A quick note before I start this review of the De Palm Tours Baby Beach Jeep Excursion, for those of you staying at the Renaissance Aruba Marina resort, excursion pickups is mostly across the street at the Ocean Suites resort. So you have to make the trek across the street to catch your tour bus. Not a big deal but double check when booking your excursion the time and pick up location as you don’t want to miss out, these resorts are often the first pick up because of the downtown location.
Another note, we had to sign a waiver for all our Aruba excursions releasing the companies from liability. “The undersigned(s) hereby waives rights and releases liability for any and all actions, claims, demands, costs, expenses or judgments whatsoever for personal injury, property damage or wrongful death, default or breach of contract or warranty, express or implied, of any released party identified herein.” That’s a pretty heavy signature to make to go on an excursion. But if you don’t sign the waiver you don’t go on the excursion. All the tour companies in Aruba make you sign this type of waiver and this includes the tours coming off the cruise ships as well.
The De Palm Tours Baby Beach Jeep Excursion
After our 8:30AM pick up we were driven to the De Palm Tours depot to meet our excursion group. Juan our tour guide got us checked in and gave us a blue wristband (the entrance fee and requirement for Arikok National Park) and split us up into 3 groups/jeeps. Our driver was the craziest of the three Marlon, he made sure we had a great time. However, as he swerved our big group jeep (seats 12) on and off the road with sudden turns or off road detours I had to think about the waiver I signed to get on this excursion. You have to trust a driver knows what he’s doing and what the limitations of the vehicle are, but when you have your customers sign a waiver releasing you of all rights, don’t you have a responsibility to the passenger’s safety?
The tour started off on main roads as we travelled through the city of Penton towards the Northern part of the Island. We had scenes of Divi trees and cacti and an assortment of Aruba’s residential homes. It was a nice look at life on the island with some interesting facts about Aruba’s population. As we travelled North the landscape began to change from tropical and green to rugged and desert like.
Ostrich Farm – Aruba
Our first stop on the tour was at the Aruba Ostrich Farm, home to some eighty Ostriches of different ages. Our tour guide Gina walked us (in scorching heat) down a walkway through the Ostrich pens. Our first look was the adult Ostriches and man did they look mean. Gina explained how Ostriches were legally stupid and had many jokes to liven things up, but was a fountain of information as to how fast they run, how tall they get and other Osterich habits. We were then walked over to a pen of 4 awaiting ostriches who were waiting to be fed. Yes we were invited to feed them!
So here is the scene. We were told to remove all our jewellery and earrings especially as the Ostriches like to peck at them, then you are shown how to hold a bowl in your hand with thumbs and fingers down because…that’s right they love to peck them too, and then you watch as Gina backs slowly towards the 4 waiting Ostriches until she reaches the fence. Then the 4 Osteriches start packing over her shoulders and into the bowl. It is a frantic and frightening scene. Then its our turn. Many people on the tour didn’t partake but I had to risk my ears and fingers and give it a go! Its fun to watch everyone smiling at the on-site cameraman through gritted teeth as these creatures go crazy around you.
They look cute in the picture however prepare for their scratchy fur rubbing against you and because they come from behind there is a little unexpected chaos. I slowly walked away from the wooden fence and was safe again! The rest of the tour was visiting the younger Ostriches on the farm including the eggs being held in the incubator. An interesting fact we learned were that these birds are so stupid they do not use their beaks to break out of their eggs, they bash their heads backwards until it breaks open. So they are born with brain damage and its no wonder they are so stupid! We picked up our souvenir photos ($10 bucks) from the photographer and were back in the jeeps again. Tour Note: this is a good place to take a pee as there are really no bathrooms (other than in nature) for a long while.
After being given some water and granola bars we were back on the dirt roads again. Our next stop was Andicuri Bay which had a beautiful Natural Bridge and a Black Rock Beach. We got off the jeeps and got to snap some photos here before heading back on the road again.
Our next stop was at the Donkey Sanctuary a privately run organization founded in 1997 to protect the Donkey population in Aruba. Donkeys have been part of Aruba’s history for over 500 years and were the primary mode of transportation until cars came to Aruba. In 1977 the Donkey population was hit by an illness that almost decimated the entire population. With only 20 donkeys left in Aruba the Donkey Sanctuary provided shelter and care to the Donkey’s and helped rebuild the population. Presently they have stopped breeding new donkeys but protect Donkeys in Aruba who have been intentionally harmed or accidentally hurt in car accidents.
We were invited to feed the Donkeys who gathered around us anxiously waiting for us. For a small donation ($1) you can get a bag of feed and have an experience with the Donkeys. Not much else to do here, but a worthy non-profit organization that would love you to visit and help them out.
Fontiein Cave in Arikok National Park (www.arubanationalpark.org)
It was a bumpy and adventurous ride to Arikok National Park Aruba, but we enjoyed the scenery up to our next stop the Natural Caves. The caves were not my personal favourite part of trip, but cool to see regardless. I made my way into the dark cave and when I was bent over and the ceilings was getting lower and lower I had to stop and turn back, not a fan of the claustrophobic dark, damp spaces I guess. There are some interesting carvings and Native drawings on the ceiling and walls of the cave other than that there wasn’t much else to see. If your a cave fanatic you may want to visit the National park website and check out some of their tours as there are many caves in the park.
San Nicolas – Lunch Mama’s Cooking (Tel: 584-4407, Boulevard Veen Zeppenfeld, Str. #15)
With so much seen already, we headed into the city of San Nicholas where the folks at Mamm’s Cooking were waiting for us with some authentic Aruba cuisine. There is only one small bathroom in this restaurant so it took a while for everyone to get their turn. We were pretty dusty and in need of a wash up and a bathroom break. But the beverages and a plate of food were served quickly. We got a plate with chicken, salad, plantains and a corn cake of some sort. It was tasty and nice to eat something authentic to Aruba. The owner of the restaurant informed us that they are all too happy to pick up guests from the hotel areas and drive them to the restaurant for dinner and then home. There is no cost for the pick up. Simply call the number above and they will be happy to check out the arrangements. He joked that he would pick you up in his Ferrari!
The city of San Nicholas is Aruba’s 2nd largest city and is going through a bit of an economic recession. The townhouses a large Oil Refinery which has been shut down since 2009. There are rumours that a Chinese company has its eye on the refinery and many in San Nicolas are hoping that it reopens soon which should help revitalize the city.
In the meantime, Aruba tourism is doing its best to boost San Nicolas as a second tourist spot to visit next to Oranjestad. Every week San Nicolas is host to the Carubbian Festival every Thursday from 6:00PM – 10:00PM. The festival highlights Carnival in Aruba with live Calypso and Soca music, a parade of dancers and traditional homemade Aruba Cuisine. The ticket costs $64 and includes round-trip transportation from your hotel, the entrance fee into the festival grounds, dinner and beverages and entertainment.
If you do manage to visit San Nicolas outside of a jeep tour then you probably want to hit Charlie’s Bar. This bar has been open since 1941 when it hosted sailors and oil workers. This is a fun bar with an interesting menu ranging from surf’n turf churrasco, tenderloin to burgers and seafood. It is a bit of museum as it houses many years worth of memorabilia on its walls.
Finally another interesting note about San Nicolas it is also known to some as Aruba’s Red-Light district. Prostitution is legal in San Nicholas. Although this was not something I learned while in Aruba as it is not being marketed as such. But upon my post travel research there are many tales of its back alley with hookers hanging out of doors which is known as the red-light district of San Nicholas.
Last Stop – Swim and Snorkel at Baby Beach
After a long day of Jeep riding, we were driven to Baby Beach which sits at the southern tip of the island. It was a bit underwhelming actually. A rocky beach with a view of the large Oil Refinery in the distance. The cove is not very big and crowded with locals and other tourists stopping by on other tours. We were given snorkel gear and life vests and made our way into the cloudy waters. Too many people snorkelling in a small roped off area. As someone who loves snorkelling, for me, it wasn’t anything to write about (I’ll save that for the De Palma Snorkelling Adventure tour). The sand was dusted up off the bottom as amateur snorkelers kicked it up with their fins, the only reason there was any fish was because the tour guides were throwing stale bread in the water. But this is a Jeep adventure and not a snorkel trip. We enjoyed cooling off in the water after a sweltering day in the Jeeps.
After Baby Beach the drivers took us back to our hotels where we had to wash off all the dust and sand!
Overall Impression of De Palm Tours Baby Beach Jeep Excursion
A word to the fair-skinned people like me. There is no shade here and throughout the trip. The only shade is the canopy above the Jeep, and you will be exposed to lots of suns, so pack your sunscreen. The jeeps are open air so wearing a hat while in motion is a bit difficult. It is a long day and may be hard for kids. You leave at 8:30 in the morning and get back to your hotel after 5:00. But our tour guides Jaun and Marlon were awesome. Marlon was the crazy jeep driver who even walked out of the jeep while it was still rolling forward much to our horror! He loves swerving off the main road when you least expect it and purposefully will hit holes and bumps in the road. Of course, we loved every minute of it, but some may find this tour a bit bumpy, hot, dusty and long.
I highly recommend it for a great tour through Aruba’s northern part of the Island and to see how they live. It is nice to get out of the “Touristy” parts of the country and really go for a bit of an adventure. For more exursions in Aruba see Review – De Palm Tours Snorkel Adventure Excursion, Aruba.