Curacao’s tourist economy is booming but not in Bandabou and in many ways this is a good thing. It allows the government to be forward-thinking as it plans for increased traffic to the Northwest of the island. Now is the time that Curaçao needs a vision for the economic viability of Bandabou. This vision starts with preserving the nature of the northwest.

Bandabou has been protected by a pencil road far from the main port. Since the late 1800s when the area had a population of a few thousand living in isolated hamlets, much of the nature in Bandabou has remained unspoiled. Its name, in Papiamento, underside or underbelly, speaks to its separate and hidden geography. Poor infrastructure, and a lack of economic opportunities have in many ways allowed the area to remain pristine and untouched. This is a gift that the government of Curaçao needs to recognize and cultivate to grow its economic goals in the area. Bandabou’s future is tied to the preservation and cultivation of ecotourism. From Mount Christoffel Park through Sheta Boka to the tip of Watamula is a special corridor that attracts a growing number of ecologically-minded travelers.

However, this vision is in jeopardy. The birdlife and white tailed deer are already in retreat from the urban zoning along the coast. Saving the pristine stretch of coastline along the tip of the island is a heritage for the next generation and a boom to a new generation of green-minded tourists.         

A Long-term Economic Plan

However, this is not an environmental argument, it is an economic opportunity for the government. Bandabou is a destination for a growing number of tourists that seek scuba and land-based activities that are not readily available in the more developed part of the island. Tour buses roll into the small diving stores each day to explore the untouched beauty of the rugged shoreline. The diverse fauna and flora along the coast is a backdrop to these scuba and snorkeling excursions. Without the beauty of the cliff line along Watamula, the attraction of this drift diving mecca will suffer.

What differentiates Bandabou and serves as an attraction to a new breed of tourist is the opportunity of seeing the beautiful coral cliff line with Wara Wara and Whitetail Hawks sailing over the heights. If this area is rezoned, this natural beauty will disappear.

Aruba and other islands have traded their natural beauty for tourist zoning. Curacao stands out as a new differentiated destination. By preserving unique locations like Watamula, the government can be assured of decades of sustained tourist revenue.

On a commercial level, companies such as the Coca Cola company already provide recycling facilities as a local campaign in Curaçao – these are the commercial sponsors we can approach to support the coastline.

Let us advertise Bandabou as the scuba and land destination for tourists all over the world. This is a plan that allows the government to achieve something that few islands in the Caribbean have managed: balancing short term rezoning wins the long-term needs of an expanding tourist economy. The future of Curacao is based on smart choices.  

written by Gary Shwartz