areas that focus on unique environmental features. Sailing continues to grow in popularity as people increasingly choose to explore and enjoy the Dominican Republic from the sea. The country can accommodate experienced sailors who bring their boats to ports throughout the country. People with little sailing experience also can enjoy the sea by renting boats and experienced crews.

Sailing in the Dominican Republic

A long-time sailor who is very familiar with the Dominican Republic has created its first sailing guide — the Dominican Republic Cruising Guide. This guide is unique from any other sailing manual or tourist guide for the country, because the author, who has lived in the country and sailed the area and throughout the Caribbean for more than 20 years, actually has visited all of the harbors included in the overview.

Information in the guide is derived from personal research and direct knowledge of the Dominican Republic. While the guide is a unique source of information for this vast and beautiful island, it should not be used for navigation. All charts, latitude and longitude positions, and inserts that are exhibited in the guide should be used only as reference. Navigation should be undertaken only with the appropriate charts of the area.

Dominican Republic Beaches

Many travelers consider the country’s beaches among the world’s finest. More than 1,000 miles of sand are gently tapped by warm, clear and blue waters. Among the most popular beaches are:

  • The La Minitas beach, which has many activities along its stretch of shoreline. This includes scuba diving.
  • Bayahibe, which offers a more relaxed atmosphere than that of La Minitas Beach. It is secluded and is mostly undeveloped. It also is the home to Casa de Camp, which is considered one of the finest golf resorts in the world.
  • Punta Cana, which has the majority of the beachfront resorts. The area includes nightclubs, shops and restaurants.
Water Sports in the Dominican Republic

Many adventure seekers consider these waters to be the “kiteboarding capital of the world.” In Puerto Plata, water lovers find a perfect blend of wind, water and waves to create incomparable conditions. Windsurfers in huge numbers  flock to the water surrounding the Dominican Republic for annual competitions.

Dominican Republic Golf Courses

The country has become one of the best places for golfers to play 18 holes in the entire Caribbean. Nineteen courses have oceanfront fairways and swaying coconut palms. Some courses are designed by golf pros, including Jack Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones, Gary Player, Tom Fazio and Nick Faldo.

Eco Adventure in the Dominican Republic

The country’s nine ecological zones offer unique diversity for exciting eco and adventure tourism. The Dominican Republic has the Caribbean’s highest and lowest sea level points, with Pico Duarte at 10,128 feet above and Lake Enriquillo at 144 feet below. In between, the environment includes a tropical rain forest and an arid desert.

Learn more about Dominican Republic
vacations at Hispaniola.com.