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Salty Dogs

Island of Bonaire

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Apparently George W. Bush spent some of his summer vacation of 2005 reading a book about the history of salt. At one time salt was as important a commodity as oil is today, as without it food could not be preserved for long journeys by sea.

If he really wants to find out about salt, the Commander-in-Chief might do better to visit the small Caribbean island of Bonaire. Lying just a little way off the coast of Venezuela, the island is part of the Dutch Antilles group, forming the ‘B’ of the famous ‘ABC’ – Antigua, Bonaire, Curacao. Thanks to the shallow lakes and marshes at its southern tip, the island is very rich in salt. Years ago slaves were brought here not to harvest to common Caribbean crops like bananas and sugarcane, but rather to rake over the salt pans to feed North America’s insatiable demand for the substance. The island is still a major salt producer today, although the company that runs the Bonaire salt operation, Cargill, doesn’t use slaves shipped across the Atlantic for the purpose!

For such a small island, Bonaire has many claims to fame. Apart from being the salt capital of the Americas it’s also famed as a divers’ paradise. Because the island is largely surrounded by dense coral reef, it’s possibly to enjoy some really great dives straight from the beach. Whether you’re into scuba or snorkeling, Bonaire is the place for you.

There are a number of resorts on the island that cater for the diving community as well as those who want to enjoy a more traditional and relaxing Caribbean vacation. The Harbour Village Beach Club is a typically laid back resort, offering a range of activities from full-immersion water sports through to all kinds of relaxation programs and amenities.

Rooms and suites at the Harbour Village Beach Club are clustered around three areas: the marina, the beach, and the courtyard gardens. Club Rooms are luxurious, and represent really good value for money for what you get. All rooms feature king size beds and full en suite bathroom facilities, as well as the usual run of hotel room amenities. If you want accommodation that’s even classier still, you should book a Club Suite. Each has a private terrace equipped with hammocks. There is also a bar and kitchenette with a microwave, should you feel the need for a snack.

Snacking, inside or outside your room or suite, is never going to be a problem at this particular Bonaire resort. As well as the usual snack bars and beach bars and grills, the Harbour Village Beach Club features a first class restaurant in the form of La Balandra, headed up by Chef Alberto Roldan. So you can get a real sense of being close to the sea from which much of the menu has been caught, the restaurant is built on a jetty that sticks out into the water - there is a option to dine in the open air, and the fresh tang of breeze is bound to help you work up an appetite!

If even the romantic setting of La Balandra isn’t quite enough for you, you can also request to have a candlelit dinner for two on the beach. This is particularly popular with couples visiting the resort, and must be booked in advance!

Of course, you’re probably going to need to do something to work off the calories that the restaurant’s superb menu has tempted you into piling on. If you’re an experienced diver or just a beginner, you have most certainly come to the right place. Bonaire is considered among the top five diving destinations in the world, with great conditions and over eight recognized dive sites to explore. As well as Scuba, the resort also offers facilities for snorkeling, and is one of the few Caribbean resorts to offer SASY – Supported Air Snorkeling for Youth. So your kids, providing they’re older than five, can learn confidence in the water and some of the skills that might lead them on top a lifetime of fun diving experiences.

The resort also offers a wide range of surface water sports, including kayaking, canoeing and sailing.

The cool grip of the deep blue sea may be relaxing for some, but for those who would rather let the stresses of everyday life wash away in more conventional surroundings, the resort offers a very comprehensive spa service. Although this isn’t open to resort guests under the age of sixteen years, adults will find the relaxing treatments at the hands of highly skilled therapists to be just right for providing the ultimate in relaxation. If you’ve a diver, why not visit the spa afterwards and have all that salt water washed away?

The Harbour Village Beach Club is one of the best (and best value) resorts on this small island. Very few people have even heard of Bonaire, but it’s certainly worth a visit if you want a really rewarding vacation.

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