Part of the facilities extend into the Caribbean Sea and form the popular dive site known as Salt Pier. The Bonaire Petroleum Corporation (BOPEC) oil terminal was opened in 1975 for trans-shipping oil. Politically Bonaire formed part of the Netherlands Antilles from 1954 to 2010; it is now a special municipality within the Netherlands. In 2011 the island officially adopted the US dollar as its currency.
Dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles:
On 10 October 2010, the Netherlands Antilles was dissolved. As a result, the government of the Netherlands assumed the task of public administration of the Caribbean Netherlands or BES Islands comprising Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba. The three islands acquired new status as “special municipalities” (bijzondere gemeenten), making them part of the Netherlands itself. As a special municipality, Bonaire is very much like ordinary Dutch municipalities in that it has a mayor, aldermen and a municipal council, and is governed according to most Dutch laws.
Bonaire lies about 80 kilometers (50 mi) off the coast of Venezuela on the continental shelf of South America, and is thus geologically considered a part of the continent.
Vast amounts of coral skeletons may be seen along the shoreline and across the interior of Bonaire. The island is essentially a coral reef that has been geologically pushed up and out of the sea. This also resulted in the natural fringing reef system seen today, in which the coral formations start at the shoreline.
The northern end of the island is relatively mountainous, although its highest peak (Brandaris) is only 240 metres (790 feet). The southern part of the island is nearly flat and barely rises above sea level. A significant portion of this southern region is covered with sea water in process of evaporation for salt production. This area also contains Lac Bay with its large mangrove forest. The shoreline of Bonaire is dotted with lagoons and inlets, the largest of which is Goto Lake in the north. These lagoons and wetlands provide an excellent habitat for a wide variety of shorebirds.
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 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.
All-in-all tourist expenditures in Bonaire are estimated at $125 million per year.
In 2011 the BES Islands replaced their currency, the Netherlands Antillean guilder, with the US dollar rather than replacing it with the euro which is used in the European Netherlands. The decision was based primarily on the needs for tourism and trade.