Things to do: The Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire
From the beginning the idea of going to look at some donkeys while on a tropical island never sat right so it took me a while to finally visit The Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire. But after we finally made it there our family “adopted” a donkey and continued to visit often, always searching for our donkey among the crowd.
A couple of hours at the Donkey Sanctuary make for a wonderful, unusual but relaxing excursion in the middle of nature. Take a tour of the donkey sanctuary and you won’t be disappointed. Kids love it! In a peaceful setting which feels a bit like being on safari, the sanctuary provides some sanctuary for us humans too. A great way to spend a peaceful afternoon. To tour the donkey sanctuary follow the only road around the park in your car, stopping to get out anywhere along the way to visit with the animals.
A little History
Donkeys have long been a fixture of the scenery of Bonaire. Just a few short years ago hundreds roamed the streets freely. Many fewer now roam the streets freely thanks to the sanctuary. But as of this writing the island government does not plan to completely eliminate donkeys from the landscape. Consequently many donkeys live at the sanctuary and a few live out and about just roaming the island. The Donkey Sanctuary houses over 400 donkeys. We don’t know the number of donkeys on the streets of the island.
In 1993 Dutch Nationals, Marina Melis and her husband Ed Koopman, established the donkey sanctuary on Bonaire to cure for sick, wounded and orphaned donkeys. The sanctuary was located on land bordering the airport. When the island became part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 2010 the Sanctuary was forced to move and give up some of it’s land because by European law it was too close to the airport runway. Some of the land remained theirs and the entrance area and gift shop moved to a completely new spot. The entrance and gift shop are now located on the road to Sorobon, Kaya Statius Van Eps.
The sanctuary now houses most of the donkey population of Bonaire. Males are castrated to keep the population down. Sick animals are cared for and any animal that enters lives out it’s life in the sanctuary. When a donkey cannot be cured they are put down peacefully. The sanctuary provides an amazing service and for a wonderful cause. It saves the lives of donkeys and also of people because fewer donkeys on the road mean fewer car accidents. Your visit to the sanctuary helps pay for the care of these animals.
Your tour of the Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire would go something like this
- pay your entrance fee at the shop
- Check out the fun products for sale at the shop
- Buy a bag of carrots or two or three to feed the donkeys
- Drive in the main gate past the gift shop. First stop visit the young, new, or injured donkeys that are corralled near the entrance to the park. See the photo above. Usually one of the volunteers can tell you their history. You probably stay in this area for anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, depending on your interest.
- Get in your car and start the drive.
- The first stop off is a wooden lookout structure – Climb it! From the top you have a wonderful open view of the park itself and some wonderful island views. There’s even a camera up top where you can deposit a quarter to get an even more panoramic view. This stop could be your first encounter with some donkeys to feed.
- Feed some donkeys. Using the carrots you bought at the entrance hold the carrots in your hand with your fingers together and palm flat. Do not let the carrots fall to the ground as the donkeys should not eat dirt and they will eat the carrots off the ground if you allow them to fall.
- Keep circling around the road and encounter more donkeys. And more donkeys. And more donkeys. Feeding stations along the way mark the route. A larger feeding station where the animals get their feed twice a day can be a crazy crowded place. Once or twice I’ve been there with no donkeys anywhere but in the large feeding area. They know when it”s mealtime!
- Drive back out through the gate and get one more chance to stop at the gift shop.
You contribute just by visiting
You can help the donkey sanctuary continue their important work saving the animals just by visiting, but you can also volunteer your time, or “adopt” a donkey for a year with a larger donation. Easy to get to and very accessible just off the main road to Sorobon, Kaya Statius Van Eps, The Donkey Sanctuary offers a fun half day excursion and your visit contributes to the well-being of the animals.