Tuesday, March 24, 2008

Selected Pics (84)

We arrived in Aruba at approximately 8am and were on shore soon after. Unfortunately, our ride to the a car rental was about 45 minutes late. Apparently traffic was really bad. Better late than never. Jonathan rented a Jeep Wrangler and chauffered me, Martha, and Jessica around the island. The weather was great. It sprinkled only long enough for us to become aware that there was no top on the Jeep. Not just that the top was down - there was no soft top at all. It was a good thing the skies didn't open up on us. Anyway, we had a variety of adventures in Aruba while the Lloyd's relaxed on the beach (Palm Beach or Eagle Beach, I think). We snorkeled Baby Beach, explored both Guadirikiri and Fontein Caves, and off-roaded across the desert.

Baby Beach is located in the area known as Seroe Colorado at the southeastern end of the island. Its got its name because the calm and shallow waters make it ideal for children and/or inexperienced swimmers. Luckily it wasn't too crowded when we got there. In fact, the vendors were just getting set up and there were hardly any people at all. While Martha took some artsy-fartsy pictures of trash on the beach, Jessica lounged and Jonathan & I took to the water for the first snorkeling of the trip. It was awesome - much better than we expected. There were lots of fish swimming around by a little barrier island about 50 yards off the shore. I even caught some video of a flounder.

The channel was much more treacherous - the current was strong and the coral grew too high to swim overhead. But some careful navigation resulted in scenic swim. In addition to the common parrotfish spotting, there were tons of baby fish, a black fish with blue fins, and another dark-colored fish whose fins rippled to create motion. The videos are pretty cool. Double-click the video to open it in a larger window.

Lots of fish Flounder Jonathan snorkeling Martha snorkeling
Notice Martha snorkeling with her non-waterproof watch on. It started beeping and continued throughout the day. We buried it as deep as we could in one of our bags and I stuffed it in the refrigerator back once we were back in the room. That was the only place we couldn't hear it. I think it beeped for almost two days straight. :-)

After a fantastic lunch from one of the beachside vendors, we headed for the caves. The maps weren't very good, but we followed a tour bus as best we could for some time. We had hoped to see the Natural Pool and the arch (apparently the Natural Bridge collapsed in 2005, but there is still a "baby bridge" called Natalee's Bridge), but we didn't want to lose the bus. We also missed the Tunnel of Love and lost the bus anyway. Although the terrain was mostly flat, the roads were winding and the foliage was high, making it difficult to see ahead. We did end up losing the bus, but we kept on track with a simple hiker's GPS and a good sense of direction and found the first cave with no trouble.

The Guadirikiri Cave is famous for its two chambers where sunlight shines through and is the perfect backdrop for unique pictures. Although its exact history is not known with any certainty, caves like this one are said to have been the hiding places of pirates. We didn't see any pirates - just a few lizards and a couple of baby goats.

Check out this 360 degree series of pictures I loaded on Photosynth. It's from atop a stone lookout just in front of the cave.

Fontein Cave is just a short drive up the coast and is known for its cave drawings, which are hundreds of years old. A guide escorted us through the cave and provided more than a little entertainment. He was very experienced with various cameras and took some interesting shots of us in the caves using the manual settings on each camera. He also gave a lot of interesting commentary, so we expressed our thanks with a decent tip before we headed back out on the road.

By this time, it was becoming clear that we weren't going to catch up with the Lloyd's, so we made a bee line across the desert and back to the rental shop to return the Jeep. A cab got us close to the cruise port, but traffic got thick, so we paid the driver, hopped out, and walked the last mile. We got some great pictures of the ship along the way. Back on board we got more great pics as we sailed away (around 5pm) into the sunset.

Here are the excursions we were considering...
    Atlantis submarine
    Catamaran Snorkel & Beach Cruise With Brunch Or Lunch ($89, 9-2)
    Aruba Palm Beach Express & Snorkel ($49, 9:30-1:30)

Additional Web Sites ( Antilla Dive Pics, Official Tourism Site, Lonely Planet Review, Frommers Reviews, Cruise Critic Review, Cruise Critic Board, Destination360 Review, Princess.com )