While many people know that Aruba has some of the best beaches in the world, a transition from fun on land to discoveries in the water is a must when visiting this Caribbean island. A great option for exploring Aruba’s marine life is to take a sailing and snorkeling tour aboard a 85-foot teak schooner pirate ship with the Jolly Pirates. Not only will you enjoy swimming in the warm, clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean while looking at tropical fish and an old shipwreck, you’ll also dance, perform acrobatics, and sip on Arubaribas from the free open bar.
Antilla, one of the largest shipwrecks in the Caribbean
During WWII, the MS Antilla was a German U-boat supply ship anchored off the coast of Aruba that carried supplies. On May 10, 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands, putting a dent in the relationship, which also extended to Aruba as the country is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. When the Dutch told the Antilla to surrender, the captain decided he would rather destroy the ship himself than hand it over to the enemy, and after putting the crew ashore, heated up the boilers on the ship and caused an explosion that ripped the ship in half.
On a journey aboard the Jolly Pirate’s ship, snorkelers can explore the 400-foot wreck and all of the marine life that now call it home. The waters are a bit rough in this area and because the water is about 60-feet deep it is recommended that you wear a lifejacket. While the swim is a challenge, you will be able to get up close to the ship, even touching it if you’re brave enough. Despite the fact that it is covered in sea plants and in disarray, you are still able to clearly make out the windows, smokestacks, decks, inside of the ship, and more. As you explore, swim with schools of Sergant Majors, Bar Jacks, and Blue Tangs.
Boca Catalina, entrance by water only
What’s great about getting to explore Boca Catalina with the Jolly Pirates is that Catalina Cove is almost impossible to enter by land (unless you don’t mind serious injury). The water is peaceful and calm and only about 12 feet deep, so it’s perfect for beginners. It is a protected cove with azure waters, and bountiful coral reefs. The ocean floor is very rocky, and schools of fish swim through this natural “architecture” like its their big city. Try to spot a Honeycomb, a small fish with a permanent kissing face and art-deco scale design, or a Trumpetfish, a long, skinny fish that resembles a mix between a shiny gun and an angry snake.
The shallow waters of Malmok
While at 10 feet deep Malmok is one of the most shallow snorkeling spots in Aruba, it is also the one with the best visibility. You are literally so close to the sea life that you can hear them eating. Snorkeling here also has a trippy effect, as the current pulls the plethora of ocean floor seaweed one way and your body another. It’s kind of like laying on the ground and looking at the world turn, but underwater. There are also giant boulders housing lush ocean flora, and of course, thousands of tropical fish. Some challenging but not impossible unique fish to look for are the Squirrelfish, a redish fish with spiky fins and enormous black eyes, the Cowfish, which oddly enough does look like a cow, or maybe a snail, in fish form, and the Smooth Trunkfish and Spotted Trunkfish, who with their dark backgrounds and polka-dotted designs could very well be the most stylish fish in the sea.
Getting wild on board
The Jolly Pirates make sure to add some less-educational fun to the mix. From the moment you step on board you are offered free drinks from the open bar. Make sure you try Aruba’s signature drink, the Aruba Arriba, a mix of vodka, grenadine, pineapple juice, rum, and a splash of cranberry juice (well, that’s how they made it anyway). There is also dance music at all times, and Captain Ron and Juan Carlos will make sure that you take a turn tangoing with them. And, of course, a delicious BBQ lunch will help you gain back all those calories you burned swimming, with fresh made potato salad, juicy melon, rice, a giant chicken wing, and ribs slathered in BBQ sauce.
The best part, however, is the rope swing. After all of the snorkeling is complete, the crew, who are all former acrobats, invite their mateys to try it out. While you can absolutely go alone, swinging from the ship like Tarzan into the clear ocean, the more adventurous option is to hop onto Juan Carlos back. Latch on tight as he swings gracefully through the air, ending in a backflip while you’re still attached. Make sure to have a friend videotape it, as it’s a one-of-a-kind experience.
For more information, visit the Jolly Pirates website.
This trip was made possible by the Aruba Tourism Board