Fantastic day in Aruba, one of what was the Netherland Antilles and now part of the ABC group of Aruba Bonaire and Curacao. We came into port at about 8am while we were having breakfast and we were already stunned by the white beaches and the turquise water.
Disembarked with our beach stuff at 9 and walked out to find a taxi. The chap who was in the lead of the queue definitely didnt want to take us – our paltry $14 fare didn’t compare to a tour around the island which he was hoping for. But we stood our ground and he sulkily raced us out to Palm Beach and the Aruba Watersports centre which was midway between the Occidental Hotel and the Hilton. Not the most welcoming beginning….
However, we put that behind us and checked in for our morning of scuba diving. Aruba has one of the largest wrecks in the Caribbean off Palm Beach, the Antilla and we had booked to dive it. It’s 400 feet long and a German freighter launched in 1939 and scuttled in 1940 when it was ordered to surrender to the Aruban authorities when Germany invaded the Netherlands. She lies on her port side in about 60 feet of water and was intact until around 1953 when she broke in half. The impressive wreckage is now colonised by sponges, coral and very large numbers of fish. There are semi-open areas to swim through and also the possibility to penetrate inside. However, there is evidence that she is aging now and some bits looked a bit “shaky”
We checked in and picked up our hire gear. We’d only got computers and masks with us. Didn’t need wetsuits, the water was about 86F. There was only one other diver on our boat which was lovely, plus the boathandler and our guide, Romeo. He was an Aruban, maybe early 50s. Our first dive was on a reef and on a small freighter which was pretty and fun to explore. There were a lot of fish and sealife in general and the coral and sponges were in good shape. Visibility was goodish but by no means glassy clear. Probably about 50 feet. We saw a massive lobster on this dive and large morays as well. After a brief surface interval we relocated a short distance to the Antilla. Thoroughly enjoyed the dive here. Just so much to see. I could happily have spent a week just diving her alone. Schools of fish in the open compartments and around the decks. Lots of twisted encrusted superstructure. Just a brilliant dive. I managed to flash the dive guide twice by my swimsuit err…. dipping low….. we had a bit of a laugh about it afterwards. He said I’d poked him in the eye with a boob! Oh god…..
Got back to the dive shop at about 130 and we walked down the boardwalk behind the beach till we reached the Holiday Inn where we believed we could get wifi. We did! Managed to facetime Lucy at some length. Also did some online business. Then back to the Occidental Hotel and pegged out on their beach on their loungers! The sea was just gorgeous. So warm and limpid. Lots of watersports along the beach including one of those things where you stand on a sort of wakeboard and are shot into the air on jets of water and have to balance. Some people were excellent. Some were not. It is so much harder than it looks. The sun was boiling so we were glad of the beach umbrellas. The sand is so white here and like powder sugar. Very fine. We had a couple of beers at the Hilton at the end of the day and managed to facetime Daisy too.
We decided we really liked Aruba. Could easily spend a couple of weeks here. It’s not a pretty Caribbean island. Not green at all, and its pretty flat. In fact visually it is a lot like Grand Cayman. Sort of Florida in the tropics… But the hotels are good, the beaches are exceptional and Oranjestad is an atmospheric little town.
We got back to the ship about 630pm and had showers. My hair looked terrible after getting saltlogged and then drying in the sun. After freshening up we went back ashore and looked around the shops and streets. Then we had a bit of dinner at a place called Iguana Joe’s which was a funky Cuban/Caribbean sort of place. We shared a Bimi Bimi Prawn starter (yum) and a Cuban Sandwich (also yum). And 2 Margaritas! Strolled back to the ship and then a late night film.
Anyway, hope to come back again one day.