W1702 – See and Sea

I can’t believe and must apologise that ten whole days have passed since my last post, W1702 – Man goes to Mangroves. In that time I have been kept really busy sailing through the Panama Canal, and taking an epic six day shore tour in Ecuador and Peru – all of which will be documented in a number of future posts.

This post is to document the half day spent at our third and final port of call in the Caribbean, Oranjestad on the island of Aruba. The island is 29 kilometres north of the coast of Venezuela, and measures 32 kilometres long from its northwestern to its southeastern end and 10 kilometres across at its widest point. Aruba along with our previous island Bonaire and Curaçao, form a group referred to as the ABC islands.

The tour I had selected in Oranjestad was called See and Sea, and it combined a coach tour to several scenic points on the island with a voyage in a semi-submersible vessel to view part of the extensive coral reefs that surround the island, and their attendant tropical fish and other sealife.

The length of the tour meant that we would be returning not long before the ship sailed, so there would be no opportunity to view the local port independently afterwards. As it happens this was no loss, for as we drove through the port it was very apparent that it had no cultural or historical interest, it was just modern bars and jewellery shops etc serving the large number of mainly American cruise ships that frequent the island.

The first stop on the tour was at the Casibari Rock Formations, where we could climb a narrow path up and through the rocks to their summit, which provided good views across the island:

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The next stop was at the coast, where we boarded a launch which took us out to deeper water where we could transfer to the semi-submersible vessel. It was a carefully choreographed operation – the previous tour-load of passengers were up on the deck of the semi-submersible, we transferred to the semi-submersible and went straight down below, then the previous set transferred to the launch ready to be taken back ashore.

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We only had to travel a short distance to the coral reef, where we slowly traversed the coral allowing us good views of the coral itself and the tropical fishes swimming around and through it. Perhaps we had been spoilt on television where they show the very best reefs and fishes in ideal conditions, but in comparison the reef was not as colourful or the fish as numerous as we might have hoped:

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The same operation was used to unload our group and load the next group onto the semi-submersible. Returning to the shore on the launch, we then reboarded the coach for a longer drive to our next destination, a natural rock formation where erosion by the sea has formed a natural bridge. An earlier larger bridge collapsed in 2005. There was a long rough approach track to the bridge along the line of the shore, and at times the waves crashed high over the cliff edge:

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The final stop on the tour was at the California Lighthouse, at the northernmost point of the island. The lighthouse was built between 1914 and 1916, is some 100 feet high, and it was named after a ship that was wrecked in the area. There were numerous tourist coaches and food vendors in the parking area around the lighthouse, a couple of which caught my eye:

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We then returned to Oranjestad and our waiting ship. After very much enjoying my tours around the other two Caribbean islands, neither this island or the tour around it particularly inspired me. Maybe you could say they were sub-standard! I was relieved that it was Aruba that was the half-day stop.

On leaving Aruba we had a day and a half at sea, before we had a day negotiating the iconic Panama Canal, which will be the subject of my next post.

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