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Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba
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The Caribbean Netherlands are the three special municipalities of the Netherlands that are located in the Caribbean Sea.
They consist of the islands of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba, although the term "Caribbean Netherlands" is sometimes used to refer to all of the islands in the Dutch Caribbean.
They are also known as the BES islands (a more traditional acronym of their names).
The Caribbean Netherlands form part of the Lesser Antilles. Within this island group.
The islands of the Caribbean Netherlands enjoy a tropical climate with warm weather all year round. The Leeward Islands are warmer and drier than the Windward Islands.
Unlike much of the Caribbean region, the BES lie outside the hurricane belt and have an arid climate. This helps tourism as visitors to the islands can reliably expect warm, sunny weather. Bonaire is a popular destination for scuba divers, and well known for easy access to its various reefs from the shore.
- Bonaire with Aruba and Curaçao, it forms the group known as the ABC islands, within the Leeward Antilles island chain off the Venezuelan coast. The Leeward Antilles have a mixed volcanic and coral origin.
- Saba and Sint Eustatius or Saint Eustace are part of the SSS islands. They are located east of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Although in the English language they are considered part of the Leeward Islands, French, Spanish, Dutch and the English spoken locally consider them part of the WindwardIslands.
Tourism in the Caribbean Netherlands
Bonaire lies about 50 miles (80 km) off the coast of Venezuela on the continental shelf of South America, and is thus geologically considered a part of the continent.
Bonaire's economy is mainly based on tourism, taking advantage of its warm, dry climate and natural environment. The island caters to scuba divers and snorkelers, as the surrounding coral reefs are well preserved and easily accessible from the shore. Bonaire has been widely recognized for many years in the diving community as one of the world's best shore Diving Destinations.
Bonaire's Marine Park offers a total of 86 named dive sites, and is home to over 57 species of soft and stony coral and more than 350 recorded fish species. Most resorts and hotels have an on-site dive shop, and other accommodations are affiliated with a dive operation. The license plates carry the logo Divers Paradise.
Lac Bay, in the southeastern part of the island, attracts wind surfers from around the world to Bonaire. The shallow Bay is on the windward side of the island, so trade winds are strong and constant. A barrier reef across the mouth of the bay allows windsurfers of all skill levels to select wave conditions they like.
Lac Bay is one of the stops in the PWA Windsurfing Freestyle World Cup and has hosted the Prokids IFCA Championship.
Five of the PWA's ten highest ranked freestyle windsurfers are from Bonaire: Kiri Thode, Amado Vrieswijk, Bjorn Saragoza, Tonky Frans, and Taty Frans. In the northern end of Lac Bay is one of the best preserved mangrove forests in the Caribbean, which is popular for kayaking and snorkeling.
Bonaire is also a port of call for more than fifteen cruise lines who make more than eighty calls per season at the island. The total passenger capacity for cruise ships in Bonaire is about 185,000.
Tourism infrastructure in Bonaire is contemporary and offers a variety of types of accommodations including hotels, full-service resorts, a few small bed and breakfasts, and self-catering vacation rentals of all kinds.
Other tourist activities include kite-boarding, mountain-biking, hiking, sailing, charter fishing, boating, and bird-watching.
Sint Eustatius or Saint Eustace
The island of Sint Eustatius or Saint Eustace is saddle-shaped, with the 602 meter-high dormant volcano Quill, (from Dutch kuil, meaning 'pit' originally referring to its crater) to the southeast and the smaller pair Signal Hill/Little Mountain (or Bergje) and Boven Mountain to the northwest. The Quill crater is a popular tourist attraction on the island. The bulk of the island's population lives in the saddle between the two elevated areas, which forms the center of the island.
The national parks of St. Eustatius, which comprise the Quill/Boven park, the Botanical Garden, and the Marine Park, are all under the control of the non-profit foundation STENAPA.
Saba consists largely of the potentially active volcano Mount Scenery. At 2,910 ft the volcano is the highest point within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The vegetation of Saba is mainly composed of woodland forest with ferns and damp soil, and many mango trees. Visitors refer to Saba's forests as "the Elfin Forest" because of its high altitude mist, and mossy appearance. A woodland reserve was created and named "Elfin Forest Reserve". Saba's lush plant and animal wildlife is diverse and is cared for by the Saba Conservation Foundation.
The tourism industry now contributes more to the island's economy than any other sector. There are about 25,000 visitors each year. Saba has a number of inns, hotels, rental cottages and restaurants. Saba is known as "The Unspoiled Queen" of the Caribbean. Saba is especially known for its ecotourism, having exceptional scuba diving, climbing and hiking.
The Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport offers flights to and from the nearby islands of St. Maarten and Sint Eustatius. There is also a ferry service from St. Maarten; the ferry boats "Dawn II ~ The Saba Ferry" and "The Edge" both travel to Saba three times a week. In addition, there are anchorages for private boats.
About 150 species of fish have been found in Saba’s waters. A main draw for divers are the pinnacle dive sites, where magma pushed through the sea floor to create underwater towers of volcanic rock that start at about 300 feet (91 m) down and rise to about 85 feet (26 m) beneath the surface.
The waters around Saba were designated as the Saba National Marine Park in 1987, and are subject to government regulation to preserve the coral reefs and other marine life. The Saba Conservation Foundation has operated a hyperbaric chamber in case of diving emergencies, since 1991.