Tuesday morning we were up with the early breeze, ready to find what else this happy island had in store for us on our last full day. We’d booked a night at the Renaissance Marriott Resort, even though we didn’t stay there, in order to ensure we’d be able to visit their private island and see the flamingos that live there. The resort sells any leftover passes to non-guests, but it ends up being less expensive the way we did it, and besides, this way we were guaranteed a spot.
We parked at the resort and waited in the underground open-air tunnel for the boat to pick us up. Soon, it came whizzing up from under the bridge and we stepped on and held onto our hats! Back out the tunnel and into the marina, then out into open water for the short ride to the island. As we stepped off, we noticed signs with information about the various lizards, pelicans, and other sea birds including the flamingos. Roped wooden walkways led left and right through the mangroves.
After going left and finding a very pretty beach but no sign of the pink birds, we turned and went back the opposite direction on the walkway and found another beach and six brilliantly-colored long-legged feathered friends just chilling as people edged up and took photos. After exclaiming, we did the same.
The flamingos get their peachy-coral hue from their diet: they eat shrimp. Their fluffy feathers, elegant twisty necks, and black-ended curvy beaks, all sitting atop two long stick-legs, are breathtaking in person. Every now and then one would raise a leg and just hold it up for a bit, or stretch one out behind like a ballerina. Their balance is incredible!
Finally, we went and found two empty beach loungers and ordered drinks. We sipped and just enjoyed the breeze, palms waving above us. Pausing for a swim in the shallow lagoon, we stopped to talk with a woman who explained she runs a paper-recycling company in New Jersey and was on her first vacation ever, by herself. She was having the time of her life and showed off her flowered life jacket fastened tightly around her waist, saying that she’d never learned to swim but she finally decided to literally take the plunge and just do it. She radiated happiness and excitement. I “carpe diem!’d” her on the inside.
Finally, when it was time to leave, we caught the boat back (they run every 15 minutes) and realized we were ravenous. We grabbed a table at the restaurant we were standing next to: Cuba’s Cookin’. The menu was filled with appetizing choices, and my sister ordered the Torta del Campo – pulled chicken with mashed potatoes, caramelized onion, and seasonings, all tucked into a cake-shaped mound. I ordered the Pollo con Aceitunas – dark-meat chicken and green olives in a sweet-salty-mustardy glaze, with caramelized plaintains and black beans with rice. Just yum.
After that, we remembered we wanted to pick up a few things from the grocery store to take home and share with family, so we asked our waitress and she pointed us towards one a few blocks away. We parked the car a little ways down and walked, realizing that we were probably now in a zone where our English wouldn’t be understood. The store turned out to be a local mom-and-pop, with the kids playing near the door and a guy who seemed to be cracking jokes with the customers. We found packages of Dutch cookies, coconut biscuits, and fruit nectar, and the cashier converted the total to dollars for us and handed us back Dutch florin coins as change. Then we headed home to shower and get dressed to go out one last night.
We’d met an American man a couple days before at the pancake house, who told us there would be good live music tonight at Bugaloe, the beach bar at the end of the dock where we’d embarked on the snorkeling trip. So we decided to go out with a bang. We arrived to find the place in full swing and the band Joyride playing music that had the dance floor crammed with people having fun. We grabbed coconut mojitos and joined them. We found our American friend and talked more, met a couple at the bar from Michigan, ran into a cute couple from the snorkeling trip, and whooped it up with two hilarious girls on the dance floor. I danced every line dance even though I only knew one to begin with. We had so much fun that our plan to stay for an hour turned into five, and we returned home drenched in sweat from kicking up our heels the entire time.
The next morning we were sad to pack and head to the airport… But we also knew we’d be back to this One Happy Island. Biba Dushi!