Wind and turtles in Aruba
Planning the weekend gateway to Aruba I had no big expectations of the place other than powdery white beaches and nice warm weather that would fit perfectly our plan of doing nothing there.
Misheard conversation on the plane where a lady who is vacationing in Aruba at least once a year for the last 10 years is telling to the fellow travelers that a sunscreen should be your best friend while on the island. Even if the weather seems to be windy, cloudy or raining, the sun will do it’s damage and heavy sunburn can ruin your vacation quite quick. Ok ok, our 30SPF protection was used almost every day.
First task is to find the hotel. Car rented, hotel name put in the iPhone map and we are ready to go. Arriving to destination but the hotel does not exist and locals have never heard about such place. What a great start, but with a help of local police we managed to find a place and were kindly escorted by police car to the hotel door.
For quick lunch we wanted to try out the local Peruvian restaurant. After the trip to Peru last year we discovered how diverse and really delicious their cuisine was. And this place is a real gem. Hidden in a side street in the capital Oranjestad it serves authentic Peruvian food. Simple decorations, very welcoming owners (moved here from Peru 20 years ago) and the food… I think just the fact that we went back there 3 times in our 4 day stay says a lot. Would go the 4th time as well but had to run to the airport. Excellent ceviches, tried them all and loved them all and probably the best Fried Calamari I have ever had. Made freshly to order oppose to other places that would prepare them several days in advance. Super tasty fresh fish, cooked as you want –grilled, fried or steamed. We tried the grilled Red Snapper with pisco sauce and it was absolutely delicious. Our 2nd day choice was grilled Mahi Mahi with seafood sauce. Good as well but the Red Snapper was still our favorite. And if you want to finish the meal with a dessert, go for the Tres Leches cake, I would imagine it’s exactly the same when Peruvian grandmother makes it for her family. Simple but so flavorful.
Time to hit the beach. We follow the suggestions and use a heavy sun screen. Spf 30 is something we wouldn’t usually choose, but we listened to the suggestion. Our choice is the Eagle beach that has been rated one of the best beaches in the world. It’s off season (June and July) so we are not surprised that there are very few people on the beach and several miles of powdery white sand is all ours. We understood why the beach is so empty just in few minutes; it was so windy that we were entirely covered in sand after laying down for not more that 5 minutes. The wind was crazy but we wanted to get tanned so we silently suffered for maybe an hour, but it was end to our patience. Best you can do here is to have long walks and that’s what most of the people did.
One of the Arubas landmarks is the Lighthouse in northern point of the island. Great spot to watch sunset is the nearby restaurant La Trattoria El Faro Blanco. They claim to have the best Italian food in Aruba but we decided not to judge their authenticity and went just for the Happy Hour. Cocktails and wine served for half price from 5pm to 7pm accompanied with live music. Great way to enjoy this prime location without spending the big bucks. And sunset is gorgeous there.
Dinner time! To try the local flair following suggestion on Tripadvisor we went to Gostoso. The excellent reviews and Tripadvisor certificate of Excellence 2014gave us quite high expectations for the place. Around 9pm on a Friday night we were the only guests. Greeted by the owner and his great sense of humor, we decided to order the “bestsellers” from the menu. The Bacalhau Portuguese Style and Espetada a la Marinera fish kebab arrived fast but it tasted more like warmed up leftovers than fresh meal everybody was raving about. The disappointment of the meal was accompanied with the staff members standing few meters form us and basically staring as we eat for the entire time. Maybe because it was late in the day or any other reason, but the meal and the service did not impress us. For the fairly high prices they charge, we expected something more.
Off to the beach again! This time our choice is the tiny Surfside beach. Right next to the airport so you can watch planes landing almost on water. The wind is much slower here and we manage to enjoy couple of hours of the nice morning sun. Remember sunscreen!? I being a good wife offered to spray the sunscreen on Matteo back. When I saw him in the end of the day, I could not stop laughing. I guess I should rub it in better. Banana Boat spf 30 rocks! And I believed what the packaging say – Invisible, rub-free! Ha ha!
Where to go for lunch? Peruvian of course! And it’s constantly good; whatever you choose form the menu is just excellent.
Afternoon fun – road trip to the southern point of the island with destination Baby Beach. Since the arrival on the island we were wondering how comes it’s full of cactuses. The giant cactuses on the backdrop of the ocean are really weird looking panorama. Along the road south you can see the real Aruba, the life outside flashy resorts and touristic attractions. Simple local homes, plenty of homeless dogs and the huge structure of Oil Refinery is the real face of the island.
On the way you can make a stop in the … restaurant with a beautiful idea of barefoot dining in the water. Don’t want to dine there? Cocktail hour can always save you, order a drink and go for a photo shoot while the dining guests have not arrived yet.
After 35 minute drive from the capital we have arrived in Baby Beach – half moon sandy beach paradise. The waters are shallow making it a prime beach destination for families with children and it’s where the local community goes to relax. According to the locals this beach has the nicest coral formations on the island and they are easy to access from shore. So don’t forget your snorkel gear and something to feed the fish.
On the south east of the island you will find a beach popular by windsurfers. If you are a surfer, this is your paradise, if no; it’s a great spot to watch them. The passion and persistence how they can play with the wind hours and hours is truly admirable. There is something so sexy and mysterious about surfers, like they would be living in a different world where wind and the waves are the only things they really care.
Wanted to start the day healthy and went to check for the Eduardo’s smoothie place located in the high rise hotel area. Unfortunately on Sundays they are closed. Checked out the beach in the resort area and just once again confirmed that resorts are not for us. I love the silence of an empty beach, the luxury of soft sand and opportunity to see what the country is about. Most cases you won’t find that in a resort.
We are back in Eagle beach with all the wind and sand craziness, but appreciating the privacy and beauty of silence. And here happened the most beautiful experience of our vacation. I had seen the square barriers all over the beach that say Sea Turtle Nesting site. Even wrote down the website and went to check, but could not find enough information about the nesting process. Then I saw the crowd gathering around one of the nests and I knew something was going on. The volunteers of Turtugaruba was checking the nests after a hatching that had acured earlier in a day (wish I was there to witness it!!!) to count how many of the hatchlings would make it to the sea and how many didn’t manage to break out of their eggs. In this case 64 made it!!! And 14 were still in the eggs.
The super friendly volunteers shared all their knowledge of this amazing process and more I learned, more I wanted to know. Isn’t it amazing that the giant Leatherback Turtle after 25 years will come back to the same beach she was born to nest? And the baby sea turtles are on their own from the day they manage to climb out of the nest and head to the ocean? And the unfortunate fact that only 1 of 1000 hatchlings will survive until maturity in 15-20 years! Some turtles will make the trip of more than 2000 miles from the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada to nest to Aruba! There is so much we don’t know about our planet.
That night we joined a group of volunteers and went for the nightly Turtle watch. I knew it would be a miracle if we would manage to see the Leatherback Turtle coming to nest. They said we have great chances, 2 of the turtles were still supposed to come back to nest. It was somehow magical experience, total darkness of the beach and the moonlight shows you the way. The sound of the ocean, shadows in the water that gives you the hope it might be it. Even though we didn’t see the turtle coming out of the water in all her majesty, I felt like being a part of something magical. Could it be I’m falling in love with turtles?
The last day of our mini vacation. I still can’t stop thinking of turtles. I have googled Leatherback turtles trying to find out more about their nesting habits. Found out that they leave something like huge track marks on the beach once they come to nest. So my only though is to run back to the beach and check out if they did come and we missed it or they never showed up.
But breakfast comes first. We go back to check the Eduardo’s smoothie place and the locals who suggested us the place were right. They definitely make the best smoothies on the island. Options vary from fruit and berry drinks, vegetable smoothies to super healthy wheatgrass shots. I choose fruit and kale smoothie and wish we would find this place earlier! It’s good, it’s really good!
I’m not sure if Matteo is so much into turtles after this weekend, but I’m close to being obsessed. And I have a plan, in the next trip instead of lying on the beach and thinking whether to have pina colada or margarita, we could come back and volunteer!
Who knows, maybe see you soon Aruba!