Coral Steps At Malmok Beach

People who visit this island stay mostly at a Palm Beach resort. One thing they soon notice is that the beach there is great but it’s awful to snorkel. Palm Beach is mostly shallow and clean, which means that there won’t be a lot of fish.

An area relatively close to the high rise resort at Palm Beach to have a better snorkeling experience is Malmok Beach. This is the naming of the strip of sea/beach that starts after Marriott/Fisherman’s Hut area to Boca Catalina/Arashi Beach.

Malmok Beach
Malmok Beach

A local recognized the beauty of this area but one thing he found (and I concur) was a lack of a safe area to get into that water. He took it upon himself to do something about it and made some steps out of the (dead) coral. He took his time to make these stairs with chisel and sledgehammer in the hot sun. He started last December and is expected to finish in August. Now this point carries his name (unofficially): “Boca Bubu”.

Ex-Morgan’s Furniture at Surfside Beach

Recently ex-employees at Morgan’s Island water park said that some people were taking out bits and pieces off the premises thus making it more difficult for any other investor to acquire it. I wasn’t too sure what they meant by this.

Until I saw some water park pieces at Surfside Beach. The other day I went with my kids to Surfside and to my surprise I saw pieces of Morgan’s right there. There was a pirate ship, a large turtle, a large pelican and two fake palm trees.

Morgan's Island Furniture
Morgan’s pirate ship now at Surfside Beach

It’s worth noting that although I feel bad for the people at the former water park, now beach-goers can use ex-Morgan’s fixtures for free. Sundays Surfside is filled with locals and kids certainly enjoy the large turtle and pelican, which are actually slides.

Morgan's Island Furniture
Morgan’s pieces now at Surfside Beach

It’s Official: Palapas in Aruba to be removed

Recently during deliberations in Aruba’s Parliament, a majority of Members of Parliament stood behind the new regulations initiated by the Minister of Infrastructure. Regulations to enforce the law: palapas [grass huts] are to be removed from public beaches. If this rule truly gets enforced then Aruba will have one the strictest beach regulation policies in the Caribbean.

Perspective

I’m going to put this into perspective for the ones who don’t understand what the deal is exactly. Firstly, bear in mind that most of these palapas are built without any kind of permit from the Department of Infrastructure, thus completely illegal. Some resorts insist they have some sort of understanding with some official but  – I insist – this is highly illegal, no one is authorized to approve building on the beaches. Take my advice, don’t make this claim.

Palapas
Only a few palapas on Eagle Beach, unlike Palm Beach

Secondly, after the resorts – biggest culprits – noticed that officials were lenient towards these palapas they started to build other illegal structures such as towel huts and restaurants. Now when you walk around Palm Beach the beach is filled with all kind of structures making the beach less appealing.

The reason as the why the government is taking steps towards regulation now is understandable. Especially in light of the latest developments in Palm Beach – new Ritz-Carlton Hotel – and rumored return of Hilton Hotels, officials feel new stringent rules are necessary.

Below I’ve set out the perspective from various groups.

Me

Aruba’s beaches rank among the best in the world and people come from far to enjoy them. It’s important to protect the beaches and thus to set clear rules about the usage. I believe the access to the beaches should remain unrestricted and clean.

Locals

The most prominent “good” this island has to offer are the beaches. Throughout the years for many it was hurtful to see how the spaces near the beaches became narrow, to a point that the beaches became inaccessible by new development. Most locals support this new measure taken by the representatives and hope it will be implemented as soon as possible.

Hotels & Condos

Several hospitality partners have expressed their opposition to this measure. Some have been vocal in their opposition. Look at the upside, now hotels don’t have to play police every morning any more to prevent fighting between tourists when some wake up early (5 AM) just to annex a spot by putting a towel and a book, only to come down around 10 AM to used them.

Cruise passengers

Some travel agents have already voiced concern and suggest they would recommend cruise passengers traveling elsewhere.

Why this is not a bad thing

To all who think this is a bad thing I would like to argue otherwise.

First and foremost this will enhance the quality of the beaches on the long term. If the hospitality partners are here for the long haul they surely will appreciate a higher quality beach. Beach cleanups are much easier, plus organizing weddings and other activities is much easier as well.

Rental business takes off

As a result of this measure resorts are going to need to buy additional beach chairs and umbrellas to satisfy demand from their guests. Additionally independent vendors will also be able to offer hardware to tourists who are not staying at the specific resort. This, too, could start a free-for-all among the vendors but from what I understand officials plan to introduce a regulatory body to avoid problems.

When?

This is a good question. About a month has passed and I haven’t seen any follow-up on this measure. I’ll keep you updated.

Critics: Ritz-Carlton Polluting Palm Beach

Recently construction of the new Ritz-Carlton Aruba started. Currently the works for the foundation is being taken care off and the rerouting of the principle road the lighthouse. The rerouting is necessary to accommodate Ritz-Carlton’s new parking lot.

Herein lies the problem. The area this new road is going to be build on – including another traffic circle – is sensitive. It’s a sort of swamp. When it rains water accumulates there and the ground becomes soft. In order to make that area workable the sub-contractor hired by Venezuelan developer Desarollos Hotelco must drain the water with pumps.


Dirty water flowing in Palm Beach [image by Awe Mainta]

The dirty water is supposed to go down the street and evaporates later. I’m not sure where the sub-contractor is pumping the water. What I can tell you is that we’ve just endured two days of serious storms (1 inch of rain in two mornings) and if the dirty water was not taken care off, it washes into the sea, with all consequences. It certainly seems to be the case here.

The project has been controversial and political since the beginning. This project cannot handle any PR mishaps. Marriott International officials (Marriott International owns the Ritz-Carlton brand) must address this issue. They have to meet with the developer Desarollos Hotelco and make sure this doesn’t happen again. Neither the developer or sub-contractors are getting the blame, the Ritz is. Additionally, in the wake of sea pollution elsewhere people are wary on situations like this.

Even if the developer claims that the rain is the culprit, just the fact that people make these claims and the overall perception is bad enough.


Dirty Palm Beach, due to Ritz construction [image by Awe Mainta]


Water being pumped to Palm Beach? [image by Awe Mainta]

Hotels Don’t Get The Palapas

A short time ago I wrote a rather large piece about the rules and rights on the so called palapas. These are the wooden huts covered with palm leaves planted – sometimes ruining the beach by using cement – on the beaches – mostly – illegally by resorts.

Illegal

What makes palapas illegal anyway? The law states that any structure build permanently on beaches or otherwise needs a building permit according to the building code. It gets more complicated when hotels start to build on the beaches limitlessly. Mind you, not only palapas are being build but also other structures, such as bars, restaurants, towel huts, massage areas, etc.

Palapas at Eagle Beach
Palapas at Eagle Beach

Sacred

Another twist is the fact that beaches are considered sacred by locals. As opposed to many islands in the Caribbean all Aruba beaches are public and access is free and unrestricted. This is the only “natural resource” this island has to offer. We allow concession holders (hotels) to exploit their property economically, including allowing their guests to use the beaches for free. Naturally we allow the users of the world (visitors) to use them for free, without restrictions, as well.

What’s your beef

The beef with the palapas are multiple. In the past there wasn’t need for regulation as resorts and tourism numbers were small, thus making the palapas actually add a nice touch to the beach. For this reason officials didn’t see need to regulate it. Now, however, it’s getting out of hand. Resorts are building like no tomorrow. Add to the equation the construction of Ritz Carlton at Palm Beach, beaches are under pressure now more than ever. Locals feel like they are losing out and the beaches are without protection.

Holiday Inn

A reader sent me an email about issues he had at the Holiday Inn about the usage of the palapas there. Apparently management told him he couldn’t use the palapas. I’m not aware about the details exactly, however, I’m aware that the Holiday Inn property borders the closest to the beach, more than any other resort at Palm Beach. Obviously they are allowed to build as many palapas as they please on their property and restrict the usage for paying costumers. Not beyond property lines.

Respect the law

What am I going to do? Currently I’m digging into the public registers and looking where it is exactly the property line of the hotels end. I’m also looking into the legislation of Aruban building code, organic laws about land ownership and the recently passed law on territorial zonification. I’m going to write a friendly letter for users to download, this way you can show it to anyone in case of doubt. I will also add the corresponding legislation to back up the claims in the letter.

Conclusion

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to start trouble here. I fundamentally believe that we need to respect the rule of law, especially the powerful business interest. Even if it is for something “silly” like palapas. If we pretend to grow towards sustainable tourism in Aruba certain things need to be clarified and regulated, otherwise conflicts will ensue and at the end product “Aruba” will suffer as a consequence. A word of advise to all hotels managers: tourists coming from other hotels, condos or apartments are our guests here in Aruba as well and are equally important to us Arubans. Treat them well this time, and who knows, next time they might become a paying customer.

Vintage: Walking To Eagle Beach

The other day my mother was cleaning up some of here old photographs and she stumbled upon some interested ones. Naturally I had to scan them and post them here. I really love history, especially of this island. I feel that the preservation of these pictures are crucial. Now that I’m releasing this post to the world wide web, it will be preserved for ever.

The first images depict her relatives – mine, too – walking towards Eagle Beach. In those days the bushes were almost impenetrable, thus required good shoes and a good dose of patience to reach Eagle Beach. Notice the thick vegetation in the backdrop of the image. Now Eagle Beach is much narrower and there’s a parking lot.

Eagle Beach
My family members walking to Eagle Beach (1950s)

Below picture with the car shows a freshly paved read near Eagle Beach. In that time people were ecstatic with the new road. It marked progress for most islanders. The picture shows my mom, aunts and uncles, with my grand father in the right side of the picture. Look at the vegetation there. Isn’t that something?


New asphalt road near Eagle Beach with my family members (1950s)

Water Sport Service Providers’ Own Place


Rendering of platform for water sport companies [image by Amigoe]

Water sport service providers have been an disorganized bunch ever since inception of tourism in early 90s. Slowly but surely they were hit by government with rules and restrictions.

Now it seems that finally they might have found a home. The water sport association [they are organized now] had talks with officials and agreed in principle on a spot for them. Just south of Divi Phoenix and across the street from The Cliff condo [between Eagle Beach and Palm Beach] a new platform is going to be build, exclusively for the use of water sport companies.

The financing of this area is in hands of The Cliff condo developers. It’s mandatory for developers who build on public land to invest a percentage of the development’s budget in a project deemed necessary by the government. I really hope this project goes forward, because it would eliminate the chaos perhaps increase the service to tourists.