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Low flying coconuts and obstinate donkeys

August 29, 2012
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An exclusive exposé by our man on the ground, Dr Bruce Davidson, on the many hidden dangers of Bonaire. Spoiler alert, there aren’t any. Well not many anyway! You wouldn't think it would you? A tropical paradise island, where the pace of life is slow, everyone is laid back, and even the iguanas seem to want to do nothing more than bask in the eternal sunshine. Even the sea is flat calm, at least on the west of the island, the reef is spectacular, and the water itself a brilliant turquoise, with the ripples bouncing the sunlight around, and with a never failing breeze to relieve the heat. That's even where the name came from, Bon means good and aire is, well, air. The temperature never drops below 24C (75F) even in the coolest part of the night, and during the day it can be up around 34C (93F), but with breeze making it seem cooler. What could possibly be a threat here? Well one threat you can forget about - snakes. There just aren't any - at least nothing bigger than a worm and certainly nothing poisonous. So that's one you can discount. There are no predators either, or at least not anything that might take a fancy to eating you. Oh, you might get scratched by a cat or chased by a dog, but that's nothing more than you get every day back home. And when you think, Caribbean, you think of all the history and the movies about pirates, the stories of treasure and people walking the plank, to be eaten by sharks. Well things are definitely different around Bonaire these days. There are no large sharks anywhere around here, and all we ever get are nurse sharks that don't even have teeth! Mind you, they can give you a nasty suck! So what are the dangers? Well as you'd expect in the tropics, nothing to do with the cold. You might get sunburn here, but never frostbite. But there is one insidious danger threatening every time you go lie back in your hammock in the shade of the palm tree, and it's one that oh so nearly happened to me. Those palm trees are coconut palms and the coconuts are slowly, ever so slowly, ripening as they hang there under the palm fronds. Then one day it's ready and comes crashing down to earth. And if you happen to be stretched out underneath, you can get a nasty bruise on the part of your anatomy that intersects with its flight path. Is that all?! Oh no, no such luck, I'm only just getting started. One of the plagues on this island are the herds of goats that just appear out of nowhere to graze by the side of the road, and if you happen to be driving or riding past they can suddenly run in front of you and make you swerve - unless you fancy goat stew that is. And more seriously, there are larger obstacles that are much slower moving and mostly nearly immobile. In the days when the local salt industry was largely 'hands on', they imported donkeys to do the hauling and carrying. Many of them escaped and over the years they have gone completely feral. So you'll see donkeys just about anywhere on the island. Indeed there's the Donkey Sanctuary where the lucky ones end up, and get pampered. You can visit them if you want, but if you do be prepared to get pestered unceasingly as you drive around. Mind you it's amusing to watch their behavior, with the brighter ones trying to get in close, or running ahead to be there first. But watch out for them on the roads, especially at night. They just stand there and expect you to avoid them, and they're way bigger than a goat, so you can get major damage to your car and maybe get injured as well. They should put up signs - 'Danger Donkeys Ahead'! And that's not all with the roads. They themselves are a problem. Most of the island's roads are atrocious, with the surface full of potholes. Oh there is the occasional stretch of good surface, but they are few and far between, so your car's dampers had better be in good condition, or you'll get a sore butt from all the bouncing around. Of course I couldn't finish off without mentioning one of the more unlikely dangers of the island. This is known as a diver's haven, indeed the license plates all proudly pronounce 'Bonaire - Divers Paradise'. So where's the problem? Well if you spend too much of your time under water instead of studying there's always the possibility, remote though it is, of getting the bends - nitrogen narcosis. But don't worry, if you do there is a hyperbaric chamber here, to shepherd you through your recovery. But that does highlight one final crucial point. When you're choosing your health insurance for your time at Saint James School of Medicine in Bonaire, be sure to check that the policy covers injuries from low flying coconuts and obstinate donkeys!
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