A perfect day with Pelican Express
Excited about the boat trip aboard the Pelican Express, my kids and I walk to the dock that is on the way to the Sea Aquarium Park and we are greeted by Captain Jaro and a friendly crew. We climb aboard joining more people and the ambiance is set for a beautiful day. My kids dart to the tip of the catamaran and within a few minutes refreshing fruit punch is served. We haven’t even left yet!
Now we’re gliding out of the lagoon and Captain Jaro picks up speed cruising over small choppy waves, sending sprays of fresh ocean water onto the passengers sitting in the front. The kids are squealing with excitement and enjoying getting wet!… including me. As we approach the coast at Caracasbaai, Captain Jaro maneuvers and stations the catamaran close to the approximately 180 meter long, 60 meter wide and 33 meter high cabling pipeline platform stationed there since 2012. It’s odd to see in this natural scenery, but it delivers a surreal background to the sparkling blue water.
After a brief explanation about the site and safety measures to take when snorkeling presented by our lovely host Chantal, my kids and I grab snorkeling gear and dive into the water ready to explore. I have to mention that it’s the first time my youngest boy has this experience, he is thrilled yet a bit nervous when he notices the depth and sees all the multi-colored tropical fish while we trail along the installation of the gigantic platform. Chantal points out a puffer fish, trumpet corals and a variety of tangs scattered about. We follow her to the metal pillars where corals and other organisms have grown in the few years since the platform has been stationed. Fiery orange and yellow moss-like coral cover the structures, and tiny fish come to feed off the plankton. I snap several pictures while we glide away from the boat and make our way to join the group at the sunken Tugboat so alive with coral and colorful fish that have made the ship their home.
Over an hour passes in what feels like minutes, and soon it’s time to return to the gently swaying catamaran. While we were exploring, the lunch buffet was set. Swimming and snorkeling has definitely opened up our appetites! Lunch is a delicious BBQ featuring juicy ribs, beef and chicken skewers accompanied by a savory BBQ sauce, various salads and not to mention an open bar for adults and juice for the kids.
The entire day was so perfect that we booked another tour to cruise the West and snorkel in the famous Blue Room Cave. The adventure starts when you enter the luminescent, environment filled with schools of Glassy Sweepers. Amazing!
Birthday kiss at Dolphin Academy
Waking up excited to celebrate his 7th birthday in Curaçao is an understatement! Jesse was talking about this day since we arrived on the island, for weeks, so we are all glad the day finally came. We planned a few activities for this special day but I really wanted to keep an element of surprise for my son so eager to get going. After a hearty and delicious breakfast at Hemingway, we make our way to the Curaçao Sea Aquarium Park. At this point, he thinks we are going to spend some time visiting the premises, which is the plan too, but instead we walk straight over to a designated area, where we are greeted by Dolphin Academy trainers expecting us for Jesse’s birthday surprise. Within seconds that we announce that a dolphin is going to approach to give him a kiss, his cheeks become rosy and his eyes dazzle, as if a girl is going to kiss him for the first time. Jesse is led to the platform and as he kneels down, a dolphin glides towards him and in one hand gesture, the trainer signals for the dolphin to rise up and kiss Jesse already who was expecting the sensation with one of the happiest and amused expressions I have ever seen on his face. The special moment was captured then printed on a souvenir T-shirt that he treasures.
Celebration at Amazonia
Sun-drenched and delighted after a day spent at the Sea Aquarium Beach, it was time to get ready for the late afternoon activities celebrating Jesse’s birthday joined with friends on a jungle adventure at Amazonia “the lost cultures”. I think he felt like VIP (as he was that day) when a private van courtesy of Amazonia came to pick us up at the hotel, drove us to Banda Ariba, on the east side of the island and dropped us off right in front of the entrance.
Our guests arrived and our animated guide Miguel was ready to begin the two hour tour. As we followed the trail, we went back in time to the lost cultures of Mesoamerica and even pretended to be tribesmen! We walked through recreated pyramids and jungle to interact with exotic birds and parrots, visit caves with reptiles, feed monkeys in temple ruins and observe ponds of fish, as Miguel counted tales of the past. Our journey was filled with mystery, wonder and memorable moments but no celebration is over before a birthday cake is served, and so it was with sparks and special local songs after our fabulous dinner at L’Aldea Steak house that is conveniently located right on the premises.
In touch with Animal Encounters
My older son Sasha is in for a treat! He is about to experience a unique program like his sister did with me a couple years back. Following some instructions about the encounters given by our guide, we take the plunge. Within seconds we are in good company- tarpons, common snooks, jacks and a few stingrays (stings removed) follow us looking for the next meal. Despite our guide discretely slipping a herring into our hands, they manage to steal a few before we approach the larger species that we want to feed!
Starting with the Sea Turtles, I see my sons eyes dazzle through his mask as we head to their location, but on the way, Sasha spots the Goliath Grouper and sidetracks towards the fish twice his size! While this gentle giant stays put as he strokes his back, I’m impressed to see how Sasha is staying longer beneath the surface with every dive. Gliding back to the turtles patiently waiting for us to come back behind the acrylic window, it’s quite obvious that they are waiting for their meal. One by one, Sasha pokes each fish through the hole and we watch these majestic creatures take turns eating as we stare into their big brown eyes. Next stop, nurse sharks, and remember what the guide said: “Place fingers above the hole with fish dangling down or they will vacuum your hand”. Sasha confidently followed this warning over and over again and enjoyed feeding them half a dozen fish while our guide supervised. Now was the time to feed the daunting Lemon Sharks. I could feel Sasha’s thrill as he darts towards the next window and I can’t help but giggle. I love seeing him this happy about experiencing encounters with species that are impossible to get this close to in their natural habitat. At this point, Sasha just wants to make sure every one of the sharks gets fed! For the delightful grand finale, Sasha and I sit on the rocks while a few soft-to-touch sting rays take turns gliding over our legs to gently suction the fish out of our hands. An hour well-spent!
Safari fun at the Ostrich Farm
The start of this day began with a door-to-door service, a warm welcome by the staff and colorful peacocks displaying their beautiful feathers greeting us at the entrance of the Ostrich Farm located in a beautiful area on the road to Groot St. Joris in Santa Catharina. The landscape stretching out before us is bustling with nature.
Our guide is standing in front of an open-air Safari truck stationed and ready for us to start the Ostrich Safari Tour. After a friendly introduction, we hopped on and he took us over the enclosures. We got up close and personal with the ostriches and learned about the different stages of their life on the farm. We also encountered a few emus, potbellied pigs and Nile crocodiles. At the end of the tour, each one of us stood on a real ostrich egg and it even held my weight.
Definitely something out of the ordinary and fun to do with or without children!