Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba
Description of Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba
Bonaire, Saint Eustatius, and Saba are three islands that are often called the Caribbean Netherlands. The islands are situated in the Caribbean Sea and are sometimes referred to as being the BES islands.
The three islands are considered to be land of the Netherlands. However, these special municipalities are not a part of the European Union and they will remain outside the EU until at least the year 2015. They are currently considered to be an overseas country and territory in regard to European Union Law.
Bonaire is located just east of Curacao and Aruba, and is very close to the Venezuelan coast. Both Saba and St. Eustatius are northwest of Nevis and Saint Kitts and just south of Saint Martin.
The 3 islands were given their current status when the Netherland Antilles were dissolved in October of 2010. During this same time frame the islands of Saint Martin and Curacao were made autonomous countries by the Netherlands. For this reason, the Kingdom of the Netherlands does not contain the 2 islands. The name refers only to the Caribbean islands that remain administrative divisions of the Netherlands and not to the entire Dutch Caribbean. The Dutch Caribbean includes every island in the Caribbean that fall to the Netherlands Kingdom.
Bonaire, Saint Eustatius, and Saba have a population of around 21,000 and the total area of these three islands is about 328 kilometers square.
The three islands of Bonaire, Saint Eustatius, and Saba are considered to be special municipalities. These areas have many of the same functions that are normally done by municipalities of the Dutch. The Governing Council has the executive power and is led by the Lieutenant governor. The island council is the chief democratic body of the island. People who live on the islands are allowed to vote during the Dutch national elections and in European elections.
The islands are officially given the status of openbare lichamen. This is translated to mean public bodies. They are not considered to be gemeenten, which means municipalities. Unlike other normal municipalities, the islands do not form a part of any Dutch province. The powers that are typically given to the provincial councils in municipalities are divided up among the island governments as well as the central government of the area. They are guided by the National Office of the Caribbean Netherlands. This is the reason that the group of islands is often called a “special” municipalities.
Many of the laws of the Dutch offer a special version for the BES islands. One example is that social security in the European Netherlands is not the same for the islands.
As mentioned, the islands are not considered to be in the European Union. Instead, they are referred to as an oversea country and territory for the European Union that have special provisions that apply. The Lisbon treaty started a procedure that allows the European Council the ability to change a status of any overseas territory of France, the Netherlands, or of Denmark based on the claim for the European Union treaties for that territory. The position for the islands is set to be reviewed after a transitional period of 5 years has concluded. This transitional period started in 2010 when the Netherlands Antilles was dissolved.
The Caribbean Netherlands created a National office of the islands. This office has taken over responsibility for policing, taxation, social security, education, health, transport infrastructure, and immigration . These actions are performed on behalf of the Netherlands government. The agency was established in 2008 as a regional service center and in 2010 was named the National Office for Caribbean Netherlands. Sybren van Dam is the current director. The representative for the islands is similar to a Kings Commissioner and he/she represents the islands within the Netherlands government.
About the Islands
Bonaire is a part of the ABC island group. It is in the Leeward Antilles chain of islands that are located just off the coast of Venezuela. This group of islands has a coral and volcanic origin. Some people believe that the ABC islands were first discovered by Alonso de Ojeda, who was a captain for Christopher Columbus. He called the group the Islands of the Giants because of the natives who lived there. Amerigo Vespucci officially discovered the group of islands.
Control of the islands was won by the Netherlands who fought against Spain for ownership. The ABC islands became a part of the Netherlands Antilles in the year 1954. This granted the islanders political autonomy within the Netherlands. When the Netherlands Antilles was dissolved in October of 2010, Aruba and Curacao, became separate countries in the kingdom. Bonaire was named a special municipality of the Netherlands.
Saba and Saint Eustatius are a part of the SSS islands, which includes the 2 islands plus the island of Saint Martin. Saint Martin is considered a constituent country of the Netherlands. Both Saint Eustatius and Saba are considered to be public bodies of the kingdom of the Netherlands.
The SSS acronym is similar to the ABC acronym provided to the islands of Curacao, Bonaire, and Aruba, which are also a part of the Netherlands. All 6 of these territories were once a part of the Netherland Antilles.
In 1648, Saint Martin was split into 2 parts, a French and a Dutch part. The part that belonged to the Dutch became a part of a colony in 1818 when Saint Eustatius and its dependencies were returned by France once the Napoleonic Wars ended. The colony became a part of the Curacao and its dependencies. The capital was located in Paramaribo. In 1845, this merge was reversed in part and the Dutch area of the SSS islands became a part of the Curacao and dependencies. The capital of the area was Willemstad. In 1952, this colony would become the Netherlands Antilles. The Dutch area of the SSS islands would form a single island area that would be governed by the island council until the year 1983.
Visiting Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba
Each of these three islands, which were once a part of the Netherlands Antilles, offers visitors a unique travel experience. They are a very popular travel destination. Curacao offers some of the best hotels and resorts, Saba offers a great peace for tourists to relax. Willemstad and Saint Maarten are the most popular areas for tourists as these offer fine dining combined with glorious beaches and a fun night life. If you are looking for a place away from the crowds, consider Bonaire, or Saint Eustatius.
Before the Netherlands Antilles were dissolved it was a constituent country located in the Caribbean Sea. There were 2 island groups that made up the constituent, the ABC islands, which consisted of Bonaire, Aruba, and Curacao and the SSS islands that are made up of Saint Eustatius, Saba, and Saint Maarten. The only land boundary of the islands was with France and this is located on Saint Martin and the border is about 10.2 kilometers long. The group of islands consisted of 364 kilometers of coastline.
There were 2 island groups of the Netherlands Antilles. They were the Windward Islands of Curacao and Bonaire and the Leeward Islands of Saint Maarten, Saint Eustatius, and Saba.
There are several main cities on the islands. Willemstad is located on Curacao and is the capital of the island and was the capital of Netherlands Antilles. The capital of Bonaire is the city of Kralendijk. The Bottom is a city on Saba and is also the capital of the island. The capital city of Saint Eustatius is Oranjestad. Philipsburg is the capital city of Saint Maarten.
As mentioned there are many things to see and do on these islands. Bonaire offers an island that is somewhat quieter than Curacao. There are several very well kept natural areas. One of the unique areas that is found here is the flamingo sanctuary. This area is technically off limits to visitors of the islands, but if you have a strong pair of binoculars you will be able to see these magnificent birds enjoy their life in the relative peace and quiet that is offered by the islands. There are some public flamingo viewing spots as well. These are located on the southern tip of the island and also near the Willemstoren lighthouse.
The national park on Bonaire is another example of the wonderful nature of this island. The park covers almost the entire northwest portion of the island and makes up about 20% of the total land. Washington Slagbaai is a wonderful national park and a great place to explore. The roads through this area are a bit rough, but are definitely worth visiting. There is a tropical desert in the park and many birds and cacti. In the lowlands you will see flamingos and there are several types of parrots that can be seen here as well. There are several reptile species that live here including bright green iguanas.
Saint Eustatius and Saba are different from the other islands in the group. Both of the islands specialize in eco-lodges and do not cater to the mass tourist. On Saba, one of the best destinations is Mount Scenery. When you get to the top of this steep climb you are awarded with a beautiful panorama. The views of the other islands and the Caribbean sea is simply fantastic. There are also some great places to walk with wonderful views found in Ladder Bay. Saba Marine Park and Saba park are also wonderful places to explore while on the island.
On the island of Saint Eustatius you will find many gorgeous forts such as Fort de Windt and Fort Oranje. Fort Oranje offers a wonderful waterfront view as well as Oranjestad located just below.
There are several other places worth visiting on the islands as well. This includes the Saint Eustatius History Museum, Fort Amsterdam, Harry L. Johnson Museum, Cupecoy Bay, Saint Maarten Museum, Bonaire Museum, the Christoffel National Park, the Museum Kura Hulanda, and the Jewish cultural history museum.
When visiting the islands you will find that the islands of Curacao and Bonaire offer a constant and pleasant climate. The weather is warm and humid throughout the year, but a constant breeze from the sea helps keep things a bit cool. The average temperatures are around 30 degrees Celsius during the days and about 23 degrees Celsius in the evenings and overnight. Most of the rain falls in the months of October through February, but compared to some of the other islands in the area it really does not rain here all that much. The high season occurs in July and August and for this reason it is recommended that you visit the islands from March through June as these are the drier months.
Saint Eustatius and Saba have a tropical climate that is hot and humid. The average temperatures during the day are from 28 degrees Celsius to 30 degrees Celsius. The temperature during the night averages around 23 degrees Celsius. Most of the rain on these islands fall in the months of June through October. There is a chance of hurricanes from August on. The best time to visit these islands is from December through April as the weather is a bit cooler and drier. During this time frame the prices to visit jump considerably. If you are on a budget, consider visiting in either May or November, as the weather is still quite decent during these months and the prices tend to be a bit cheaper.
Most of the islands have their own airport and this is the most common way to get there. There are also several cruises to the islands. An international ferry is only available on Saint Maarten as Saint Eustatius, Bonaire, and Curacao do not have any type of ferry service. Saba operates some connections with ferries from Saint Maarten.
Some facts about Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba
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Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba video guide
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