News, Culture & Society

Klein Curacao – the rogue abandoned ghost island in a Caribbean paradise

No infinity pools, no tuxedoed cocktail bar staff, no palm-fringed golf courses.

Klein Curacao, which lies 15 miles to the south-east of the Dutch outpost of Curacao, is a rogue island in a Caribbean paradise – uninhabited, barren, scarred with shipwrecks and graves, and blighted by a grisly history.

In the 17th century it was used by the Dutch West India Company to quarantine slaves it was transporting between Africa and Curacao who had become sick on the journey.

Klein Curacao, which lies 15 miles to the south-east of the Dutch outpost of Curacao, is a rogue island in a Caribbean paradise – uninhabited, barren, scarred with shipwrecks and graves, and blighted by a grisly history. Image courtesy of Falco Ermert, who posted this to his Flickr account

A lighthouse was built on a plot in the centre of the island in 1850 (and rebuilt twice after being destroyed by hurricanes)

A lighthouse was built on a plot in the centre of the island in 1850 (and rebuilt twice after being destroyed by hurricanes)

The shipwreck of the oil tanker Maria Bianca Guidesman, which ran aground off the coast of Klein Curacao in the 1960s

The shipwreck of the oil tanker Maria Bianca Guidesman, which ran aground off the coast of Klein Curacao in the 1960s 

For some, the tiny island, which measures just half a square mile, became their final resting place. A handful of graves are still visible on the south side.

In the 1600s the island would have been relatively verdant – but goats were allowed to roam over the years and they chewed up the vegetation.

And mining in the 19th century stripped out the minerals from Klein Curacao’s soils.

The process began in 1871 when English mining engineer John Godden discovered that droppings from seabirds could convert limestone into phosphate.

In the 17th century Klein Curacao was used by the Dutch West India Company to quarantine slaves it was transporting between Africa and Curacao who had become sick on the journey. Image courtesy of Falco Ermert, who posted this to his Flickr account

In the 17th century Klein Curacao was used by the Dutch West India Company to quarantine slaves it was transporting between Africa and Curacao who had become sick on the journey. Image courtesy of Falco Ermert, who posted this to his Flickr account

Conditions off the Klein Curacao shorelines, particularly on the south side, are particularly unforgiving

Conditions off the Klein Curacao shorelines, particularly on the south side, are particularly unforgiving

The lighthouse on the island has been rebuilt twice after being devastated by hurricanes

The lighthouse on the island has been rebuilt twice after being devastated by hurricanes

According to news.com.au, this was mined and exported until 1886, by which time the seabird population had been decimated and the fertile soil destroyed, completing the desertification process the goats had started.

In 1888, the Germany navy tried to set up a naval base on Klein Curaçao, but they were driven off the island by ‘windswept conditions’.

Since then, the only visitors have been fishermen, day-tripping tourists and shipwrecked mariners.

Conditions off the Klein Curacao shorelines, particularly on the south side, are unforgiving.

A lighthouse was built on a plot in the centre of the island in 1850 (and rebuilt twice after being destroyed by hurricanes) – but that hasn’t always been enough to prevent disaster.

There are several shipwrecks dotted around the coastline, the most famous being that of the oil tanker Maria Bianca Guidesman, which ran aground in the 1960s.

Another visible shipwreck is that of a luxury sailing yacht from France, which suffered extensive damage in 2007. Fortunately, all on board survived.

Day trips to Klein Curacao, also known as Little Curacao, are popular, especially with snorkelers and divers keen to explore its incredible reefs and underwater caves.

Onshore, there is no infrastructure – the island is a designated conservation area, so developments are barred – save for the storm-weathered lighthouse and a few huts.

Day trips to Klein Curacao, also known as Little Curacao, are popular, especially with snorkelers and divers keen to explore its incredible reefs and underwater caves

Day trips to Klein Curacao, also known as Little Curacao, are popular, especially with snorkelers and divers keen to explore its incredible reefs and underwater caves 

Pristine: Klein Curacao is a designated conservation area, so developments are barred

Pristine: Klein Curacao is a designated conservation area, so developments are barred

Mermaid Boat Trips and Irie Tours both run trips to Klein Curacao, lockdowns permitting

Mermaid Boat Trips and Irie Tours both run trips to Klein Curacao, lockdowns permitting 

That means the key activities are lying around on beautiful white-sand beaches and soaking up the sun, though the historical lighthouse can be viewed.

Mermaid Boat Trips and Irie Tours both run trips to Klein Curacao, lockdowns permitting. The former owns a beach house, which offers one of the few shaded areas on the island.

The FCO currently advises British nationals against all but essential international travel.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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