With Bob Nesoff
With rumors that the pandemic is on the wane (maybe) tourism is opening up again. Many destinations have either relaxed or done away with restrictions on visitors to their territory. Cruise ships that normally cater to thousands of passengers, have opted to limit the number of guests on each cruise.
Amongst the major beneficiaries of this relaxing of restrictions are the Caribbean Islands. In most cases tourism is the major industry and whole populations relay on visitors to the island for the income.
Focusing on one island as an example of the many others, Curacao is the target. Some other islands have had a spate of bad press with incidents and, unfortunately, this has spread to much of the Caribbean. Most are safe and very welcoming. Curacao is an example of this islands.
Local residents have a well-deserved reputation for being amongst the friendliest people in the Caribbean. It’s not that they realize how much of their economy is based on tourism. The fact of the matter is they really are friendly.
On any Caribbean island much of the fun is underwater with some pretty amazing opportunities
We stayed at the Lion’s Dive & Beach resort (www.lionsdive.com), a dive-oriented hotel right on the white sand beach. Perhaps the only negative at this hotel was the walk-in, sans-door bathroom, providing absolutely no dignity whatsoever. Once past this failing, the experience was top notch. The open-air dining room on the beach was perhaps amongst the most relaxing we’ve ever experienced and the food wasn’t too bad either. We opted to take all of our meals on the beach sand under the thatch umbrellas. Up on the nearby deck live music played, adding to the tranquil atmosphere..
A short walk down the beach brought us to the Curaçao Sea Aquarium and just beyond that we entered the Dolphin Academy. Although we’ve been doing open water diving around the world for more years than we’d like to remember, we had never been in proximity underwater to these huge, beautiful creatures.
The Academy has a unique method and approach. While other similar programs keep the animals penned up or in large tanks, the Dolphin Academy lets them come and go at will. That means they are free to return to the open sea if they so desire. These animals are quite intelligent and do sometimes take that option, but invariably return to the Academy grounds where they go through their routine with visitors. And, interestingly, the dolphins actually appear to enjoy the interaction.
All participants are required to undergo a brief orientation so as to avoid any problems (or injury to human or dolphin) while in the water; then snorkels and fins were issued. Although the dolphins were responding to cues from the Academy staff, it soon became apparent that they had minds of their own. One so thoroughly enjoyed having his belly rubbed, that he grew attached to us and refused to leave. Instead he kept bumping against us, urging the belly rub to continue. He thanked us with a kiss to the check.
At the direction of the staff, we bobbed on the surface with arms outstretched and, palms down, slapped the water. Within seconds dolphins appeared on either side of us, allowing us to grab onto their dorsal fins, pulling us through the water at a pretty good clip of speed. That was a kick.
We returned after lunch and, again after an orientation, were issued scuba gear. As the only open water certified diver in the group, we were still required to listen so that the staff was assured we knew what we were doing. They were patient and understanding with the newbie divers and made sure all questions regarding procedure were answered.
This part of the program brought us in direct contact with sting rays. But much like the dolphins, they appeared to enjoy interacting with humans. But beware…this is the breed that accidentally killed Crockodile Hunter Stu Irwin.
We noticed that there was a huge plexiglass shield separating us from a section of the cove. One glance told us why. On the other side was a huge snapping turtle and sharks. We were given the opportunity to feed them through a small hole in the shield, but were warned that under no circumstances put a finger through the hole lest it be mistake for a cocktail frank.
Most of the Caribbean is open and this is only a sampling of what is available. Have a talk with your friendly travel agent and enjoy.
Publisher’s Note: Bob Nesoff, who has been a frequent contributor to this publication, writing about travel and separate articles about Poland, has been named Travel Editor of the Post Eagle. Bob is a multi-award winning journalist and was founding president of the prestigious North American Travel Journalists Association. Bob is now Travel Editor for the Post Eagle.