Category Archives: donkey sanctuary

aruba adventures

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Dedicated to friends arriving soon from Texas – a short list of big adventures. It would be even better if I listed directions for each, but that is way beyond my capabilities.  Maybe this map will help. Hopefully, you will get lost at some point because doing so will delightfully lead you on your own island adventure.  I certainly do not claim to be an expert on all that one can experience here. After all, I have only been here for six months. I work all the time, but when I’m not at work, I’m exploring the island—albeit, on a shoestring budget. So here are a few discoveries made. 

Sand  – You will want to spend the majority of your time at beaches. Our favorite is Baby Beach. Drive to the southern part of the island to get to Baby Beach and stop at Charlie’s Bar in San Nicholaas. It closes early because it is in the Red Light District. Also, stop at Zeerovers for dinner on the way home, but only on the weekend, because only then will they remove all the shells, skin, bones, and eyeballs from the heaping baskets of seafood you are about to devour. Many Sundays here have been spent at Baby Beach followed by a delicious catch-of-the-day dinner at Zeerovers. Eagle Beach is named one of the best in the world. Its powdery white beaches and turquoise blue waters will not disappoint, especially during sunrise and sunset. We also frequent Arashi beach. There are more locals there and a drive up to the California Lighthouse after is a nice way to end the day. Another great place for sunset is the Alto Vista Chapel. One more beach worth mentioning is Andicuri Beach. We just had a barbecue there last Wednesday.

Sea – Definitely do some kind of water activity while you are here as well. Snorkeling is the simple, go-to activity if funds and experience are lacking. There are plenty of snorkel spots throughout the island and you can buy gear inexpensively at stores all over the place. There are a plethora of other water activities as well, from kite surfing to kayaking. Also, get out on the water if at all possible. I haven’t been out on a water tour yet, but I heard the Catamaran “Dolphin” tour is the best.

Off-road – There is plenty of activity on land as well. Rent some type of all-terrain vehicle and explore Arikok Park. Be sure you find your way to Conchi, or natural pool. Take the plunge. Just make sure you have on your stylish water shoes.  Spelunk one of the many caves while exploring the park. Quadiriki is my favorite and the setting of an Arawakan legend. There is also a bar/ restaurant in the park called Boca Prins. It’s fun to sit and relax there while enjoying a tall tropical drink and a fantastic view. If you have the time, keep driving along the coast to the California Lighthouse.

Get lost – Somewhere along the way during your time in Aruba it is essential to get off the beaten path and just get lost so that you can experience authentic island life. This will inevitably happen if you turn off any main road because street signs are nonexistent in this country. Don’t worry about it. You are on an island, so how lost can you really get? Eventually, the road will take you to water. Stop any place that looks fun. Explore the aisles of a Chinese supermarket or grab a Balashi paired with a pastechi at one of the many roadside eateries.

Beasties – Designate a day to spend some quality time with animals and insects while you are in Aruba because there are so many sanctuaries that provide serene shelter to a large variety of species, from Howler monkeys to camels. My favorite places are the Donkey Sanctuary and the Ostrich Farm. The Butterfly Farm is also worth a visit. There is a tour guide to educate you on all of the life science moments in case you have forgotten them since 7th grade. We listened attentively as our tour guide described the transformation from caterpillar to cocoon. I was so transfixed that I watched YouTube videos of this process for at least an hour after my visit. I’ve discovered these videos will put you in the exact same meditative state as the Bob Ross’s Joy of Painting series.

Chow down – Sample Suriname food while you are here; order the roti. We like Yanti, Indo, and Swetie. Colombian food is a must as well. There are several restaurants serving authentic dishes. I have only been to Don Jacinto where my friend, who had just returned from a visit to Colombia, emphatically recommended the bandeja paisa. Savory Colombian empanadas can be found at snack stands and food trucks all over the island. Go for Dutch pancakes and order something you don’t typically have with your pancakes. Linda’s Dutch Pancakes is good. There is also a fabulous Dutch bakery in Paradera called Huchada. Sample Peruvian at El Chalan. Finally, we are always on a budget because we are poor school teachers, so if you are looking to splurge, here is a complete list of all the restaurants.

Party – Arubaville, Bugaloe, and Salt and Pepper all have excellent mojitos. All three also have delicious tapas to choose from on their menus.  Arubaville and Bugaloe are waterside spots. Moomba is right on the beach, as in the legs of your chair will sink into the sand. 080 and Chaos are fun Dutch bars to visit where you can strike up a conversation with anyone. I was just at Chaos last night and it appears to be the party headquarters for all the Carnival parades. Order bitterballen somewhere along the way when you are out for the night. Another great location to grab a drink is Casibari Cafe and climb the Casibari Rock Formations.

City streets – Also, I haven’t done much of this because I moved here to get away from the city, but visit downtown Oranjestad. Walk around. Go shopping. Take the trolley. Talk to people. Everyone is incredibly friendly in Aruba. You will meet people from all over the world. This is the best part of living here.

62nd Carnival – Finally, Carnival is scheduled for Sunday when you arrive. I went to the lighting parade last night as a sort of run through for next weekend. I am thrilled to soon be experiencing something new here with all of you.

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donkey sanctuary

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Yesterday we went to the Donkey Sanctuary Aruba. It was established in 1997 to care for the many neglected donkeys roaming the island. They arrived 500 years ago and carried people around until cars replaced them. Eventually, some terrible affliction reduced the donkey population to only 20 in 1970. Then their numbers began to slowly increase simultaneously along with the number of people and cars on the island. After that, donkeys became a serious hazard to people behind the wheel of the many automobiles on Aruban roadways. It was far worse for the donkey, however. Injured people could recover inside the hospital, while donkeys were just left to die on the side of the road. The Donkey Sanctuary Aruba was founded to save these unfortunate creatures from needless suffering.

Before I moved to Aruba I assumed all the donkeys lived in the Donkey Sanctuary Aruba. Indeed many donkeys do live there, but some still roam the island, along with the traveling herds of goats and an occasional vicious pack of wild dogs. I have had so many encounters with animals in just a short span of six weeks. Animals are just part of daily life here. I don’t even flinch anymore when a lizard darts between the bottles of shampoo and conditioner while I’m showering. I calmly step on the brakes to watch a peep of chickens waddle in front of my car to cross the road on my morning commute to work. My favorite animals are the goats. I always abruptly pull off the side of the road to try to snap a photo. It’s pointless though to try and capture that kind of experience inside a frame. It is one of those things you just have to be here to see, like so many other things I love about living in Aruba. Besides the goats quickly disappear into the desert brush to graze on all the trash that blows about. Other encounters aren’t so easy to spot. Rather, you have to look closely to find some of the camouflaged creatures because they blend in with the landscape. Iguanas hide out in the tall green grass and bop their head up and down when you walk nearby. One magical evening, I was lucky enough to see a moonlit silhouette of donkey ears: a drove of dozens of donkey ears juxtaposed amidst hundreds of cacti. It was truly a magical site.

Most animals travel in groups and I am as fascinated with the odd names for these groups as I am the actual animals. You do find some solitary types as well, mostly reptiles and dogs. One Friday a baby boa constrictor was found dangling from a pipe outside of my classroom. The next Friday another was found slithering across the playground. Apparently, boas have invaded the island. Once upon a time, some twenty years ago, boas didn’t live here in Aruba. The first one was found in 1999; people say someone carelessly released pet snakes. Whatever happened, the boa quickly multiplied and easily adapted to the scrubby, desert terrain, spreading out all across the island by hitching rides under car hoods. Along with the solitary snakes, most dogs haughtily zigzag their way down the roads and in-between buildings. They fascinate me with their individual morning habits and routines; they are so oddly similar to us as when it comes to predictable behavior. Every morning I see the same dog asleep at 6:45 on the side of Route 4, just before the Valero gas station. There is another odd breed with Yoda ears that is always standing, attentive and alert, at the corner on Caya G. F. Betico Croes, nearby the roundabout before Banco di Caribe.

I love all animals, which is why I agreed to volunteer at the Donkey Sanctuary Aruba. Training starts Saturday.

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