|Dave Jackson's ...|
|The year was 1499. Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda had landed on 19,000 hectares of sand, cactus and stone, just off the coast of Venezuela. He scribed in the ships logbook, "I came...to an island of giants!" Archaeological digs on the side on the island in the photo below, confirm that Ojeda's observation was correct. The remains of the first settlers of Aruba were much larger than the average European of that day.
This is a view of the Malmok area. It's away from the hotels and crowds which makes it peaceful. There is a lot of white, sandy beach on the south side (side facing us in this picture).
The name Aruba has often been attributed to the Spanish phrase, "oro huba", meaning "there was gold!". However, the Spanish left the island shortly after discovering it, calling it a "useless land".
Long before the Spanish set foot on the island, Caquetio Indians of the Arawak tribe grew tired of constant attacks by the Carib Indians and moved to Aruba.
Even today, the names of towns, hills, caves and other geographical areas are from those Indian chiefs and warriors who settled long ago. Among them, Turibana, Guadirikiri, Camacuri, Andicuri and Bushiri. When the Spanish returned to Aruba, they took the Indians as slaves and shipped them off to Hispaniola to work the mines. Some were allowed to come back to help with cattle and horses which were roaming freely on Aruba as the island became one big ranch.
Around the mid 1600's, the Dutch, led by Peter Stuyvesant, who directed Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, paid a visit to Aruba to get horses to stage raids against the Spanish in nearby Venezuela, and damage they had done in Bonaire during the Eighty Year War against Spain. In the 1800's, revolutions in Venezuela brought many refugees of the Spanish to the island. During this time, Aruba remained economically quite while business boomed in nearby Curaçao.
Then in the mid 1800's, gold was discovered near Jamanota, the highest point on the island. At 188 meters, it is slightly higher than Hooiberg, pictured here. For almost 100 years, gold became a major export along with the pod of the divi-divi tree used for tanning leather, and aloe! You may not know it, but at one time this island supplied over 30% of the world's supply of aloe.
Even today a company still makes sun tan lotion and skin care products right on the island. Aruba Aloe has a long history and claims aloe was brought to the country in the 1840's. Many of the old fields and buildings have been replaced by "progress", but the island still has thousand of the aloe plants growing in almost every yard.
The Royal Dutch Shell refinery arrived on the island in 1926, along the Eagle Beach area. And not far behind was the Standard Oil of New Jersey, Lago Refinery in San Nicholas. Both were major economical boosts for the island.
There are many spectacular beaches to visit on Aruba. Some are perfect for tanning, others for reading a good book, still others great for snorkeling.
Our favorite beach would have to be this one, Baby Beach. It took us three trips to Aruba before we even knew about it as it's tucked away behind the the Lago (now Coastal) Oil Refinery in San Nicolas. It's worth all the effort to get to. It was created by the oil refinery workers, many years ago. With a little engineering, as you can see here, they simply built a wall blocking off the rough Atlantic. The result is, the small bay filled with powder white sand. The bay is shoulder deep at it's deepest, thus the name "Baby". Just outside this bay is one of the best snorkeling spots on the island! People of all ages venture out over the ancient coral reef. It's awesome. This is a must see.
Interested in Aruba in detail? Visit our Aruba Travel Resources page for even more info on Aruba.