From Arikok National Park facing the Caribbean Sea
© Richard Wolfert - 2009
Aruba - 2003

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Aruba was only my second trip to the islands, and (forgive the cliché) it was one I will never forget. This was because of the unexpected beauty of the island…and the people. We were told the island was arid, but I wasn’t prepared for desert, over much of the island. Despite the constant winds out of the Northeast, this is in a very dry place. It is said that each of the 3 (ABC) islands that lie close to South America are as different as they could possibly be. Aruba is just 19 miles north of Venezuela, and is the dry island. Curacao, the middle of the three, is lush, and Bonaire, to the East, is rugged and mountainous. 

I suppose I’ll always be strongly driven to nature, and this island had an abundance of both scenic views just right for photography, and birds. While my daughter doesn’t bird, and my wife does (a little) Aruba still provided opportunities for fabulous photos, and 15 life birds.

  Tropical Mockingbird                                                Eared Dove

  Carib Grackle (outside hotel in mowed grass area)                   Neotropical Cormorant   

  White-cheeked Pintail (2 outside the Bubali Bird Sanctuary)         Caribbean Coot

  Least Grebe (outside the Bubali Bird Sanctuary)                     Blue-tailed Emerald

  Bare-eyed Dove                                                      Black-faced Grassquit (at least 12)

  Ruby-Topaz Hummingbird (8 females/immatures/winter plumage males)   Burrowing Owl

  Sandwich Tern/Cayenne Tern (worked hard to ID this one)             Brown-throated Parakeet

  Venezuelan Troupial (on 4B going to Frenchman’s Pass)


The hotel grounds were very pretty and lush, and in contrast to the relatively sparingly landscaped terrain between the airport and the hotel (Radisson in the Palm Beach area on the Northwest of the island). There were abundant flowers, flowering shrubs and beautiful trees. We were very fortunate that our hotel was within a few minute walk of the Babuli Bird Sanctuary, a very nice spot with a good observation tower and a great variety of birds. We walked there twice during our 5 day stay.

On our 3rd day on the island, I rented a car and explored the island. There were birds throughout, many more of which might have been identified if I had a spotting scope. But, this was not the case. Even with this handicap it was still a wonderful experience. California Point, named for an 1981 shipwreck, is a lovely place. The beaches are rugged and the intensely blue water that courses around the point is very turbulent. The rocks that make up much of the shoreline seem to be ancient corals with their unique patterns quite visible.

Another place visited was the Arikok National Park which surrounds the 617 foot highest point on the island. This is the most sparsely populated portion of the island and, like most of Aruba, is comprised primarily of scrub land. Cactus thrive everywhere, as do the wild goats. Don’t be surprised to see them throughout the island. This is a hot, dry and wild area that beckons to be explored and will reward those who venture here. On the way to Arikok, I passed through another (smaller, secondary) bird sanctuary where I unexpectedly came upon Burrowing Owl. No photos but it is on video tape and I must try to find it for this page.

There was not nearly sufficient time to explore this island in detail. So many sights were missed due to our time constraint. But, there will be another time. This is an island that is very well worth coming back to.

It should be noted that during this trip I was just experimenting with a small (4 MP, 3X zoom) Canon digital camera to see if I liked digital rather than film. Having used a Canon A-1 for many years before this, I should have realized that I would outgrow the capabilities of this camera almost immediately. And I did. While I now have an 8 PM Canon with a 100-400mm zoom, I couldn’t shoot photos of birds in Aruba unless they were fairly close. Too bad. There were many opportunities to get some great shots. NEXT TIME! And there will be a next time.

Rich Wolfert