Driving over on our way for a horse ride and swim at Rancho Washikemba in Bonaire, we had no idea what a cool morning we would experience.
We expected a horseback ride along a trail, followed by a brief swim, then a ride back to the stables. Boy, were we surprised!
Rancho Washikemba in Bonaire offers a chance to ride a horse while the horse swims in a lagoon and it is truly an amazing experience.
Located on the rugged, eastern side of Bonaire in the Bara di Karta nature park, Rancho Washikemba is a horse ranch offering ride/swim tours, riding lessons, and children’s parties.
We arrived a little early to get a chance to meet the horses and the owners, Bregje and Marc. Originally from the Netherlands, they moved to Bonaire 12 years ago, built the ranch in 2010, and now operate the only official, fully licensed and certified horseback riding ranch on Bonaire.
Upon our arrival at the ranch, some of the horses were finishing their breakfast, amidst wandering chickens and the ranch dog, Vlek, while others were playing in the horse pen.
The 10 horses at Rancho Washikemba live in cheerful bright yellow stables that were exceptionally clean and the horses are very well cared for by Bregje and Marc.
We’d never ridden a horse before and the only horses we’d been around were racehorses at the track so this would be a first experience.
Bregje and Marc had selected horses for us that fit our riding experience level, which obviously was none, and provided riding instructions, such as the distance to keep, how to tell them to turn, etc.
We then mounted up and headed out into the gorgeous Bonaire countryside.
The Rancho Washikemba Lagoon Tour
We did the Lagoon Tour, which winds through the Bonaire backcountry to the eastern coastline and Lagoon Bay, then back to the ranch. Bregje led the way on Allreckdup, also known as Tango, an American Thoroughbred born in Maryland and now living in Caribbean paradise.
Along the way, Bregje would point out things along the trail and shared information about Bonaire and the Washikemba area.
I rode Blondy Studebaker, who was born on Curacao and is a crossbred Paso Fino mare. Greg rode Poco Blonde Princess, an American Quarter Horse mare who was born in Florida.
We both took photos throughout the ride and both horses were very easy to ride and gentle, making a first time horseback riding adventure a breeze.
Along the way, we saw iguanas and a few goats, who generally kept a safe distance, but for the most part, it was a quiet ride through the peaceful, natural environment.
As we reached the top of a small hill, Lagoon Bay suddenly appeared – a very quiet, beautiful body of turquoise water rimmed with mangroves and rocky ledges.
We rode to a large rock formation next to the lagoon and dismounted.
Greg was staying on shore to capture shots of me riding in the water, so Bregje and I stripped down to our swimsuits. Marc, who had met us at the lagoon unsaddled Greg’s horse, Poco, who they told us loves the water and would be the horse I would ride into the lagoon.
Bregje led us into the water and told me to hold onto the mane. When we got into the water, she told me I’d feel Poco push off when she started swimming.
It was truly spectacular! Poco loves it so much that when Bregje would try to lead her back out, she’d pull back and wanted to stay swimming.
After our swim, they saddled Poco back up, we got dressed, and continued our ride.
In the distance, the Spelonk, Lighthouse, which was built in 1910, stands regally above the rough waters and barren landscape.
After heading down the coastline, we turned inland, past the oldest tree on Bonaire, then by the rumored-to-be haunted, Plantation Washikemba, then continued on the trail back to the ranch.
Know before you go to Rancho Washikemba
Location: Rancho Washikemba is about 8 km /5 miles from Kralendijk on the eastern side of the island.
Booking a tour: Reservations are required and can be made by calling +599 788 8668 or +599 786 7321, via email at email@example.com or by visiting the Rancho Washikemba website.
Attire: Wear a swimsuit under your clothes. The ride is more comfortable with long pants and closed-toe shoes, preferably with heavier soles to keep your feet from getting sore from the stirrups.
Sunscreen and a hat: The ride is fully exposed with no shade and the Bonaire sun is very hot, so sunscreen is a must and taking a hat and water are probably also a good idea.
Watch the video: Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba
Rancho Washikemba captured my ride/swim on video – see for yourself what a cool adventure swimming with horses is!
Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Rancho Washikemba for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.
The island of Bonaire is known for diving and, even though we’ve been to the Caribbean upwards of 30 or 40 times, we don’t dive so we’d never been to Bonaire. But, this year, we wanted to check it out and see what the island had to offer.
Known as one of the top spots in the world for diving, Bonaire is a paradise for those seeking to explore the colorful kaleidoscope that lives below the sea. For years, we’ve wondered if the “B” in the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao) was worth a visit for non-divers.
The answer – if you like a relaxed island with 22 quiet beaches, turquoise waters, fabulous resorts, and so many activities you can’t fit them all in during your visit – then, yes, Bonaire is a true resort vacation destination – above and below the water.
A Bonaire resort vacation
We believe that the perfect resort vacation should include a fabulous hotel, some beach time, a bit of island exploration, a few local activities, and, of course, some island flavors in the form of food and drinks. Here’s how we put our Bonaire resort vacation together.
Bonaire: Where to stay
Bonaire has a wide selection of hotel options, ranging from locations offering an intimate retreat to world-class resorts with full amenities. For our Bonaire resort vacation getaway, we stayed at the upper end of the luxury scale with a visit to the Harbour Village Beach Club.
Situated on a private beach of powder white sand, Harbour Village Beach Club is the definition of beach resort vacation with luxury rooms and suites, a great restaurant and bar overlooking the water, a spa, marina, an attentive staff, and a long, private beach.
While it was quite tempting to laze away under the blue skies and warm Caribbean sun, we also wanted to fully experience Bonaire while on the island, so we pulled ourselves out of our beach chairs and headed out for a few cool adventures.
There’s no shortage of things to do on Bonaire – hiking, biking, horseback riding, sailing, snorkeling, canoeing, and, of course, diving.
Swimming with horses at Rancho Washikemba
Neither of us had ever ridden a horse before (yeah, who would have figured), so we decided a first-time horse riding experience on a Caribbean island was a good place to start.
Always a fan of sailing, we next headed to Compass Bonaire for an afternoon sail and sunset dinner cruise.
Captain Wim and his crew entertain guests with an open bar, snorkeling, a delicious BBQ dinner and a beautiful Bonaire sunset. A sail with Compass Bonaire is not to be missed while visiting the island!
After a leisurely breakfast, we set out on a drive to explore Bonaire.
To the north of the capital city of Kralendijk is a winding road along the coastline with numerous spots to park and take a short hike down to the water.
The clear waters provide ample opportunity to view a vast assortment of the colorful fish in the warm Caribbean.
At the northern end of the island is Washington Slagbaai National Park and Brandaris, the highest peak on Bonaire at 241m / 784 ft, which provides beautiful views of the island. With multiple trails for hiking and mountain biking, Washington Slagbaai National Park has a wide variety of terrain ranging from flat roads near the coast to steep, rugged hills. Not for the faint of heart or out-of-shape, the temperatures can get very hot in the exposed environment and require lots of water and sunscreen.
Thousands of donkeys roam freely on the island of Bonaire. Originally brought to the island by the Spaniards in the 17 century to perform labor, the donkeys must fare for themselves, which can be difficult with many facing starvation, dehydration and the threat of being hit by cars.
When driving in Bonaire, be sure and use caution as you may round a curve only to find a couple of donkeys standing in the road. If you stop and roll down the window, don’t be surprised if they stick their head in the car – many are very accustomed to people, others are much shyer and may run to hide.
Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire has rescued over 600 donkeys and a visit to the sanctuary, which is located south of the airport, is a great way to spend a few hours up close with the donkeys, along with iguanas and tortoises. The sanctuary is open daily and can be toured by car, scooter, bike or on foot.
In addition to donkeys, iguanas, goats, and other animals that call the island home can be seen scurrying across the road, so stay alert and keep your speed low when driving.
On the east side of the island at Bara di Karta, several hiking and biking trails offer the chance to explore the rugged side of Bonaire. Like other trails on the island, the trails are very exposed and can take a toll in the hot sun, so early mornings with a good amount of water and sunscreen are a must.
Flamingos can be spotted around the island and, on the south side of the island, The Pekelmeer Flamingo Sanctuary is one of only four areas in the world where flamingos breed.
Near the salt pans, the water appears pink from the many brine shrimp in the water. The brine shrimp are the flamingo’s meal of choice and are what gives flamingos their pink color.
The Pekelmeer Flamingo Sanctuary is home to thousand flamingos, but unfortunately, most of them cannot be seen from the road and the sanctuary is not open to the public. However, a few wandering flamingos may make their way to viewing distance on occasion.
Further down the road from the salt pans, are several groups of small, structures – one set yellow, one white, pinkish/red. We couldn’t figure out what these little buildings were for – they are near the sea turtle breeding beaches, so we thought maybe they’d built them for that.
When we returned to the hotel that evening, we asked the bartender, and he had one of the staff that had lived on the island his entire life tell us the history. The structures were slave houses. Five or ten people would call this “home” while they worked at the salt pans. Once a week, they would be allowed to walk to home to Rincon, about 35 km away, to see their families. The slaves, the majority of them government “owned”, were freed on 30 September 1862.
Just a bit further down the road at the southern end of the island stands a beautiful lighthouse, Willemstoren, also known as Lacre Punt Light, which was built in 1837.
Visiting Klein Bonaire
Klein Bonaire is an uninhabited island just off the west side of Bonaire and home to many snorkeling and diving sites. Klein Bonaire is about 800 meters / 1/2 mile from Bonaire at its closest point and can be accessed via boat, water taxi, sailing tours or kayak. As part of the Bonaire National Marine Park, Klein Bonaire is protected and subject to the park’s fees, rules, and usage regulations.
Bonaire: Know before you go
Languages: The official language is Dutch. English and Spanish are widely spoken on the island.
Climate: Bonaire’s average temperature is 83º F /30º C, with the trade winds keeping it quite comfortable. The average water temperature is 80° F. Located so close to the equator, the sun is very strong and sunscreen with a high SPF should be worn and reapplied frequently.
Currency: The U.S. dollar is Bonaire’s official currency.
Electricity: 127 volt, 50 cycle.
Rental cars and driving: Multiple car rental companies are located at the airport. Driving in Bonaire is on the right side of the road.
Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.
When it’s time to relax and recharge, a fabulous resort is unquestionably needed. A resort that is tranquil, with an incredible ocean view and a quiet, private beach.
A resort with a full menu of spa services to truly get pampered.
A resort with spacious, luxurious rooms and suites that beckon you to stop, unwind and enjoy.
A resort with a tropical paradise for leisurely strolls.
And, just in case you decide to get out of that beach chair or hammock, a resort on a casual, friendly island that has plenty of things to do.
We found it…
Harbour Village Beach Club in Bonaire
When visiting an island, the resort can make or break your experience and, in this case, we credit Harbour Village with causing us to recently fall in love with Bonaire. Having been to Aruba or Curacao multiple times before, we’d never been to Bonaire and jumped at the chance when we were invited to explore a new Dutch Caribbean island and a luxury resort.
The top resort on Bonaire, the Harbour Village is filled with lush greenery and flowers and has a long, serene beach, all the amenities you could ever want or need, a fabulous restaurant and bar, and an attentive staff.
Our suite in paradise
Our premier, oceanfront one bedroom suite was a huge, well-appointed apartment with a balcony overlooking the beach. It was simply outstanding.
A romantic, netting-draped king size bed took center stage in the majestic bedroom retreat. With two closets, a desk, comfortable chair and ottoman, and a flat-screen TV, the bedroom was spacious, relaxing and well-equipped.
The bath was huge with a large standalone shower with rainfall head, granite double vanity and a claw-footed tub that was perfect for leisurely bubble baths.
With a stunning beach view, the living room was decorated with upscale Caribbean furnishings, including a couch, overstuffed chair and ottoman, dining table, and a cabinet housing another flat screen television. Sliding doors lead from the living room to a table and chairs on our private balcony overlooking the ocean.
A fully-equipped kitchen with Bosch appliances and a full-sized refrigerator was more than ample to prepare a meal or snack and also contained a Nespresso coffee maker.
We like to explore a hotel upon arrival and set out for a walk around Harbour Village’s four acres of grounds.
As the palm trees swayed and the ocean breeze cooled the afternoon, we strolled along the beach. Tranquil and serene, the private beach runs the length of the property, with La Balandra, the resort’s restaurant, on one end of the beach and Great Escapes, the resort’s water sports and dive center, on the opposite end.
Continuing to wander, we located the main swimming pool and then moved on to the hotel’s courtyards with their fountains, benches and lush landscaping. Every pathway was lined with meticulously maintained plants and flowers as we wound our way throughout the resort.
Located on the inner side of the resort, the Harbour Village Marina has 60 boat slips or docks for yachts and is a fun spot to sit and watch the marina activities.
Styled like a ship, the resort’s bar and restaurant, La Balandra, overlooks the water and beach and serves great food and drinks. While at Harbour Village, we dined in the restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and had drinks in the bar on numerous occasions. The food was excellent and the staff was helpful and friendly.
How fresh was the catch of the day? Each morning during breakfast we’d learn what the fish for the daily special would be as it arrived and the chef would make his selection.
When evening rolled around, we’d return to La Balandra to discover how the daily special had been prepared and enjoy the delicacy by candlelight next to the sound of the waves gently lapping on the shore beside us.
Things to do
Bonaire is watersports paradise and Harbour Village operates a water activities center on the property called Great Adventures Bonaire. A PADI, five-star Instructor Development dive center, Great Adventures offers an array of dive services as well as snorkeling equipment, underwater camera rentals, air-tank filling, kayaks, paddle boards and other related gear.
A day at the spa is a necessity to reach full rejuvenation and The Spa at Harbour Village offers a full menu of massage and salon treatments.
Bird, fish, and animal watching
While Bonaire’s underwater world is truly spectacular, for those that would prefer to experience Bonaire with a Piña Colada in hand, a vast assortment of fish, birds, and animals can be seen above ground at the resort – and many from a chair at the bar.
The level of service, the quality of the accommodations and hotel amenities, and the tranquil environment easily make Harbour Village Beach Club the only place to stay in Bonaire. The resort is a secluded paradise and, whether you dive or not, is a not-to-be-missed destination on its own.
Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Harbour Village for hosting us as their guest. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.