Bonaire is an island in the Caribbean Sea that is considered part of the Leeward Antilles chain of islands. It occupies an area of approximately 113 sq mi, which ranks as the thirty-third largest island in the Caribbean, has an estimated population of 20,104, and measures about 5 mi wide (east-to-west) and 24 mi long (north-to-south). Politically, Bonaire is a special municipality of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It was previously part of the Netherland Antilles, which was a constituent country of the Netherlands, until its dissolution in 2010, and is now part of the Caribbean Netherlands, along with Sint Eustatius and Saba. Additionally, Bonaire, together with Aruba and Curaçao, form the ABC islands, which are located 50 mi from the coast of Venezuela. Unlike most Caribbean islands, Bonaire and the ABC islands are situated outside Hurricane Alley. Geologically, Bonaire is geologically considered to be part of South America, as it is located on the continental shelf of South America.
Geography of Bonaire
Bonaire is geologically a coral reef that was pushed up and out of the sea. Bonaire, together with the other islands that make up the Greater and Lesser Antilles, was formed when a large rock was forced out of the sea by a continental shelf. Once the island was pushed out of the sea, a large coral reef developed, and slowly developed into limestone. The northern end of Bonaire is mountainous, and its highest peak, Brandaris, has an elevation of 790 ft. The southern end of Bonaire is flat, and includes Lac Bay, which contains huge mangrove forest. Bonaire’s coastline is dotted by inlets and lagoons, the largest of which is Goto Lake. The island's wetlands and lagoons provide an excellent habitat for numerous shorebirds.
The island is surrounded by coral reefs, which divers can access from the coastline of Bonaire's leeward side. Bonaire’s entire shoreline was declared a marine protected area in 1979 in order to protect the coral reef. There are over 60 coral species and more than 350 fish species living in the island’s reef. Bonaire is also known for its donkey sanctuary and flamingo population. The island is home to a nesting ground of the Caribbean flamingo.
The island experiences a dry, warm and windy climate. It has an average temperature of approximately 27.5 °C, with a daily variation of 5.6 °C and a seasonal variation of 1.4 °C. The temperature of the ocean surrounding the island fluctuates between 26 °C and 30 °C. The lowest recorded temperature on Bonaire is 19.8 °C, while the highest is 35.8 °C. Although Bonaire’s oceanic and weather conditions are affected by tropical storms and hurricanes, the island is situated outside Hurricane Alley. The humidity on the island is relatively constant, with an average of 76%. Bonaire receives an average rainfall of 20.5 in, most of which occurs between October and January.
Bonaire has an estimated population of 20,104 permanent residents, and grew by 1,200 between 2015 and 2019. Over 80% of the island's permanent residents are Dutch nationals, while 60% were born in Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles, which dissolved in 2010. In terms of religion in Bonaire, 68% of the population identify as Roman Catholic. The official language of Bonaire is Dutch, although it is the primary language of only 8.8% of residents. Papiamento is the most commonly spoken language on the island, and other languages spoken in Bonaire include English and Spanish. Bonaire has a polyglot population, as most residents speak two or more languages.