Aruba is a small volcanic island in the southern Caribbean. Rainfall is very light, consequently it is a dry, "desert island" type environment. Due to the lack of commercial development outside of the capital Oranjestad - the island is not only very peaceful but unspoilt - visitors can enjoy the natural world in peace and quiet. As the island is small and quiet there are many ways you can enjoy Aruba's nature - lots of guided tours and excursions which do not require hours on a bus - as well as vehicle hire, jeep safari, trekking, horse riding , cycling etc.
Outside of Oranjestad the capital city, Aruba remains largely undeveloped.
There are many pristine natural habitats for a fantastic diversity of species to thrive.
The Arikok National Park is the island's pride and joy - 870 hectares of wilderness park
where people can enjoy Aruba's unspoilt natural world.
The Arikok National Park will be the main place of interest for anyone wanting to explore the natural world of this island. At 870 hectares - is a round a fifth of Aruba's total area, and is Aruba's environmental sanctuary. The park is protected and maintained by the island government. The park features some species of flora and fauna unique to Aruba as well as interesting natural rock formations. You'll also find several great examples of Native American art there, for example the Arawak drawings in the Fontein cave. There are a number of caves, some the natural shelter for bats. The 620-foot-high Mount Jamanota towers over Arikok's rugged red dirt roads, valleys, ravines, boulders, terraces, and rugged terrain.
The central area is of the park the main zone for visitors and features many natural, cultural, and historical landmarks along with education centres. The central zone has excellent underwater caves and beach coves as well as a vehicle route. More adventurous visitors can explore the landscape on horseback and there are many hiking trails you can use to explore the interesting terrain and see the island's geological, volcanic origins. The park's south and north zones are quite sensitive and they have been designated as visitor education and research locations. Hiking tours with a knowledgeable park ranger can be booked at the park's Visitors Centre.
The park are has forty species of trees and robust desert vegetation. The landscape is dominated by cactus of all shapes and sizes - large Mondis (forests of cacti). The famous Divi Divi tree is Aruba's natural compass, always pointing in a south westerly direction due to the trade winds that blow across the island from the north-east. Efforts to plant this tree in other parts of the world have proved futile - it seems the Divi Divi only likes Aruba!
Aruba has 48 different types of native trees, 11 of which are now very scarce and in some cases have only 5 examples left. The loss of native trees is due to wood cutting, changing weather and marauding goats. A tree planting programme is under way and measures are now in place to prevent goats from entering protected areas.
There is a great diversity of colour flowers and plants. Magdalena, similar in foliage and flower to the Impatiens found in the Eastern US, will survive with very little water. Their purple and white flowers blossom all year round, providing natural decoration both along roadsides and also in gardens. Also widespread are Caribbean Pines, a large variety of Hibiscus as well as Bougainvilleas, Wild Orchids and many other cacti, vines, shrubs and trees. You will see colourful Bougainvilleas along the edges of many roads and in many hotel gardens.
Pure aloe, available in the open all over the island, takes the sting out of sunburn and starts a healing process. It's very easy to make this natural remedy yourself cut a leaf of the aloe vera plant and remove the inside pulp of the leaf. We have had to do this once or twice !