Bonaire has several protected parks, including the coral reef all along the coastline, the cactus-covered Washington Slagbai in the north, and a flamingo preserve on the southern tip. Our first park visit, though, was to the mangrove forest of Lac Bay, accompanied by our friends from Dorothy Rose. Driving in, we spotted a big flock of flamingos, and then on parking, we were greeted by a trio of adolescent donkeys. Already a great start to the day.
The Mangrove Info Center manages access to the park, via two-hour kayak/snorkel tours. After a brief intro about how the park is an important habitat for birds and turtles, we piled into two-person kayaks. We paddled into the mangrove forest, through a maze of tunnels and out into a wide-open stretch of bay.
The mangroves are pretty, but as boaters we see a lot of mangroves, so they didn’t feel all that special. But the snorkeling site was another matter. It’s relatively rare for us to find mangroves in clear water that are safe to swim in. Whether because boats are zipping around, or because mangroves are a good place to find things that would like to eat you. This spot had neither. What it did have is big schools of juvenile and intermediate fish, which shelter in the nursery until they’re large enough to thrive out in the reef.
It also has tons of turtle grass, and nestled in it, thousands of upsidedown jellyfish. They come in different colors, we learned, because of symbiotic relationships with algae that live on (or in?) their tentacles. Mostly they sit on the ground, but if disturbed, or if they feel like it, they’re perfectly capable of swimming around.
It was also neat to see the bottoms of the mangroves, which grow downward from the surface and consequently have lots of roots that don’t reach the bottom. They play host to big clusters of mussels and sponges.
Salty, but well entertained, we headed back through the mangroves.