A New Animal Species Is Introduced To An Uninhabited Island The Natural Side of Aruba: Arikok Park

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The Natural Side of Aruba: Arikok Park

Of Aruba’s many activities, a tour of Arikok Park may be the most unique. From sand dunes and cacti in the park’s desert interior to limestone cliffs and hidden coves on the Caribbean coast, Arikok Park offers as much ecological diversity as any place you’ll ever visit. Unique historical sites within the park’s boundaries shed light on Aruba’s agricultural and mining past. Arikok Park is also home to many unique species, supported by the microclimates of the park’s geography. Some of the park’s native species of snakes, lizards and birds are found nowhere else on earth. With almost 20% of the island dedicated to this special reserve, nature lovers will not be disappointed by this Caribbean treasure. Arikok Park is easy to explore as the trails are well marked and informational signs and displays are placed along many routes. For a bit more direction, the park office offers a very detailed guide that is well worth your investment if you plan to spend a lot of time here. Try to arrive early in the morning, as birds and animals are most active just after sunrise. It is also recommended that you pack food, water, sunscreen and comfortable shoes.

Our first stop within the park boundaries is the farm known as Cunucu Arikok, an attraction that recalls Aruba’s agricultural history. Hiking trails pass through natural vegetation and wildlife – land formerly used to grow beans, corn and peanuts. The adobe farmhouse has rarely seen cactus roof beams, while cactus hedges still stand guard over the farmland. In addition, some beautiful examples of American drawing exist on the rocks above the farm.

Prins Plantation was the site of a coconut farm until the 1960s. Walking the trails of Prins Plantation, you will come across an enchanting ocean cove and plenty of wildlife. For some history on aloe cultivation in Aruba, visit Masiduri, a unique garden complex that features a wealth of eucalyptus trees and informative exhibits on the aloe industry. Miralamar, an abandoned group of gold mines and pits, is another interesting place to explore.

Near the coastline, the vegetation and landscape change dramatically. On the rocky north coast beaches, where the sea meets imposing limestone formations, you’ll see crabs scampering across pristine stretches of sand and giant birds swimming on the water. Boca Prins Beach is a popular place to watch sea turtles hatch, while Fuente possesses the cinematic majesty of crashing waves. For picnics and sunbathing, Dos Playa is the best option within Arikok Park, although swimming is usually very dangerous. Here you will also find the only dining venue within the park, serving excellent local cuisine and fresh seafood.

Hidden on the northwest coast of Dos Playa, the Natural Pool – known to locals as Cura di Tortuga – is protected from the Caribbean waves by rock formations. It is believed that the pool once held sea turtles waiting to be sold (‘tortuga’ means turtle in the indigenous Papiamento language). Today, the pool serves as an exotic swimming hole for those lucky enough to discover it.

Just a short walk from Boca Prins lies Fontein Cave, the most visited cave on Aruba’s north coast. The walls of this cave are covered with American drawings and signs of early European colonizers. For your inner wizard, the oddly shaped stalagmites and stalactites are sure to impress. Just south of Fontein Cave is Hofi Fontein, or Fountain Garden, the site of the only freshwater spring on Aruba’s north coast. The site also features a charming museum with plant and animal exhibits, always staffed by friendly park rangers.

With two large chambers opening to the Caribbean sky, Quadirikiri Cave allows visitors to explore its cave without a flashlight. Local myth has a strange explanation for the cave ceiling: it is said that the fiery daughter of a prominent Indian chief was trapped in the cave with her scorned suitor. In death, the souls of the young couple burst atop the cave into the sky.

Also located on the north coast of Aruba, the Baranca Sunu Cave, also known as the Tunnel of Love for its heart-shaped opening, is rumored to have been a known hiding place for pirates and their treasures. Although the stories have not been verified, the cave certainly possesses an air of mystery and intrigue. When you leave the caves and Arikok Park, consider following the coastal road to San Nicolas, a charming town with many new activities for you and your family.

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