We switched back into the unit we had last week. Changing units has been quick and painless. We have only had to move one unit over, so it’s been easy. The maid knocks on the door, letting us know the unit is ready, and we wheel our luggage over, swap the stuff in the fridge and we’re ready to snorkel!
We headed over to Boca Catalina, saw turtles, and assorted other fun stuff.
Here’s a brief movie of a flying gurnard. They have these cool wings they spread when they want to head out in a hurry.
Here is yet another little turtle movie.
We also checked out Frenchman’s Pass, in the southern part of Aruba. There is an old abandoned gold mine there. It’s still an impressive structure.
And lastly – how about these kayaking buddies? The navigator looks ready for anything, does he not?
The last couple of days have been sun and sand. We’ve gone to the beach, done some snorkeling, had dinner and basically taken it easy. As Mike likes to say, “we’re on vacation!”
Wednesday was kind of cool. Pam and I swam out to the turtle grass near Boca Catalina and saw a couple of turtles (naturally!) but while swimming a little further south we saw a stingray. Now that’s something we’ve never seen in Aruban waters! That was quite cool. Our pictures didn’t turn out that well, but I’ve put a little movie here so you can see him.
On Tuesday we saw another giant “bait ball” – a large school of fish with about a billion fish in it. There were several ceros running herd on it, moving it north. Pelicans swooped in for a tasty morsel every now and then, and you had to be careful to get out of their way. Mike nailed a couple of shots of a wily seagull catching a ride, then a snack from the pelican!
We took another drive up to the California Lighthouse to snap some sunset shots, but it was spectacularly lame! So we took a couple panoramas and called it a night. I like this one of the lighthouse with a big billowing cloud. And of course Pam likes the silhouette one of the palm trees. Maybe we need to have a vote??
Some of the local guys hanging around the pool at Caribbean Palm Village don’t even wear a suit! (Some of the guys wearing speedos you wish they had bought boogie shorts instead but…) Here is one of Pam’s favorite locals.
It’s been interesting on this side of the resort. The pool has been less crowded, I guess because it’s a bit smaller. But it’s also been a bit louder, since this is the side where the daily games are played. Still been nice, but I kinda miss “our side” of the place!
I really like this picture Pam took of the beach at Boca Catalina. Nicely framed with the palapa, looking out over the ocean, it’s a keeper. We picked up Mike from the airport on Sunday and had a quick little swim in the ocean. We had an all you can eat rib fest at the Sweet Peppers restaurant attached to our resort here. The ribs were nice, but the service was not great. They automatically add fifteen percent to the bill for a tip, so that often translates into mediocre service, and Sunday was no exception.
On Monday, we headed over to Boca to see if we could spot some turtles, and it was a turtle party! Seemed every where we turned, there were more turtles. That was nice. But the real unusual thing Pam saw was the color change on a porgy. They are usually a pale silver color, with a jolt of yellow across their head. Well she spotted this unusually colored fish, and thought she’d seen a new fish. She flicked on her camera and watched in amazement as the fish changed color back into a porgy – or stayed a porgy and cycled its color? Or was it a porgy with a new suit? Either way, pretty neat stuff. Turns out they change color when feeding, so Pam showed up at dinner time.
The visibility was quite good, and the surf was not really crashing so it was a nice swim. We can always tell how good the visibility will be almost the minute we enter the water. There is a school of fish who hang around the entrance to the water called a palometa. They are very silvery, and hard to see if the water is not clear. Here is a picture we took of one, so you can tell it was darned clear!
Mike was supposed to arrive on Saturday, but he got delayed in LA and consequently missed his connecting flight to Aruba. He had to spend the night in Virginia, then make his way to New York, then to Aruba. He managed to finally arrive on Sunday late in the day, about 2:30 pm. But at least he’s here!
We got his stuff to the condo, fed him a sandwich and a beer, then we all changed, and headed right over to Boca Catalina. As we got into the water and swam for a bit, I mentioned that the other day, we’d spotted a turtle right around where we were. No sooner had I finished saying that, Mike said, hey look a turtle! It was the smaller green turtle, and we followed him for a while, until two women started tailing him. One reached out and made a grab for him, and he showed us how fast a turtle can go in the water!
We spotted a lot of lobster today – enough for dinner! (No no, we didn’t take the lobster for dinner!) They like to hang out under rocks during the day, so it’s tough to get decent shots of them. I think this one turned out ok.
Later on, we saw another turtle, the little hawksbill, but he took off like a shot. Not sure what spooked him, but man, when those little guys want to go, they can just fly! It’s amazing how fast they can go.
We saw lots of eels, a couple of octopus, lots of French Angels, some porcupine fish, a lionfish… it was a pretty full spectrum of fish. Saw pretty much everything you can see in these waters except maybe the barracuda.
For dinner, we tried a new place quite close to our condo called Barney’s. It’s a rib joint, but we got there too late! The ribs were sold out. I had what was called Ron’s Favorite, which was shrimp in a garlic sauce, served with stir fried vegetables, and au gratin potatoes. It was very nice, although I could have done with a bit less garlic. Pam had the Dutch combo, two skewers of chicken, served with salad, coleslaw and fries, with a peanut sauce. It was very good too, and an amazing deal at $11.50. Mike had the beeftips served in a mushroom gravy with Dutch potatoes and veggies. I don’t think he thought it was great, but he enjoyed it.
We all had appetizers – Pam the rib soup, Mike the leek soup, I had firecracker shrimp – all were very good. BUT – we ate WAY too much food. Certainly did NOT need the appetizers. The service was very nice. They had a piano player, so it was a pretty nice place for dinner. No problem recommending this place at all. In fact we are heading back there Thursday night for the all you can eat ribs special!
Here are a couple of brief bird movies… the first is of the troupial – it’s a wonderfully colored bird, that has a distinctive voice… it’s too bad this bird is busy munching on a piece of bread, because it is really quite a nice song that he has. It is a type of oriole, and you see them pretty much all over the island. This was taken at Boca Catalina, and four of them were flitting from one divi divi tree to the next.
This second movie is of a pelican. Now, just how close do you think you can get to a pelican? The answer is pretty darned close! Check out how close Pam gets before he takes off!
This was taken while we were in the ocean just off of Boca Catalina beach.
Friday morning we had a swim at Nikky’s beach, which is the beach closest to the airport. It’s not quite like Maho on St. Maarten, but it’s a nice sandy beach. The sand is powdery soft! But there was very little to see in the way of fish. There was the odd French Grunt, and a couple of barracuda, but that was about it. It was really too sandy for most fish.
We had lunch then spent an hour or so in at Boca Catalina. It was nice, saw a few unusual fish. There was also a really tiny little box fish, about one inch long. He was chased by a damselfish, and the damsel is no longer than tow inches. The picture shows them going toe to toe! Cute.
The picture of the fish with an orange back, and bright blue spots on him is about one half an inch long! He’s notoriously hard to get a shot of, because he’s so quick. He won’t stay still for a second. He usually is hanging around spiny urchins, so it makes it even tougher to get a shot, since you don’t want to be touching a spiny urchin!
A really nice triggerfish was the highlight for me, though. I can’t get enough of this fish. They have amazing color, and they move so gracefully through the water. This one was around a large rock. I would dive down, and wait for him to circle around the rock. I got a couple of him, almost looking startled!
This is a short movie of some French Angels hanging around some other fish. It will give you an idea of how large the Angels can be…
This evening we moved to the last timeshare on this trip, the Renaissance, in downtown Oranjestad. It’s a more upscale place than either Caribbean Palm Village or Paradise Beach Villas. It has two humongous swimming pools, one with a swim up bar. It also has a private island, just for guests of the hotel. There is a free water shuttle taxi that leaves every fifteen minutes. We’re going to be trying that out, you can be sure!
We checked in late, so we really haven’t done anything here yet. Last night we checked out the local casino. I have to say, that’s the most play I’ve had in a casino for a long long time. I spent only forty dollars, for the whole evening, so that’s almost like winning!
UPDATE: Discovered that wifi is seventy dollars a week! An outrageous fee, considering that Wifi Aruba charges thirty five a week. There is no wifi available in our room, you can only access the net using a network cable! How old school is that? The lobby is filled with people with laptops perched on their laps. Absolutely ridiculous. I take back that comment I made about this being an upscale hotel! It’s about as backward as they come.
Today was a unique swim, to say the least. The weather was gorgeous and hot, and we had slept in a little. We decided to head to our favorite place, with a nice easy entrance to the ocean, Boca Catalina. All the snorkel operators stop by here, since it really is a great place to see lots of different kind of fish.
We worked our way north, stopping off at the rock we have seen the triggerfish twice before, and while there was no triggerfish in sight, a couple lobster had made a home under the rock. The rock is very low so my pictures didn’t turn out too well – an unfortunate precursor of the day, I’m afraid. We watched a large school of squid lazily drifting with the waves, then headed over to the main reef.
Suddenly, every fish in the ocean goes flashing by us in a panic – all headed one way, and FAST. Now, we know that means a big predator has arrived, and it’s usually a couple of barjacks. What was unusual this time is that ALL the fish took off – not just the small ones, even the large parrotfish took off. Now that WAS unusual. I turned to look at what was causing it, and saw two of the biggest barjacks I’ve ever seen. The book says they max out at two and half feet, and these were easily that size. Big deal eh? Yeah, well, their traveling companion was TWICE their size! It is easily the largest fish I’ve seen in the ocean! IT WAS HUGE! I got two shots of it, but for some reason, they both came out very blue. Take a look at that picture and keep in mind that the fish on the left, and the upper right were both very large barjacks, at least two and a half feet. That makes that fat bugger in the middle at least five feet long! And look how thick he is! That was one big fish. Pretty cool experience!
After they left, we almost immediately found an octopus. It’s the first one we’ve seen on this trip, so we hung around for a bit. He seemed agitated and was moving constantly around the rock. Suddenly he went into an almost dance, his tentacles going crazy. We realized he was grabbing onto a scallop and ripping it open for lunch! That was pretty cool – haven’t seen an octopus do that, except on National Geographic.
The first part of this movie is a bit jerky, since I swallowed a big gulp of sea water and had to turn over to spit it out! So I lose the octopus for a bit, but bear with it – it’s pretty cool, even if a bit jerky.
Along the main reef we saw lots of French Angels, and today we saw all three stages of this cool looking fish. In the juvenile stage he is pretty much black with prominent yellow stripes. As a teenager, he has some yellow stripes, and some of his body is covered with yellow dashes. Then as an adult he’s all yellow dashes, with no stripes.
Just one more of the octopus. In this one, I approach him and he retreats into a tiny little crevice. The closer I get, the more he retreats.