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I have just returned from a trip to Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.
Of course I have had to tolerate "did you have a nice holiday ?" from everyone ! The truth is that trips like this are all work and no play ! I managed to get just 30 minutes in the ocean in 10 days ! But, if the islands are "my office", I will never complain. The other side of that coin is inspecting dozens of hotel rooms, within a few metres of the spectacular, turquoise ocean, is exquisite agony ! We pride ourselves on our local island knowledge and contacts, and regular visits to our partners on the islands are essential. Not only as a "site inspection", to check rooms and facilities are up to standard, but also to check local services, restaurants, general facilities and amenities on the islands
We build a whole picture for our clients, not just print a few tickets and post them off. The islands have a lot to offer, but are not "over organised" like some highly developed tourist destinations. It is our job to point you in the right direction, to save you time on holiday and make sure you get what you want. Some companies promise to fly you to Bonaire's "Willemstad airport". (Willemstad is the capital of Curacao !) So, beware of "e-bookers", who don't know which island is which ! I was shocked to learn that some "specialists" claim they sell holidays to the islands, but have never been. Be very wary of empty claims of you being able to "speak to an expert" ! I do not know how anyone can recommend a hotel/resort they have never seen.
Danielle, my daughter visited the islands last year, and my visit this year was to inspect the accommodation, get up to date with the latest developments and ensure a close working relationship with our long standing partners on each island. In fact we never introduce any accommodation into our programme until we have visited that accommodation. When you speak with us, you know we have walked around the islands and a member of staff has stayed at each hotel or resort we feature.
Aruba continues to develop it's tourism business, slowly, and the "high rise" hotel area is opening more bars and restaurants. This area is now a second centre to Oranjestad the capital city. Aruba is always compared with it's quieter neighbours, Bonaire and Curacao, and guide books suggest this is a hustling bustling island – a mini Las Vegas. It isn't ! Compared with American and European holiday destinations it is very low key. The high rise area consists of several chain hotels spread over 2 miles of coast line. Nothing like the massed ranks of hotels in Spain, Florida or Turkey. By European standards, even the badly named " high rise area" is still relatively undeveloped. The main boulevard in Oranjestad is quite busy, but outside of the high rise area and the main town, the island is quiet and undeveloped. Most hotels are small scale with just a ground and first floor. It is possible to have a quiet and relaxing holiday and make the most of a lively nightlife, if you choose. For divers the wreck diving is superb and the beaches are quiet, huge white sand beaches, perfect for sun worshippers.
Curacao still has great charm – and has not developed a great deal over the last few years. I visited our main partners on Curacao and some of the restaurants we recommend. The resorts we offer include a wide range of accommodation types and I was pleased to see many improvement programmes completed or under way. We offer the full range of accommodation on Curacao and everyone was busy making sure they kept the standard high. As usual the food was excellent and Willemstad is still an intriguing city. The famous floating bridge is still there, despite reports to the contrary ! One surprise was to find most shops in Willemstad closed on Sunday. Clearly the mad rush to separate you from your money is not the high priority it is in other parts of the world.
Like a young member of the family, this quiet, undeveloped island has an unpretentious charm that enthrals everyone who visits the island.
My main concern was to investigate stories of development. It is true, the area between the airport and Kralendijk, the capital, is not the open area it was. Several small buildings have been built around the airport and the road from the airport is closed while improvement work is continuing. Unfortunately the new developments, some still in progress, and road works, give a poor "first impression" when you arrive and building work is never a pleasant sight. But this does not signal major changes on Bonaire. For the rest of the island there has been no major development. There are a few buildings to be completed and once the road is finished the whole area will seem less like a building site.
I visited our partners on Bonaire and was pleased to see a very real drive to improve and upgrade. We never offer accommodation that we feel is sub standard or not good value. I was very pleased to see that several resorts are renewing kitchens, furniture and fittings plus general refurbishments.
I was pleasantly surprised that, on each island, all the resorts I visited had maintained or introduced improvement programmes. We are very anxious to ensure our guests get the best value for money, so it was very encouraging to see that the resorts we feature were pushing ahead with refurbishment or improvements, though there must be a great temptation to wait until the financial situation improves.
I came back with a renewed enthusiasm to support the islands. Bonaire has won an award for sustainable tourism, and each island has made great efforts to resist development, and protect the reef and ocean and as a direct consequence, the marine life that relies on healthy water and coral.
Although we fell in love with the islands and the people, we also support and respect the measures each island takes to protect the natural habitat. We are the only travel specialist for these islands and we are committed to getting more people to the Dutch Caribbean to enjoy the islands and, in that way, supporting the islanders in their efforts to protect their beautiful islands and ocean.
Bonaire Fun Travel
15 Grass Slade
Brixworth, NN6 9HZ UK