Step Back in Time at Savonet

One of Curaçao's oldest plantation houses has been brilliantly restored to host a thoroughly modern museum dedicated to the island's rural past and natural history.

A mere 30 minutes by car from the bustling port of Willemstad, you can actually see a shift back in time as the built-up areas subside, and the countryside sprawls out in front of you. You are now in Christoffel Park, the island's largest natural terrestrial preserve full of unique flora and fauna and wonderful eco-activities atop and around Curaçao's highest peak. The epicenter of the park revolves around the ancient Savonet Plantation and its landhouse, built in 1662 but restored to its former glory in 2009.

Now, the interior of the house and its surrounding buildings have been developed into a fabulous new museum retracing geological, ecological, cultural, and historical events. Through exciting modern exhibits, interactive displays, and informative guided tours, you can easily imagine life here as it was, and discover fascinating facts about the island and its evolution.

Savonet is one of the earliest established plantations; it produced dairy products, wool, and dye among other E things, and was once known as a popular place for cattle and mule breeding. It also has historic significance as the site of the slave rebellion of 1795, home of the revolution's leader Tula. But the story at this location goes back even further, as the island's very first inhabitants, the Caiquetio Indians deemed this area to be a perfect place to set up their ancient villages.

The museum's public relations officer Michelle da Costa Gomez, says, "We are so excited to offer locals and visitors alike an entire day's adventure in the park – inside and out – there is so much to see, do, and discover now. It has been such a labor of love developing the new museum, it's so important to safeguard our history but equally important to pre-sent it in a way that people of all ages will enjoy. And this complex will be a wonderful spot to showcase local talent with revolving art exhibits, cultural shows, and much more." The museum also serves as the operation center of Christoffel Park's many outdoor eco-activities such as jeep safari trips with park rangers, birdwatching, deer-spotting sunset tours (to spot the elusive and endemic Curaçao white-tailed deer), camping, guided hikes, full-moon walks, mountain-bike rental, and special activities geared to children. Park trails are full of birds and plants you'll rarely find elsewhere on the island, and there are also presentations on creatures like the resident iguanas and whip snakes. For energetic hikers, there's a challenging guided trek up 1,239 feet to the top of Mount Christoffel, and the park offers all kinds of special eco-events and additional activities year-round.

Officially opened in September 2010, the new Savonet Museum was funded by the Dutch Development Fund and operates under the umbrella of Caribbean Research and Management of Biodiversity (CARMABI), a foundation responsible for the activities and protection of Christoffel Park and the Curaçao Marine Park.

For more information visit www.savonetmuseum.org, www.christoffelpark.org, and www.carmabi.org.