Monday, May 24, 2010

Aruba! May 23, 2010

Hot dang! Off to another (semi-)Caribbean location for beach time! We flew out on Sunday, May 23, arriving about 1:30 p.m., picking up our rental car at the airport, and golf drove (since she'd signed out the rental car and had done all the map research) southeast along the coast to Savaneta, where we stayed at the Aruba Reef. Here's the view from our porch/deck to the water.

If you click on the above picture to enlarge it, you will see there is a reef way out, showing about at the horizon on the picture above. There was a reef out there, and the owner of the place where we were staying said we could use their kayaks to paddle out there and go on the outside of that reef and there was excellent snorkeling there. But it was probably about a thousand yards or more out, and golf just isn't strong enough to fight a current and the wind to paddle out that far, go snorkeling, and then paddle back. She tried kayaking, and she could do it.

But she told Larry that she just wasn't in shape enough to go all the way out and there and back, and she didn't want to wear herself out doing that when there were other places they could drive to and not have to work so hard to get to in order to do some good snorkeling. So they decided not to go out to the reef off in the distance from their "home base."
Looking back at our apartment from the dock down by the water:
Here I am on the rail of our porch, our private "beach shack" in the background on the right (more on that below)

But down on the deck/dock, there was a covered, three-sided shack open to the water, which was great for relaxing and where we spent every evening. And, by the way, all the Aruba tourism advertisements said Aruba has no mosquitoes -- but apparently they flew 25 miles across the water from Venezuela just to chow down on golf! Last time SHE goes to the Caribbean without bug spray . . . .
However, it was quite hot and steamy when we arrived. That Sunday, the owners of our apartment were having a "family" birthday party on the docks and in the water, and since all the stores were closed so we couldn't go grocery shopping, we just settled in and enjoyed being by the water.

Side view of our "beach shack" from our dock (where the later moved the lounges back and danced -- further explanation of that below):

The next day, Monday, we started exploring. We had read that Baby Beach, down on the far southeast end of the island was good for snorkeling, so we drove down there. It was a very nice beach, but it didn't look a likely snorkeling spot.

Oh, yeah, on the way there, we sort of got lost when we went too far, all the way to the southeast end of the island at Colorado Point, and on the way to finding Baby Beach, we found this rather "rustic" (that's giving it the benefit of the doubt) cemetery. Not exactly picturesque but so different from all the lovely little burial plots scattered around Grand Cayman (oh, yes, golf finally got that trip's pictures posted -- go down three or four posts after this one for the full Grand Cayman report of January 2010) that she felt she had to get a picture of it. Not a big budget for gravestones in Aruba, apparently.
Aruba's Potters' Field?
Right next to Baby Beach is Rodgers' Beach -- very lovely. More on it later.
Then we went looking for Mangel Halto, another recommended snorkeling spot. Larry and golf went in, but there wasn't much to see. Mostly sea grass, a few grunts, and it was pretty shallow (only about hip-deep for about 200 yards out). There is a supposedly a big drop-off where scuba divers go (and we saw a group of about six of them coming in), but apparently this location is for scuba diving, just not that good for snorkeling (at least they found that to be the case). But here I am at one of the palapas at Mangel Halto:
The east side of Mangel Halto:
A nice little sunset Monday night, but nothing like the dramatic red/orange/pink sunsets Aruba is famous for. We didn't have a single one of those while we were there.
Back at the apartment, we went down to the beach shack, where Larry and golf had their preprandial margaritas before grilling a steak. Our deck/dock was right beside the Flying Fishbone Restaurant, and below you can see the folks eating out there, on the beach.
Look who we found out on our porch the next morning, before we started exploring north toward Oranjestad, Palm Beach, high-rise hotel area, and north all the way to the north end of the island, where there is the California lighthouse, Arashi Beach, and Malmok Beach.

Driving through town was entertaining -- here's a casino.
And this is the Riu Resort along the high-rise hotel road.

Actually, I think this picture of these pelicans was from Baby Beach. Sorry about its being out of sequence . . . .

Here's Larry at the California lighthouse:

At LAST, at Arashi Beach, they found the RIGHT place to snorkel! Here I am, awaiting their return from the water.
A trunk fish:
A French Angel -- this fish was SO WONDERFUL! He was about the size of a turkey platter! And he kept following Larry and golf around in the water, seemingly wanting to be photographed or filmed.

A school of grunts hanging around a rock:
And, see? Look who shows up again!

A couple of surgeon fish and a wrasse:

Trunk fish and grunt:
A yellow tang juvenile:

Back at the apartment that evening, they checked all their pictures and were delighted at what they had gotten. They cooked out another steak, and then golf brought the laptop out to the beach shack and they played Jimmy Buffett and beach music. She was able to persuade Larry to trying shagging (that's a Carolina beach dance -- Google it!) with her on the dock -- and they earned rounds of applause from the diners at the Flying Fishbone! They had NO idea they had a audience!!! Aruba's "Dancing with the Stars"? -- NOT!
Back to Arashi on Wednesday -- they had just enjoyed it SO much and golf wanted to try the video function on her camera this time, since they had determined that the waterproof housings they had gotten for their cameras DID actually work! Videos take too long to upload to Blogger (unfortunately) and golf hasn't gotten a good video editing program yet. But here's a sample. Just remember this is their first effort at filming underwater, so there's still somewhat of a learning curve, ya know?¤t=Snorkel.flv

Drat! That link won't work, so just block and copy this into your path in another window:
What IS it with Blogger that it won't take a link to somewhere else? Try this?

Still, here are some more still pictures. A banded butterfly:

More grunts at the stone block:
with one red squirrel fish

Bright blue tangs:
A school of brown and blue tangs:
A HUGE sphere of brain coral, about the size of a fully stuffed beanbag chair:

Look who shows up on Wednesday too!!
A damselfish:

More juvenile grunts with an adult barging in:
Grunts with sponge coral in the background:


A parrotfish:
A school of thousands of little silver/blue fish -- I don't know what they are:
Spotfin butterflies:
Yellowtail surgeonfish:
joined by the banded butterfly:

Surgeonfishes, damsel fishes, sergeant majors, and blue tang:
Bluefin surgeonfish:

Close-up of the trunk fish:

Grunts and a wrasse (you'd think it was all mostly grunts, and there were a lot of them, but there were as many sergeant majors, also called convict tangs, I think, but there were so many of those, they didn't take many pictures of them):

Wrasse and damsel:
Some brain coral and a variety of fish:
A parrot fish Larry couldn't quite get a sideways view of, but at least these two pictures stitched together show his color (click on the picture for a larger view of it):

After snorkeling at Arashi Beach, they went down to Malmok Beach to try there. But all the "guided snorkel trip" boats were there, and the water was crowded with boats, not with people in the water. They went in but didn't see as many nice fish there as had been at Arashi, so they didn't stay in long and took very few pictures at Malmok. It was mostly sergeants majors there.
Thursday, they wanted to try to go snorkeling before they had to leave on a 3 p.m. flight (meaning being at the airport by 1 p.m.). They went down to Baby Beach but again, it still didn't look like a good place to snorkel. They went over to Rodgers' Beach, and it seemed to have a little more potential. So golf told Larry to go in and if it was good, she'd come in too. But Larry gave it a shot and came back very quickly, advising her that the water was very murky because the sand was so fine, it was almost like mud. A nice, calm beach for kiddies but not the place to snorkel.

golf remembered how the beach at Colorado Point had looked really nice -- and deserted. So they drove back down there. But when they got there, they realized the surf was too strong -- not the place for snorkeling either. The picture below doesn't show it well, but there were large breakers coming in, and at this point, they'd been driving around trying to find a place for so long that they were out of time to do anything and still get back to the apartment and pack up and get to the airport. They realized they'd lost so much time trying to find some place to snorkel that they would have had time to go all the way back up to Arashi Beach and snorkel for a half-hour or 45 minutes and have seen more of the good stuff there -- but too late now.

However, back at the apartment to load up, they were suddenly hit with a tremendous rain storm. Now, Aruba isn't known for being rainy - I mean, it gets something like 16 inches a year. They must have gotten five inches of that allotment in about 10 minutes! It was REALLY blowing and pouring, and the video looks really mild to the way it looked "in person."

Storm video

Link won't work again (what is WRONG with Blogger that it won't allow a link??)

Block and copy this:¤t=StormAruba.flv

That didn't work for me either. Try this:

They were worried (1) about getting from the rental car drop-off to the airport terminal for departure and (2) would the plane be allowed to take off in such a storm. It WAS that strong. But then after about a half hour it stopped, and the weather was still overcast, but no rain. So they made it to the airport without getting drenched just getting to the car, and no rain after dropping off the rental car. And then we were flying home.
I think we're going to Bonaire next. Stay tuned

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