Sandra Scott Travels: Donkeys Receive Special Treatment In Bonaire

Greeting the donkeys.

Greeting the donkeys.

Last week I asked: Where can you visit a Donkey Sanctuary?

In Bonaire.

Greeting the donkeys.
Greeting the donkeys.

The Spanish brought the donkeys to the island to use as draft animals.

When they were no longer needed, the donkeys were set free to roam the island.

They did not fare well.

In 1993 Dutch Nationals, Marina Melis, and her husband, Ed Koopman, established a donkey sanctuary on Bonaire for sick, wounded and orphaned donkeys.

Currently there are about 600 donkeys under their care including newborns.

Going scuba diving.
Going scuba diving.

They provide food, drinking water, medical care plus a free-roaming area.

Visitors are welcome to visit and interact with the donkeys for a nominal fee.

The Special Care area is accessible by foot behind the visitor center but the highlight is feeding and interacting with the friendly animals on a drive through the sanctuary.

This was one of our favorite stops on a drive-about on the southern part of the island.

The original inhabitants were the Caiquetios.

Mangazina di Rei
Mangazina di Rei

Rock paintings and petroglyphs from that time have survived in the island’s caves.

The first Europeans were Spanish and then the Dutch.

Control seesawed between them until 1816 when the Dutch took permanent control.

To learn about the history and culture visit the newly upgraded cultural center in Rincon called Mangazina di Rei (The Storehouse of the King) where slaves were given provisions.

The museum was closed for upgrading while we were there.

It is the best place to learn about the culture.

So sorry we missed it.

Frommer’s rates Bonaire number one when it comes to scuba diving.

Kite boarding
Kite boarding

The island is surrounded by reefs that are pristine and easily accessible.

We don’t scuba but went out on the Divi’s dive boat and went snorkeling.

The waters of Bonaire have been designated as a National Marine Park so divers need to purchase a permit tag ($25 for scuba divers, $10 for Snorkelers).

It is almost always windy on Bonaire making it a mecca for wind surfers and kite boarders.

John took some more kite boarding lessons.

There is also a place for wind surfing Newbies can be wind surfing after a few lessons whereas kite boarding requires more lessons.

the elegant pink flamingo
The elegant pink flamingo

Both locations offer equipment and skilled instructors.

Bonarie is a bird-lover’s paradise.

The iconic symbol of Bonaire is the elegant pink flamingo.

Bonaire is only one of four areas in the world where flamingos breed.

The flamingos are shy so it is important to not get to close and disturb them.

For picture taking a telephoto is a help.

The best place to see them is Lake Gotomeer in the north and around the salt pans.

The breeding area is off limits.

We saw flamingos but I was hoping to see a lot of them together.

In the evening we would sit at the end of Divi’s stone pier to watch sunset.

The sailboat, the Woodwind, offers snorkeling and sunset tours.

One of my favorite evenings was taking their sunset cruise that included snorkeling and a great dinner.

Hotels and most restaurants offer international fare including the fresh fish of the day.

A sunset cruise on the Woodwind.
A sunset cruise on the Woodwind.

There is even a Subway and KFC.

We like to try something new.

In Rincon we visited the Cadushy Distillery where they use the cactus that is found all over the island to make cactus liqueur.

Posada Para Mira, also in Rincon, is one place to sample local fare such as goat stew.

They also serve conch soup and, the more adventurous should try iguana soup.

It tastes like chicken but is very boney.

Trivia Tease™: What U.S. city is called “City of Spires?

Look for the answer next week.

Sandra and her husband, John, have been exploring the world for decades, always on the lookout for something new and unique to experience. We have sailed down the Nile for a week on a felucca, stayed with the Pesch Indians in La Mosquitia, visited schools in a variety of countries, and — to add balance to our life — stayed at some of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Let the fun continue!


  1. Did they tell you they are catching and castrating all the male donkeys that are roaming free? Their goal is to have all the donkeys in their ‘zoo’. Rational is donkeys cause auto accidents. (And money they get for their work.) When they started it was just sick donkeys; now it has evolved into a business. When the wells were working in the wilds of Bonaire, it was hard to see a donkey. But then tourists fed the donkeys, they started to hang around the roads… People speed way more now than before. Why is this the donkey’s fault? The Bonaire donkeys are a special breed of donkey. They did just fine for years and years without being in a ‘zoo’ so you can feed and pet them. Do you really need to feed and pet 200?

  2. Small correction. The Donkeys were always roaming freely on the Island since the introduction by the Spanish in 1527, and caught from the wild if needed. The last 500 years Bonaire always had a free roaming herd of around 1000 wild donkeys.

Comments are closed.