Washington Slagbaai National Park

Protected Area Overview

Managed by STINAPA Bonaire
Established 1969
Size 5,600 ha. (14,000 ac.)

Washington Slagbaai National Park, established in 1969, is the Dutch Caribbean’s first protected area and remains one of the largest natural sanctuaries, protecting an area of 35 km2 (6500 hectares). Located in the northwest of Bonaire, it encompasses almost 17% of the island and includes its highest point, Mount Brandaris (241 meters/791 feet). From cactus scrub to dry forest, salt flats, caves, mangroves and sandy beaches, all of Bonaire’s terrestrial and coastal habitats can be found within Washington Slagbaai National Park. The majority of the park is covered in low thorny scrub (xerophytic shrublands) and cacti typical of dry environments, but the park also is home to a variety of distinctive habitats, including sand dunes and saliñas.

The park provides a safe haven for the island’s native plants and animals, including flamingos, parrots and iguanas. It is a sanctuary to seabirds, shorebirds and landbirds, many of which use the park as a stopover on their migratory route. More than 200 of the island’s 210 known bird species find refuge within the park’s boundaries. The beaches along the park’s 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) of shoreline are a nesting ground for 3 species globally endangered sea turtles: the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas), the Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the Loggerhead (Caretta carreta). Seven endemic lizards, a number of endemic land snails and two endemic plants are found within its boundaries. Hypersaline lagoons (saliñas) in the Washington Slagbaai National Park are nesting and foraging grounds for many species of migratory waterbirds, among them the endangered Caribbean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber).

The park has been identified by Birdlife International as an Important Bird Area (IBA) because of its significance as a nesting, roosting, and foraging area for up to 400 endangered Yellow-shouldered Amazon parrots (Amazona barbadensis). The park’s shrublands also support restricted-range bird species, two Northern South America biome-restricted birds, and a number of endemic subspecies. Globally significant numbers of Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) and regionally important numbers of Sandwich Terns (Sterna sandvicensis) and Least Terns (Sterna antillarum) nest within its boundaries. A regionally important concentration of Caribbean Flamingos occurs at the park’s salt ponds, notably Saliña Slagbaai.

The Washington Slagbaai National Park is also recognized internationally for its two Ramsar sites, Saliña Slagbaai and Gotomeer, both hotspots of biological activity. Both Saliña Slagbaai and Gotomeer are important foraging or breeding sites for the flamingos, and are also critical roosting, breeding and foraging grounds for a number of other wetland and shore bird species.

Originally inhabited by native South Americans and later comprising two of the largest and more productive plantations during the colony times, the park is rich in cultural and historical heritage. Some of the island’s most important historical landmarks are within the park’s boundaries, for example the buildings at Slagbaai, the Seru Bentana lighthouse, the ruins of the Malmok lighthouse and original structures from the early plantations, which now house the park’s Visitor Center. The oldest geological formations of Bonaire are also located inside the park. The park’s central, hilly portion is the product of submarine volcanic activity during the Cretaceous period (144 million to 65 million years ago). Bonaire’s highest elevation, Mount Brandaris, is a product of this volcanic activity and an estimated 100 million years old. Terraces and limestone plateaus surround the central hills and are the result of changes in sea level and coral reef formation during the last 5 million years.

The Washington Slagbaai National Park offers a wide range of low-impact recreational activities. These include birdwatching, mountain biking, snorkeling and diving (some of Bonaire’s most beautiful reefs can be accessed from the park), kayaking and hiking. Visitors can hike one of the park’s three hiking trails: the Subi Brandaris Climbing Trail (1.5 kilometres) reaches the summit of Mount Brandaris, the Kasikunda Climbing Trail (1.76 kilomtres) offers some of the best views of North Bonaire, and the low level Lagadishi Walking Trail (3.7 kilometres) provides a complete view of the Bonairean windward scenery. Adults are charged a fee (US$ 25) to enter the park. Residents of Bonaire are charged a local rate.


Park Management Organisation: STINAPA

Stichting Nationale Parken Bonaire (STINAPA Bonaire) is the non-governmental, nonprofit foundation commissioned by the island government to manage the two protected areas of Bonaire: the Bonaire National Marine Park and the Washington Slagbaai National Park. STINAPA Bonaire is responsible for the management of the island of Klein Bonaire and the cave systems at Onima and Barcadera.

STINAPA Bonaire is dedicated to the conservation of Bonaire ’s natural and historical heritage through the sustainable use of its resources. It aims to fulfil this mission by achieving the following goals:

  • Protect, conserve and restore all the natural resources, including, but not limited to, the native flora and fauna of Bonaire for future generations.
  • Ensure that the conservation of these natural resources is given the highest priority in all public decision-making processes.
  • Ensure that the residents of, and visitors to, Bonaire receive quality education and information about the protection of nature and the environment.
  • Ensure that the natural and historical resources of Bonaire are used in a sustainable manner.