Just off the coast of Aruba is a coral reef and sand island that’s been turned into a resort. Why would anyone ever want to leave paradise in Aruba for someplace else? Because this someplace has ziplining, all-inclusive drinks and food, fabulous snorkeling, banana boat rides, a water park, salsa lessons, and different underwater adventures like snuba, Sea Trek, and power snorkeling.
De Palm Island isn’t far off the coast – just a 10-minute boat ride. A bus picked us up at our resort, so my friend and I didn’t even need to worry about finding our way. After getting our tickets squared away on land and the short boat ride, we were there.
The first thing we did was the zipline. It isn’t one of those jungle treetop kind of ziplines, more like a straight shot zipline over the beach, but it was still fun. The most exciting part for me was wondering if the springs that were supposed to slow us down at the end of the line would actually work. I am alive to attest that they did indeed function properly.
Then we went snorkeling right off the steps of the snorkeling shack. I brought my own gear because I am a snorkeling snob, and my friend used the resort equipment (which worked just fine). She had never been snorkeling before and was a bit freaked out about the whole breathing underwater thing, but it didn’t take long for her to get the hang of it. And the fish were amazing. The island has great habitat for fish. All you need to do to find them is put your face in the water.
De Palm Island is known for its blue parrotfish, which we saw along with barracuda and a fish that looked similar to a cowfish. (Alas, if I had only finished my marine biology degree, I could tell you the name for sure.)
After hanging out on the beach for a while and socializing with people from a visiting cruise boat, it was time for our Sea Trek. This underwater adventure (available for an additional fee) involves having a seventy-pound helmet put over your head as you enter the water. The helmet quickly becomes lighter underwater and air is pumped into it from a hose above – kind of like a modern-day diving helmet. But the helmet is still heavy enough to allow you to walk on the bottom of the sea. And your hair won’t get wet. And you can wear your glasses.
After a short instruction period, we met the professional divers who would be helping us, and off we went into the water. I’m not sure how deep we ended up going – maybe about fifteen or twenty feet, but I would recommend renting one of the resort’s wet suits. It’s cold down there, even for hardy Minnesotans. We shivered the whole twenty minutes of the “dive.”
Along the route, the divers presented us with different forms of marine life to hold, like brittle stars, sea urchins and sea cucumbers. An underwater photographer/videographer recorded these explorations for posterity, and you can buy the photos/videos for an extra fee once you’re back up top. The diver also fed the fish to keep them swimming around for the photos, which made it look like we were in this huge school of fish.
At one point, the divers had us all sitting in chairs at a table on the sea floor. One of my ears wouldn’t equalize and I thought I’d have to abort the dive, but the instructor just motioned for me to stand up. That took care of the pain and I was able to equalize and enjoy the rest of the experience.
The last thing they had us do was sit in an old Jeep and pretend like we were driving. Add some empty champagne bottles for props and you have the makings of underwater drunk driving photos.
The experience was unique and worth the price and the (minor) pain and chill. Still, we were glad to get out of the water and back into the warm sun.
Next up – the last entry about our trip: Aruba – Island of Sensual Delights . . .