VISIT: The Caribbean Ghost Island of Little Curacao

Just off the southeast coast of Curaçao is the tiny island Klein Curaçao (Dutch for “Little Curaçao”), which locals often refer to as “Ghost Island.”

Attempts to settle this island through the centuries have failed, and the only current structures on the island are an old lighthouse, a beach house, and several huts that fishermen and tourists use. It’s a popular destination for day-trippers from Curaçao interested in diving or snorkeling through the underwater coral and caves.

At one time it was a greener destination, but then farmers allowed goats to roam the island. Things got worse in 1871 when English mining engineer John Godden visited the island, discovered it was rich in phosphate (used in animal feed and ground fertilizer), and began mining operations. This caused the island level to drop, and the local seabird populations died off.

The island also played a part in the slave trade. According to Wikipedia:

The Dutch West India Company brought many slaves from Africa to Curacao. Before these slaves came ashore in Curacao, the sick were placed in quarantine at Klein Curacao. The remains of this first quarantine building can still be found in the northwest of the island. The slaves, and other passengers who did not survive the voyage, were buried at Klein Curacao. There are several graves in the southern part of the island.

The island’s original lighthouse was destroyed in 1877; the second lighthouse — seen in the slide show images — was built further in. As blogger Michel John Grist explains:

The 20m (66ft) tall lighthouse tower is abandoned, along with the two ruined 2-story keeper’s houses flanking it, but still functional. It was reactivated with a solar-powered LED beacon during the restoration of Curacao’s aids to navigation in 2008, having stood utterly dormant for many years prior. A stretch of coast dotted with rusting shipwrecks attests to its necessity. Now the LED emits two white flashes every 15 seconds.

Besides the lighthouse, one of the most popular images of the island includes the rusting Maria Bianca Guidesman ship. It’s on the windward side of the island, which is a graveyard for boats. While this area is beautiful, atlas-obscura.com‘s Luke J Spencer writes, “the southern, windward side, more exposed to the elements, is an unforgiving shoreline of pounding surf, and ragged coral reefs.”

Currently, reforestation of the island is being undertaken by CARMABI Marine Research Station, Curacao.

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