I generally haaaaate guided tours. Like, they always walk slower than I want and talk so slow and crowds make it hard to get good pictures and there are fanny packs…the person in me who loves efficiency and shies away from forced social interactions avoids most guided tours like the plague.
But I’m happy on the occasions that I step out of my comfort zone and am proven wrong. And this Aruban “safari” was the perfect exception to that particular rule.
So you’ve never heard of an Aruban safari??
Most people are seeking out sun and sand and maybe some wind sports when they visit Aruba, but that’s not all the island has to offer. When someone asks me what else they should consider, I don’t think “safari” is what they expect me to say. (Side note: I honestly don’t know if “safari” is the appropriate word for this, but since that’s what they called it I’m not going to argue.)
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Taking Aruba jeep tours can make a lot of sense. While it’s a tiny island (20 miles long and 6 miles wide), some of the prettiest places and interesting historical spots would be really challenging to reach without off-roading capabilities (and they’re located in a national park). The terrain is pretty rough at times, and the scenery is unexpected. Having a guide string together many of the best places on a route that works makes everything a lot simpler.
We met at the tour company at 8:00am, got some info on how the day would go, and hopped into the jeeps a little before 9:00. It was another gorgeous, windy day, perfect for sightseeing and taking pictures!
One thing that often surprises people about Aruba is the climate and terrain. Unlike much of the tropical Caribbean, Aruba’s climate is dry and arid, dotted with cacti. If you show up expecting rainforests, you’ll be in for a shock!
We started at the California Lighthouse, near Arashi Beach, and the colorful Alto Vista Chapel. The present chapel was built in 1952, but replaced the original one from 1750. It’s so cheerful against the blue sky!
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Next we made a brief stop at a secluded beach with a natural bridge, a prelude to the much larger one later in the day.
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This was one of my favorite sights the entire day—look at that power! I don’t think that the pictures do justice to just how tall those cliffs and waves were, and I could have sat and watched the waves crash against the rocks for hours…
Our next stop was the ruins of the Bushiribana gold mine and Balashi gold mill. Legend has that back in the 15th and 16th centuries, the island that later became Aruba was called “Oro Ruba”, or “red gold”. The gold prospectors that came as a result played a big part in Aruba’s history, and these ruins date from the gold rush in the 1820s.
We made a brief stop at Baby Bridge, which unfortunately pales when compared to Natural Bridge. You can kind of see the ruins of Natural Bridge, which collapsed in 2005.
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We had lunch at an ostrich farm, and got to hang out with some of their inhabitants. It was a lot of fun though honestly between the pigeons of St. Mark’s Square and this, I think I might have a bird aversion? Or maybe just gross birds? They just seem really shifty…
Also, ostriches smell like ASS.
Baby Beach was a tranquil break from all the crazy off-roading. The water is insanely turquoise and clear. The only down-side is that the view has refinery or plant silos in the background, so it’s not really as picturesque from all angles. Still, a beautiful break in the day.
As we continued driving through Arikok National Park (which covers 20% of the island), we happened upon these cuties and got to pet them for a sec.
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The caves were…caves. I’m not a huge fan, personally. But there were some prehistoric pictographs on the walls and ceilings (my old camera did NOT do them justice, so I’ll spare you the blurry nonsense).
I also couldn’t resist sharing my one picture of the iconic divi-divi trees. Their shape should tell you how legit the wind is.
Our last top of the day was the Natural Pool. We climbed down the 85 steps and over some rocks, and got to snorkel for a while. There were so many fish! To the point where they kept running into me and it was weirding me out. Then Jelle showed us how to climb the rocks to get to a secret warm pool higher up.
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It was a jam-packed day, but it felt like we got a complete experience of what this tiny little island has to offer!
Details to know about doing Aruba jeep tours:
- I did my safari with ABC Tours Aruba
- I don’t remember for sure how much it was, I think like $99 (several years ago)
- It’s a full-day deal, from about 9a to 5p
- Make sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen; I seem to remember them having some water (and of course there are stops throughout the day), but the Aruba sun is hot and the wind will dehydrate you further
- Dress comfortably, making sure to think about potential sunburn (also, don’t forget your swimsuit!)
- Don’t bring anything valuable, or that you don’t mind getting dirty—remember, it’s an open jeep!
Am I the only person who thinks birds are smelly and shifty? What would be your favorite part of the Aruban safari??
If you’re planning a trip to Aruba—particularly if you plan to go more DIY vs. all-inclusive resort—I have several Aruba posts that may help you out a ton in your planning process. You can see them all on my Aruba page!