The Washington Slagbaai National Park (WSNP) is more than 6,000 hectares and covers the entire northern head of Bonaire. By car, mountain bike or on foot it is possible to go see the geological, natural and cultural-historical attractions that the beautiful park has to offer.
The mountainous terrain with its cactus forests, aloe fields, rock formations, salt lakes, limestone caves, sand dunes, blowholes and crumbling lime terraces provides shelter for numerous special plants and animals.
During the rainy season, which runs from October to December, the WSNP turns into a green eldorado. During this period, all plants and trees greedily suck up the water that is then in abundance. Moreover, beautifully colored flowers and fruits develop in the park. These ripe fruits are attractive to lots animals.
Common animals are the lizards, iguanas and the most colorful birds. Also an extremely rare parrot species, in the papiamentu called the lora, lives in the park. In addition, thousands of goats, hundreds of donkeys and dozens of cows are running around in the WSNP.
The park also contains a number of enchanting beaches that are also important breeding grounds for the five different sea turtle species that occur in the waters of Bonaire. The WSNP has a 15 kilometer long coastline and the park entrances the other nature park of Bonaire: the Bonaire National Marine Park (BNMP).
Humanity has also left traces in the WSNP over time. Recent scientific archaeological research has shown that 3,600 years ago people already lived in the WSNP.
The daily management of the park is done by the National Parks Bonaire Foundation (STINAPA Bonaire). This foundation is also responsible for the Bonaire National Marine Park.
STINAPA's goal is, among other things, to bring the WSNP back to its original state. To achieve this, various initiatives are being developed, including the replanting of thousands of indigenous tree species in the park.
STINAPA Bonaire is part of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA). The DCNA is a non-profit organization that was established to protect the vulnerable and unique nature on the islands of Bonaire, Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Saba and Sint Eustatius.
A few kilometers north of Rincon is the entrance to the WSNP. From Rincon the road to the park is signed with images of green lizards on the lampposts.
From Kralendijk it is about half an hour to drive to the entrance (and also exit) of the WSNP. The park is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm. Entry to the park is allowed latest 2.00 pm.
During the rainy season, there can be so much rain on Bonaire that the roads in the WSNP become inaccessible and the park is closed for cars.
In order to optimally enjoy the WSNP, it is wise to bring good hiking boots, headgear, sunscreen, anti-mosquito repellent, binoculars, sufficient drinking water, food, snorkel gear, sports diving gear and a towel.
Anyone who visits the WSNP will notice that it is a beautiful and spotless park. The roads are very well maintained and there is no dirt on the ground. Moreover, everything is well indicated. At the WSNP, four rangers work every day to keep the park as beautiful as it is.
Of course, different rules apply in the WSNP to protect the flora and fauna to the maximum. Of course, the WSNP can not be visited outside the opening hours.
During the rainy season, the plants in the park are full of water and look magical green. But during the dry period the park is dry and there is a risk of fire.
Therefore it's strictly forbidden to make a (camp) fire or BBQ and in the park. The only place where you are allowed to BBQ in the park is at Boka Slagbaai. Special BBQ grills are available at this location. Even with cigarettes and matches, extreme vigilance is required.
It is also not allowed to hunt animals, fish or take eggs. Plants are also not allowed to be taken from the park. In order to allow the animals in the park peace and not to disturb, radios are forbidden in the WSNP. Dogs or other (domestic) animals are not welcome in the park.
At the entrance of the WSNP is a beautiful yellow warehouse: the visitor center of the park. This visitor center has a beautiful museum, library, gift shop, an overview of the walking routes and an adjoining terrace where cool drinks and local dishes are served.
The museum tells the story about the general history of Bonaire, the history of the former plantations to the current WSNP, the life and work on the plantations, flora and fauna and the geology and archeology of the Caribbean island.
In front of the entrance of the park is the prepared skeleton of a whale. The unfortunate mammal was once hit by a cruise ship at the coast of Bonaire.
A bit beyond the entrance is an authentic restored Bonairian cottage. The cottage contains, among other things, cattle cages and a limestone burner with which lime was obtained that was used in the construction of houses.
George Thodé is the Chief Ranger of the WSNP and also an extremely charismatic and committed Bonairean conservationist. George Thodé is known by everyone with the name 'Cultura'. Cultura dates from the time that George Thodé founded a music band in 1981.
Cultura was born on Bonaire in 1963, but has lived in Curaçao for the first 7 years of his life. In 1970 he returned to Bonaire as a child and lived in one of the buildings at the parking entrance of the WSNP.
Cultura has the blood of Indians on the one hand and the blood of Spaniards through his body on the other. He was enthused by nature at an early age. On his 17th he got a job as Ranger in the WSNP.
From the very beginning until today, Cultura records all changes in the park. In addition to meteological measurements (precipitation, sun hours, wind force, wind direction, etc.), Cultura tries to collect as much data as possible about all plants and animals that occur in the park. On the basis of the collected data, an attempt is being made to develop a better management plan for the WSNP for the future.
In addition to protecting and managing the WSNP, Cultura also deals with natural healing methods. He makes ointments from different plants that can be used in various conditions.
Papiamentu often uses the words boka (inlet, mouth), ceru (hill), pos (pit), rooi (dry riverbed), tera (earth), etcetera. If you have any understanding of these words, the meaning of some geographical indications and names in the WSNP becomes much clearer.
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