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ARUBA, BONAIRE AND CURACAO – An eight day cruise to find one hummingbird!

Well, I learned a lesson on this cruise. If you want to photograph hummingbirds on islands near the Equator, don’t do it from a cruise ship. Apparently the hummers feed like mad early in the morning and then siesta in the trees during the mid-day as they would expend too much energy foraging in the intense sun. Or at least that’s what I was told. By the time the ship docked and I got to the rental car places and to my destinations, the birds were already in their siesta mode. Not a one in sight. Anywhere. As you can see, I was READY.

I went to every place where I read there are plenty of hummingbirds on Aruba and Bonaire. I did not see ONE. On Aruba, there were none in Spanish Lagoon, the Butterfly Garden or Philips Animal Garden. I did get a great picture, though, even though it is not of a hummingbird. I had to quickly pull over to the side of the road when I spotted the sailboat on the horizon. Not a bird, but not bad.

On Bonaire, there were none at Van der Valk Resort (where another hummingbird photographer got great photos) or Divi Flamingo Resort in town. I drove to Rincon and there were none there, either. Driving back to the ship from Rincon, I stopped at a little Botanical Garden which was also devoid of hummingbirds. I did get about thirty mosquito bites walking around trying to find one. I was ready with my camera, though, if any hummer came by. I did get a picture of a Caribbean Parakeet that was dropping little bits of fruit on my head. He was mocking me as if to say “Why would you want to take pictures of hummingbirds when I’m here posing for you!”

There were beautiful birds on these islands. JUST NO HUMMERS!

Well, thank goodness for Curacao, even though my day started out with Avis making me wait two hours for my rental car. I drove straight to the Hilton Resort, as resorts are usually planted with lots of flowers that hummingbirds would love. Right? Wrong. Nobody on staff at the Hilton has recently seen a hummingbird. Hmm. Since it was already late morning I sat at the outdoor bar and ordered lunch while I used the Hilton wifi to try to find a place on Curacao where there might be a hummingbird willing to be photographed.

I came across the Facebook Page for the Curacao Zoo and I sent a message which was answered almost immediately by Bert Isenia, the managing director. He said he’s seen hummingbirds on the property so I drove right over. When I got there I was treated like family by Bert, Judy and Hermes (their horticulturist). Judy took me around the property looking for hummingbirds and I knew there were nectar-rich plants around because there were beautiful butterflies.

Bert and I took some chairs and placed them about a hundred feet from a stand of flowers in front of the zoo entrance. We chatted and waited. The Curacao Zoo is a wonderful place staffed by great people who love what they do. The Zoo was instrumental in rescuing animals from St. Maarten when it was devastated by Hurricane Irma. They also have provided a home for exotic animals brought to the island as pets that were not getting the proper care. They do much with little help from the government of Curacao and they largely depend upon private donations to rescue and care for the animals. The government won’t even let them charge a nominal entrance fee to provide funds.

Wait! Is that a hummingbird? Yes! A Blue-Tailed Emerald. He flitted through the stand of flowers and then flew up to a branch in the tree. Finally. There ARE hummers on these islands!

Thanks, Bert!

Hopefully my next adventure – Madera Canyon in Arizona – will produce better pics.

Carole Turek

Studio City, California

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