We arrived in Oranjestad, Aruba this morning. We’d had a dilemma here, because the activity we really wanted to do was full. Rather than leave it to chance, we booked our second choice and then, when we boarded on Saturday, we found we had tickets for both.
Which one to choose? Well, the one we fancied was the Sea Trek but when we learned that we’d be taken to De Palm Island for the whole morning, for an activity that was to last only a short time, we decided to go with our second choice. It’s not that we wouldn’t have loved to have done the sea trek, just that we didn’t want to be left sitting in the hot sun for the rest of the day! So, we went for the Atlantis Submarine instead.
It was a great choice. At just before 9 this morning, we were collected from the pier by a small boat and taken to the reef, where the submarine was stationed.
It’s pretty windy today and this fast little boat rocked about a fair bit, soaking some in the spray as it went. But it was warm and no-one bothered – we were here to enjoy ourselves after all.
Arriving at the sub, we crossed the gangway onto the top and waited patiently to climb down the ladder into the cabin. I think there were thirty of us which was a comfortable number.
It was a pretty steep climb down but even a couple of people with limited mobility were able to make it. The crew were on hand to offer a steadying hand and of course, we helped each other where necessary. Everything was bouncing about on the waves throughout, so a grip on something steady was a good idea.
Once down there, we sat on both sides of the cabin, facing outwards. The captain, at the front, had a circular glass “windscreen” and any claustrophobic worries were soon dismissed.
We each had a large porthole to look through
and an identification chart for Caribbean Reef Fish. After a short safety briefing (which included two types of lifejacket and a smoke helmet) we were off.
At this point, those of us who’d been lucky enough to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, or the seas around Hawaii noticed some differences. Here, the visibility wasn’t great. That could have been down to the weather conditions, of course, but also, the colours were muted and filtered through these thick glass windows.
We sailed at depths of between 30 and 120 ft, past areas of reef, sandy seabeds with sponges and then past a couple of deliberately sunken boats, placed strategically to add interest and attract sealife. I would say at this point that my photographs don’t really do it justice, either, for the colours of the fish and the corals were brighter and better defined than it appears here. But nevertheless, the yellow of the rock beauties and the bright blue chromis were still not as clear as I’d imagined they would be.
Maybe, too, we are spoiled by visiting fantastic aquaria?!
Anyway, none of that mattered at all. As an experience it was great. We’d never been in a submarine before and it was fun to get out there on the ocean and enjoy the trip.
We returned around two and a half hours later to the jetty, from where we decided to take a walk downtown. We’d read that the buildings here bore some slight similarity to those we saw in Willemstad yesterday, but that those here are new, modern constructions and when we looked closer, that was indeed easy to see.
Another ship was in port. We’d seen it as we enjoyed our breakfast this morning and as it inched closer and closer to the stern of ours. So there was plenty of potential business for the bus drivers and the sales ladies – we had to run the gauntlet of them all before reaching the town. Everyone was good natured however, no-one hustled too much and the warm sunshine made it a pleasant stroll.
But there was nothing we wanted to buy. Souvenir stalls lined the streets, each selling the same T shirts, old car registration plates and hats. Expensive jewellers were to be found in the shops behind the stalls – just how many Pandora beads do people buy? (Actually, most were selling rather more expensive jewellery still, but it wasn’t for us, either)
So, with one last look to make sure we weren’t missing anything, we pottered on back to the ship.
Later this afternoon, we set sail for Cartagena, Colombia. It’s been fun to visit Aruba but I think we’ve ticked it off for now, at least.
Oh, and we made a good decision about that tour – the Sea Trek was cancelled due to the weather conditions, sadly. I suspect that there are many disappointed people this afternoon.