THE ABC Islands as they are known, once formed the Netherlands Antilles. They boast beautiful white sand beaches, warm waters, and world class diving. The official languages are Papiamento, Dutch & English. Curaçao has the highest population, followed closely by Aruba and then a long way back comes Bonaire. On all three islands, there is something that makes you feel you have dropped back fifity years. There is a lack of sophistication and a lack of slickness that is really quite refreshing. Tourism of course is the main economic driver. Aruba is known for its beaches. Bonaire is a diver’s paradise, with its cyrstal clear water and shore line reefs and the dive sites can be reached from shore. The entire coast line has been designated a Unesco World Heritage Marine Park. While the Dutch Colonial architecture in Willemstad Curaçao is also a Unesco World Heritage site.
ARUBA – I spent a lovely day at the Barcelo Hotel with Lynn & Richard Coyle. They have a beautiful timeshare there, with a great beach and lots of friends. We went out for a catamaran sail and I was offered to take over the sail but chickened out. Keith & Scott, my Canadian sail mentors, will be so disappointed with me. But it was just lovely to sit there in the “hammock” and enjoy the sun and warm water splashing over me and let someone else do all the work.
CURAÇAO – I saved alot of money on Curaçao, it was Sunday and all the shops were closed. I hired a cab for an hour and saw the highlights including colourful “LandHuizen” – the old Dutch colonial houses. I found
a neighbourhood restaurant that was serving local fare and had a delicious lunch. On the way back to the ship, walking along the shoreline, I stopped at a bar to try the specialty drink of the island – Blue Curaçao. I had a Green Iguana – I think mixing blue Curaçao with yellow pineapple juice makes green – No? I enjoyed my drink and was mezmerized by the waves breaking just below me. Then had a long nap when I got back to the ship.
BONAIRE – The highlight of my day in Bonaire was kayaking in the ocean to a lovely little beach away from the crowds. Once there we were able to walk into the water and snorkle. The lowest point was to find that the coral close to shore was mostly dead. Therefore, the fish population was sparse. I did see a puffer fish, a green moray eel, a parrot fish and a myriad of minnow type fish.
Sidebar: So. I did a taxi tour of Curaçao just to get the lay of the land and learn a bit about the place. All the tour taxis were gone when I got there so I went to the taxi stand and said I wanted a tour for about an hour or so. One young man jumped up and gave me a price which was cheaper than the ship’s tour which was sold out, so I said fine. Hopped in the car. His name is Edwin. And then discovered his English was not that good. Neither is my Spanish so we managed with our cell phones on “translate” back and forth. He did speak some English but details and something more in depth than the weather was a little difficult. However, I learned about the Landhuizen, where the wealthy Dutch lived during the 18th & 19th centuries, and had slaves to farm their plantations. Also that the minimum wage is $5.00 per hour and that besides tourism, salt mining and oil refineries make up the economy. That fresh fruit & veggies come over from Venezuela, illegaly on small boats, along with refugees; that Edwin is working to save money to get his own taxi; and that he loves Canadians and would love to live in Canada. All in all, it was a fun hour and a half and I got a good feel for the island which seems relatively poor except for the huge homes that belong mostly to foreigners from different lands,mainly Holland according to Edwin. Tourist alert: Make sure your guide speaks English! Live & learn eh?