Part of the Lesser Antilles, and consisting of two groups of islands, the Netherlands Antilles is situated in the Caribbean Sea, with the first part of the chain consisting of the islands of Bonaire and Curacao, just off the coast of Venezuela. The second portion of the island chain includes Saint Maarten, Saint Eustatius and Saba, located southeast of the Virgin Islands. The Netherlands Antilles islands form an independent portion of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In October 2010, the five constituent islands are scheduled to be dissolved and will be given new constitutional standing in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Spain was the first country to discover both groups of the Netherlands Antilles islands, and the first to make settlements there. The Dutch West India Company conquered the islands in the seventeenth century and designed the islands to be a military outpost, after the land was won and declared a colonial territory. They also set up trading bases mainly used for the slave trade industry. In the year 1863, slavery was thrown out. In 1954, the Netherlands Antilles islands got their status changed from a colonial territory, newly classified as a separate country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The Netherlands Antilles hold many places of interest for visitors. Bonaire is the home of the oldest settlement of the area, Rincon. This settlement was founded in the fifteenth century by Spain and has many quaint cottages. Also in Bonaire is the Washington-Slagbaai National Park, covering thirteen and a half acres, roughly one fifth of the island. Over one hundred species of birds are kept here, as well as several types of flora and fauna. Located on St Maarten is Simsonbaai, a small fishing village, also a great spot for wind surfing, water skiing and sailing.
There are a variety of night clubs and bars in the Netherlands Antilles island chain. Many are located right on the beach, so visitors can enjoy the ocean breeze as they listen to the environment around them. Popular island music is played at the clubs, including reggae as well as other types of music genres. A few clubs and bars are close to air strips, so not only can visitors witness a beautiful sunset on the beach, but they can also watch the take offs and landings of small planes. Most of the bars and nightclubs are very relaxed and have a fun atmosphere.
The type of cuisine of the Netherlands Antilles varies from one island to the next, however all of the types of cooking styles and traditions are a variation of Caribbean Creole cuisine. A few of the traditional meals include a maize porridge, pan bati, and funchi. Pan bati is a pancake made from maize flour. Traditional meals revolve around both funchi, and pan bati, combined with a goat stew known as carni stoba. For special occasions, a black cake known as bolo pretu is prepared. Traditionally, bolo pretu is only served on these these special days.