Bonaire news, July 2010

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BONAIRE PAYS TRIBUTE TO THEIR OWN CAPTAIN DON STEWART FOR A LIFETIME OF ACHIEVEMENT ON BONAIRE

**Captain Don is Honored on his 85th Birthday **

Kralendijk, Bonaire – Tourism Corporation Bonaire is pleased to announce that Captain Don Stewart became the first local recipient to receive Bonaire’s prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. It was presented to him on Friday evening, June 25th, during his birthday celebration at Captain Don’s Habitat Bonaire.

The Bonaire Lifetime Achievement Award honors long serving, high performance professionals whose careers have truly made a difference.  It is for achievement over a period of several years rather than a single contribution and it is awarded for achievement that distinguishes the individual’s work and provides a legacy for future generations.

A household name to those on Bonaire, Captain Don Stewart has worked tirelessly since his arrival–on May 21, 1962–within the island’s dive tourism industry, and, in fact, he is considered the founder of dive tourism on Bonaire, an industry considered by many to be the engine driving Bonaire’s local economy.

Captain Don’s efforts throughout his 48 years on Bonaire have always carefully measured conservation of the marine environment with development of the tourism product, which is the very definition of sustainable tourism.  Captain Don, truly a man ahead of his time, led the campaign to ban spear-fishing on Bonaire, instituted the first permanent mooring system which eliminated the need for boats to drop an anchor (now considered a standard for any marine protected area), founded the Council of Underwater Operators (CURO), which is still operating today, and implemented a mandatory orientation dive for all people diving on Bonaire. He is also responsible for opening the first hotel on the island, Zeebad (which is now the Divi Flamingo Beach Resort & Casino), and, in 1976, he opened Captain Don’s Habitat, which introduced the innovative concept of “diving freedom,” diving 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Over his nearly half-century on Bonaire, Captain Don Stewart has received many awards and commendations for his efforts for Bonaire and in sustainable tourism.  His contributions have been recognized by DEMA with the 1998 Reaching Out Award and by Bonaire with a bronze memorial plaque placed at Captain Don’s Reef at Klein Bonaire.  Additionally, he’s been inducted into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame, and Captain Don was honored with the title of Knight within the Order of Orange-Nassau, a military and civil order of merit created in 1892 on behalf of Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands.

Captain Don Stewart is a prolific writer, authoring a number of novels and short stories chronicling his life.  He is the founder of the International Accolade Foundation, which has an environmental objective to proliferate reef/sea management, to maintain a continuing productive underwater environment, and to guarantee the economic health of the world’s communities, nations, and their industries.  At his birthday celebration, Captain Don received a commemorative award to properly thank him for all he has done to put Bonaire on the map.

“The government and people of Bonaire are so indebted to this great man who made Bonaire his life’s mission” said Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes, Director of Tourism. “Without men or women like Captain Don, Bonaire would not be the progressive, conservation-minded destination it now is,” she concluded.

Located eighty-six miles east of Aruba, the Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire offers year-round sunshine, low annual rainfall, pristine coral formations and the most thriving fish population in the Caribbean. Ideal for adventurers, explorers and sun-worshippers alike, Bonaire offers myriad eco-adventure activities including world renowned scuba diving and snorkeling, windsurfing, kiteboarding, mountain biking, sea and mangrove kayaking, horseback riding, landsailing, nature tours, hiking, bird watching, sailing and seep sea and bone fishing. And with a selection of accommodations ranging from full-service oceanfront resorts and condominiums to guesthouses and small inns, Bonaire has something for every lifestyle and budget.

Bonaire is the recipient of the prestigious Islands Magazine/Caribbean Tourism Organization 2008 Sustainable Tourism Award and continues to be recognized as one of the top destinations worldwide for its sustainable tourism and as one of the top diving destinations in the Atlantic/Caribbean for eight years in a row in the Scuba Diving magazine’s 2010 Readers’ Choice Awards. It was designated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as having the healthiest reefs in the Caribbean (January 2008), and as the Favorite Dive Destination in the World by About.com (June, 2008).

For more information on Bonaire contact the Tourism Corporation Bonaire in the U.S. at 1-800-BONAIRE or visit Bonaire’s official web site at www.tourismbonaire.com. Follow Bonaire on Twitter and Facebook.