Confession: until my trip to Aruba, I had never gone snorkeling before.
I know, I know, it’s shameful. It was always either too expensive, unavailable wherever I was visiting, or not something that interested me much. It was one of those activities that I lumped into the “why would I pay money for this?” category. (Cross-country skiing is on that list too). On my first trip to the beautiful island of Aruba, though, I finally decided to give this staring-at-fish-as-they-mind-their-own-business thing a go. How could I come to the tropics and not see all the colorful marine life?
Luckily, I found The Tranquilo: a small family-operated sail and snorkel cruise company offering excursions several times a week. They offer three types of tours: lunch snorkeling in a small group, dinner sail for two, or private sailing trips. I opted for the lunch cruise, and dragged my mother along, even though she is not the biggest fan of snorkeling (she’s such a good sport). Hey, it’s not for everyone. (Note: I paid full price for the tour and was not asked for a review; this is just my honest experience!)
We departed from downtown Oranjestad at 10 in the morning. The boat is fairly small, seating only 20 people. We got a seat in the shade at the front of the boat and became acquainted with the captain and first mate. Our cockpit mates were a couple from Ohio and a couple from the Netherlands. The captain’s energetic and extremely well-trained dog was also on board with us, bounding about and keeping us entertained. We were very impressed with his boating skills.
Wasting no time, as soon as we left the shore, the first mate offered us a selection of alcohol to start off. Five stars for service! The rum punch and Balashi beer flowed freely for the entire duration of the trip, though I just stuck with the punch.
As we sailed to our first snorkeling point, we chatted with the friendly crew.
I learned that Arubans speak four languages: Dutch, Spanish, English, and their native Papiamento. And they are fluent in all of them! This is mindblowing to me, as even learning a second language is not a priority in America. Arubans grow up with the Dutch school system, and many of them continue on to university in the Netherlands.
The carefree lifestyle these sailors lead equally fascinated me. Tranquilo being the family business, most of their days are spent on the water, and they’ve got the suntans to prove it! Watching them expertly navigate the boat made me wish I could run away spend the rest of my days out here, too.
After about an hour of sailing, we got to our snorkeling site: a shallow, turquoise reef.
Although the wind out here was almost unbearably strong, as soon as I dipped my head underwater, everything above ground disappeared and I felt at peace. The warm waves gently held me as I hung there, suspended, admiring the many colorful little fish that were carrying on with their day. That is, until I accidentally let in some water into my tube, and the mirage ended as I sputtered back up to the windy surface.
Actually, this happened a few times.
For those who dared, the cruise also offered drift snorkeling further out in the deeper waters. In the spirit of adventure, I went along, and I did not regret it! The visibility out here was amazing, the variety of fish stunning, and I finally got the hang of snorkeling enough not to get water in my nose. We witnessed an enormous school of well over a hundred fish make its way past us, as well as many other boldly colored solo fish.
All snorkeled out and ready for lunch, we climbed back on board.
Lunch was a delicious traditional Dutch pea soup. The couple from the Netherlands who we were sitting with chuckled at this, saying it was a traditional winter dish back home. “But this is Aruba,” we reminded them: “It is never winter here, so Dutch pea soup is always appropriate!”
We also enjoyed a selection of small sandwiches and, of course, rum punch and beer. Everything was unlimited, and we ate to our heart’s content as the Tranquilo’s sail unfolded and we drifted back toward the mainland. The ride back was smoother and slower, and fun music played over the speakers as we chatted, nibbled, and gazed out at the water.
Soon, we anchored at Oranjestad and said our goodbyes. We had all become friends on this excursion, and some even exchanged contact numbers. Overwhelmingly, we all agreed that on a return trip to Aruba, we would all book another trip.
Thank you, Tranquilo, for giving me my first snorkeling experience: I’m positive I will be going much more on future trips now. And if you, reader, happen to be in Aruba, check this little company out! They know how to throw a party on a boat and give you a local experience… And that rum punch packs a punch! 😉
All images except for one (me and my mother with drinks) are courtesy of The Tranquilo. Thank you!