CARIBBEAN SO FAR
by James Clephane on Tuesday, 18 January 2011 at 22:23
Well then, apart from the facebook photos with M’s new camera we thought we should say something about the places we visited. Cayman Brac was fantastic and the diving full of turtles, rays and every kind of reef fish you can imagine. Only one shark this time. We had a great Xmas - if a little limited on the menu – chicken –no turkey on the menu but the place was full of other turkeys around. Went diving Xmas morning.
Curacao is a strange island (Dutch Antilles). Much less ordered than Cayman and more “Southern” Caribbean with a more wild side. Tons of dodgy Casinos and gambling etc but the Island was beautiful and the diving right outside our Hotel door. Not great but interesting with a first morning dive on an oil refinery in 5 metres visibility- we thought we had made a mistake. However, things improved and we dived most days (M saw a seahorse which was a highlight but photos were not good sadly) and drank most nights. We had New Year here and it was one of the few occasions where the Americans stopped talking long enough for us to have a two way conversation with them! They turned out to be good fun and we had a wee dance to a live band then gave it up a bit the worse for wear at 1 am. Getting old I suppose. There is a fantastic museum in Curacao with old artefacts from Persia (Iran) going back 5000 yes 5 thousand years and a very disturbing and well presented permanent exhibition on slavery and the founding of Curacao. Brutal!!!! The island scenery (Aruba and Bonaire also) South coasts with nice beaches and calmer dive sites, hilly national part areas and rugged North coasts with high waves and blow holes very dramatic and fresh!
On to Aruba which had a spectacular National Park. I believe the hire car was totally knackered having wadi bashed in it for hours but we saw wonderful flora and fauna ( D. Attenbroug h style) and wild seas on the North Coast and dramatic cliff faces- got soaked when we got too close!!
Aruba was beautiful and we stayed on what we thought was the best beach called Eagle beach. Again lots of Casinos and tourist ships but if you stayed away from the port areas it did not affect you. Diving here was a long fin out from the shore and not very spectacular but we did see some nice soft and hard corals and of course the by now famous Squid- actually there were three of them but Mary only got two on camera –hence the two squid jokes!!! We were surprised how laid back the beach life was and enjoyed many sundowners around the island!
All in all she is doing a wonderful job with the underwater Xmas present despite it not working when she opened it in Brac. We spent a day assuming it must be our reading of the instructions and that we had got it wrong as you do but we eventually convinced the Grand Cayman supplier by phone that we were not complete diddies and they agreed for us to airfreight it back to Grand and they sent us a new one overnight!! How’s that for service? It would have been a disaster not to have the camera for our trip. They were great and the locals didn’t even manage to smash it on their wee puddle jumper. On the subject of airplanes they seem to be getting smaller and smaller but still getting folded into them.
So we went off to Bonaire and found it completely different. It is basically a rock with salt flats around which there are hundreds of diving sites every few hundred yards. We arrived, were given a pick- up truck for the duration and told to shore dive anything with a yellow buoy. We did this and the diving is great but still not as good as Cayman Brac. They have a drive through tank replacement where you literally drive in like Mc Donalds, drop off your used tanks and pick up filled ones. Dive till you drop. It’s easy, just pick a buoy and walk in for a dive- finish-drive up the coast and have another one!! Bonaire is also beautiful and has a National Park well worth a visit. This time we needed the pick up as a car just would not have done it. Lots of amazing cactus and spectacular views from everywhere. Again Bonaire has a few casinos and a bit of nightlife but not much. It also gets the cruise ships but compared to Curacao and Aruba it’s a sleepy diving hollow. Its neighbouring Island Kleine Bonaire is lovely and uninhabited with great imaginative names like “Rockpile” (beside a pile of rocks). It’s pretty basic and not for those who like 5 star hotels and no mosquitoes but the diving is good. The place we stayed had a great house reef and we got very wrinkly even diving at sunset. Loads of reef fish shoals, endless coral walls and we even found another 2 Seahorses-- photos of which were almost identifiable as seahorses.
On to St Maartens which is completely different and a bonkers playground for the Yachty fraternity. It has pubs clubs, bars, nightclubs, crap beaches and the planes land on your head. It is however a beautiful Island with one half French and the other Dutch. We stayed in the Dutch side nearer the airport but ate as much as possible in the French side. The food is fantastic and as good as Paris but it’s pricey. There are two capitals, Philipsburg on the Dutch side and Marigot on the French (some nice French arty stuff Mary wandered through in the Marigot market which she found a nice input into our 7 months Caribbeanism). This island is very quaint and Caribbean and we are glad we saw it but it’s not for us. If you’re 25 and want to party till you drop then it’s a place to go. The water was very cloudy – maybe the weather- so we decided not to bother diving as its way down the list as far as quality and reputation is concerned. Unfortunately it’s also difficult to get out of and we are now in Miami after a 3 hour flight from St Maartens waiting for a flight to take us an hour and a half back toward Turks and Caicos!!!!!!!!!!!!!
More to follow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
CAICOS-PROVIDENCIALES SO FAR
by James Clephane on Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 16:27
So far all we can say about Providenciales is thay its wonderful adn unspoilt, Diving is fantastic and weve seen sharks on every dive so far.Nice phote os of two big nurse sharks andlots of crribbean reef sharks. Its a bit chillier than normal but not too cold.Saw a big humpback whale today and he came right up to see us. In fact we had seen him from afar and were all looking out the fron of the boat when he jumped up behind us and exposed his entire body to the punters!!! Mary got a photo of him disappearing but everyone got such a surprise that they dropped camera and chaos reigned.
The place is very laid back- no one locks their cars etc although you cant leave anything in them the cars are safe enough. People are friendly and its just a much better atmosphere all round than the Dutch Antilles where we have come from. Planes are getting smaller though and we are off to Salt Cay on the Turks bit of the Turks and Caicos on Monday in a bloody Cessna four seater!!! Wonder if the guy will give me a shot. I think I can still remember the basics from my air cadet days!! Will keep you all up to date .LOL J and M
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