18 juni 2024

Experience Nature – Bonaire’s Marine Life

On 10 June 2024, PostNL will release Experience Nature – Bonaire’s Marine Life, a sheet of 10 stamps in 10 different designs. The stamps each have the value of 1 for mail weighing up to 20 grams sent within the Netherlands. The price for a sheet of 10 stamps is €10.90. Bonaire’s Marine Life stamp sheet is part of the multi-year Experience Nature series dedicated to the Caribbean Netherlands from 2024 to 2026. In the series, 4 stamp sheets will be released each year, each containing 10 different stamps. The stamps will depict plants and animals found in this part of the Netherlands. With thousands of species of plants and animals, the islands in this area have a level of biodiversity otherwise unknown within the Netherlands. The focus in 2024 will move successively from the birds to the butterflies, marine life and flora of the island of Bonaire. Experience Nature – Bonaire’s Marine Life will feature the giant manta ray, common bottlenose dolphin, whale shark, green sea turtle, cleaner shrimp, foureye butterflyfish, common octopus, French angelfish, rainbow parrotfish and staghorn coral.

Just like Sint Eustatius and Saba, the island of Bonaire is a special municipality of the Netherlands. These three islands are collectively known as the Caribbean Netherlands. Together with the countries of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, they form the broader Dutch Caribbean. Bonaire covers an area of almost 29,000 hectares, which translates to one and a half times the size of the Dutch island of Texel in Europe. Around 24,000 people live on Bonaire, most of whom speak Papiamentu as their first language. Their main sources of income are tourism and salt production. The island is a popular destination for diving holidays and cruises. Bonaire has been a special municipality since 2010, meaning that the island council is responsible for local legislation as the highest governing body. Executive power lies with the island deputies appointed by the island council, chaired by the governor. The island has a relatively abundant amount of nature. To the north lies Washington Slagbaai National Park, with cactus forests, aloe fields, rocky outcrops, salt lakes, limestone caves, sand dunes, blowholes and crumbling limestone terraces. The park covers over 4,200 hectares and became the first nature reserve in the Netherlands Antilles in 1969. Meanwhile, Bonaire National Marine Park has been a legally protected underwater park since 1979. It surrounds the entire island, as well as the uninhabited island of Klein Bonaire. The reserve covers over 6,600 hectares and includes coral reef, seagrass and mangrove forest. Klein Bonaire is itself also a legally protected nature reserve. Surrounded by coral reef, the island is home to salt lakes where red flamingos come to forage, as well as important sea turtle nesting sites.

Bonaire’s marine life is one of the island’s most important attractions, if not the most important. With over 80 diving sites, Bonaire is a popular destination for adventure tourism. Its underwater world is also easily accessible to snorkelers and less daring visitors. In many places, you can walk straight into the water and get to know the mysterious world of fish, coral, aquatic plants and other sea creatures. All the diving locations are part of Bonaire National Marine Park. This park covers over 4,200 hectares, and the protected area goes to a depth of 60 metres. The sea around Bonaire feels like a tropical aquarium, with more than 470 different species of fish swimming around. The water is clear, the temperature varies between 25 and 30C all year round and you can sometimes see for as far as 90 metres. All divers, snorkelers, watersports enthusiasts, swimmers and paddlers contribute to the maintenance of Bonaire National Marine Park by paying a ‘nature fee’.

Sources: bonairetop10, Seacow Bonaire

The Experience Nature – Bonaire’s Marine Life stamp sheet is created by the graphic designer Frank Janse from Gouda. The inhabitants of this underwater world are each portrayed in their natural environment on their own stamp. The following 10 animal species are showcased: the giant manta ray, common bottlenose dolphin, whale shark, green sea turtle, cleaner shrimp, foureye butterflyfish, common octopus, French angelfish, rainbow parrotfish and staghorn coral. All the underwater photos are shown in a graphic layer with circular shapes that are also visible along the edge of the sheet. The images also sometimes continue onto the adjacent stamp and the edge of the sheet. At various points on the stamp sheet, the designer has added graphic elements derived from the symbols on old topographic maps. These symbols refer, for example, to the shape of the landscape, contours, vegetation, soil structures and waterways. The design is also characterised by an additional transparent layer with monochrome images (in white or in colour) of animals from the area. The monochrome images are almost abstract, running across the perforations and connecting the stamps to each other and to the edge of the sheet. The following creatures are depicted in this way: the whale shark (top left), mussa coral (top centre), sea fan (top right), tube sponge (centre), foureye butterflyfish (centre right), green sea turtle (bottom right), staghorn coral (bottom centre) and common octopus (bottom left).

The DIN 2014 font designed by Vasily Biryukov from Bulgaria and released by Paratype in 2015 is used for the lettering. In the captions on the stamp sheet, designer Frank Janse creatively and humorously expresses his associations with the names, characteristics and outward appearances of the depicted representatives of Bonaire’s marine life.

In the coming years, PostNL’s Experience Nature series will revolve around the flora and fauna of the Caribbean Netherlands. The 4 releases in 2024 will focus on the nature of Bonaire. PostNL has been releasing these stamp sheets since 2017. Now the graphic designer Frank Janse from Gouda has added a fresh twist to the design.

Bright colours
In the new design, the striking colours of Caribbean nature set the tone. Janse: “This release shows the distinctive colours of marine life around Bonaire, where blue naturally dominates. DIN 2014 has been chosen as the new font in order to place even more emphasis on the colours. This creates a nice contrast between the colours of marine life on the one hand and the sober and sleek typography on the other. The playful splashes along the edge of the sheet have disappeared and I have added graphic elements to the stamps for the first time. I associate islands like Bonaire with old topographic maps. The graphic elements on the stamps are derived from the symbols that mapmakers use to clarify the nature of the terrain. On this stamp sheet, I have limited myself to the symbols that represent the character of the underwater world: the wavy lines for the sea and the interrupted stripes for the sea floor.”

The basic design for the Experience Nature series has been maintained, including the circular shapes in the background. “The circles have been used in a different way,” says Janse. “They stick less far into the edge of the sheet, and I let them run along the perforation like serrations. This represents a certain roughness that I also associate with the topographic symbols on old land and sea maps where the ink has been affected. But this roughness is less dominant underwater. It is a fascinating world because it only reveals itself once you break through the surface of the water. I have never gone diving. But as a child, I loved reading books about the underwater world and watching underwater nature series on TV, especially those by the explorer and researcher Jacques Cousteau. So I mostly got to know about marine life from the comfort of my sofa.”

Warm water
The Experience Nature – Bonaire’s Marine Life stamp sheet only depicts animals, not plants. This is true for both the main characters on the stamps and the monochrome images that feature here and there in a separate transparent layer. Janse: “People often think that corals are a plant, but they are actually a collection of animals each no more than a few millimetres in size. These are known as polyps, and together they make buildings out of limestone, which are what we know as a coral reef. This reef serves as a shelter and food source for so much marine life. All the animals on the stamps feel at home in the warm water around Bonaire. But you won’t just find them there. Most animals are also found elsewhere in the wide stretch of water on either side of the equator between the Americas and Africa.”

Underwater photography
In the world of wildlife photographers, underwater photography is a separate sport, says Janse. “It requires special skills and cameras with lenses that are more sensitive to light. The lighting is just difficult because you are always dealing with filtered light. And it can be pitch black among the coral. I had to polish some photos more than usual to remove cloudy areas and dirt. Underwater photos taken just below the surface of the water are characterised by how the light penetrates them. This often creates a nice effect, as you can see on the stamps with the common bottlenose dolphin and the green sea turtle.”

Largest animals at the top
The top row of stamps depicts the largest residents and visitors to the sea around Bonaire. “Giant manta rays, for example, are huge animals,” says Janse. “They can sometimes be up to 9 metres long including their tails which they use to steer. The manta on the stamp seems to be flying at us. The common bottlenose dolphin on the stamp to the right of it has just dived underwater. It’s a nice image because both his head and tail are clearly visible. He’s really diving into the sheet. You can still see his reflection in the surface of the water above. Common bottlenose dolphins are intelligent animals, usually very friendly. But beware, they can also attack sharks in groups if necessary, and this can prove fatal for the sharks involved. These are not the whale shark on the stamp though. The whale shark is an endangered species that feeds on plankton, not dolphins. It’s so big that it doesn’t even fit on the stamp. This is a clever trick I learned from the painter Piet Mondrian. For example, when Mondrian painted the Lighthouse in Westkapelle, he had the tower run all the way from the top to the bottom of the canvas to make the building look even bigger.”

Cleaner shrimp and foureye butterflyfish
The colour blue is dominant on all the stamps, aside from the centre left where you can find the cleaner shrimp. “The brown and ochre colours come from the sea anemone with which this shrimp lives in symbiosis. This is also where the shrimp hides out, waiting for fish to clean. The fish know to go there to get rid of their parasites, which serve as food for the cleaner shrimp. It is a thin semi-transparent animal that is only easily visible with a macro shot. On the stamp next to the cleaner shrimp, you can see the foureye butterflyfish. Or rather, you see two foureye butterflyfish because these typical tropical fish always live together in pairs. They are loyal to each other and so they are depicted on the stamps as a duo.”

Heading deeper into the sea
The bottom row of stamps is reserved for animals that can live deeper in the sea. These animals are usually a bit smaller. “Even the common octopus,” says Janse. “It always looks bigger than it actually is. That’s true for everything underwater, in fact, because of the difference in the refractive index between air and water. You’ve got to take this into account as an underwater photographer. What is remarkable about the octopus is that it adapts its colour to its environment. On the left edge of the sheet, for example, you can see a monochrome image of a sand-coloured octopus shot on the beach. The stamp below shows the rainbow parrotfish. It got that name because of its colours and its beak-shaped snout. This fish uses its mouth to scour pieces of coral. At the bottom right, I end with an image of staghorn coral, one of the 4,500 different coral species in the world.”

Transparent layer
The front photos reappear on the back of the stamp sheet, albeit in coloured monochrome against an empty background. Janse: “I used that space to repeat the names of the animals depicted, in addition to those of the photographers and the image banks. The colours on the back correspond to the colours of the transparent images on the front. That is another innovation in this year’s design. The transparent images used to always be white, but now colour has been used because it is so closely intertwined with Caribbean nature. The images on the back are free-standing and slightly offset compared to the front. Well, aside from the cleaner shrimp, for example. Since it is already semi-transparent, there would be little left of it. That’s why the background with the sea anemone has also been included.”

Relationships between the images
In the composition on the stamp sheet, Janse sought out an ideal relationship between all the images when it came to colour, position and the direction of swimming. “The structure is also vertical, with more depth on the lower stamps and more water surface on the upper ones. The colour blue naturally dominates, and then there are green, brown and purple tones in the details. The blue gets darker and darker as we descend to the bottom of the sea. When combining the images, I first added them as they were. Then I slid, enlarged, reduced them and so on. This is how the relationships between the images were established. Sometimes as intended, sometimes by chance. In this case, most of the animals swim into the sheet, towards the centre. Only the monochrome shark at the top left and the transparent green sea turtle at the bottom right swim outwards, in the opposite direction compared to their counterparts on the stamps.”

About the designer
Frank Janse (Vlissingen, 1967) completed his studies as a graphic designer at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam in 2001. Janse is a specialist in corporate identities, branding, infographics and communication campaigns. Until 2019, he worked for various advertising and design agencies, including Room for ID’s, and well as himself as Frank Grafisch Ontwerp in Gouda. In 2019, together with Leene Communicatie, he founded the new company Leene Visuele Communicatie to design communication tools with a focus on content and information design. Leene Visuele Communicatie works for clients including the housing corporation Rochdale, PostNL, Randstad Group Netherlands, the Dutch government, Vattenfall and the organisation for health research and care innovation ZonMw. Since the end of 2022, Frank has been the design director and co-owner of VormVijf in The Hague. VormVijf works for governments, companies and organisations with the (mostly organised) citizen as its main and largest target group. The agency connects strategy, design and content with the ambition to innovate, surprise and create impact. For PostNL, Frank Janse has previously designed various luxury storage systems and personalised stamps, including the 2017 themed collection about bird species in the Netherlands. He also designed the Experience Nature series in the years 2018-2023. In 2023, he designed the personalised stamps: Holland America Line 150 Years, Girl with a Pearl Earring and the Juliana 1948 Inauguration with 24-carat gold.

The stamps are available from all PostNL points of sale, the post offices in Bruna stores and from www.postnl.nl/bijzondere-postzegels while stocks last. The stamps can also be ordered by phone from the customer service of Collect Club on 088 868 99 00. The validity period is indefinite.

The Experience Nature – Bonaire’s Marine Life stamps each bear a value of 1, intended for mail weighing up to 20 grams with a destination within the Netherlands. The price per sheet of 10 stamps is €10.90.

Stamp size 40 x 30 mm
Sheet size 122 x 170 mm
Paper normal with phosphor print
Gumming self-adhesive
Printing technique offset
Printing colours cyan, magenta, yellow and black
Print run 285,000 sheets
Appearance sheet of 10 stamps in 10 different designs
Design Frank Janse, Gouda
Photography Alamy, Dreamstime, Shutterstock and Wikimedia Commons (Albert Kok, Brocken Inaglory, Kevin Lino, Laszlo Ilyes)
Printing company Royal Joh. Enschedé B.V., Haarlem
Item number 440761


Giant manta ray
The giant manta ray (Mobula birostris) is the largest known ray in the world. It belongs to the cartilaginous fish family and the Mobulidae family. With a wingspan of up to 7 metres and a length of up to 9 metres, the giant manta ray weigh as much as 3,000 kilos. Its mouth is framed by fleshy flaps and is found at the front of the body rather than underneath, as is the case for other rays. The upper side of the body is usually black or blue, the bottom white. The giant manta ray, which can live to be 20 years old, feeds on plankton and small fish that it filters out of the water with the flaps around its mouth. When threatened, these slow-looking animals can accelerate quickly, even jumping high out of the water. In addition to humans, their enemies are big sharks and orcas. Name in Papiamentu: Manta.

Common bottlenose dolphin
Alongside spinner dolphins, common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), are the dolphin species seen most often on Bonaire. The bottlenose is a stocky yet streamlined grey dolphin with a distinct snout. The light-coloured lower jaw juts slightly further than the upper jaw. The bottlenose dolphin has a cigar-shaped body with a slender tailpiece, pointed fins, grey upper parts and a white belly. Common bottlenose dolphins live in groups, sometimes into the hundreds. A common dolphin species worldwide, the bottlenose dolphins near Bonaire are lighter than their counterparts from the North Sea. Name in Papiamentu: Toníu.

Whale shark
The whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is the largest existing cartilaginous fish. There are only 1,000 registered specimens of this endangered species worldwide. The average whale shark is around 8 metres long, but some individuals measuring 18 metres and weighing 15 tonnes have been found. Females are generally larger than males. The whale shark has a broad flat head. The mouth is located at the front and not underneath the head as is the case for many other sharks. The three ridges extending far along both sides of the body are particularly distinctive. Whale sharks, which feed on plankton, are occasionally sighted off the coast of Bonaire. Name in Papiamentu: Tintorero or Tribon bayena.

Green Sea Turtle
The green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) is the largest turtle in the sea turtle family, with a shell length of almost one metre. It is found everywhere in tropical and temperate waters. In addition to plants, young green sea turtles also feed on small fish, crustaceans and jellyfish. As they grow, they increasingly become pure herbivores, with a diet mainly consisting of seagrass and various algae. Nowadays, the green sea turtle is quite rare. The reef island of Klein Bonaire off the coast of the main island is very important for sea turtles. Seventy-five percent of all sea turtle eggs laid on Bonaire are laid on Klein Bonaire. Name in Papiamentu: Tortuga.

Cleaner Shrimp
The cleaner shrimp (Ancylomenes pedersoni) is a small transparent shrimp also known as Pederson’s shrimp. This remarkable type of shrimp is mainly found in the waters of the Indo-Pacific region. With a maximum length of only about 2 centimetres, the shrimp has a distinctive transparent body with blue and violet markings, in which its internal organs are clearly visible. These cleaner shrimps are often found on live sea anemones where they take shelter between the spines and feed on parasites. Fish visit the cleaning station and remain stationary while their external parasites are removed and eaten by the shrimps which even clean the inside of their gill covers and mouths. Name in Papiamentu: unknown.

Foureye butterflyfish
The foureye butterflyfish (Chaetodon capistratus) belongs to the order of the Perciformes and the Chaetodontidae family. These fish can reach a length of between 10 and 15 centimetres, and they usually live in pairs. They mainly feed on the tentacles of tubeworms and corals. The foureye butterflyfish gets its name from the 4 distinctive black spots on its body. These may deter predators by suggesting that the fish is larger than it actually is. The butterflyfish shimmers with vivid bright colours and shades including black, white, blue, red, yellow and orange. Due to their tall and flat bodies, they are adept at detecting food in narrow rock crevices. Name in Papiamentu: Makamba kulu berde.

Common octopus
The common octopus (Octopus vulgaris) is a mollusc with no skeleton. It has a distinctive large head with slit-shaped eyes. Its long arms are covered with two rows of suckers. This octopus is solitary and can be found on (rocky) coral reefs, sandy bottoms or on seagrass beds at depths of up to 100 metres. This animal mainly hunts at night and feeds on crustaceans, shellfish and fish. Its hideout, the “octopus castle”, is often surrounded by stones and shells collected by the octopus itself. This animal moves quickly by pumping water through a pipe-shaped organ (the siphon). Name in Papiamentu: Zeekát corá or Zeekát di piédra.

French angelfish
The French angelfish (Pomacanthus paru) can be up to 40 centimetres long and has a flat body with pointed spines on the dorsal and anal fins. The fish is blackish in colour with golden-rimmed scales on the body and a yellow dot on the pectoral fins. Its diet consists of sponges, algae, soft corals and moss animals. French angelfish pairs are monogamous. They fiercely defend their eggs against intruders and other pairs of the same species. The origin of the name is not known exactly, but it may be that the fish is associated with the waters around the French overseas territories in the Caribbean. Name in Papiamentu: Sheú or Tjamba pretoe.

Rainbow parrotfish
The rainbow parrotfish (Scarus guacamaia) is a ray-finned fish species in the parrotfish family. The rainbow parrotfish is known for its impressive length of up to 90 centimetres. Younger specimens are often brighter in colour, with bright blue and yellow-green tones, while older individuals tend towards a more uniform blue-green colour. This fish gets its name from its distinctive beak-like mouth, suitable for grazing on algae and corals. On Bonaire, the mangrove forests and seagrasses on the island’s east coast are hugely significant as nurseries for important coral reef fish. These creeks are especially important as a habitat for the endangered rainbow parrotfish. Name in Papiamentu: Goetoe pretoe.

Staghorn coral
Staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) represents a diverse group of soft corals. Unlike hard corals, which form a calcareous skeleton, staghorn corals have a flexible skeleton that is composed of a protein called gorgonin. These corals are found in warm sea waters around the world, often in shallow coral reefs where they play an important role as habitats for various marine animals. The appearance of staghorn coral varies widely, but many species are fan shaped or have a branched structure that looks like deer antlers. Colours range from red and orange to purple and yellow. Name in Papiamentu: Koral kachu di biná.

Sources: Beautiful Bonaire, The Diversity of Fishes (Gene Helfman, Bruce B. Collette and Douglas E. Facey), Naturalis Dutch Caribbean Species Register, Proceedings of the 5th International Coral Reef Congress (Vol. 6, pp. 243-248), Reef Fish Identification (Paul Humann and Ned DeLoach), Wikipedia, World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) and wur.nl

Release: Experience Nature – Bonaire’s Marine Life
Release date: 10 June 2024
Appearance: Sheet of 10 stamps in 10 different designs, each with a value of 1 for mail weighing up to 20 grams sent within the Netherlands.
Item number: 440761
Design: Frank Janse, Gouda
Photography: Alamy, Dreamstime, Shutterstock and Wikimedia Commons (Albert Kok, Brocken Inaglory, Kevin Lino, Laszlo Ilyes)

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