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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Day 5: Kralendijk, Bonaire

Located 86 miles east of Aruba and 30 miles from Curacao is Bonaire, the second largest of the five Dutch Antillean islands. Although not as famous as the other two islands in the "ABC trio", Bonaire is a water sport paradise featuring diving, snorkeling, windsurfing, and water-skiing. We decided to try our luck at kayaking in the Mangroves. And boy was it fascinating!

We didn't arrive into Bonaire until 1pm. Prior to that time, I decided to go down to Customer Relations desk to ask about some of the other sites and tourist activities on the island. I was particularly interested in the wildlife. I found out that Bonaire has a Flamingo Sanctuary (Pekelmeer Sanctuary) where the pinkest of pink flamingos can be found. It's mainly because of the brine shrimp in this region, a species that thrives on salt-mined areas, that gives the flamingos their brilliant shade of pink. The brine shrimp even helped to create coral species that after it dies and is ground up by the ocean's current and created a "Pink Beach". We could actually see these salt piers and pink beaches as we were coming along side of the the island on the south side. There are only four places in the world where flamingos breed and Bonaire is one of them. At last count, it was discovered that there are more flamingos living on the island that humans.

Of course, my mission was to see some flamingos, even though I had seen tons in my lifetime working in the zoo field. They almost become a basic staple in the zoo inventory. And guess what, I saw some! Although I was only able to capture one on camera with my 35mm camera, it was nice to view the animals in their natural habitat.

Can you see him??

Oh, I almost forgot. You know how you hear those stories about people who become ill onboard a cruise ship and end up infecting everyone else on the ship?? You never thought you would be on that ship?? Yeah, well we were. And we knew the people! My friend's hubby called us in our room just before lunchtime. She had gotten deathly sick in the middle of the night and he took her to the medical clinic. She was so dehydrated from losing so much liquid that they had to administer an IV! Because she was running a fever, they claimed that it was the NOR(?) virus and that she would be QUARANTINED in her room for the next 48 hours!! He was to be quarantined for the next 24 hours to make sure he didn't developed any symptoms. And we left them at 2am and they were both fine!! Weird. For the remainder of the cruise, employees were handing out sanitizing wipes to everyone prior to entering the dining halls (where once they were just there if someone wanted to grab one).

So, we arrived at our destination to check in for our excursion. Hans, our tour guide, asked us a bunch of questions, made sure we had brought water, and let us know that his usual mode of transportation, something more lush than a normal vehicle I guess, was in the shop. So we would be taking his girlfriend's Jeep. No big deal. Turns out... we were the only ones on the tour!! Kick ass!

We drove for 20 minutes or so until we arrived at a small docking station. He pulled out 2 kayaks, one for him and a double for us, and we were on our merry way. How cool is this?!?

Looking back, I wish that this was our last excursion/island that we had visited. This was by far my favorite. And even though we didn't get to see much of the island itself, I would so come back to Bonaire. Turns out, because of it's location in the Caribbean, they are very rarely hit by hurricanes or other tropical storms. Although they do have desert like vegetation in the southern region, I've been told that it becomes a little more lush in the Washington Slagbaai National Park region in the north. It reminded me of Texas.

Along our journey, we spotted several other groups boating and kayaking through the region, but none were as small as our group. I give credit to Shore Trips, an online excursion company I was introduced to for our first cruise in 2005. Unlike the cruise ship excursions, tour groups can be as small as 2 people or as large as maybe 30 (which obviously can be very crowded), but we have been very pleased with our service from this company over our past three cruises.

During the tour, after crossing the opening of the estuary where it led to the rough waters of the ocean, I noticed two white mounds off in the distance. After seeing smaller versions at the beginning of our tour, I knew they were conch shells, harvested and then thrown out to "the curb". These two mounds were as tall as us!

Some of the other wildlife that we were able to observe, sometimes not on film, were jelly fish in the shallow waters (they have a particular species that hangs out at the bottom of the estuary upside down which has a symbiotic relationship with algae. The algae helps to attract prey for the jellyfish, kind of like an anemone, and the algae gets the best seat in the house for sun), brown pelicans, mussels living at the base of the mangroves, and this little guy (just above the leaf).

This excursion only lasted us 3 hours, but with the sun beating down on us at 1-4 in the afternoon, we were ready to call it quits when we finished. The only bad thing that happened was that I didn't apply sunscreen to the tops of my feet and then I removed my sandals after I got in our kayak. Needless to say, the tops and only the tops of my feet were burned... and they hurt! I made sure to apply copious amounts of aloe when we arrived back onboard.

It was lonely at dinner that evening. Our friends were quarantined and even our other table mates didn't attend dinner that evening. Turns out they got some sun in the afternoon, laid down to take a nap and awoke 15 minutes after our seated dinner has started (they close the doors 10 or 15 minutes after it opens at 8:30pm). It was actually nice to have just hubby to sit and talk to. That evening, we made sure to make it an early evening. Tomorrow, All Day Off Road Jeep Adventure in Aruba.

1 comment:

Wenderina said...

I've loved "traveling" with you on this cruise...you are starting to convince me that a real cruise with you should be in our future plans.