De Palm Island

Flamingo at De Palm Island
Above picture features a flamingo taking it easy on a beach on De Palm Island.

The biggest tour operator on Aruba is without a doubt De Palm Tours. This company is active in many sectors in Aruba tourism. Bus transfers, off road safaris, bus tours, all terrain vehicle tours, catamaran sail and many more.

De Palm Tours also owns an island. Actually it’s a reef. They bought this deserted reef years ago and build amenities on it. Those amenities include a restaurant, snuba (scuba and snorkeling), a swimming pool with water sliding.

They offer packages to De Palm Island for half day, full day or added to an activity like an ATV tour or an off road safari tour.

BBQ-rules On Aruba Beaches

Famous tree at Eagle Beach

Organizing a BBQ at the beach is a very popular activity among locals. Very few tourist actually do this.

What are the rules, if any, regarding BBQ on the beach on Aruba?
This is strictly prohibited.

The reason this is prohibited is because it has happen that when some people are done with the BBQ, they make a hole on the beach and dump the remainder charcoal ashes in the white sand and cover it. This obviously is a big no no.

Officials are very strict with the enforcement of the BBQ-rule. So do not BBQ on the beach. If you want to BBQ at the beach, you need to be off the sand and dispose of ashes in the trash.

Hurricane Season Aruba

Hurricane season started officially this month. This is a time for many islands in the Caribbean, like areas in the US, especially Florida, to start preparing for the worst. According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami the 2007 hurricane season will be above normal. NHC: “For the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA scientists predict 13 to 17 named storms, 7 to 10 becoming hurricanes, of which 3 to 5 could become major hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher”.

Hurricane activity is not usual in this region of the Caribbean. Very rarely Aruba receives any kind of hurricane related incidents. Chances of cancellation because of weather issues are very rare. Nonetheless the islands’ calamity department has taken the necessary steps to be prepared as much as needed.

Storm in 2000
View of Palm Beach, with Divi Phoenix Resort and an unusual storm dated year 2000

Back in 2005 Aruba experienced the last true hurricane related weather activity with hurricane Ivan passing tens of miles north of Aruba. It did not hit the island, but it brought lots of rain for a period of 24 hours and waves were huge for many days. No casualties or any personal damage were reported. However, low laying areas were inundated and Valero Refinery shut down for 24 hours as a precautionary measure.

No Swimming At Natural Pool

In a previous post I’ve laid out a very extensive report about Natural Pool and the size of it and why it might happen that people won’t be able to get into the pool.

These last two days Natural Pool has been not “swimable”. The last few days the winds have been stronger than normal, consequently the currents are stronger too. This automatically leads to a Natural Pool that’s being hit, very forcefully, by good sized waves.

Unfortunately people are not able to swim inside the Natural Pool. On the other side, this creates an awesome sight, with a spectacular wave-show and an exclusive photo-op.

Can you know beforehand if the Natural Pool is going to be calm enough to swim in?
Simple answer: no.

You don’t know until you get there. It has happen that in the morning the waves are huge, meanwhile in the afternoon it calms down and vice versa. My personal experience is that of the 10 times I visit Natural Pool, 9 times it is calm enough to swim in.

Mother nature is unpredictable so always watch or “study” the Natural Pool calmly before you go in and look for those big waves coming in and see if you could handle that one big wave coming in. Ask a tour guide you see sitting there and try to follow his recommendation. It’s your own risk though. If you see me there, ask me.

Good alternatives for the Natural Pool, specially for snorkeling, are in my opinion Baby Beach and Malmok Beach.

Size Of Natural Pool

Natural Pool Aruba

Very popular and very frequented is the Natural Pool. What is this Natural Pool you ask? On the northeastern side of Aruba, the wild side, the wavy side, there is a particular spot where the rocks have a very peculiar shape, in where you’ll find a small pool of calm water. What makes it very characteristic is that there is a wall or natural rock surrounding the small pool of calm water, preventing currents and waves from coming in. You can swim and snorkel at the Natural Pool.

When people arrive on the island of Aruba, one of the sites high on the list to visit is the Natural Pool. The Natural Pool is located in the National Park Arikok (pronunciation: ah-ree-cock). Access to the National Park is free for the time being.

The ride to the Natural Pool is pretty intense. Regular vehicles cannot reach it. The only way to attempt to go on your own is by renting a 4×4 vehicle. Beware that many, if not all, rental companies do not cover any damage you might incur on the vehicle on your way to the Natural Pool. In case of damage or towing, you’ll have to pay the bill in full.

The best suggestion I can give is, to take an organized tour to the Natural Pool. There are various daily scheduled trips on off road safaris, horseback riding and all terrain vehicles (ATV). Off road safari is the ‘easiest’ way to get there, and ATV the ‘hardest’.

Walking is also a possibility. I see people walking there everyday. From the entrance of the National Park to the pool, it takes almost an hour to walk. Be well prepared when you take that walk by taking plenty water, having good shoos and by putting plenty son protection. Maybe if I see you walking there I might be willing to give you a ride.

Sometimes the water on the northeastern side can get very choppy. The waves get so big that not even the walls surrounding the pool can prevent the waves from crashing hard inside. If this happens, make sure you do not enter the pool. It can be very dangerous if one of these wave grabs you and hits you against a rock or tosses you out of the pool.

A frequently asked question about the Natural Pool is: how big is the Natural Pool?

It is shaped somewhat like a circle, the widest is about 7 meters (23 feet) long and 6 meters (20 feet) wide. The depth around the entrance is about 1,5 meters (5 feet) and somewhere in the middle it can get around 5 meters (17 feet). These are all estimates. One of these days I’m going to go early morning to the Natural Pool and measure it precisely. Stand by for that.

The Natural Pool is a great site. Hope to see you there.

Follow up: Fresh Drinking Water From The Sea

In the previous post about Aruba’s drinking water I explained why the water is so good and pure. In this post I’m going to give you a more detailed explanation about the purification process and more information about the local water company.

Aruba has no other source of getting water other than the Caribbean Sea. It doesn’t rain enough (16.2 inches/44 centimeters per year average), there are no fresh water lakes, there are no rivers and under the ground is nothing to be found.

The water company started officially in 1932 as a very small operation. They needed to supply a population of 17.000 of fresh water. A growing economy and population made it clear that big investments were needed.

And so it happened. After long negotiations with Lago Refinery the new and improved water company was opened it’s doors at the end of 1950s. During the decades the water company stepped up its efforts and made many multi-million-dollar investments on order to guarantee water quality, reliability and purity of the water supply-chain. At the present, the water company still invests millions of dollars in the continuing expansion of the capacity of the water infrastructure in Aruba.

The purification process

Aruba’s drinking water is impeccable because of the extensive process from when the water gets pumped out of the salty Caribbean Sea until it comes out of the tap. These steps are:

1. Pump water from the sea
2. Water gets boiled until it vaporizes
3. This vapor condenses into distilled water
4. Distilled water passes through filters of coral beds
5. After coral filter, one last regular final filter
6. Water gets distributed to Aruba

When the water filter process is finished, the salt and excess water, especially for equipment cooling, is later mixed and pumped back to the sea as salty sea water.

A side note: Aruba is a coral island, so coral is available on the surface without the need to kill any life coral in the water to help this process take place.

The distribution

The distribution of the drinking water happens exclusively through underground tubes and pipes to steel tanks located strategically around the island on higher elevations. The tanks on higher elevations guarantees good water pressure out of the tap, courtesy of the gravity.

The production output and capacity

What’s the production of the water company?

* The capacity of the plant is 11 million US gallons (41.2 million liters) a day
* The average demand is 9.8 million US gallons (37.1 million liters) a day

Who consumes the 9.8 million US gallons a day?

* 86% by Aruba’s people and visitors
* 11% by Valero Refinery
* 3% by the water company internally

The average consumption per person per day is 58 US gallons (220 liters).

Disadvantage and alternative

There’s one big disadvantage with this process of purifying water and where the machinery is fueled by gas-oil (diesel). This is a major problem in light of the recent oil price hikes. Plus, what are Aruba’s options on the longer term and how about when there is no more diesel?

Aruban people are proud of their drinking water, but with the recent price hikes in the water bills people are starting to murmur. People are asking for alternatives to the diesel-run machineries. Like stated earlier, the water company invests millions of dollars in new equipment and recent investments are focused on equipment with more efficient consumption of fuel.

In recent publications the water company stated that they are exploring alternatives like wind power as an addition to fuel alone. Aruba has a trade wind with an average of 20 mph (32.2 kph).

Standby for the scans of the water process.

Fresh Drinking Water From The Sea

As mentioned in an earlier post about the rainfall in Aruba, this island is very dry. Rainfall is average 16.2 inches/44 centimeters per year. Being a volcanic island (meaning: this island came about an underwater volcanic eruption a long time ago) and also a coral island, there is no water source under the ground. A major conundrum: how do you get your fresh drinking water? The title gave it away: from the sea. The body of water that surrounds Aruba is the very salty Caribbean Sea and the only source of Aruba’s fresh drinking water.

According to international organizations, Aruba’s drinking water ranks among one of the best in the world. It can easily compete against any fancy brand of bottled water. “Tap water is pure distilled water filtered through a bed of coral rocks where it absorbs important minerals such as calcium, and oxygen,” according to Aruba’s water company’s information site.

How come it is so good? The water company: “The World Health Organization’s standard for dissolved salt is 600 parts per million (ppm). Aruba’s water contains between 5 and 15 ppm of salt which is 40 times better.” Furthermore: “The quantity of bacteria is consistently below detectable levels, in other words, a very high level of purity.”

The core machinery uses fossil fuel, namely gas-oil or better known as diesel. The desalinization process is a very extensive and expensive one. When oil prices keep rising the water bills go up, too.

I have an information booklet with drawings on how exactly the purification process works. In a later post I’m going to scan it and publish it for you. Stand by for that.