Bonaire Travel, Hotels & Lodging Guide

Washington Slagbaai National Park

On may 9th., 1969, Nicholaas Debro, the Bonaire born Governer, officiated at the opening ceremonies for the Washington Slagbaai National Park. In 1999, marked the parks 30th anniversary serving as an educational and recreational area for all Bonaireans and our visitors.
During that year, the park was very active in promoting itself and its attractions to everyone who lived on or visited the island. A whole new look took shape with a new logo, printed materials and celebrations. Among the many things that make the park so unique is that it is one of the first of its kind to be established in the Netherlands Antilles.

Dominating the Northern 20% of the island, Washington-Slagbaai National Park is the home for numerous bird species, reptiles and native plants.
The area has been set aside for the enjoyment of those who wish to visit and observe the charm of what was and continues to be Bonaire.

The history of the park really began September 1, 1868 when a public sale of land on Bonaire was held and the area then known as Slagbaai was bought for fl. 35,200. Another parcel, know as Brasiel, was also purchased for fl. 22,000. In the ensuing years, the properties changed hands a number of times and in the 1920's tha last owners, the Hererra brothers, gave the northern half of Slagbaai the name America.

At the entrance to the property a small house and a store were constructed where the plantation workers could collect their wages and buy supplies. This area became the most important part of the plantation. Because wages were distributed and disputes were settled there, it became known as Washington, the capital.
The arid climate was not conducive to plantation crops. Goats were alowed to forage throughout the Washington area. In a good year 3,000 or more goats would be shipped, eather live or salted to Curaçao from the bay now known as Playa Funchi.

Another important crop was the Divi Divi seed pod. They were prized as an ingredient in the tanning process throughout Europe. The pods from Bonaire were thought to be superior to those of any other source and commanded a higher price. This fact led to the practice of pods being imported from South America to Curaçao and created a corrupt practice that required a Certificate of Origin that had to accompany the Bonairean product verifying their origin.

Aloe Vera was also harvested on the plantation. It was done mostly by the women and took place after the rainy season, when the leaves have the most juice. The men turned down the opportunity to work in this industry, thinking it was a woman's work. Years later, when conditions were different, the men continued to shun the work, saying it was too heavy. So much for the weaker sex!

One more product of the Washington-Slagbaai area was a "Karbon" or charcoal production. It is still manufactured today in much the same manner. The selective harvesting is done, allowing the tree to still live and create new grownth for future use. This method is indicative of the Bonairean's awareness of the environment and conservation of natural resources. As the years passed and the era of plantations waned, Boy Herrerra did not want to see his land turned into commercial area, with hotels and no room for the native flora and fauna to thrive. He wanted future visitors to experience the Bonaire of the past.
He negotiated with the Government of the Netherlands Antilles and an historic agreement was reached. In 1969 the "Washington National Park" became the first national park in the Netherlands Antilles!

Ten years later the lower half of Slagbaai and Brasil were annexed, thus creating Washington - Slagbaai National Park of today. A day trip to Slagbaai is the highlight of any visitor's trip to Bonaire. The area has purposely been left in a natural state and offers a refuge for Bonaire's native flora and fauna.
At the entrance, the ranger in charge will collect your free and provide you with a map, outlining the two routes. The long route (yellow route) is by far the more scenic and allows visitors a change to experience Bonaire the way it used to be. Many people take the shorter trip and go diving or snorkeling in Playa Funchi of Boca Slagbaai. There is still much to enjoy on the shorter route.
There are a few tips that you should follow to make your excursion more enjoyable.
  1. Bring water and snacks. There is a place at Boka Slagbaai to buy refreshments, but it is at the mid point.
  2. Make sure you enter before 3:00 pm as the park closes at 5:00.

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