Landscape & Wildlife

Bonaire's landscape is arid and mostly flat, with a few notable hills and valleys in the northern part of the island. Vegetation consists of cactus and scrubby trees – nothing else can really grow due to the lack of water and the onslaught of goats, donkeys and other nibblers. The southern part of the island is characterized by its vast salt flats and the lush mangrove swamps around Lac Bay.

Despite the seeming desolation, the island is rich with bird life, including the iconic pink flamingo and the endangered yellow-shouldered Amazon parrot. Other species you're sure to spot include the banana quit, brown-throated parakeet, caracara, tropical mockingbird and troupial, not to mention many water birds.

Speaking of water, this is where Bonaire is truly rich in life. Coral reefs grow in profusion along the lee coast, often just a few meters from the shore. Hundreds of species of fish and dozens of corals thrive in the clear, warm waters. Sea turtles, dolphins and rays are among the larger creatures swimming about.

Bonaire has few major environmental problems, thanks to a lack of industry, but there are always concerns. Development and overgrazing have caused deforestation in much of the island – a problem that has been exacerbated in recent years by extended drought. The reef along the coastline is protected by the marine park, but the degree of independence granted to divers makes the regulations difficult to enforce.